Virtual Choir 4

It’s here! And it’s going to be bigger than ever, which is why Eric now needs a Kickstarter to fund it all. Please consider supporting this innovative musical project and help push the boundaries of music making. Encourage all your musician friends to join as well.

For those of you who don’t know about Virtual Choir, click the link above and check out Eric’s video.

Floppy Drive Music

As kind of a follow-up to my previous post, here’s a classic song recreated by using the sounds of eight floppy drives. Seems like floppy discs are actually quite useful in creating music, as this isn’t the first time I’ve seen them make songs. For Battlefield players, here’s some more floppy music:

And some Pirates:

And some Star Wars…
And Peer Gynt.

Scanner Sings Somebody That I Used to Know

Creating music with technology is cool, but it’s cooler when it’s unconventional. Taken from the video description:

HP Scanjet 3C as the vocals. It lags a bit due to the fast paced vocals. In order for the stepper motor to play a note it has to be moving and with that large carriage it takes a few milli seconds before it can play a note. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but stretch that over a 4 minute song and voila…out of sync. Programming does help to compensate but it is not perfect.

Amiga 600 Bass on left audio output and Guitar on right audio output

Each audio channel was feed into an oscilloscope

2 Harddrives as the drums and cymbal

Xylophone as the Xylophone (duh)

Both the Harddrive and Xylophone are controlled by one PIC16F84A mircocontroller 

Beats Solo HD

Considering the $200 price tag on these, I never would have gone out and bought these on my own. Sure, I need a good pair of headphones, but functionality is always above style on my list. That said, when these were gifted to me, I realized why the price tag was $200.

Not only are they great at delivering high quality audio, they block out other noise more effectively than any other on-ear headphones I have ever used. And if I’m using it with my iPod, I can crank up the level to full for most songs and my friends can enjoy the music along with me. Don’t worry, I don’t put them on my ears when I do that, I hang it around my neck. Which, by the way, is surprisingly comfortable. I lose a bit of bass, but a worthy tradeoff for being able to rock out with my friends.

I have been taking good care of it ever since I got it and I plan to continue doing so. It still amuses me that I walk around with a pair of $200 headphones on my head. Never would I have ever considered doing that.

Internship at REP Studio

You hear the phrase “real world experience” tossed around a lot as a student, especially when you’re a rising senior in high school. If you’re talking about the digital music industry, this isn’t easy to come by. Fortunately, I was able to land an internship at the local REP Studio. And I’ve been neck-deep in real world experience for the past week and a half thanks to this wonderful opportunity.

When I first went into the studio, I marveled at all the expensive gear that I would be able to work with. From vintage microphones to a massive control surface, I felt like a little kid in a whole new playground. By the second day in, I had already learned how to use the editing tools on Pro Tools (industry standard software) and finished editing an entire episode of a radio broadcast that is recorded at REP Studio weekly. Thanks to my previous experience with my home software and gear, I caught on quickly to the tasks assigned.

My time at the studio can be described as hours of learning and gaining experience punctuated by the occasional logistical tasks and chores that need doing around the studio. The experience is quite enjoyable not only because I’m learning skills that are of great interest to me, but also because of the diversity in the sessions and the clients. During my time in the studio so far, I’ve helped record radio shows interviewing authors and musicians, and heard voiceovers for large businesses and car companies. I thought we’d just be recording bands and singers, and I’m delighted at the variety.

If you’re interested, the radio show that I edited is an episode of Out of Bounds. You can find the airing information on the website if you’re local, and if not, tune in here on Thursday at 7pm Eastern to listen on the web.

Time for me to go to sleep now, another episode of Out of Bounds awaits my editing tomorrow!

New Speakers

I got some new speakers. Yes I did. They used to be a home theater system for our neighbors, but they were moving and they decided to give these to me. How cool! It’s really, really nice having an actual subwoofer. As soon as I lugged the equipment home, I hooked them up to the amp and turned on a song by my friends’ brass band that started with the sousaphone. It was fantastic; I could hear him so much more clearly.

I’m hoping that these new speakers will make my home studio experience much more enjoyable.

Oh, and I also got a harmonica. That’s pretty cool too (I’ve always wanted one).

MIT Splash

This past weekend, I had a chance to attend MIT Splash. It’s a program hosted by MIT students for middle and high school students from all around the country. For the whole of Saturday and Sunday, students take one to three hour long classes on numerous topics ranging from organic chemistry and quantum physics to conducting and even internet memes.

I took courses about mathemagic, black holes, special relativity, combination locks, and conducting. Not only did I learn a lot, but I had my friends there to enjoy the experience with me.

But I wouldn’t be posting about this event if it wasn’t related to music somehow. Two of my classes were related to music: Intro to Livecoding and Conducting and Interpretation.

Livecoding, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, describes the composition and performance of music in real time through the use of programming languages. While it definitely is not the traditional style of “music composition” that I’m used to, its possibilities are endless. I could, for example, sit down with a computer and a friend, and we could emulate the sounds of an orchestra all by ourselves. There are things in music that no machine could ever substitute, but there are also aspects that could be greatly enhanced by the capabilities of computers. The class showed me how much fun I could have with these programs.

Conducting and Interpretation, on the other hand, taught me about the long-practiced skills of conducting. We went over beat patterns, cut-offs and cues. We went through the steps of score analysis, and ended by watching some great conductors perform. Conducting is surely a skill that can only be bettered through diligent practice. What makes conducting differ from practicing other instruments is that while you can bring home a saxophone, or a flute, or a clarinet and practice, you can’t bring home an orchestra to practice conducting. But hopefully I will get more opportunities to conduct as the future presents itself. The teacher of the class certainly encouraged me to find some. Apparently according to him, I have potential. Yay!

But all in all, both musical and not-musical, I learned a lot. And MIT Splash just goes to show how well students can learn if they are motivated by their own interests to do so. I plan to attend again next year, and perhaps I’ll even bring along more friends.

M-Audio Keystation 88es

My new MIDI Controller, after all the hassle of life, was finally ordered and received. Now, I can start composing once more!

For the few weeks that I’ve been without a keyboard, I didn’t stop doing musical activities. I did scores studies and transcriptions, which made me much more fluent in transposition. I plan to keep on doing more with just pencil and paper, as I have realized it can teach me quite a lot.

Here is an image of my current setup:

Back to composing for now. I have to make up for the missed time!

The New, The Old, The Timeless

A random thought: wouldn’t it be cool to be able to post melodies or even just sounds as your facebook status?

So, I sold my Yamaha YPT-220 on Ebay to upgrade to a Keystation 61es. Why? The Keystation 61es is not a digital piano like the Yamaha YPT-220, but is rather a MIDI controller. This means it does not make sound on its own and requires being connected to a VST on a software such as Cubase or Finale to make sound. Since I only use my keyboard for composing, this is not a problem for me. Also, the Keystation 61es has semi-weighted keys and velocity sensitive keys. Not only that, but it saves much more desk space.

I’m still debating whether to buy the Keystation 61es or the Keystation 88es. Is the extra range worth the cost?

When I have all the new equipment bought, which includes the new MIDI controller, a pedal, and a new wireless keyboard for my computer, my workstation will be complete. For now.

Digital Audio Workstation

I hesitate to call my new computer a full Digital Audio Workstation, as it lacks an audio interface and mixer, but for my purposes I only require a MIDI Controller hooked up to a fast computer, and I’m good to go, since most of my high tech gear is software.

But the important fact is, I’m upgrading from my gaming laptop (which has served me quite well) to a new custom built desktop with top of the line specs. I’m very excited to receive all the parts and put them together!