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.

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…

Snarky Puppy

Almost two years ago, I “discovered” (with a little help from a Debian developer) the truly awesome Youn Sun Nah, together with a few of her fellow musicians, like Vincent Peirani and/or Lars Danielsson.

Since then, not so much. I was busy with other things until I decided to get some audio interface and microphone for my computer, and started to learn using Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software like Ardour, and the likes. I also started scanning Youtube for howto videos on these topics, which inevitably also lead to the discovery of other musicians.

And last Sunday I stumbled upon what is in my opinion the most advanced and exciting band currently existing on this planet – and they call themselves “Snarky Puppy“.

Here’s a short (ca. 35 minute) documentation about them, by none less than Christian McBride, himself being one of the best bass players today:

And here’s a New York Times article about them, from a year ago. From that article, let me cite David Crosby on his Twitter account:

“quite possibly the most advanced band in the world … certainly the best I’ve heard/seen.”

So I’m not alone in realizing that this is some new and fresh kind of music – and certainly and without any doubt, it’s also highly entertaining.

I don’t know about your taste in music of course. If you like songs for instance, maybe you should listen to Snarky Puppy feat. Becca Stevens & Väsen – I Asked (Family Dinner – Volume Two), or to the wonderful Snarky Puppy feat. Laura Mvula & Michelle Willis – “Sing to the Moon” (Family Dinner Volume Two), both from their Snarky Puppy – Family Dinner Vol 2 stream on Youtube.

If you’re an “advanced” listener (which is what I’d call myself), who needs something for both brain & booty, like Christian titled it, I suggest their Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here stream, in which they just blew me away. This is unbelievable, and awesome, and inspiring – it’s hard to find words for this level of art. Consider me a “fanboy” from now on – with some of their stuff being on my wishlist (of a big store in the interweb) already.

For those living around here, they’ll be in Frankfurt in May. And since I’m still waiting for a Youn Sun Nah concert around here, maybe I should go and see them first.

As always, thanks for reading. And now enjoy the music!

P.S.: about this “don’t know about *your* taste – I recommended this to two of my colleagues yesterday. And while one of them replied that this wasn’t to his taste at all, the other one came back with this concert of Thelonius Monk (and some others). Thanks for the link again, mate! 😉

insaneintherainmusic

Look at this – these guys are really good. And if you or your kids have a Nintendo Wii console, you might know the tune:

You can even download the scores for the instruments; just printed the piano sheets for Zuleikha.

Update: at Live at Grillby’s – UNDERTALE Jazz Album – Album Stream you can listen to a complete album of these guys, and they’re *really* good. Plus you can also download the musical sheets, and support them if you wish.

Cool stuff – congratulation to these talented young people.

Enjoy…

Update 2: still listening – still being blown away. Much better than I thought it would be – gotta buy this…

A lesson in Jazz, and in composition

Listen to Herbie Hancock explaining how and why he wrote his “Watermelon Man” like he did:

Incredible. With one of my favourite bass players, Christian McBride, and Karriem Riggins on drums. Now listen to this one from the Live under the sky festival in Yomiuriland, Japan in 1991. You might know Herbie’s melody from about 20 years later, when someone said “funky, funky”, and made it a hit again. But this version with its original title “Cantaloupe Island” is far better:

Enjoy…