Wednesday, 30 July 2008

noise gate tutorial

audiotuts has a tutorial on creating a noise gate effect - the tutorial is produced using Logic, but the same principles apply to any DAW.
A noise gate effect can produce some really interesting choppy, glitchy type effects ad this tutorial takes you through the process very easily.

free vst effects

antress has a bunch of free vst plugin effects.
all the effects are designed to be used as insert effects so no reverbs here.
the effects range from simple vu meters, to compressors, expanders, EQ's, etc...

Friday, 25 July 2008

free synth

kx77free has released a fairly comprehensive VST synth that uses a combination of subtractive and additive synthesis. The features list contains some useful features, like plenty of envelopes and LFO's, 2x filters and the like.

Full parameters controls to make Additive Waveforms with no aliasing.
Full 32 bit High Quality Waveforms.
Same quality for all clock frequencies: 44.1 khz to 192 khz.
independent WaveTracer engine: KxWaveTracer.exe.
Stereo routing.
All modulations are pre-connected, no cables on the GUI.
3 Polyphonic EGs with for each segment: curves, velocity and Kbd controls.
1 Monophonic EG with for each segment: curves, velocity and Kbd controls.
Multiple trigger sources and sync for the EGs and the LFOs.
2 Oscillators with 2 waveforms and 2 outputs with Phase modulation and Sync.
2 independent Sub Oscillators.
2 Monophonic LFOs with 2 Rates and ASR EG.
2 Mulitmode VCFs.
Mixer with 6 sources: Noise, Vco1 1-2, Vco 2 1-2, Ring, Vco1 Width, Vco2 Width and 3 outputs: VCF1, VCF2, VCA.
Each mixer voice can be modulated by different sources.
Noise Generator with an EQ.
Ring Modulator.
6 host sync clocks.
2 Midi inputs.
1 Distortion.
2 Delays with sync, multimode filter and modulation oscillator with sync.
Full NRPN implementation: More 500 parameters.
128 presets

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Circuit bending

Expert Village has a series of video tutorials on circuit bending.
They cover topics such as soldering, how to find good sopts to 'bend', light sensors, etc..
There are a number of videos all on a different topic.
If you're interested in circuit bending they're definitely worth a look.

Arduino Tutorials

The Arduino is a physical computing platform which you can interface with your computer. It is possible to 'code' the Arduino board to implement various functions and to be controlled by various software packages such as MaxMSP and Processing.

Here are some tutorials for info on how to code your board for certain projects:
this site has numerous step by step tutorials on the Arduino board plus a few tutorials on soldering and other related, useful topics.
this site contains numerous tutorials for projects such as controlling LEDS, controlling motors, using sensors, etc..

You could also visit Make and Instructables for other tutorials and projects.

Douglas Stanley from abstractmachine has announced the release of his OpenCV package for the Processing software.
The OpenCV package contains, amongst other things, face detection, image treatment and countour tracking.

The package is open source and free as is Processing so if you're interested in doing any kind of visual based work Processing is a good place to start and this OpenCV package would be a good addition to your toolkit.
The above link also takes you to a number of example projects that have used the OpenCV package.

Computer Music Tutorials

Computer Music has provided a bunch of their beginners guides.
There's stuff on synthesis, recordings, FX and various software packages.

MIDI articles

A selection of MIDI based tutorials here.
Ranging from what MIDI is to making accompaniment tracks.

Music Theory Links

Teoria has a bunch of links to various music theory articles, tutorials, exercises and the like.

Bowed Cymbal

This has appeared in a few places...
Tim Prebble has put together a short video exploring the different kinds of sounds that can be generated through the bowing of a cracked, broken cymbal.
He gets some really interesting tones.

Bowed Cymbal recording from tim prebble on Vimeo.

more info here

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

free synth

DSK music has released a little freeware synth that amongst the usual facilities has a pretty neat modulation matrix.

- 2 OSC with 6 waveforms
- Amp. Envelope
- Octave & finetunning
- Advanced pulse modulation
- 2 LFO with 6 waveforms
- 2 Filter (4 modes)
- Osc 1/2 Balance
- Osc sync
- Velocity response knob
- OSC & Filter route
- 7×14 Matrix panel
- 3 Effects: Chorus, Reverb & Drive

a mod matrix is a really useful addition to any synth and can really help you to create interesting sounds.

another Ben Burtt interview

the BBC have another interview with ben Burtt here.

He talks briefly about creating the "voice" of ET, the sounds in Wall-E and his weirdest sound:
"I remember when my wife was pregnant with our first child, I went to the doctor's office and we listened to a sonogram of the heartbeat of the unborn child and I recorded it. I wasn't thinking about the child, I was thinking, 'This is a great sound.' And I was working on a film called Invasion Of The Body Snatchers at that time and it ended up being the main sound for all the pods and pod people and all that. That was a pretty weird application but it did seem to work because it was all about birthing strange alien creatures. So it was rooted in the womb, so to speak."

He also talks about how he has managed to use some old recordings of a short wave radio set in every movie he's worked on
"In every movie I think I've got bit of my grandfather's hand radio set. I recorded some electronic sounds, tuning stations, back 40 or 50 years ago. And I have used a bit of that Morse code, that side banding, short wave sound in some form in every film I've ever done."

vvvv adds VST support

The free visual programming environment vvvv has now added support for VST plugins (both instruments and FX). This means that you can now hook up the output of your favourite plugin and use its audio output to drive the generation and modfication of your visuals.

More info can be found in the vvvv wiki.

Sonic Visualiser

Sonic Visualiser is a free application that lets you analyse a recording in a variety of different ways.
"The aim of Sonic Visualiser is to be the first program you reach for when want to study a musical recording rather than simply listen to it.

As well as a number of features designed to make exploring audio data as revealing and fun as possible, Sonic Visualiser also has powerful annotation capabilities to help you to describe what you find, and the ability to run automated annotation and analysis plugins in the Vamp analysis plugin format – as well as applying standard audio effects.

We hope Sonic Visualiser will be of particular interest to musicologists, archivists, signal-processing researchers and anyone else looking for a friendly way to take a look at what lies inside the audio file."

Mastering tips

Audiotuts has a short little article on mastering.
The basic gist is to apply compression, EQ and limiting.

The tutorial takes place in Logic and so is a reasonable advert for the plugins that come packaged with Logic and shows that its possibel to get good results yourself.

Its worth bearing in mind that there are reasons why mastering engineers spend a long time perfecting their art! If you really want your track to sound good its worth getting a professional to do your mastering...

A good book on mastering is Mastering Audio by Bob Katz

Affordable microphones

Audiotuts has put together a list of 10 of the best "affordable" microphones. So, if you're looking for a reasonably priced mic then this list might be a good place to start.
The prices given for each mic are in dollars so you'd have to convert to real money to get an idea of cost (a useful website for this is


Access is an installation that allows users to track individuals in a public space via a web interface.
"ACCESS is a public art installation that applies web, computer, sound and lighting technologies in which web users track individuals in public spaces with a unique robotic spotlight and acoustic beam system. The robotic spotlight automatically follows the tracked individuals while the acoustic beam projects audio that only they can hear. The tracked individuals do not know who is tracking them or why they are being tracked, nor are they aware of being the only persons among the public hearing the sound. The web users do not know that their actions trigger sound towards the target. In effect, both the tracker and the tracked are in a paradoxical communication loop. The ACCESS spotlight system travels from one undisclosed public space to another. The exact location of the public space is revealed only after ACCESS moves to its next location. The ACCESS website, which contains the webcam view and spotlight control, keeps an updated list of the locations visited as well as a video archive."

There are a number of videos available on their website, along with some still images of the installation in action and the web interface.

This is a reasonably long term project which has been installed in various locations since 2002.

I like the idea that the person being tracked doesn't know why they are being followed by the spotlight - paranoia kicks in!

The Guitar Zeros

Cycling74 have an interview/article with/on Owen Grace, the fouder of the Guitar Zeros. The Zeros are a rock band whose guitarist and bassist use Guitar Hero controllers and MaxMSP patches.
The interview is more a background kind of thing discussing how he started using MaxMSP and what his inspiration for the project is.

There's a nice accompanying video in which Owen demos some of the features of his custom Max patch

The patch that the Zeros use can be downloaded from their website along with full instructions.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Bowed Piano Ensemble

A pretty cool performance of a composition realised solely through sounds made by a grand piano.
The piano is struck, played, bowed, plucked, etc...
The performers get some very nice tones.

Reaktor: DSP & Core

If you're into Reaktor in a heavy way Native Instruments have posted some tutorials here. They take you some pretty complex stuff to do with filters.
According to Stephan Schmitt (from NI):
"The articles are in a very condensed scientific style. They definitely require some academic education and DSP knowledge. They are accompanied by two tutorials helping you to implement and to try out the discussed methods in Reaktor Core. Those who dive into this material will be rewarded by some deep insights into the design of filters."

The official documnetation for the Core system within Reaktor can be found here.

Vocal Glitch effects

Audiotuts has a tutorial on chopping up vocal phrases to produces glitchy, stuttering effects. Obviously the same process can be applied to any kind of audio file not just vocals.
The comments after the tutorial contain some suggestions for freeware plugins that can be used to create a similar effect, such as LiveCut and Dblue Glitch.

Thursday, 10 July 2008 now pays for plays

Create Digital Music has an article about a new announcement from Basically will now pay royalties for songs that are played through their website.
This means that independent, unsigned artists can earn money (not a lot!) every time their song is played via
The article references some other articles on the subject and highlights the key issues that raises for the "standard" arrangement of royalties.

Another advantage of using as a means of promoting your music is that you have access to a wealth of data anaylsis tools, the ability to organise events and the fact that listeners can almost become an "army of promoters" for your music as they add to your artist details, etc.

This could be quite a development for the music industry (if it works, continues and spreads to ther outlets...)

It turns out that the amount offered through this new strategy is not really that impressive - apparenty it equates to about $0.0005USD per play!!
see this article from CDM, and the links associated with it for more info...

ProTools tutorials

Record Ready is a relatively new blog which aims to provide tips, tricks and tutorials for engineers and producers.
It currently seems to be aimed entirely at ProTools, although they do have a few links to interviews with top producers.
There are already a number of video tutorials all of which are free to access, so if you're just starting to get your head round ProTools this would be a good site to keep an eye on.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta)

The Guardian has an article discussing the newly propsed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which in theory oculd allow customs officers to stop you at border control and search your laptop / music player for illegal files (either music or video).
The article highlights some of the key issues of this agreement, plus another law currently being discussed in the Eruopean Parliament which could result in users being kicked off the internet if they violate copyright laws.

I would have thought that these laws are really to catch the "big boys" who are ripping CDs and DVDs on a large scale rather than the occasional downloader - but you never know!

Wind Sound Design

Audiotuts has a tutorial on designing wind sounds that contain quite a bit of movement through the use of EQ, convolution and reverb.
The author decribes the use of harmonic exciters, and unusual samples (cat and dog noises) as impulse repsonses within a convolution reverb effect.
The end result is not the most realistic sounding wind noise, but would be a great sound to use within a project if you wanted to project emotions through the sound of the wind.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Anthropomorphic sound design

Just been reading an interesting set of posts on the sound_design yahoo group about the use of anthropomorphic sound design to give non-human objects/characters (such as robots) "personalities".

The group members suggest some good examples of such sound design.
The Black Stallion
Lord of the rings
Old Warner Bros cartoons

One member (Craig) points out a nice little example from Jurassic Park:
"in the first part of the film when they are getting the guided tour of
the labs. They are standing over some eggs and a very gentle robotic
arm servo sound is used in handling the eggs. Then Jeff Goldblum
touches one of the eggs and the robotic arm turns aggressive, using a
completely different type of servo sound, one that is more aggressive
and grating. A small detail, but in my opinion, a great use of sound
to convey emotion of a non human character."

Another member (Andy Farnell) provides some good examples of the use of sound to provide a feeling of emotion for robotic characters:
"HAL - measured, cold, soporific. The line "I'm sorry Dave, I can't
allow you to do that" is delivered to juxtapose the life and death
situation against indifferent, emotionless logic. Though later, when
he is (being killed) having his memory circuits ripped out the drunken,
confused rendition of "Daisy" is clearly played for emotions.

Daleks ! :) Pure, arrogant evil of a superior master race hellbent on
exterminating 'inferior' lifeforms. The inharmonic shift of the ring
modulator gives that nasty buzzing (like a wasp) feel. The modulator shift
is used to emphasise manic nihilsim, with the pitching up towards the
end of each phrase or sentence.

Cylons - The vocoder is followed by a tight verb or resonator that makes
them sound like they are speaking out of their hollow metal heads. It's actually
a bit dumb and drone like. While you could imagine Daleks could be formidable
enemies and easily angered, Cylons seem like stupid metal heads any human
could easily outwit.

Robby the Robot - with his pointlessly flailing arms and spinning ears
probably wouldn't be much use in a scrap against ninjas, but the voice
(complementing the 7 foot tall stature) is all about strength and protection,
so when he says "Danger Will Robinson!" you think - ah don't worry Robby
is with them, he'll sort it all out. Good old reliable Robby will save
everyone (by falling on the enemy and crushing them).

Bender - He's just a regular robot. The lack of VO effects emphasises
the lack of difference. Bender is more grounded and human than the other
pretentious residents of the Futurama universe. He gets drunk, watches
roboporn, cheats, steals and lies and acts like a coward. While at
the same time, remains completely lovable.

R2D2 - basically R2 is a dog. He fetches. He does cute tricks. Not big
enough to be a threat, but can bite if he needs to. His purposeful
chatter is intelligent, but seems like it's directed at himself much
of the time. He gets frightened and shrieks.

Notice how Imperial probe droids (which are a similar species to R2)
are made evil with a bit of modulation and inharmonic sidebands."

Another good example is from the Transformers film. In the scene where Bumblebee (the yellow car/robot) is captured by the US army the mechanical groans. creaks, etc all give the impression of the robot being in distress.
The vocals of the robots were also devised in such a way as to help the viewer differentiate between the autobots and deceptecons. The deceptecon voices are pitched down slightly and are processed to give them a slightly sinister edge.

I think its fair to say that creating sounds for a non-human character can be quite an exciting prospect as you are able to provoke emotional responses from the viewers through nothing other than the use of sound design.

Homemade parabolic microphone

Make has an excellent video tutorial on how to make your own parabolic microphone on the cheap using an umbrella.
It looks pretty simple, and seems to work fairly effectively.

This would be a useful addition to any field recording kit.

Umbrella Parabolic Microphone - video powered by Metacafe

Homebrew music apps for the DS

Remain Calm has a roundup of some of the homebrew music applications for the Nintendo DS.
Some of these look pretty interesting, especially as they're free.
Whenever I see things like this I'm always really tempted to get me a DS, especially as there's the new Korg DS10 app coming out soon, which is an emulation of the Korg MS10. Plus don't forget ElektroPlankton!

Monday, 7 July 2008

sound design articles

Daniel Blondin has produced some well written and interesting articles centred around the subject of sound design.

The first article focuses on vibrational energies. He talks about how everything in te universe is made up of different forms of energy and that it is possible to produce sounds/music that is harmonious with these energies and that the resulting sounds/music should be 'preferable' to non-harmonious music. Obviously not everyone will find the same music 'preferable' but he suggest that this is because we all have slightly different vibrational energies.
He cites one study in which plants were kept in sound proof rooms, one set were played Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, the other set were played Indian classical music. It was found that the plants being played rock music withered and died and in fact tried to turn away from the speakers, while the plants that were played Indian classical music grew and flourished and in fact turned towards the speakers.
This may sound like some new-age hippy rubbish, but I suppose it does make some kind of sense...

The second article looks at creature sound design, in particular vocalisation sounds.
He mentions how Ben Burtt created the sound of Chewbacca for the Star Wars films and gives some suggestions of how the same scene can be given different emotional content through the use of different kinds of sounds for the same action.
He also describes the various mechanisms that animals use to create sound; lion roars, wolf howls, whales, crickets, birds, etc... This information could prove useful as starting points when designing sound for a 'made-up' creature - think about how your creature would make sound (what kind of creature it is) and then use the relevant 'real' sound making technique as a starting point.
He then goes on to suggest some different kinds of audio processing effects that can be used creatively to create some interesting sounds, such as granular sampling/synthesis, formant filters, convolution, pitch shifting and morphing.

Other articles discuss issues such as creative commons (cc) licences, location recording with the Zoom H4 portable recorder - more an account of his experiences rather than tutorials.

Another article takes you through the creation of your own starwars lightsaber sounds. He discusses the original approach that Ben Burtt used and how to go about recreating this. He also offers advice for simulating each of the physical processes in the original methods.
Ben Burtt used very little synthesised sounds in his starwars work, rather preferring to use mechanical and organic sounds combined with real-world physical processing. This technique lent his sounds a "real-world" quality which is often cited as being the reason the soundtrack to the starwars films works so well.

Daniel has also written an article based on his experiences attempting to record underwater sounds. He documents the various approaches he used and some of the problems he encountered.

His final article entitled "The future sound of vehicles" discusses the approaches of various sound designers when designing vehicle sounds for films such as Transformers, Tron, Star Wars, Bladerunner and the Matrix.
He also describes approaches to designing your own vehicle sounds using software plugins to recreate the acoustic effects of movement on sound.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Music Theory: Detecting intervals

audiojungle has a nice article on training your ear to recognise intervals in music (relative pitch). They also provide some songs/tunes that contain these intervals so that you can hear them in context.
These examples are all well known / popular tunes so they should help you to "hear" the intervals in you head.

The are also some little web-based training apps here

Saturday, 5 July 2008

free, crossplatform audio apps

livePA has a list of 8 free, cross platform applications for musicians. There are some audio editors, sequencers, MIDI editors and score creation packages.

Some I was already aware of, but there are some new ones on the list.
Possibly an alternative to shelling out hundreds of pounds on apps like Cubase...
Some of the DAW packages support VST plugins so it is possible to produce a reasonably complex composition using these completely free tools.

flow-chart software

whilst reading the maxmsp user forum I came across a link for graphviz which is a visualisation / flowchart creation software.
Graphviz is multi-platform and free to download.

I've not had much of a chance to play around with it, but I can imagine it would be very useful when it comes to planning complex projects.

reverse reverb effect

Audiotuts has a well written tutorial on how to create the ubiquitous reverse reverb effect. There are some nice sreenshots which make it even easier to follow.