Archive for the 'gear' Category


Monome – first steps

I have had a Tenori-on for well over a year now, and have been intrigued about the differences between it and a monome ever since. Having put myself down on the monome waiting list, and 6/7 months later getting notified that I could get one if I said yes immediately, I recently made the plunge.

Gorgeous screen printed box, a bit of paper inside to keep it snug, and then the object itself.Beautifully screenprinted little Monome cardboard box
Rich and dark Mahogancy case, beautifully handcrafted and sturdy as hell, but with a really light weight to it. Weirdly, it felt cool to the touch (probably because it’s been freezing in London recently). Lovely little led-lit push padsNice stainless steel (or aluminium – who am I to know these days?) faceplate and 128 dinky little buttons. This is a thing of real beauty – an old school case with new school flashing Led push pads. I think I prefer it to the Tenori-on’s space age, curved corner thing with rattly buttons – but I did find use for Tenori-on’s form factor in use, so maybe monome will lose out here.
Monome (with 50p)Then came the setup… Oh dear, no instructions. Open source at work here. I had to go to the website and follow a variety of steps, downloading and installing a driver, restarting, installing a monomeserial app which apparently has to run every time with any other app. Then a monomebase set of apps which supposedly helps you to test out the box. Hmmm… not much working at this stage – is it broken? Is it bad that I am using UK 240v on a 115v power supply? Have i just wasted over £700 of my hard earned cash?

After a few app downloads and some playing around, I finally got it working. First app, mlr. This is a beat slicing and automatic looping app that allows you to drag a loop into it, and trigger it off at various points within a loop. Hard to explain, but this is the one that most people seem to be using in all the Vimeo and YouTube videos (like this one or this one). Unluckily for me, I had no loops ready, so I had to go on to the interent and download me some old skool drum + bass breaks. A little bit of apache, and there we go – a nice looping breakbeat. 

Then onto a few others, which seem a bit rubbish at first. And then, there it is, Polygnome – a weird pattern arpeggiator triggerer thing. So hard to explain, so much fun to fiddle with. I am going to have to master this one some more, when I get my head around how it all works – 70% there I reckon at the moment.

Anyway, I aim to post some videos when I get my video recording setup sorted, and then a pure monome played tune, but for now here’s my first impressions on Monome vs.Tenori-On:

  • Build Quality – Monome 1: Tenori-On 1 – both feel quite sturdy, although the rattle of the Tenori-on buttons did almost make it a loser
  • Aesthetics – Monome 1: Tenori-On 0 –  I think monome wins here for me. I prefer the retro wood styling to the spacey Tenori-on spaceship style
  • Ease of setup – Monome 0: Tenori-On 1 – Monome was a nightmare to setup, I am fairly computer literate but struggled. Tenori-on could pretty much play out of box.
  • Ease of music creation – Monome 0: Tenori-On – Monome requires you to run separate little apps (it seems) and each by themselves make it hard to compose a tune. Tenori-On on the other hand can do it all out of the box with its in-built sounds and straight forwward Midi implementation
  • Portability – Monome 0: Tenori-On 1 – Tenori-On runs on batteries and has its own sound bank. Monome 128 requires separate power and a usb cable to connect it to computer with sounds in it.
  • Flexibility – Monome 1: Tenori-On – I feel like the Tenori-On needs some extensions to its firmware or something. Since launch, there;’s been nothing new around it, whereas with Monome, people are developing stuff all the time, and there’s always something new to play with. I can see the appeal being long lasting

Check out the following links if you want to find out more:


Korg nano controllers

I am really feeling these new little Korg midi controllers.

Korg nanoSeries controllers

There’s a pad control type one, a little velocity sensitive keyboard one, and a fader one. I spoke to someone at London International Music Show who reckoned they could be as cheap as £35. I’d get one of each. They were only non-working prototype models, so I think they are a long way off actually being released, but watch this space.

Read more here.


Finally, I’m back to working on a Mac

MacBook pro

Over 2 years after I joined my company, I have finally got given a Mac to work on.

Yes, it’s battered, secondhand, repaired, get’s hot and too big for my favourite bag, but it’s great having one to work on again.

I am intrigued to see how my experience working on the machine differs from my experience playing on my personal one (named ‘Pete’).


Making digital music in the sun

Those that know me, know that I spend an awful lot of my time in my ‘special’ room making digital music. It’s fun, but extremely time consuming: getting that right sound, cutting up that beat perfectly or arranging the track so that it flows nicely.

The problem for me, is that I also love the sun, and my dependency on using a laptop with various synths, faders and knobs and stuff means that it’s very difficult to combine these pleasures.

I did try to cretae a laptop hood contraption out of foam board and black card. I prototyped something very basic and then tried it out on the river bank of Richmond. I daren’t show pictures of it as it is an embarrassment given I was trained in Industrial Design. That didn’t work at all and I looked like a real twat. My mate Fosta said it was because of all the ambient light and he is obviosuly right.

So then I thought about investing in some portable, battery powered music equipment and remembered the Akai MPC 500: MPC 500

For anyone that doesn’t know, Akai’s MPC range of drum sequencers with pads have pretty much been in use by every hip-hop producer that’s worth knowing about. Reading interviews of the big and little names, they will always refer to their MPC as one of tehir favourite bits of kit.

Buying the MPC now allows me to sample from my iPod and make beats and loops while out in the sun. When I tried this for the first time, I did get lots of weird looks by passers by and I think a fair few rude boys wanted to give me a slap and knick my box of tricks, but who cares – I can now make beats and do soem sampling in the sun.

The next thing I have been trying to get hold of is a portable synth which I can program in the sun. Surprisingly, there’s very few of these and although I had always had my sights set on a Korg MicroKorg, I am now in the hunt for a Novation XioSynth 25 which is apparently a much better sound source with much more hands-on knob twiddling (Just what I need to get a proper handling on sound synthesis.)

Korg MicroKorg:

Novation XioSynth
Xio Synth 25

It seems, however, that everyone seems to have the same idea and I can’t find one in stock anywhere. I just wanted to buy one, pick it up and play this weekend, but I think i’ll have to resort to buying it over the internet.

Ah well, sunshine with my MPC today it is then…