Archive for the ‘studio’ Category

it’s the latest issue!

I’ve updated the Kitting Out Cheap guide to building your home recording environment on a low budget. New additions include short commentary on kit microphones, updated interface information, and pointing out that hey, guess what – USB chipsets matter!

So, hiya, Home Recording panel attendees – here y’go!

as of 2:30am saturday morning

As of 2:30am Saturday morning, I had a digital audio workstation again, lost partitions recovered – or, well, the important one recovered, the swap was damaged somehow but who cares, it’s swap.

It’s a good thing I was able to stop Tech Sport 7 from making trying to make the free space “active,” who knows what that would’ve done.

But, like a fool, I’m still trying to fix the Windows side, so I’ve been making a backup of the current Windows partition (validation pass just finishing up now) and then I’ll restore from a July backup, made before it stopped accepting security updates. Getting that out of the archives took 37 hours because yeah I’ll be re-evaluating my backup system. (It’s fine in theory but anything that involves making 1T images is probably not the best solution.) But it’s out, so as soon as validation of the backup of current Windows passes, we’ll be ready to try it.

What a mess.

visual artists do this all the time, why not musicians?

Lots of artists (including a few I follow) livestream their drawing sometimes, usually showing their desktops so you can see what they’re working on. A fair number of them do this on Picarto, which is pretty visual arts focused, but says it’s for creators in general.

So I decided hey, maybe music? And they even have a category for it. Yay! And I’ve set up an account here on Picarto, and will stream sometimes, probably announcing on Tumblr and Facebook on the band page.

I’ve only tested it once and it was a little weird but I think it worked most of the time? The wifi in the part of the studio where I have to put the laptop is a little wonky tho’, and it cut out at least once. If people come by I’ll work on fixing that.

It’ll mostly be rehearsals/practice but might occasionally be me mixing something or writing something. I dunno! I’ll probably turn it on later today, I completely upended my planned VCON set and I’ll want to try that out this afternoon. And I’ll check the chat window every so often, too.

ubuntu is not and will never be desktop ready

Today, Ubuntu Linux has decided I don’t get to log in to the desktop.

I can log in via a command line just fine. Just, you know, no GUI for me today.

It let me log in a couple of hours ago, but for WHO EVEN KNOWS reasons, I was getting a bunch of XRUNs suddenly, even when I just tried to copy a track internally. (XRUNs are buffer overflows or underflows resulting in lost data.) I think that’s because the software updater decided to restart itself after I disabled it. I even uninstalled it from the command line, but I think there are secretly two of them, one command-line based and one GUI based, because WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

So I went through in the GUI and disabled that version too (because when it starts, it hits the disk for obvious reasons, and when you’re recording to disk, as I was, that’s bad), and while I was at it made Dropbox not autostart anymore since the first thing I always do is turn it off until I actually need it.

Then I ran apt-get update/apt-get upgrade manually (like I do always) and restarted.

Now, no GUI for me. Oh, it gives me a graphic login, and it looks like it starts to log me in, but then it says “eh, no” and blanks the screen and throws me back to login with a big HA HA FUCK YOU GUESS WHAT YOU GET TO DO TODAY INSTEAD OF WORKING ON MUSIC.

Ubuntu is not and will never be desktop ready. I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about using Linux and running Ardour, but you know what? Ardour also ships for the Mac, and I am done with this horseshit. I have literally spent more time this last month working on making Ubuntu Linux work again after some new damn explosion than anything I might ever conceivably release, and this isn’t a one-off, Ubuntu just fucking explodes every so often now, and this isn’t worth it.

So, yeah. My job today is fixing this piece of shit OS again. But my other job is: start saving for a studio Mac. This insanity simply isn’t worth it.

eta: Y’know what? Two hours of failed searching later, this is stupid. I have a system partition image from less than a week ago. Maybe it wasn’t the system patches, maybe it was some other damn thing. I’ll restore the boot partition from that and pray it doesn’t happen when I reapply the security updates.

Hey, I don’t have any better ideas. I lose today regardless, so why not?

eta2: Restored previous boot partition, booted up fine, applied the security updates (apt-get update / apt-get upgrade), hosed again. It’s definitely the security updates.

i guess that’ll teach me to use a drum machine

hey guess what

hydrogen – a linux-based drum machine – has decided that its 151 beats per minute should be much faster than ardour’s 151 beats per minute.

i gotta tell you, this is turning into a “why do i even try” week. really is.

fit and finish

So, I’ve had my Gnome3 desktop up and running for a while (because Unity has not improved with time), and mostly things are okay! But there are small things bugging me.

My desktop, in tiny form, for reference:

Yes, that offset is intentional. The monitor mounting points don’t match.

ONE: Why aren’t these tips being clipped?


All the windows have them. Sometimes they’re black. So some sort of clipping isn’t. Is this because I’m using the open-source nvidia driver instead of the official one, or is something else going on?

TWO: I can’t run gnome-tweak-tool because it fails out if you don’t run pulseaudio. Is there a way around that? I suspect I might be able to solve item one if I could run item two.

THREE: I can make a link on the desktop to directories with ln -s, of course. But if I make one to Dropbox, the local-instance directory path ends up being /home/kahvi/Desktop/Dropbox instead of /home/kahvi/Dropbox, and even if I put things in the directory, and it is the right directory, Dropbox won’t sync it because the local reference at time of addition was wrong, and it never notices later so never syncs.

I can alt-F2 and type “Dropbox” and get the folder with the right local path, but that’s kind of lame. I can also pull up the Dropbox mini-app and go through a couple of menus to get there, but that’s also kind of lame. It’d be nicer if I could just click on the icon like I used to do. Or better yet, drag onto the icon, that’d be best.

None of these are really big deals, but it’d be nice to get them worked out, so if you have some tips, throw them into comments? Thanks!

oh look, i’ve stopped screaming

After we got back, I discovered that my digital audio workstation had decided to Not anymore. No idea why; it was fine when I turned it off, it was Not At All Fine when I turned it back on.

I blame Bond, James Bond, somehow. Or maybe that turncoat Q. He used to be a supervillain scientist, you know. That bastard.

Anyway, since Ubuntu 12.04 LTS was going to fall out of support in the spring anyway, and since the problem appeared to be some sort of USB driver issue with the new sound interface, I decided I’d upgrade. That went… very badly. (See also, see also, see also, see also, there’s even more on my personal Facebook account, and none of this even covers the first half.)

But I did eventually get it working, and! I found a good use for an under-desk add-on keyboard tray. Look! It’s a LazyRack!


Are you still there?

Targeting acquired!

I can do this because unlike my old interface, it’s meant to rack-mount, so almost everything is front-facing. Reclaimed desk space, and pushed back, all the cable ends are still out of the way! It’s great.

Also, I love these mic preamps oh my gods they are so much better. This probably won’t mean much to you listening on laptop speakers, but here’s a quick zouk sample straight into the mics I recorded last night, once I had things up and running. No processing at all, as there shouldn’t be… it’s… it’s just that these preamps (and same mics I’ve had before!) are picking up all these subtleties in the low-end that the TASCAM buried, and I’d have to dig back out with EQ and stuff. This is an absolutely raw recording and it’s all just there already.

It’s kind of like I didn’t just get new mic preamps, I got new microphones too thrown in.

I’ve written many times that you can do a lot on the cheap, and I think I’ve proven that, but I’ve also always said you’re trading time and knowledge (work) for money. I finally decided to run that trade the other way, and still ended up with a boatload of work thanks to Ubuntu. But for the improvements I’m hearing so far, in the studio? I’ll take it.

Westercon and Clallam Bay Comicon

Who’s going to be at Westercon in Portland? That’s this weekend! Anna has a share of a dealer table, so you’ll find us at least some of the time in the dealer room – at both conventions, actually, because that’s how it works out sometimes.

To be honest, we weren’t originally planning on Westercon, but a bunch of friends from afar are showing up, so we decided hey, let’s go for it.

About the only new thing here aside from my Overwatch addiction – my username is solarbirdy, surprise – is that I got a 6m long MIDI cable so I could try to get the electric piano’s MIDI output over to the desk.

See, I’d got this keyboard only after I’d bought a very large MIDI-only keyboard controller (because reasons), and said MIDI-only keyboard controller – a Roland A-30 – is nice, but it’s huge and kind of a pain in the ass to set up for small things. I have to get out the ironing board to use as a support, it’s wider than the desk, etc, etc, etc.

But I had some idea that the electric piano’s MIDI didn’t work, and it didn’t when I tried it, but I dug out how to reset its internals, and did so, and that made the MIDI port come back online, which was great, except that also turned on this auto-accompaniment feature which takes away like a third of the keyboard and wow it is terrible, like a parody of piano music, terrible in that oh-god-oh-god-how-do-I-stop-this kind of way, in that either-this-has-to-go-or-I-do kind of way, in that I need to stop this right now or there are going to be detonations kind of way, and I’m just saying we got unnecessarily close to tire explosions before I was able to dig out how to turn that shit off.


So, yeah, basically, it’s been quiet. See you at Westercon or Clallam Bay? Hope so! I may nerf you, but I still love you.

pickup chamber with animated spectral analysis

I’ve been playing with that ‘added pressure adds bass response’ idea, for use with these piezo pickups. I made a little wooden chamber that would let me add light pressure, as with the bridge pickup design. It would be held down with a clamp for testing, but would isolate that pressure from the piezo itself.

Anyway, I made a bunch of recordings, two for control, and eight with a range of pressure in the chamber. The controls were made with the pickup taped to the front of my zouk with double-sided tape (standard attachment), and with the pickup directly clamped to the front (also a standard attachment) and come first and second in the recording. The other eight were with the pickup in the test chamber, with increasing amounts of pressure on the crystal, applied by inserting paper as seen here:

With thin cardboard and two sheets of paper

Note again that the clamp is not adding pressure to the disc in any way.

Audio samples in a single mp3, here. There is some extra noise in these recordings; I was trying the modular approach again and that’s the result. I think the TRS connectors are inherently noisy. But that’s a separate matter.

I also ran spectrographic analysis on each recording, and combined those into a single animated gif that cycles through the recordings in order. Here’s the key for both. The gif is repeating, so each frame is labelled in the upper left.

 1: taped to top
 2: clamped directly to top
 3: in chamber, no paper
 4: in chamber, thin cardboard (0.46mm)
 5: in chamber, cb+1 sheet  (+0.11mm)
 6: in chamber, cb+2 sheets (+0.21mm)
 7: in chamber, cb+3 sheets (+0.31mm)
 8: in chamber, cb+4 sheets (+0.42mm)
 9: in chamber, cb+5 sheets (+0.52mm)
10: in chamber, cb+6 sheets (+0.63mm)

You’ll note in both the graphs and the audio that bringing in the chamber at all, even with no additional crystal pressure, caused a big drop in high-end oversensitivity, and boosted the low-end. That was interesting; I have suspected for a while that the crystal side of the disc would actually be better as a source-facing element, but there are physical issues to doing that, since the wires have to attach on that side.

Adding pressure continued to boost low-end response through test 7, without inhibiting high-end response. After that, I think additional pressure began to overcome the benefits, and you see a return to a more midrange-heavy sound – though in all cases, I think it’s better than either traditional mount.

This is consistent with tests made in the bridge pickup from last week, and reminds me of a diagramme I saw of a period crystal microphone that implied the crystals themselves would be set up forward-facing.

Anyway, data! And lots of it, for lots of your crystal/piezo experimental needs.

i learned something today

I guess it’s obvious in retrospect, but Monday I learned that a drum machine is basically just an overgrown sequencer. I kind of wonder if the original progression was the opposite way.

This is new to me because I’ve never used one before – all those drum tracks on previous work is microphone on live drums. Timing edited, sure, but live. But now I need a drum kit for a thing and I’m not a kit drummer and don’t have a drum kit, so OFF WE GO.

I’m using Hydrogen. It’s pretty cool so far. And really easy to use and comes with a lot of sampled drums. I wish it had arbitrary label marks so you could make notes on where you are in a song other than by measure count. But maybe you can and I just haven’t found it yet.

aaaaaait has a mixer i just found the mixer i was trying to figure out how i would do this later in ardour and i don’t have to i can do it here 😀 \o/ \o\ /o/

I love discovering new useful tools. Have you discovered any lately?

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The Music