Why multi-tracking a mon synth is NOT cheating

Let us consider this piece - how could this have been made without multi-tracking?

This piece of Bach is actually 10 tracks overlayed. The harpsichord is two hands, each with 4 tracks. The flute is two tracks. The whole piece was 'played' with Sonic Field controlling the midi to correctly distribute the midi notes in sequence to record all 10 tracks. I then overlayed them in Audacity.

Now - is this cheating? Should I have played this real time. Well yes and no. It would be lovely to do so but also impossible as the flute and keyboard just are two hard for one person to play simultaneously (well - most people anyhow). But, even putting that to one side, the kit involved would be stupid. The sound for the harpsichord required this signal chain:

Waldorf Pulse 2 -> Electro Harmonic Ploy Chorus -> Alter Ego X4 Delay -> Bheringer Sonic Exciter

Now, we might say we could use 8 Waldorf Pulse 2 synthesizers. That alone is just daft (at £360 each - say $600). Nevertheless, there are good polysynth's out there for a lot less than £2880 (e.g. the prophet 08). But that is assuming that we can pass the output through the other components and get the same effect; the truth is that we cannot. The key to the sound is the overlay of the polychorus and delays. The sound would be much, much thinner if all 8 passed voices through the same effects chain. Note even the Sonic Exciter is actually an envelop following device in the drive circuit. That means it would be much less responsive if processing all 8 voices at once. Further still, I use different setting for the left and right 'hand' voices.

So - in reality we would require 8 of everything to mimic the sound of the harpsichord. The flute uses a reverb rather than a delay, so we will need Electro Harmonix Cathederal pedals plus two more of the other synth' and exciters:

10 Synths;
  8 Polychorus
  2 Reverb (EHX Cathederal)
  8 Delays
10 Sonic Exciters

Then we would also need a good mixer!

I guess we are looking at over £10 000 or $15 000.

Seriously - multi-trakcing is not cheating - it is a way bring creating music into reach of a hobbyist!


ffmpeg audio visualisation using phase

An enhanced version of the phase visualisation

ffmpeg contains another great visualisation.

You might (or might not) have seen one of my videos or explanation of the spectrogram visualisation using ffmpeg.  I use it very frequently indeed for my youtube videos; so frequently that I felt I really needed something different!

What this does is draw out the phase difference between the left and right channels. If the left the right are the same then it draws a 45 degree slanted line. For each frame of the video it will draw a dot showing the instantaneous magnitude of the signal. However, when left and right channels are different in magnitude this deflects the dot to the left or right.

The dots, once drawn, slowly fade in intensity and colour from blue through to red. Here is the command line to make a mov file from an mp3 without recoding the mp3:

./ffmpeg -i x.mp3 -filter_complex "[0:a]avectorscope=s=1920x1080:bc=200:gc=100:rc=75:bf=5:gf=3:rf=1:zoom=2,format=yuv420p[vid]" -map "[vid]" -map 0:a -codec:v libx264 -crf 1 -preset fast -acodec copy -strict -2  BWV-1031-I.mov

The effect is quite nice for busy music, but becomes much more striking for very simple music. IE, the more notes playing at once the more the effect becomes a shifting colour cloud; the simpler the music, the more we see the trace its self. See there for an example tracing:



Waldorf Pulse 2: Beauty In The Beast

Every one of the factor presents on the Waldorf let it down. Every review (apart form maybe the Sonic State one) let it down. This is  a beautiful machine capable of playing heart breaking music or blowing your brain out the back of your head. But, everyone makes it go crunch!

The complex pulse wave modulation facilities on the synth (hence the name really) make it very easy to make a big, crunchy sound. Then people play with the filter and find it is smooth and clean and does not make harsh sounds. Then they make a few nasty, discordant sounds or play 100 factory presents which basesically all sound like a mix of acid and hiphop and then loose interest.

Well f**k you monominds! There is more to music than that! The power of this synth comes from the fines with which its rich analogue circuits can be controlled and modulated. The filter is not lacking in character, it just does not get in the way. The three oscillators are so powerful and rich you really do not need colour from the filter. But, that band pass 12 db filter can be heart breakingly beautiful:


That piece by Back was played just on the filter. You see, the pulse width oscillators are so 'fat' that you want a pure filter to give another, fourth, voice to this machine.

Fancy a Hammond anyone?


Yep - the Alter Ego X4 chorus/delay and the Waldorf make that sound. I love listening to it; indeed I cannot get enough of it. It is not beautiful, just somehow captivating that a few transistors and capacitors made it!

Fancy some driving synth-strings?


How about a harpsichord?


Or some massive drum sounds from the pits of hell?


You might now like my music. Hell, you might think I am a talentless idiot! But really hope I have at least annoyed you out of making just another, generic, boring, easy, acid, grit, sit sound.