At the Chocolate Museum in Cologne

We’re just back from visiting some relatives in Cologne. Haven’t done this since a while, so it was about time. And while being there anyway, Mitchie and Zuleikha wanted to see the Stollwerck Chocolate Museum, which now belongs to Lindt. I took Zuleikha’s portrait in front of a rebuilt classic store:

7e1_4076507-zuleikha

Zuleikha at Stollwerck (now Lindt) Chocolate Museum, Cologne, April 2017

As always, thanks for viewing.

Some first impressions

Yesterday we were at the biggest local music store for a while. Zuleikha played some electric and acoustic pianos and bought some scores. And I took some hands-on first impressions of some instruments. What I found nice was:

Yamaha CG192S

Yamaha CG192S Classical Guitar

Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass

Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass

This one is awesome. Listen to it here, in 4- and 5-string versions:

In the studio department, we saw both my microphone and also my interface for it – but there, the most impressive experience for me was to listen to some active nearfield monitors:

Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitors

Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitor

Interesting – all Japanese products. Oh, and the Kawai and Yamaha acoustic (upright) pianos were also very nice.

As always, thanks for reading.

Playing around with Qtractor and ZynAddSubFX

Yesterday evening I played around a bit with Qtractor, and with ZynAddSubFX (and with a free sample of a drumkit called the “Black Pearl“).

Why did I do this? Simple: as much as I like Ardour, the free Pro Tools like DAW (digital audio workstation) software, it has the one disadvantage which bugged me a bit: it’s a bit too much “audio”-centric, with MIDI seemingly being an afterthought. So from Ardour you can’t export MIDI tracks like with other software like MusE, or Rosegarden, or Qtractor. And exporting MIDI is nice if you want to have other programs like MuseScore converting them more or less automagically into sheet music, like this:

So what does Qtractor look like? Look here:

On the upper left you see its editing (and “composition”) window, on the lower right its mixer window – and in between my file system. You see that I’ve made two tracks actually, the first using the “Echo Rhodes” preset from ZynAddSubFX, the second with just a single kick drum sound from the “Black Pearl” drumkit sample.

How does it sound? Awesome. I exported it as an audio file as well, and converted that .wav file to an .mp3 one with Audacity:

So in case you want to hear my breathtaking composition, here it is:

(Don’t send flowers, or ask where to get the CD yet – I’m still working on it) 😉

And as always, thanks for reading.

The state of Linux in music production

I’m having some troubles getting MusE to run or even start properly on my Debian Jessie machine, which also has the KXStudio repositories to get some of falkTX’s goodies like Cadence, Carla, and so on. Seems to be something between MusE and jackd – but all other programs run just fine, so I guess it’s more of the former than the latter. If I boot UbuntuStudio 16.04 from a USB stick and install it, it doesn’t show any problems together with QJackCTL (which is the frontend for jackd).

So I’m back to reading, and also to look for alternatives. And while doing so, I stumbled over some really nice examples of what can be accomplished right now, using only free and libre open source software – or FLOSS as the community calls it.

Here are two nice demo videos of Rosegarden and Qtractor, both made by Südwestlicht, and sung in German:

You can hear a bit more from Holger and Petra on MyOwnMusic if you wish. Awesome stuff.

And here are two videos from Yassin Philip:

You can also read an interview with him on LibreMusicProduction – an interesting page about everything free and open source and music; I’m subscribed to their Youtube channel. See everything about the tools we have on LMP’s “tools” section if you’re interested.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Trying my hand on…

… mixing and mastering.

I found some midi files in the internet with which I play around, using them to just have some input for the tools I’m trying to learn, like Ardour.

Problem is: I forgot who actually made this, and where I’ve downloaded it from. In this case, it’s the famous 1959 piece from Paul Desmond, Take Five. So I have no idea if the midi file I downloaded was licensed under some free license, like GPL or CC – or if it only was freely available on some download site. So in case the author of that file reads this and has anything against me working on it and showing and making audible the result here, let me know if you can still prove that you made it.

The score looked a bit strange in Musescore:

Screenshot from 2017-04-02 00:37:19

Hm, guitar? And two bass lines?

After listening to it for a while, I decided to mark the lowest line as “percussion”, since with a normal instrument sound it was quite disharmonic. And the pattern looked much more like additional drums and/or percussions.

I also threw out the guitar which made the piece quite busy. And finally I decided to even leave out the main instrument: the saxophone. Better make some kind of accompanying piece for a real musician (or even for myself) than something which doesn’t sound that well with the (virtual) instruments I have at my disposal.

So in the end I just used 3 tracks: piano, bass & drums.

The piano is the Salamander GrandPiano by “rytmenpinne” Alexander Holm, which you can download here (you need a computer with some RAM because this sample alone is almost 2GB uncompressed).

Bass & Drums are both from the Calf Fluidsynth with a GM compatible soundfont. I changed the patch from a fingered to an acoustic bass which sounded nicer and deeper in my opinion.

So in the end, after exporting it from Ardour, it looked like this on my screen:

Screenshot from 2017-04-02 00:40:33

You see the main Ardour window in the background, while an analysis of the final output is in the front. I set the loudness according to the EBU recommendation R 128 to -23 LUFS (known as “LUKS” in the US), with true peaks at -5.2 dB. So this should have the same average loudness as your average radio or TV program:

Enjoy. And as always, thanks for reading.

A photo a day…

Last month was the first one since late 2009 in that there were more days of the month than photos taken by me.

Part of that had to do with making two videos until now, both for the company. The first one, around 18 minutes, showed other Linux lovers how to get the officially needed company layers installed on top of a plain distribution. The second, around 45 minutes, was a howto on getting better audio for the video guys who make ‘official’ company videos for one of its Youtube channels.

Another reason why I didn’t take that many photos is that since I have the new USB audio interface and a studio quality microphone, I also dealt with recording a lot. Midi, audio, plugins, samples, soundfonts, all that.

Now it’s April already, and we have a little more sun – at least the days are getting somewhat longer, so I can make use of the light. And when the cat was outside, sitting on my shoes on the veranda, I just had to take a picture:

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Tuna the cat, April 2017

Let’s see – maybe I can at least take one picture a day, and hopefully more. And still deal with and learn about how to make and record music with a computer. When I have something worth listening to, I’ll let you know.

As always, thanks for reading.

Photography, videos, sound recording and so on

Haven’t written much here lately.

Since I’ve identified what I’m actually after with my photography earlier this year, I’m taking mostly family photos – not of any interest to the general public.

And since Mitchie (and also Zuleikha) is/are more into video, I’ve concentrated a bit more onto the audio aspect of that – having been in professional studios not only as a musician but also as a technician, I try to “give back” some of the gathered knowledge from these areas to my family, my colleagues, and so on.

For some colleagues, I’ve made a (company-internal) video already about how to get the OCDC (Open Client for the Debian Community) IBM layers on top of a more or less “naked” Ubuntu 16.04.2, and I’ll make some more about the tools – both hardware and free and open source software – that I use, and about how I use all that stuff. De-Essers, compressors, LUFS sound leveling, something like this. Plus some microphone techniques.

I also tried to help someone in this thread of the LinuxMusicians forum, for whom/which I uploaded some screenshots to Flickr lately:

Screenshot_2017-03-17_17-57-10

Ubuntu Studio 16.04.2 LTS, running from a USB stick on my machine, with running QJackctl and the Hydrogen drum computer

FocusriteControl

Focusrite Control software, running on Windows 10

Other than that, I’ll cover some tools like Audacity, Ardour and the Calf Studio Gear plugins, Openshot and whatever I’m using. Since most of these tools are cross-platform, the colleagues might want to use them even on their Windows machines; let’s see.

These will be company-internal screencasts and/or videos, just for those people who want to / have to publish some public stuff on the companies’ official Youtube stream(s). Lots of stuff like that exists already, just look at the streams of people like Curtis Judd for instance. No need for me to add anything public here, since there are so many of these technical tips channels already.

Anyway; I’m quite busy most of the time, and just wanted to explain why you see fewer entries here, or on my Flickr stream.

Soon we’ll also visit some family members in Cologne; it’s about time for that as well. Plus both my brother, Mitchie, Zuleikha, and me want to see/visit the Music Store there – can’t wait for that…

Like always, thanks for reading.

Bill Laurance

Imagine something like the great trio of the late Esbjörn Svensson, together with a bit of Keith Jarrett and Jean-Luc Ponty goodness, some of the horns (and drums & bass) from Snarky Puppy, and strings and horns from an orchestra. All that together with a truly good British pianist – et voilà, you’ll get Bill Laurance.

First heard some pieces of his live concert at the Union Chapel in London, of which my favourite piece was his “Ready Wednesday”. And here’s the studio version of it, from his “Flint” album:

See the complete streams of Flint and the Union Chapel concert on the channel of the publisher, groundUPmusicNYC.

Can’t listen to the radio anymore, since years. Why? Well either because a) all of our radio stations suck, or b) I’m that far off any mainstream that this all doesn’t speak to me anymore. My opinion tho is that those who truly want to understand don’t need any words…

And this here, at least for me, is highly addictive. Dope, to use a slang word.

Anyway, as always thanks for reading. And now enjoy…

A new drive for Mitchie’s notebook

Today Mitchie’s hard drive – the one in her notebook computer – started to show lots of errors even after several runs of fsck. She has backups from yesterday, except of her pictures folder, which we are saving now.

Meanwhile, I ordered her this:

It has the same size like her old spinning platter disk – 1TB – but this is a Samsung 850 EVO SSD drive.

I’m also very happy with the 240GB Crucial SSD which is the boot drive of my own machine.

Thanks for reading.