Archive for the 'music production' 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.


Wemix site allows telephone uploads

Ludacris’ wemix site, a site where you can collaborate with other musicians and share your own musical creations, has just launched a service where you can phone up and sing down the phoneline, and receive real feedback from Ludacris and the masses. I wasn’t aware of the site, but this is an interesting take on user-generated content.

Read more here.

The first video I found on the site was a track called Booty on My You Tube – absolute classic if you like ‘the booty scene’. I am an early tourist, and i’m a bit scared. Check it here

or below:

Funnily enough, i remember a rumour going round that Ludacris was actually one half of Kriss Kross – you know those little dudes that wore their low hanging jeans backwards and went on about jumping? I think I worked out that the rumour wasn’t true, but it’ still worth a reminisce:


Tenori-On – cooler than an iPhone?


I attended the Tenori-On launch last night and after about 10 minutes of complete confusion as I played with it before finally glancing at the quick start guide on the many listening posts, I soon fell in lust with this playful delight of an object – I had to get me one of those magical flashing boxes. Hearing that there might only be 50 on sale on opening night, I rushed upstairs and got the second to last one before the crowds flooded in.

Luckily the record dude held on to it while I found out more about how it worked and waited in anticipation for Toshio Iwai’s (the product’s designer) presentation.

Wow! What a presentation.

Not because of its delivery, not because of any effects but purely because of the story that he told and the design processes he went through. You could see how this visual artist was heavily influenced by an old Japanese music box using a roll of paper with ‘Happy Birthday’ marked out in an interesting hole arrangement. You were fascinated as he just turned the paper round and played an inverse of the tune just by turning the paper round and feeding it in.

You could see his years of experimentation with old school graphics, games etc. all around the same theme of note and time display. How it was all about play and generation of nice sounds with minimal musical ability.

You then saw his determination as he finally launched a product that he has been refining with Yamaha for 6 years.

This guy had spent over a decade developing this thing. No matter what perceived usability flaws I find, I will know there are very good reasons for the product being built this way, and I would be devoted for conveying any marketing out to the lucrative market ahead. I have to respect his commitment and passion for his idea.

I’m not going to go into the features and the way it works here (save that for some future postings) but I have to say I was fascinated by his last feature explanation. Apparently, the Tenori-On allows you to record all the things that you do (instrument experimentations, arrangement changes, melody modifications) etc, and then share this whole process with a peer, so that you can relive how they came up with the end tune.

Can you imagine that? Just imagine your favourite artist sharing with you all the duff notes they hit, all the wrong turns they made and all the happy accidents that occurred on the way to them delivering your favourite song. Fascinating stuff there – bizarrely correlating with some rather conceptual ideas for financial traders the Health & Wealth EAs were coming up with earlier in the day.


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…