Plato’s 808

(This is not a review of the TR-8 there’s plenty of those go Bing/Google it if that’s what you want.)
The TR-8, that is Roland’s latest drum machine and probably one of their best in recent memory. I love mine and have been playing with it almost every day. OK well not every day but a lot. (Still not as much as I think I should be but that’s fodder for another post). The title of this post though hearkens back to your old Philosophy class and Plato’s “Forms”   (quick abstract from Wikipedia “asserts that non-material abstract (but substantial) forms (or ideas), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality”)

In plain English, it means that if you hold a cube in your hand it’s not a “real” cube,  it is merely a representation of the “True” cube which exists in a perfect higher reality.   So Mr. Philosophy 101, what the fuck does that have to do with a cool Drum machine? Well it’s all about comments and reviews of the machine where a lot of folks Pooh-pooh the sound saying things like OMG Digital bad, analog good, It’s close but not the real thing hurr hurr. Man what a bunch of whiney babies. All these choads (Usually it seems, the same types that buy “oxygen free” speaker cables.) laughing puppets want an Honest to God analog 808 Drum machine and conveniently forget about the limitations of the original (yo 16 steps is all you got). Then they go on and on and on about “the Sound” and how ACB still doesn’t capture the nuance.  This may or may not be true, I did not own the 808, I had 606 but I played with quite a few back in the day, so I have more than a passing familiarity.  But I don’t think it really matters, in light that if you ever pick up an music tech magazine you will never find a drum sound  regardless where it came from that has not been layered, compressed and processed to the point where it doesn’t matter if it’s the real thing (that almost no- one has or a sample).  Now consider that due to the nature of analog components no two  808’s sound the same, and more than a few folks have heavily modded their to get more bass, decay etc. So now it’s gotten to point that the 808 has been elevated to the realm of Plato’s forms. There is an ideal 808 out there, but YOU  can never have it.  But I’ll tell you what, the TR-8 more than fills the bill , and for 499 retail I’m sure it will become  a new classic.



Still here and Still Kicking, it’s been a quiet summer on the musical front, I got some new toys (Roland I love you) and have been learning them and seeing how to incorporate them in the my new set. And when will you be able to hear this new set? Well, it looks like there may be an opportunity to play during Art Basel week, details are still up in the air but I’m totally looking forward to it. In the mean time you can hear some of what I’ve been working on my Soundcloud page, SubTr8s Essence is what you want to look for.
See you soon!

Here’s some gear Pron, I’ve actually redone my “Studio” yet again, still looking for the “flow”

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New Gear, New Sounds, New electronica

Some new electronica in progress,  Nice to start getting back into things. I’ve been kinda down and while that is fuel for some musicians, it’s not for me.  BTW this is a new setup- I am always reinvigorated by redesign of my workspace. Heck I don’t even like calling it a workspace or workflow because it’s about fun right? Still I wonder how many other musicians like to rearrange their creative spaces periodically? At anyrate I have better access to some of my older gear like the Casio VZ-10M the Kawai XD-5 and my trusty old Korg M3R.   Propellerhead’s lastest  version of Reason allows control of External midi Gear so I’m looking to see what mischief I can do there. Yes, I know I have always had the capability in Ableton, but I really like Reason’s layout and it fits right in with the design aesthetic (Rack-mount skeuomorphism and all that )WP_001319

But I love new toys, Who Doesn’t?   (Muzik 4 machines I’m looking squarely at you)

New gear is always a plus so I’m having some fun with a recently acquired M-Audio Venom and Korg Kaossilator. The Venom is very cool sounding synth that I think has been somewhat of an ugly duckling for M-Audio err Avid Umm InMusic whoever they are now .  It’s too bad because it has a lot of promise, good sound and flexible audio  implementation. Having the low latency Audio interface streamlines my setup in some ways, though as a controller it is merely OK (a better way to change programs let alone drum clips would have been awesome as would a phrase looper Oh well that’s what Ableton and Reason are for lol. With some of its feature you would almost think its’ a live performance synth but as it tunrs out changing between Drum patterns its glitchy- and not in a good way.  Still it has a lot to offer and can be had for cheap.  I may do a mini review of it though it seems to be covered fairly well on the Youtubes.

Speaking of the YouTubes here a little snippet of what I’ve got in my head now. Next time I’ll improve the audio

Solid State Disks and your Music Software

A question was recently asked on the Ableton  Forums concerning whether or not a Solid State Disk Drive (a hard disk with no moving parts) provides some real advantages over your typical spinnng metal platter based drive, beyond just fast load times of your samples into memory.  It is not wrong to assume that there is the speed benefit to loading samples into RAM from your drive but it goes beyond that, it  goes to the heart of modern operating system performance.

(Below is highly abstracted to illustrate the issue, as not everyone is a computer anyalyst and this is a subject that is SOOO easy to geek out on )

 Given the lack of physical RAM to Disk space (relatively speaking) modern computers have used something called “virtual memory”. This is where the operating systems get to take some space on the Hard disk and “pretends” that is is RAM memory. The operating system then figures out what you are doing (memory wise) and whatever you are doing at the moment it allocates more “real” chip based RAM. Whatever you aren’t actively working on it pushes off to slower Virtual memory in a process called Paging, Then when you need that application or service, it pulls it from the disk and into RAM. Its is during this transition that program slowdowns, pauses or audio stuttering can occur. Add to this the creation of “temporary” work files and caching that Ableton (or many other music software) and you have a hard disk that is working quite hard to (even @ 7200 or 10,000 RPM) to give you a smooth experience.

Traditionally you solved this by throwing RAM at the problem. Some folks go even going further by creating  paging or “swap” file partitions, putting the paging file on a dedicated separate physical drive, or even altering cluster sizes when you partitioned /formatted the Drive so you have more effecient use of space. All this in an effort increase mechanical efficiency to prevent the paging file from being fragmented/overused thereby decreasing the amount of movement the R/W heads have to do.   Microsoft even added “Ready Boost” to Vista and Win7 so you can use SD or Compact flash cards for Caching operations since they can have good read speeds. (Ahem..I once experimented w a Disk array using USB sticks and USB hub)

Well now, you can just spend a ton of money and get a solid state drive and forget about all that nonsense. No moving parts, incredible transer rates, no worries about vibration, no partitioning hassles, disk fragmentation is a relative non issue.  Now to be sure SSD’s comes with their own pecadillos but for our purposes price is the biggest obstacle.
Should you get one? Thats up to your wallet really. Do you need one? Probably not. Will you immediately benefit/ notice a diffrence if you buy a good one? Most likely  Hell yes!  Its one of those things thats once you actually try it the difference is quite obvious (Night/Day on Windows systems I can’t speak for Macs but I’m sure the experince is comparable). The good news is that if you can wait 3-6 months, you’ll undoubtedly save money as the prices will drop on the 120’s (as the 200+GB come out). But if you have an extra 3-400, (tax refunds, bonus, robbing a 7-11 what-eva), the SSD is not a bad investment. Compared to what some artists spend on new synths, mikes, compressors, or Controllers its chump change. 

SSD’s are the future of local data storage, even now Hewlett Packard  is looking to produce drives and other technologies from “Memristors” .  So don’t worry at some point and SSD will be part of your setup and you’ll be wondering you dodn’t make the switch sooner. (Conveniently forgetting todays price tag LOL).

Synchronizing your music and projects with Live Mesh

I’m a hardware geek, I always have been. I love my toys no matter what they are and am always plotting to get new things. I used to do this with Synth hardware but as that kind of gear got really expensive it was self limiting. So while I no longer buy hardware synths if I can help it, my software Synthesizer collection has grown. I have my sample libraries, Reason refills, Ableton sets, VST plug-ins and while I do try to enforce a standardized setup I always end up misplacing things. What can I say I am slob in Real life and slob in the virtual one. I use samples from wherever I find them and store things in piles. In my MMORPG Eve Online I have ships and modules strewn across the virtual “galaxy”. My computer desktop and my “real” desktop are eerily similar, (Oh how I pine for an “Arrange stuff by type” button on my real desk).

Ok, so you know  I like stuff, especially computer stuff. I like to build my own PC’s. I have always gotten the most bang per buck doing it that way. This is one of the many reasons I’m not a big MAC guy despite being into Music Production. I like to build them myself. If Apple let me (IE supported me) installing their stuff on my hardware that would be another kettle of fish.  However, I digress. Being a computer hobbyist since the days of the Commodore Vic 20 makes building things kind of easy for me. (I liked it so much it’s how I make my living).

  So I’m looking to rebuild/upgrade my PC and I have have recently acquired a used HP 6930P laptop to replace my aging HP TC 1100 tablet PC.  I want to make sure that when gig time come I have all the needed files to do what I need to do, and from here on in I didn’t want to think about it too much. What I am talking about is Microsoft’s Beta service Live Mesh.  It is a file sharing and Remote Desktop Service that among other things allows you to synchronize files between multiple computers via an internet connection. sharing and replication (how it copies) is handled easily and Computers files and folders can be linked in several ways. It is a beta service so it may not be up 24/7. It is NOT substitute for a proper backup. It is how ever a nice convenience, and a good example of the future of cloud computing and anytime access to your data as it relates to the consumer. (uh oh- Geek out!) 

BTW this is not a MAC Vs PC holy war blog and the tip I’m going to share should work across both both platforms. Sorry Linux I know there are other ways to accomplish this but this is pretty nice even if it is from the Great Evil ones at Mt Doom errr nice folks at Redmond.

Now this is different from say Google docs, because once the client is installed on your machine it will give you the option to synchronize it with the live desktop or other Machines in your “Mesh”.

Now for those of you who use a Windows Server based network in your office or home network this is old hat.  But it was a hassle to setup and who wants to spend the money on an Windows Server license? Another way to do this cheaply and with just regular file sharing turned on is to use the free Microsoft Sync-toy (or Batch file commands) and a Scheduled Task to do file copies between your machines (or a cron job for you LINUX types). So there are already options for you if you need them and know your way around your computer.   But I Ilike to try new stuff and I am lazy, I mean “Real Lazy” but its a  lazy born out being a working father of two pre-tween children whose trying to get a lot of stuff done and have time left over for extras like music and video games. Time is a very expensive commodity in my house, so much to do, so little time. 

So now I have new(ish) laptop and I have set it up with my favorite software Propellerhead’s Reason and Record and Ableton Live and few other things. I loaded some of my libraries from a Portable hard drive I use for backups and realized I could use Mesh to synch the same directories regardless of their locations.

To do this I will use the Ableton directory that gets created in your My Documents folder by the default installation as an example. you could do this with just about any directory.

  • If you have not already done so create a Windows Live ID (hey its another free mailbox and 5 GB of Storage)
  • Login to the Mesh site
  • Select the big Orange “Add Device” Button
  • Download and install the software and follow the prompts.
  • Login.
  • Once it it finished you will see an Icon with your computer name in the Live Mesh Desktop Window. There will be an Icon in your system Tray as well.
  • Navigate to your My Documents directory.
  • Select and right click the Ableton folder.
  • Select Add folder to Mesh
  • Mesh3 
  • You will then see the “Add Folder to Live Mesh” dialog. Select the Show Synchronization Options. Change the “Live Desktop” setting so it does not try to copy up to your Live Desktop Workspace. This is important as you only get 5GB of free storage and sample libraries and projects can well exceed that. 
  • Mesh5
  • Repeat this for the various devices you want to synchronize.
  • Note that after you have setup your initial synch with the first PC. it will setup “Ghost” folders on the Live desktop. Do not delete them, even though they contain nothing they are place holders.
  • Mesh2


Now on the next PC you setup when you right click on a folder to add to the Mesh if the folder already exists, you will see this dialog when attempt to synch. (Using our Ableton example.) Be careful make sure it is a directory you want to synch.


Once you are done, all your machines will begin to synchronize their folders whenever your PC is Idle. To save time and bandwidth you could copy all the files (using sync toy for example) directly to your new machine. That way only the files you have changed will be copied over.

For example; if you were working on something on the Studio machine and then grabbed your laptop to take take somewhere, you could still get to the files. Once you got an internet connection whatever you saved on the studio machine will eventually appear on the laptop as it copies down.   It even has a change log so you know what files were changed or synched. 

Oh did I mention that you can also share your File and Folders with other Live Mesh users? Oh yes, you can invite another producer /DJ/ etc to work on your project and add him as a user on that folder. Now anytime either of you make a change, the other can see it. (Make special sharing folders for this). Just remember not to share to the Live Desktop and you will be OK.

I forgot to mention, one of the extra features in MESH is that it allows you remote control your PC from a browser “For Free”. That’s right the Mesh Client also does its own RDP. So if you absolutely needed something off your machine, you could Remote in and work on it directly.  As I mentioned earlier this is not a Windows only thing. There is limited support for MAC OSX clients so go ahead and give it a try.


Damn you Akai for putting out the APC 20.  I had just convinced myself that I did not need the Novation Launchpad and I could do without another doo-hicky but then Akai you BASTARDS, release this little modular mini APC and now I’m drooling again.

Hmm not so sure about Novation now..

Damn you Guitar Center!  I went there to get an M-audio expression pedal (which I had to special order) so I could try out the Wah-Wah on the Line6 in Propellerhead’s Record.  In the Sale Rack they had a Novation Nocturn for $92.00! thats pretty darn cheap so I figured “why not?”  Installation of Automap and the driver went OK. But Configuring for use with Live was not pretty and Record (and Reason) Locked up up hard when configuring Automap (Yes I did RTFM).

Then the BSOD occured. Bear in mind I am using Windows 7 RC and have have not seen a BSOD even once. I was very unhappy. I rebooted and still could not get Automap to work worth a shit and I gave up on Reason, when it BSOD’d  again. So I figured maybe I should update the software let me check on Novation’s forums.  Well the Sorry excuse for forum was useless as was their non answers about Windows 7. I know I should not be so critical but comapred to the Propellerhead and Ableton forums it was a letdown.  At any rate I downloaded the Automap 3.3 and to make a long story short, it would not install at all. I would get a DOS screen that would pop up an error that I could not read and then it would quit.  I tried the usual compatibility mode tricks without success.   In hindsight I should have used Win7’s Problem Steps recorder to really start troubleshooting the issue and read the pesky error but it was late, I was getting tired and quite frankly I have never had to work this hard to get any of my other other controllers to work.

My Rule of thumb is if it takes more than 15 minutes to install a piece of hardware on my PC, and that time is due to installation /config issues not “clearly” covered in the manual then that hardware is going back.  M-Audio and Akai have really spoiled my in that sense. Their shit just works.  So unless I get some handy tips and tricks to try in the comments section I’m probably going back to GC to return it for a refund.   This experience has made me a little Gunshy about picking up the Launchpad, Which I have to special order since my GC won’t be carrying it in stores.  apparently they already have a lot of Merch, and they don’t want to crimp the sales of the APC 40 which I guess they have a better markup on. (So says my GC Sales guy.)