Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 
October 17, 2018

Old 'n' Busted...

by Chris Randall
 

Become a Patron!

Well, perhaps that title is a little out-of-line. But it has become apparent to me in the last couple years that blogs just aren't a Thing any more, at least not as this one exists.

Analog Industries has been around in some iteration since roughly 2001. By 2005 it was, along with Create Digital Music and MusicThing, one of the three music tech blogs that Mattered. My wife built its current incarnation in 2005, and one must say she built it robustly, given that it still works fine despite her having not touched the code in any meaningful fashion for half a decade. This is the 1,970th post on this iteration, and taken as a whole it comprises a fairly healthy cataloging of the music technology industry for the last 14 years. Every once in a while, I'll go to a page at random and read the comments; 2008-10 is particularly fruitful as that was the high water mark for the site. (At least as far as interaction. I was fairly mean-spirited back then, and I'm mildly ashamed that the most popular posts were the ones where I made fun of something or someone.)

Around 2010 Audio Damage began to really take off, and my time became more dear. The last couple years, I've been averaging a post every two months, but that's not because of Audio Damage. Being in this industry, rather than of it (as I was when I started the site), it has become impolitic for me to publicly say many of the opinions I hold. In addition, there are literally hundreds of gear news sites (not to mention Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and the gods-forsaken blighted land of Facebook groups), so a large portion of AI's purview had been rendered superfluous. Furthermore, while I've occasionally done runs of t-shirts and what-not to offset the cost, I've never run a single advertisement, and this piglet moves a lot of bytes. In short, it has become a bit of a boat anchor.

So I'm going to try something new. Well, new to me. I've created a Patreon account, and I will move my blogging to there, as well as the majority of my creative output in general. If you head to the Patreon page, you'll get the gist of it. This will have two main benefits:

1. It will put my blog posts in a walled garden, thus giving me more freedom to express my thoughts.

2. It will create a more incentive-oriented funnel for my creative output, of which you'll be the direct beneficiary.

So, will you come with me and at least give it a try? If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but my feeling is that this is the way to get forward momentum, and allow me to be more open about my work and the music industry, and create a more cozy environment for those that have been with this site since its inception.

Chris Randall on Patreon

 
October 6, 2018

Tech_Time 011: Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

by Chris Randall
 



I'm trying like hell to get back to a weekly AI, but circumstances dictated otherwise for #11. I would have only been a day late, because I didn't have the correct flavor of Arduino to do MIDI-over-USB and I didn't discover this until I tried to code it; easily solved by Amazon Prime, but then we inexplicably had a hurricane here in Phoenix (I know, right?) and as a result, my same-day delivery of a new Arduino Leonardo took 4 days to arrive.

All's well that ends well, though. Above is the fruits of hurricane-induced tardiness, the Magic Robotic Contact-Mic Hitter Thingie. Essentially, there are four cantilevered hammers I made on my Shapeoko that are struck by solenoids; the solenoids are driven via MIDI. In the video, I have the Arduino rigged as a class-compliant MIDI interface, and it is being driven by Bram Bos' Euclidian sequencer plugin, which is part of his Rozetta suite of MIDI plugins for iOS.

After building it, I see where it could be improved somewhat, but on the whole it does what I intended, and today or tomorrow I'll make some Music™ with it and see how it sits. Watch for that video shortly. Do any of you use electro-kinetic instrumentation like this in your music? If so, what are your thoughts on use cases and such?

 
September 22, 2018

The Stethophone: Tech Time 010

by Chris Randall
 



Finally, a new Tech Time! In this episode, I make the Amazing Stethophone, using a $25 stethoscope from Amazon, a cheap lavalier mic, and $5 worth of shit from the plumbing aisle at Lowe's. I did this video with only having a notion that it would work, although I did think about it quite a bit first, so you're actually watching my experimentation process. Whether this is fun or not is up to you.

In any case, further testing shows it works quite well. It is good for getting machinery noises out of the inside of small mechanical things, and it really picks up the resonance in wood well. (Like, stuff that is just a thump with a piezo mic is a nice ringing tone with this.) I think some refinement is in order, but it is a useful addition to the toolkit.

 
August 12, 2018

Poppin' Tags 001...

by Chris Randall
 



One of my favorite things on YouTube is the Rhythm Roulette videos on the Mass Appeal channel; I generally love process videos anyhow, and the particular strictures of the Rhythm Roulette format really push my buttons. If you're not familiar, the tl;dr version is that a hip-hop producer goes to a record store, puts on a blindfold, picks three records at random, and then has to make a beat from what they got. It's worth noting that they hardly ever use the records they get for the percussion parts; usually, it's Rando Trap Drums from PetaBytes O' Beatz 43, and I give a big point deduction for that. The ability to squeeze a drum kit out of any given piece of music should be mandatory.

So, for my own Poppin' Tags, I made that a rule: nothing in the song that wasn't originally on the three records. And my other rule that is a departure from Rhythm Roulette is that it needs to be a full song at the end of the day, not just a beat.

Anyhow, with all that out of the way, the above video is the result. I actually filmed the entire process, but it was almost 3 hours long, and that was silly; who wants to sit and watch me edit samples for 3 hours? So I just cut out little bits here and there, and the track (along with the other four, to make a full 5-song EP), in its finished form, will be released on Bandcamp when they're all done.



In further news, there is now an Analog Industries merch store... Not much in it right now, but as things progress, it'll get full up. Check out the offerings.

 
June 27, 2018

Grains, Stacks On Stacks...

by Chris Randall
 



Well, that took a minute, but we are hugely pleased to announce that Quanta, our hybrid granular / subtractive softsynth, is now available for purchase in the Audio Damage store. What seemed like a moderately complicated project back in October of last year turned in to an eight-month exercise in applying the Kübler-Ross model to plugin development. Nominally, we try to have a bit of restraint in our designs, and hope to apply the K.I.S.S. principle to most things we make, within reason. But for Quanta, we took a more subtractive approach, and stuck everything up to and including several kitchen sinks in it, then carved away until a firm foundation remained.

Obvs, you can get the highlights, bullet points, and marketing hyperbole in spades over on the AD site, so I'll use this space to add some color commentary about the process. This all started when we were shopping for a new product idea, and I pondered that many (most?) granular synths for desktop were fairly complex and un-fun -- not to disparage them at all, mind; it is a complicated process -- and it might be an "interesting exercise" and furthermore "pretty fun" to make something more like Borderlands, which doesn't really exist outside of the iOS environment. Adam concurred, and we initially thought about using the grain engine we had built years ago for Discord. It became rapidly obvious that wasn't up to the task of a big polysynth, so Adam went in to his DSP Fortress of Solitude, and came out a month or so later with a full granular oscillator that you're using pretty much as-is in Quanta.

Now that we had that, it was largely a matter of wrapping things around it to make it in to a fun instrument to use. After getting several requests for adding MPE functionality to some of our existing products, I dropped Roger Linn a line and got us a couple Linnstruments to work with (detailed in an earlier post, if you recall) and decided that, since there aren't any MPE granular synths, it may be an interesting addition. This exploded the modulation sources to proportions big enough that it required a mod matrix. And since we have a mod matrix anyhow, might as well throw an Imperial fuckton (1.3 metric fucktons) of other mod in the thing. Which is how it ended up with four 99-step arbitrary function/breakpoint generators.

So, with a mod matrix and a pretty good grain engine, and some excellent new mod sources, it became a design project, winnowing all that down to the most usable feature set and parameter ranges, and making it all look pretty. I'm not the best judge of such things, being somewhat too close to it to actually see if there's any forest all these trees are sitting in, but I do know that I love and will definitely use the result, and I can't say that about all of our products.

The one other real departure from our normal modus operandi is that we have decided to add a demo version. We have gotten on fine over the years not having demos, and frankly, any lost sales were more than made up for by the fact that demos are a pain in the ass to make and support. But since we spent so much time on this (about three times as long as a normal product) it necessarily has to cost a bit more than our normal run, and we can't, in good conscience, ask you guys to buy something that expensive on blind faith. Hence, a demo. It is fully functional, but can not save (neither presets, nor its state in a project), and stops making sound after 20 minutes.

Anyhow, head over and give it a spin, and let me know if you have any questions about the decisions we've made, or comments on its overall usefulness. This is, by far, the most complex software product we've made, and we're sweating a bit. It's a large slab of work for a 2.5 person company. Quanta is $79 introductory price, and will go up to $99 on August 1.
 

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