Archive for June, 2009

Le Roi (Du Pop) Est Mort

I know I am late to the party, but I was out in the woods when it happened.

Curiously, the best blogging I read on the subject was written by Ta-Nehisi Coates a week before Jackson’s death:

Mike used to be beautiful. My sister Kelly just knew she was marrying him. And he danced so smooth and easy. I hate to think that what gave him that ability, was the same thing that ruined him.

After you start producing music everything sounds different. I rediscovered his music several years ago and was floored by the arrangement, production, songwriting, everything.  I know some of that credit is due to guys like Quincy Jones and Bruce Swedien, but remember that MJ wrote a lot of his best songs.

If you write, perform, or produce music, you can learn something from Michael Jackson.

This is my favorite MJ video:

I like the suits.  I like the lean.  I like the hottie with the fan.  I even like the cheesy coin flip.  I love the D-50 bassline.*  The staccato delivery is now a staple of modern R&B– listen to Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” for example.

Here is a short history of the moonwalk (HT: The Midnight Man):

*OK, I have no idea what kit they used.  It could be a D-50 though.

Superlofi Live footswitch revisited

Did you know that rubber cement is the least useful adhesive known to man?  The only thing going for it is easy removal.  Really, far too easy removal.

So!  I made two improvements to my DIY Live footswitch.

First I pulled out the white springy parts on the surrounding keys so you don’t accidentally hit space when you’re trying to hit B.  (In case you’re not a Live user, space is the default key to stop all audio.)

Second I gave up on gluing the discs to the keys and elected to screw them on instead.  Drilling a hole in something as small as a computer key is a bit tricky, but it’s nothing a pair of vise grips can’t handle.

A better way to mount footswitches

Now the footswitches don’t slip off all the time.  Truly, this dismal hack is road worthy.

A Live footswitch for under ten bucks

I need a footswitch for Live so I can record and trigger clips while playing with both hands.  So I made one!  I wish I could claim credit for this ingeniously crappy foot controller, but I definitely heard the idea somewhere else earlier.  I can’t remember who or where, so whoever you are, props.

Here’s the basic, stolen idea: take a keyboard.  Rip out most of the keys.  Put something big on the remaining keys so you can mash them with your foot.  Map those keys in Ableton.

Here are my supplies:

  • An old keyboard.  The computer kind, not the MIDI kind.  I have tons of these kicking around; you can also find them easily at thrift stores.
  • A pack of those rubber discs that go under furniture to keep from scratching your floor.
  • Rubber cement.  The latter two cost a combined $7.10 at the hardware store.

Building a foot controller for Live

First I pulled all the keys off the bottom rows except for Z, V, M, and /.

After looking at the keyboard, then looking at my giant feet, I realized it would be impossible to hit just one of the middle buttons with shoes on.  So I gave up on a four-switch model and decided to go with three: Z, B, and period.

I forgot how huge my feet are

Next I used rubber cement to attach the keys to the rubber feet.  After a false start I found it necessary to use a giant blob of cement on the keys, enough to fill the whole indentation where your finger goes.

Mounting the footswitches

After letting it dry, I put the keys back on the keyboard.  I flipped them upside-down so the new footswitches would tilt down toward my feet, making them much easier to reach.

The finished footswitch

Finally, I plugged the keyboard into a spare USB port and mapped my footswitches to clip slots.  That’s it!  I have a super crappy but functional footswitch.  It cost less than ten bucks and took less than an hour of effort.