Archive for the ‘recording gear’ Category

will you look at this stupid thing

It’s a pedal that’s an effects switch-in box, but it’s also just an A/B switch, so you can just switch between two devices. The two top plugs are from my zouk and mandolin, the output is to the recorder, I can pick which I’m recording. We’re doing this so we can record tomorrow’s show (6pm, The Dreaming, 5226 University Way, Seattle) with separate tracks for all instruments.

Note the extra cable sticking out the right side, which is connected to nothing. It’s there because the box won’t work without something being plugged in there. It doesn’t use anything that’s plugged in there; it just won’t work unless something is.

So I plugged in a signal-reduction cable. If we’re gonna have basically a noise antenna plugged in on stage to make this dumbass pedal work, I’m by gods gonna use a noise reducing noise antenna.

Honestly some days I don’t even know. This isn’t as bad as the USB-cable-to-nowhere I’ve got in the server room to make the KVM switch work, but it’s close. At least that cable plugs into something on both ends.

Welcome, GAMCON attendees!

If you’re here, you’re probably looking for the Kitting Out Cheap downloadable handout. Well, here you go. Thanks for coming to the panel!

You might also be looking for the Free Music Set, and that’s right here, one song a year from the last five. I’ll probably add a new song later this year, too, so check back.

How was GAMCON for you? I’m queueing this post up in advance, so I can point you to it during the panel. So I have no idea yet. SPEAK TO ME, PEOPLE OF THE FUTURE! Give to me your wisdom! And your death rays. I need them, you see. For reasons. Business reasons.

why distance recording matters

One of the songs Anna wanted on the soundtrack album is a traditional piece called John Barbour. It’s the slow song on the album, but this post isn’t about that. It’s about distance recording.

I’ve spent lots and lots and lots of time talking about room conditioning in building home/personal studios. But I’ve also talked about the many benefits of gathering as much signal (what you’re trying to record) vs. noise (airplanes, busses, motors in the distance) as possible, which is usually achieved by close-miking. Close-miking still needs room conditioning, but honestly, not as much – you simply hear less room when the instrument is up in your metaphorical face like that.

(Hey, look, see, I can learn – I spelled it “miking” even tho’ there is no K in microphone. It’s MICrophone, not MIKrophone. See also: why “No.” is a stupid abbreviation for “number.” Perhaps I should compromise and use the cyrillic letter к instead. No? No.)

But this song is one of those times when I needed distance mics. Some instruments need space for their sound to develop. That sounds like woo, but it’s not; it’s certainly not subtle in the recordings, particularly with percussion.

I’m playing Quebec-style spoons on this song, along with zouk, and… nothing else, actually. Yeah, it’s that kind of song. Slow, simple.


And full of spoons.

Mic spoons close and to prevent clipping you have to damp the input down so far that all you get is a tic noise, with no secondary tones and no character at all. But mic these from a distance, say a metre or so – with in this case, an Oкtava mк-319, lol cyrillic see what I did there – and you end up with something that sounds like what you hear in real life.

Same goes for violins, and cellos too, to a lesser degree, and others. All of which is why you need the ability to distance mic if you’re recording live instruments.

And I have it! So what in Dick Tracy was a nightmare of equalisation, compensation, suboptimal microphones, weird compromises, and labour, turned into a simple setup, with a single take, and done.

Hannibal from A-Team: I love it when a plan comes together.

So do I, Hannibal. So do I.

progress, if incomplete

Some of the problems I outlined in the afternoon post yesterday are cleared up, or at least accounted for – plugin status being saved and loaded is working, the asterisk cycling thing is seen by other people and also can be made to go away, loss of synchronisation when changing playlists during playback has been reproduced by dev and they’re interested – but the plugins are still problems. But I can work with this now.

Which means, I finally got to hear some percussion being done by one of our guest artists properly embedded into a mix, and wow, I am totally excited about this track in ways I wasn’t before. 😀 I left some space intentionally for this to be brought in, but knowing ‘a thing will go here’ is not the same as ‘an awesome thing is actually here.’ And the awesome thing that’s awesomeing around in this mix now is pretty awesome.

Because it is. 😀

Also, lots of Norwescon stuff, including this year’s new stage banner, which still isn’t huge but is the largest we’ve had – and we’ve never actually had a dedicated stage banner before, we just reused the concert directions. I thought I’d fix that.

Now if I can just fix those damned plugins…

the various problems

Here’s a copy of the the problem summary I posted to ardour.org. Good news is the playlist switching has already been reproduced, and isn’t related to the plugins; also, the strange asterisk behaviour has been seen by someone else, too. But the other problems? Not yet. Help?


A problem I thought was project-specific isn’t project-specific after all 🙁

I have multiple problems that all appeared at the same time, after getting MIDI going in Ardour. I don’t know that getting MIDI running caused the problems; I also did an apt-get update/upgrade that brought in newer versions of Calf plugins which does not preceed the first occurance of the problems but does seem to be involved in some way.

First: on loading many projects, I get a nontrivial pause, during which time disc space is shown to be 0h 0m 0s remaining, and the title bar project name alternates between askterisked and non-askterisked. This cycle of asterisk/non-asterisk appears to repeat the same number of times as I have Calf plugins plugged in across all tracks. So if I have an assortment of tracks N and a total of 10 Calf plugins across all tracks, it will cycle 10 times.

Pulling all the Calf plugins and plugging them back in again (same places, same setting) with LV2 versions makes this problem go away.

ALSO: projects with tracks with Calf (LADSPA) plugins don’t play, and LADSPA Calf plugins seem to be misbehaving; I get anywhere from muted to noise to distorted play. Replacing them with LV2 Calf plugins (I think – the ones not marked LADSPA) makes this go away as well. (Note: I have two copies of most of the Calf plugins (and have for some time – honestly I don’t know why, but the old ones go back to Ardour 2), some with (LADSPA) after the name, some without.)

Swapping plugins out is a bigger project than it may seem, because I have never, ever had presets load for me, despite having the subscriber version of Ardour. Checking the store, I see that the presets are _saved_, but they don’t get loaded. I don’t know why.

Now, once I do this, and have things playing and sounding right again, and no delay at startup, in these projects, I have very slow response to the record button (1.5ish seconds) and swapping playlists on tracks while playing results in that track going silent for 1.5ish seconds, and then resuming play, delayed from the rest of playback by the same amount of time.

[Video of example removed; it was resolved/won’t fix]

That video quality is pretty weak; I can record it again with a desktop video recorder. But since Ardour is running output through my external interface and everything else uses the built-in motherboard sound, it wouldn’t be as useful for this case, because of no sound.

When playing that video, note the fiddler dropping out for about a second and a half, while the other playback continues; then the fiddle comes back in, picking up immediately where it left off, delayed from the rest. I did it twice; the fallback is cumulative.

On projects not (…yet…) affected, and until a couple of weeks ago, I could change playlists more or less instantly; I would do this to audition phrases and the like during comping.

This collection of problems has rather kicked my workflow and progress on my current projects in the knees, so … anybody? Help?

just under the wire

Thank you very, very much to everybody who threw data at me during the XP-to-Windows 8.1 migration, particularly dw:dreamatdrew for all the back-and-forth on Dreamwidth, which was critical. Thank you.

A few impressions about the process:

  1. Win8.1 handles multimonitor really pretty well. It has bad data about one of my cards or monitors (not sure) which means I can’t run one at best resolution yet. I’m hoping to find a way to override that. But otherwise, it’s really good, and the whole weird-tiles-UI thing works a lot better when you have one monitor where you’re actually working, and another where you’re sometimes desktop-working and sometimes letting the tiles live there. It’s much less crazy that way.
     
  2. There are no circumstances under which software on the compatible list should require this kind of misadventure to install. I should not be downloading hax0r toys from GitHub to make it work. One of the other commenters on the thread called the process “Linux-like” which … is about right.
  3. Awwww, QBASIC doesn’t work anymore! XD
     
  4. 8.1 is convinced nothing is plugged into my front sound output jacks, so won’t play to them. I eventually figured out it would let me use the back sound output jacks, even though it specifically said to use the front ones. WHY ARE THEY EVEN DIFFERENT?
  5. Adventures in Open Source Documentation: the official support docs told me to install a package which no longer exists, and the live discs for which it does exist don’t start correctly on my machine, because who even knows. Something about my graphics cards and startx buggering off, it’s ugly. But I managed to manually boot via the grub command line and get enough installed under 12.04 LTS on my hard drive that boot-repair could run and FWOOM! We’re off.

That wasn’t so bad, now, was it? Well, okay, it was. But everything survived, and I didn’t even have to use the backup images I made earlier in the day! Any landing you can walk away from is better than an OS upgrade.

Anyway, I did indeed get it done, a new backup is running now, which means making it just under the wire for another hammer dulcimer recording session. Not the last day of that; there’ll be one more brief session in early June. Talking of, got to go get ready for that.

Don’t forget to stop running XP! Even if it leads to adventures like this, it’s better than what’ll happen with XP on the net after support ends.

yes, i still have an XP partition

So. I have a Windows XP partition on my digital audio workstation. It exists to run two things: imgcopy and lightscribe. The machine spends 98% of its time in Ubuntu – but XP support is ending, and 0% is about to be the right amount of time.

However, received wisdom (and every other time I’ve done this) says you have to install Windows first, in a dual-boot configuration, then install clean Linux. A fresh install of Linux is unacceptable, because of reasons. Good reasons, not bullshit/ph33r reasons. Don’t argue with me about that; if you want to, you are wrong.

Now, if I have to, I can just yank the network drivers, not even turn on the external network card YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT EXTERNAL NETWORK CARD AGAIN REASONS and keep running XP, but wow, do I not want to do that. I’d like to turn this into a gaming machine as well – it has l33t specs in many ways, and with graphics card upgrades, could be a tiny goddess.

So. First: is there a way to keep my Linux partitions and still end up with a dual-boot machine? I know I can’t upgrade WinXP in place, but I have enough room in the current XP partitions for Windows 8.1, if the spec sheet isn’t lying. I don’t mind wiping the XP partitions, If there’s a way to accomplish this, that would be awesome; how, specifically, do I do it, and if you’re proposing a method, have you done it?

Keep in mind that given that the supposed XP-and-Vista binary to check your machine for Windows 8 compatibility failed to run because it doesn’t support XP, my confidence in my former employer is not high right now.

Second: Failing that, and I think we can assume failure there, are there reasons of which I’m unaware which would make it insane to install Windows 8 to a USB drive and just boot off that when I need to run Windows? Preferably a flash drive? Obviously I’m not an Enterprise Customer ™ so I don’t have Windows To Go, so only have Windows 8.1 Pro, but does it really matter since I’d be only using it on one computer ever?

Or, again, is that crazytalk? I don’t have USB 3.0, so this might be crazytalk, and honestly, I’d prefer a regular non-USB-drive install. But as a workaround, this would be fine. I’d have a Windows partition on the drive and use that for swap and My Documents and and and.

If neither of these are options, but you have another option that does not involve reinstalling Linux, I’m all ears. Maybe some sort of VM solution, I could see that. Please, tell me. Because right now I’m looking at lol winxp 4eva, or, more accurately, winxp until it decides it really wants to register again and can’t because it has no network, and tells me to DIAF.

I’d rather avoid that outcome. Because reasons.

Anybody?

snuggly george does not need midi

I know I’ve posted too many pictures of George lately, but apparently, he really missed having us around as couch-warmers.

So there’s some content to this post: the problem with the MIDI interface is the US-800 itself, apparently. No, it works, and it works fine with iOS and OS X, but Linux is all snippy and picky about things and stuff and won’t deal with it. Fortunately, my old M-Audio Fast Track Pro’s MIDI interface is common enough to be tested against, and now I have my chimes. Excellent.

soundfonts and north again

Heading north again tomorrow, to Victoria and then up the island to Cumberland. This time I’ll try to remember to take the camera, tho’ I’ll have less, sadly, to photograph. Ah well, such is the way of things.

MIDI is still giving me problems on Ardour; everything works (including the on-screen mouse-click keyboard) except it’s ignoring/not seeing my actual MIDI keyboard, the one pictured yesterday. I know the keyboard works, I used it with Garage Band a week ago when using those other chimes. I don’t suppose anyone has experience with this, do you?

On the other hand, I’ve been shown Sound Fonts. Sound Fonts are like fonts, but for sound, and are plug-in/software independent (to the same degree typography fonts are) and this is super awesome. Imagine that you had to get a different company’s word processor to use this other typeface you like, and that’s what instrument VSTs seem to be like. Then someone throws typefaces at you and suddenly you’re all I LOVE YOU FORVER.

That’s what sound fonts are, for sound font supporting plugins. It’s so obvious and yet soooooo cooool. Or will be, if I can get Ardour to see my @&$#(*!!! keyboard.

Separately, the water heater has sprung a leak. It’s not much of a leak, but any leak is much worse than no leak. That’s what I get for playing with the 15 tesla pocket magnetic field generator in the basement, I guess. Live and learn. And mutate some genomes. But really, that goes without saying.

those smaller midi keyboards

I’m starting to see the advantage of those smaller, two-octave-ish mini-midi keyboards:


don’t lean on that

I’ve found some chimes that sound pretty good, now I just need to make everything talk to that keyboard. I’ve always cheated and gone over to Garage Band in the past, but this is very close to working natively in Ardour, and that would make a zillion things easier.

Adding and editing notes, that I can already do, but I’d really prefer to play the originals then edit them into place than do the whole thing via screen keyboard. It’s making this first time more difficult, of course, but it’ll be easier in the long run. Or so I keep telling myself. XD LEARN ALL THE THINGS!, I guess.

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The Music

THE NEW SINGLE