An ad. But wow, what an ad!

Watch this:

Seems that Yamaha has some real innovators in their ranks. Good for them, and this also gives hope for Ampeg, whom they just bought…

Enjoy. I know I did.

Some more virtual pianos, and a real one

About a year ago or so I’ve compared virtual sampled pianos myself, and I did that using a downloaded MIDI file with Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, played by someone I don’t know anymore (forgot to save that information together my my download as I’m afraid of). Anyway, for the purpose of pure sound (and effect) comparison, you can read the articles:

Take Five backing track, version 3 (from April 28. 2017),
Take Five backing track, version2 (from April 27, 2017), and
Trying my hand on… (from April 1, 2017)

The first two of these links have the XLN Audio Studio Grand, which is a sampled Steinway, and in the “Trying” article I used the free “Salamander” download, which is a sampled Yamaha C5 Grand Piano.

You can also listen to these three versions here if you wish:

(XLN Audio Studio Grand, Jazzish Preset)

(XLN Audio Studio Grand, tweaked with ‘cellar reverb’ by me)

(Salamander (Yamaha C5) Grand, which comes as a free download)

I like them all, and they’re more than enough for what I could play on any of these. But they’re nothing when compared to the real thing. Here is Bill Laurance, playing a Yamaha Concert Grand in Union Chapel, together with some of the Snarky Puppy musicians, and some classical strings and a horn:

The difference between a virtual piano and a real one is not only the sound – it’s more the feel, and hard to describe, but even *I* (as a non-piano player) can feel it. To understand what this is about, watch Josh Wright who explains it far better than I could (also demonstrate):

Enjoy… and as always, thanks for reading.

Virtual pianos

We’ve had an interesting discussion lately on Wikiloops. It started with played vs. sequenced (or programmed) stuff, and I also took it to using natural vs. sampled or even modelled instruments.

The “king’s class” as we would say here in Germany are of course pianos (and I also took a piano sound as an example for what I was writing about in the Wikiloops forum). Yes, of course a Steinway Grand from Hamburg (or from New York, depends on your taste) is the non plus ultra. But not everyone can afford such an instrument (at around 150k upwards or so), or has the time to wait for it being built (2 years or so), or has the space for it (about 2.7 meters in your living room).

So compromises have to be made. Next best thing would be a smaller Grand, or even an upright piano, and the latter ones now even exist as hybrids, like the Yamaha N1, 2, and 3 series. Still 5 digit, still take some space because they’re a bit bigger than your usual upright. But at least these can be played more or less “silent” already.

Which is the next big point. If you live in a rented apartment together with other people living in other rented apartments around you, you might need to play and/or practice and/or record more or less silently – and this is where virtual pianos come into play. Meaning that you still need some kind of keyboard, best a weighted one (a Kawai VPC-1 would be a nice example), plus some software for your computer, either sample based, or a “modelled” piano. Or you can have some integrated solution like a Yamaha Clavinova and its siblings from other companies.

So which one is best, and how do they sound like? Well listen to some here (it’s not a complete overview over the market, but it has some nice ones. Would love to have the XLN Audio piano included which came with my Focusrite interface, or even some free ones which you can download as well). Listen and come up with your own judgement:

Zuleikha briefly listened to these yesterday evening before she went to bed, and she liked some of the upright simulations and models. Pianoteq are “modelled” pianos which never existed, so no recorded (Giga-) samples, which makes them small and therefore suitable also for older or less capable computers. They even offer Linux versions I think. And while I don’t like the Pianoteq upright much, Zuleikha did. She plays a cheap Yamaha Arius here, a Yamaha Concert Grand in her music school, and lately played some nice Kawai uprights in a local music store.

So what’s your opinion? I did a comparison for myself already and decided that XLN is nice, but so was the free “Salamander” Grand (search for it, you can download samples with a few Gigabytes of size if you’re interested). Pianoteq would be interesting since all sample based instruments cut off differently than modelled ones. But I’m no piano player – and if you are, you have to come up with your own judgement.

Thanks for reading.

Edit: as Zuleikha told me, the music school has moved that nice Yamaha Grand, and now they’re back to an upright for her classes as well. Anyway…

An interview with Paul Davis

Almost a year ago, I reported about the keynote speech of the Linux Audio Conference 2017 at the Université Jean-Monnet, Saint-Etienne (UJM). That one was given by Paul Davis of Jack and Ardour fame, and very interesting not only for Linux Audio users. It’s still online if you want to see it.

Effects on Shi's vocals

Ardour, and some of the Calf Plugins (which are available on Linux only), running on my computer, to work on vocals of a great singer who’s on Wikiloops)

Now, as I found via the Ardour site (and via the Linuxaudio Planet first to be correct), there’s an interview (from January 2018) with him again, by Darwin Grosse of Cycling 74, at the Art + Music + Technology site.

Find the 1 hour podcast and interview with Paul there.

It’s always interesting to listen to people like Paul, and this time you’ll learn a bit more about his personal history, how he got into music making with computers and Linux, and also about the close relationship between Ardour and its commercial sibling, Harrison Mixbus. Another thing I didn’t know so far was that the founder of Ableton was also heavily involved in Ardour at some point.

Paul also talks about the differences of linear workflow tools like Ardour, ProTools, and Cubase (just to name a few), and newer products for a more groove oriented workflow, like Ableton Live, Bitwig, or Fruity Loops (again, to name only a few).

Especially interesting for beginners, or for people who might play with the idea of switching over from Macs and Windows-based machines to Linux Audio are his two advices, like:

1. if you have already a workflow, and that is based off of plugins which might exist for Windows and/or Macs only, best forget about it, and

2. if you’re still interested and just don’t know where to start, try AVLinux.

(to which I might add that yes, AVLinux has the best of all available documentations about it all that I personally know of, but there are others which do more or less the same, like KXStudio, or even Ubuntu Studio (Zuleikha is using the latter on an older laptop, and all of them can be downloaded as Live images to put them onto a bootable USB Stick). The repositories of KXStudio are probably the way to go if you happen to run Debian Linux already, like I do.)

So in case you’re interested, go and have a listen. I always learn a lot from just listening to guys like Paul. And we owe them a lot.

So this is recommended listening for musicians, and even for video producers, or film music composers.

As always, thanks for reading.

Warren Huart about budget

You probably don’t know who Warren Huart is, but he has recorded and produced some top acts already, so gear-wise the man should know what he’s talking about.

Warren has this Youtube channel, and I was following him a while, especially during my beginnings with computer audio (and also video) recording. A time when I thought about which interface to buy, which software to use, how to place the microphones (well not really, since I have learned this in real world studios in my youth) 😉

So maybe the following short advice from Warren might be useful for you:

He’s right on all points, and he has very nice stuff (you see that big mixing console and lots of speakers and some 19″ rack beside and behind him). But now that I play with lots of musicians on Wikiloops who all use their own home studio setups I *know* that it’s not that important, and in some regards – cost-wise – I think I even do better than Warren, using the absolutely free (as in rights *and* in cost) Linux operating system and Ardour as my DAW of choice.

But like I said, it all doesn’t matter that much. Some people on the loops record with Audacity (free for all systems), some even with an iPad or some other tablet, and some surely have nice big Apple machines or something like ProTools.

Anyway, Warren’s list of what you need is still helpful. I have everything except a good pair of (nearfield) studio monitors, because even for them I wouldn’t currently have the space. So for me my nice Sennheiser headphones have to do, even if they’re open ones (have to be very careful when recording using my microphone which will pick up *anything* you might usually not even hear).

So, additionally to the very good tips in the Wikiloops forae I thought I’d (re-)introduce some of you to a pro, and let you hear his words about it all.

Hoping that this would be useful, as Warren (from Great Britain) would say, have a marvelous day recording and mixing your music!

Some more recent photos, birthday presents

Here are some more photos:

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7e2_2159276-pond-snow

7e2_2169286-tuna-heated-floor

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Zuleikha needs glasses, so we went shopping for them. And I took some photos while she tried different frames, to show her how she looks from a slightly different angle. Like here:

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Last Sunday I turned 61, and this is what I’ve got – a book, and a new lens for my camera:

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It’s David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”, and the Olympus Micro Zuiko Digital 75mm/1.8 lens. Both are wonderful. So the rest of this blog post’s photos were all taken with that new lens, either fully or near fully open:

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7e2_2189515-tuna-blue-room

This one was at f/5, with an overhead octabox and one of my studio strobes:

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7e2_2219539-sfx-019-self-portrait

7e2_2219546-tuna

As you can see, that 75mm lens is perfect for head & shoulder portraits, and it reminds me a lot of my 135mm/2.8 which I had for my Canon A-1, and which I now also have for my Olympus OM-2N. The angle of view is very similar, with the 75mm being slightly tighter, and comparable to a 150mm lens on a 135 film camera. Might be a bit long for normal indoor living rooms, where our 45mm lenses shine, but outdoors, or for candids, or the mentioned head & shoulders, it’s just perfect. And for cats of course. Purrfect.

As always, thanks for reading.

Some recent photographs

Here are some photos we took since Friday – half of which were taken with my camera, the other half with Mitchie’s:

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Tulips, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

7e2_2100083-tuna-diva

Tuna diva, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

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Wolfgang, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018 – photographer: Mitchie

7e2_2109264-dying-flowers-bass-guitar

Dying flowers and a bass guitar, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018

Thanks for viewing.

Using film…

… so there’s nothing new to show at the moment. 😉

I loaded the last roll of ISO 200 colour negative film into my camera which we had in our bookshelf since a while. It expired some three and a half years ago, so it’s about time to use it.

Today I took 7 photos with that so far: two outside (of wife and kid), two in school (of Zuleikha and classmates making music), and three indoors of the cat, at f/4 and using one of my studio strobes.

Later…

P.S.: ok, here’s one. Almost two years ago already, and also made using (Agfa APX 100 b&w) film. A “selfie” in the mirror of one of the company’s lifts, later “scanned” from the negative using my E-M10 and the Zuiko 50mm/2 macro lens together with a “slide copier” (basically a long extension tube with a film holder in front of it):

7e0_4063944-apx100-selfie

Quite grainy for an ISO 100 film. But ok…

Thanks for viewing & reading.

The look of larger formats

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m mostly using digital cameras in the ‘Micro Four Thirds’ format – which is exactly the same as ‘Four Thirds’, except that those ‘Micro’ cameras lost the mirror, so they’re more modern incarnations than their older DSLR brethren.

The format of both systems’ sensors is 13×17.3mm, which is bigger than the so-called “one inch”, but smaller than APS-C or “full frame” sensors which are as big as the old “Kleinbildfilm” – 24x36mm. Most portrait photographers nowadays use those “full frame” systems because of mainly two reasons: the lenses have to be twice longer for the same angle of view, so they give you another “look”, and the depth of field is much thinner with these longer lenses, so you are able to separate your subjects (models and other persons) from the background by blurring that background, which helps in getting rid of unwanted “distractions”.

Apart from that, the simple rule is that the bigger your medium – be it a digital sensor or film – the longer your lenses have to be for the same angles of view. And that gives your images a certain look which simply cannot be achieved with smaller formats.

Instead of further trying to describe this, have a look at Nick Carver taking some photos on route 66 with several different formats, from Polaroid and 4.5x6cm to 6x17cm which is pretty ‘cinematic’ as I would describe it. But also his 6×6 and 6x7cm photos from the Mamiya RZ67 cannot be replicated by anything smaller. Have a look:

So the takeaway from this is:

– yes, using film is a hassle (and he’s using Rollfilm which is quite easy to handle)
– yes, using film is expensive
– no, except with Polaroids, you won’t get instant results

But man oh man, how I love those renderings of larger formats, and the colours of both Kodak Portra (a colour negative film), and Fujifilm Velvia (a slide film, good for landscapes only).

Can’t get that with medium format digital – the biggest Sony sensors are still smaller than 4.5x6cm film, so you’d have to stitch several images after taking them with long lenses. Oh, and those sensors are not exactly mainstream yet, and so they still cost about the same as your typical middle class Mercedes limousine. The cheapest larger-than-full-frame digital camera you can buy at the moment is also one of those ‘cameras of the year’; that’d be the Fujifilm GFX. And yes, being a modern camera, it’s of course mirrorless, like the ones I’m using. Just with a slightly bigger sensor, and longer lenses.

Thanks for reading, and for watching – hope you enjoyed it.

The Best & Worst Photo/Video Gear of 2017

This is an interesting one from the Camera Store guys in Calgary, Canada – because they also asked other people’s opinions. And tho these other people are mostly Youtube ‘vloggers’, it can still be seen as a kind of industry overview – they all touch many more gear than you or I do. So if you’re interested and have the time (and understand English, but if you wouldn’t then you probably wouldn’t be reading here), here it is. Enjoy.

I agree with them in their choices of the three best cameras, tho one of them is a dinosaur – but they also make that a topic, so thumbs up for you guys!