Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Livid Alias 8 remote script for Ableton Live 9

I found myself in need of a basic mixer-type control surface. I’m quite fond of my Ohm64, so I picked up an Alias 8 from Livid.

Livid Alias 8

This is my Alias 8.

Oddly, they don’t seem to have an official Live 9 remote script. So naturally I wrote my own.

What does it do?

Each channel strip is set up like so:

  • Top knob is unassigned– MIDI map to whatever you like.
  • Bottom knob is pan.
  • Fader is level.
  • Top button is solo/cue.
  • Bottom button is arm.

The big fader is master volume. The encoder, when in CC mode, scrolls through the tracks.

That’s it! If you want to do straightforward record-and-mix type work, this is the map for you.

How does one get it?

It’s on github!

If github ain’t your thang, download here: Alias8.zip

To install on Mac:

  • Unzip the Alias8.zip file.
  • Find and open your Live app bundle. (Right-click and choose “Show Package Contents”)
  • Go to Contents -> App-Resources -> MIDI Remote Scripts.
  • Drop the “Alias8” directory there.

The script should also work on Windows, but I don’t know how to find your MIDI Remote Scripts directory.

NOTE: This script assumes the encoder above the master fader is in relative (infinite) mode. Out of the box, it’s configured in absolute mode, so you’ll need to change it. The easiest way to do so is with Livid’s web editor.

 

Mooradian custom keyboard bags are wonderful

If you have an oddly-sized instrument, and you take it out of your house more than rarely, you should get a custom bag from Mooradian.

Way back in January or so my faithful microKorg died and I replaced it with a Waldorf Blofeld. I picked up a generic 49-key keyboard bag to go with it. This bag was crap. First, the bag was way too big for the Blofeld, making it floppy and awkward to carry. Second, the flimsy hardware on the strap broke within a couple weeks.

Long story short, a couple months ago I stumbled across Mooradian, who will make a variety of bags to order. I ordered a bag for the Blofeld. It came to under $200 delivered and arrived in about 4 weeks.

Mooradian custom keyboard bag for Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard

The Blofeld in its nest

The hardware and craftsmanship are top quality. Most importantly, the difference from the ill-fitting bag to the properly-fitting bag is shocking. My instrument feels ten pounds lighter, probably just because it doesn’t shift around when I carry it.

Mooradian custom keyboard bag for Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard

All zipped up

I recommend them highly.

Ohm64 Live remote script for DJing

I got an Ohm64!  Dang it’s pretty.

There’s an Ableton Live remote script for the Ohm64 kicking around, and it’s pretty good.  But I wanted a slightly different setup, so I created an alternate script.  The basic idea is this: the left is like a DJ mixer.  The middle launches clips.  The right is for effects.

Specifically:

  • The faders and knobs on the left control the levels and EQ on the first four tracks.  I wanted dedicated EQ knobs for each track, like a DJ mixer, so I could do tricks like bass swapping.  If you drop an EQ3 on your track, the knobs will map to low/mid/high just like you’d expect.  If you drop in an EQ8, I think they’ll map to the first three EQs.
  • The buttons on the left cue the first four tracks, so you can easily cue any combination of tracks.  To enable cuing multiple tracks at once, you need to go to Preferences > Record Warp Launch, find “Exclusive,” and disable “Solo.”
  • The knobs and faders on the right control the current selected effect, except for
  • The last fader, which controls master volume.  I decided that I needed to adjust master volume more often than I needed all eight controls in a rack.
  • The buttons on the right select the active track from the first four tracks.  My reasoning for putting this on the right was so that the light would indicate which track’s effects you’re controlling.
  • The first two transport buttons control tempo. The F4 button decreases tempo by 1 BPM and F5 increases tempo.  I never hit start and stop during performance, but I often want to gradually change tempo.

Everything else is the same as the original remote script:

  • The grid launches clips.
  • The crossfader crossfades.
  • The remaining four transport buttons move the active rectangle.

Download the script here: Ohm64DJ.zip

To install:

  • Unzip the file.
  • Find and open your Live app bundle.
  • Go to Contents -> App-Resources -> MIDI Remote Scripts.
  • Drop the “Ohm64DJ” directory there.

My alternate remote script shows up as “Ohm64DJ,” so you can keep both around and switch between them as needed.  (It’s actually really annoying to open up preferences in order to switch.)

Since this script controls only four tracks, there are 24 unmapped buttons in the grid, which seems sort of silly.  But I’m sure I’ll come up with something useful for them.

Finally, huge thanks to Michael at Max4live.info and Hanz at _Framework for publishing their scripts and findings.

Echo AudioFire2 mini-review, plus bonus NI rant

I just picked one up last week.  Here’s what I like so far:

  • Firewire.  This leaves both USB ports free (Apple’s pretty stingy with the connectivity).  Also, I’ve heard rumors that the MacBook Pro underpowers the USB port.  Maybe I’m making this up, but I think the more stringent power requirements for Firewire encourage reliability.
  • Balanced TRS outs.  Seems mundane, but lots of portable audio interfaces in this price range have RCA outs, which boggles the mind.
  • Independent headphone out, which is crucial for performance.
  • Stable drivers— so far at least.  I haven’t had it long, but I’ve used it a lot without a glitch.  Contrast that with the nightmare that was the Audio Kontrol 1 drivers (on that more below)
  • Hopelessly sexy packaging. It’s tiny and light with a sturdy yet pretty aluminum case.

Echo AudioFire2

Left bad, right good.

Here’s what’s not so awesome:

  • 1/8″ headphone jack.  All my headphones are 1/4″.  Every 1/4″ – 1/8″ adapter I’ve ever had fell apart in weeks.  But Grado makes this nice long one; seems like that should relieve some of the strain.
  • Awkward breakout cable for MIDI (and S/PDIF, but who uses that?)

It’s early yet, but I’m very happy so far and would recommend the AudioFire2 to any performer.

Some background: I got a Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1 about four years ago.  Feature-wise, it’s pretty hot, but it’s been total driver hell.  On my old laptop, it tooks weeks of tweaking settings to get it stable; I even had to uninstall my network drivers.  On my new laptop, no amount of tweaking worked. I’d get hard freezes randomly.

Writing application software, which Native is good at, is very dissimilar from writing drivers.  The AK1 was, I believe, Native’s first hardware audio interface.  I guess I should have anticipated some rockiness early on, but after four years of driver updates it’s as bad as ever.  Echo, on the other hand, literally make nothing but audio interfaces.  That was a big factor for me when shopping around.

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.

Quieting your studio PC on the cheap

So there is only one way to truly silence your studio: put everything with moving parts in a separate room and run a bunch of cables under the door.  Sadly, this is not practical for most of us.  A couple apartments ago, I actually had a setup like this, with my computer sitting in a hallway on the other side of a closed door.  It was blissfully quiet, but quite hazardous to cross the mess of cables when entering the room.  Since then I have not had the luxury of putting my gear in a room where I could close the door.

At any rate, if you don’t have another room to put your computer in, the next best thing is to make it quieter.  You can actually spend a ton of cash making your PC dead silent, but I recently got most of the way there for well under a hundred bucks.  The worst culprits are the things the move the most: the power supply (with its built-in cooling fan) and the CPU cooling fan.  Here’s what I got.

Nexus NX-3000 Real Silent PSU:  Well, “Real Silent” is a straight-up lie.  It’s very quiet, but 19 db(A) is not silent last I checked.  I still recommend it.  Some people might suggest that you need more than 300W from your PSU, but I don’t know if that applies to musical setups.  I run about a million USB-powered devices with no trouble.

Zalman CNPS9500 CPU fan: This is quite a monstrosity; the photos on the web site don’t really show how big it is.  Basically, the main way to make a quieter CPU cooler is to make the fan bigger and slower.  But of course a big slow fan doesn’t cool as well, so you need a bigger heat sink with lots of surface area to compensate.  This fan supports dynamic speed controls; in other words, the fan spins slowly at start and only increases in speed as needed.

In general, End PC Noise has a good selection of quiet computer parts.  I noticed that most web sites about customizing your PC are geared toward people who play video games, but musicians stand to gain just as much.

That actually went pretty well

Hey, that wasn’t so bad.  By the way, I didn’t think my beloved Jerker desk would fit in my new, tiny apartment; but lo and behold, here it is, and you can still kinda move around in the living room.  Check that hot custom keyboard tray!

The famous jerker desk

Dangerous ideas

I am contemplating moving my gear from one side of the room to the other.  Can this possibly end well?

More modular madness

Aaron strikes again.