solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

It’s a Roland SC-55 MIDI Sound Canvas from 1991! I can now make all the noises you heard in any videogame in the 1990s.

Cheese Factor Five, Mr. Worf – let’s see what’s out there.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but honestly not much of one. I got it from Ben Deschamps via his internet yard sale, for, as he put it, “a six pack.” XD I also had to fix it after it arrived damaged in shipping – I’m pretty sure the post office punted it here from New York State, given how quickly it arrived and how the left side of the front panel was punched in.

But hey, now I can say I’ve repaired a potentiometer. Not replaced: repaired. I did that because it’s custom and weird and was in three pieces. (Also the metal frame was bent, some parts got disconnected and also bent, a bit of the motherboard broke off but I’m pretty sure that was just a little bit of grounding pin and it’s already grounded. And I fixed all that, so it’s all good.)

Anyway, it’s a Roland, and my A-30 MIDI keyboard is also a Roland, and turns out, they know each other! Such a small world. All those useless buttons suddenly do things!

There is also a thunder and rain setting. This is hilarious, mostly because there’s really only one thunder effect, so I can use it exactly once ever. I have no plans to do so, but don’t push me, I got thunder.

not me. okay, kinda me last night. but not really me.

Honestly, though, while I expected mostly to be using it for things easy to get right (bells, chimes, simple pipes, synthy-effects, etc), this is 1990s pro gear. The strings and horns, while definitely cheesy, are much less so than what you find in, say, Garage Band today. With the right tweaking and careful, careful playing – it respects key velocity, aftertouch, all those cool tweaks on my keyboard – I might be able to use more parts of it than I expected, maybe even for the swing jazz version of Lisdoonvarna. That’d be awesome.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (made her from parts)

I’m working on Fake Drumkit part for Song for a Free Court/Anarchy Now, and it needed more real drums, so I got out…

Oh, right, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about Fake Drumkit. So the musical shtick behind the band – as opposed to the political/theme idea – is, “what if a bunch of elves heard metal and thought WE HAVE TO DO THIS” and used what they had.

Since that includes a drumkit, I make what I call Fake Drumkit. It’s made of real drums like bodhran and djembe and bongo and wood block and metal and glass, and fake drums like big sampled bass taiko or at least things which sound kind of like taiko. Anarchy Now also has three tuned glass cymbals. It’s gonna be awesome. \n/

Anyway, I have a few drums recorded (and all those glass cymbals), but it needs more. And the bongos sound right so far. Not as bongos – I don’t play them as bongos, don’t expect that – but as midrange drums.

But I don’t have a stand, which makes them a pain to mic. So I drilled a hole in the little plastic bridge that holds the two bongo drums together, and epoxyed down one of those metal threaded rings that are on every mic stand ever and I don’t know why.

Anybody know what these are supposed to be for? They’re no good at anchoring mic clips, so that can’t be it.

I clamped it down with wax paper and tape, to keep the epoxy from sticking to the wrong things (like the clamp), and let it sit until this evening. Then I tried it tonight.

I’m holding the mic stand up, to be safe, but I didn’t need to.

Hey, it even looks kind of intentional:

Lots of room for underneath microphones

I’m a little worried about leverage on heavier strikes, but so far, so good.

Fake Drumkit is a lot of work, but I like it when it comes together. Wait’ll you hear the track for Something’s Coming. It’s not half as complex as this, but it’s totally bombastic – kind of 80s hair metal, really. BOOM BOOM BOOM awesome XD

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (shego-rule?-you?)

I swear to you, I am not reorienting the compass in this video. I’m keeping it as much at the same angle relative to the room walls as I can.


there y’are

I guess the mistletoe is gonna explode again, too.

I know about metal effect on compasses, but this looks more like every piece of metal in my studio is magnetic now. Honestly – these mic stands are magnetic enough to use the compass to identify their poles. My shock mounts, too. And I think I can feel the magnetic attraction to my wire-cutters on some of them.

Is that normal? It doesn’t seem like it could be normal, because I don’t see how anyone could use high-gain preamps and cables. I remove the mic stands; no radio on the pre-amp. I bring one back: radio on the pre-amp. Magnetic induction, somehow.

I am officially at a loss.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (shego-cosplay)

Clallam Bay Comicon! Otherwise known as a rather large party at Donna’s house The Lion’s Club. It’s a tiny event, but this year they had a venue and everything! But they’re still trying to figure out what they can do – the dream is to have a whole fleet of these things out in tiny Olympic Peninsula towns, maybe even on the same days, so you can have kind of a tour-the-peninsula-via-comic-conventions event.

Anyway, there were probably twice as many exhibitors as last year, plus we had panel programming. Next year, there’ll be more than one room, so the panels and exhibitor space won’t overlap. I did substantially better in sales than last year, to talk about business for a moment, but I think I’m the only one.

Donna Getting Ready for Opening Ceremonies on the Beach

Opening Ceremonies was more beachwalk than anything else. But it’s a gorgeous bay. Utterly lovely. I’ll throw more photos on the flickr stream later, but here are a couple:

Clallam Bay, East Side

Sunset, from behind the bridge

Then we went on a parade! We had a cosplay Scotsman playing flaming bagpipes on stilts. He won a ribbon.

I See You’ve Won First Prize!
(Niall actually did win first prize.)
(photo Angela Korra’ti)

The convention didn’t have a newsletter. I used to do the daily ‘zines at Norwescon for years, so I made one in the bar with a rubber stamp kit and some post-its.

(phone photo courtesy Donna Barr)

Electronic Edition, a.k.a. Typesetting is Difficult

The entire print run

There were, of course, panel presentations, and I did my concert. And if you’re looking for the PDF version of the Kitting Out Cheap – Building Gear on a Budget handout, click here; also, the series of articles I talked about on making your own podcasting or recording studio is here.

Introducing Cosplay to the Fishers


Supervillainy on a Microphone
(photo courtesy Angela Korra’ti)

I did a new thing called the Supervillain Origin Story set, just to see if they’d cope. And actually… they really did. I did much better in sales than last year, and I think that’s partly why. Also:

I HAVE A HEADSET MICROPHONE DO YOU SEE IT? OH MY GOD I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS HEADSET MICROPHONE. HEADSET MICROPHONE WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! I grabbed it on the way out of town from a Guitar Centre on sale for $210 including transmitter/receiver and … I should’ve bought one of these two years ago. I’ve got pretty good mic discipline at this point – and even use distance/proximity effect on purpose sometime – but I’m a highly kinetic player and always, always felt constricted and tied down and weird. I’ve always been much better without a mic and this is exactly like being without a microphone except I have a microphone.



After things closed down for the day but before we went out for dinner we stopped back at our hotel room. I have never wanted to open an appliance door more than when I saw this:

Do Not Open

OH MY GOD MUST OPEN. MUST. OPEN. Anna had to put a towel on my head and feed me ice cream.

Then we went and hung out on the beach for the illegal fireworks. It’s seriously Ten Finger Johnny time on the beach out here, particularly for the two hours before the official big fireworks display on the south side of the bay in Sekiu.

One Point Five Limbed Johnny on the 14th of July…

I don’t have any photos of the official fireworks, but Sekiu put son a great display for Fun Days; just like last year, there were cruise ships lined up out on the Salish to watch from a boring safe distance. They have some seriously exotic fireworks and they launch them really high, and it’s just great.

Today, cleaning, and mending, and patching a few fire holes in the old battlesuit – the usual drill after Escapades. How was your weekend?

ps: I put up a few dozen photos of Harrison Hot Springs over on my Flickr account, which I keep forgetting to use. I’ll add more Clallam Bay photos there later, but I don’t want these lost in too huge an update.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (Lecturing)

Thank you so much, everyone who stayed for my end-of-comicon panel on building a recording kit on the cheap! I’ll post about the convention in general tomorrow, but as promised, a PDF copy of the handout is right here (click to download).

Also, the series of blog post articles I talked about – which go into considerably more depth than I could in the presentation – can all be found here. That link takes you to a master post which collects all the articles into one convenient place. It’s also linked to from the blog itself, in the left column, below the RSS feed and podcast links, so bookmark that if you like for later reference.

More tomorrow – for now, time to unpack!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

I’ve always liked these little flowers. They look so fake, like they’re made of some sort of particularly sun-resistant plastic. I’M NOT SAYING IT WAS ALIENS BUT

…it was aliens.

Remember a couple of months ago the hell of upgrading Ubuntu so I could run a modern version of Jack, so I could run Ardour 2.6.14? Well, that was the latest version six months ago, the first time I tried to upgrade.

About five months ago, the long-awaited Ardour 3.0 finally came out. (They’re at 3.1.mutter now; and having the history with Microsoft, this sounds like a sweetspot for versions.) So now I’m fiddling around with that.

I’ve only been working with it for a few hours so far, but I’ve done a little test recording and editing, and tried to put it through some early paces. It works with the version of Jack included with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS; no Jack update needed. It still allows parallel installations, so you can use it without losing 2.6. There’s an installation script, but honestly, you don’t need it; you can run it straight out of its bin directory, which is what I’m doing.

First impressions are really good. Latency is lower. I’ve had a little list of features I’ve wished Ardour had, and suddenly it has them. There are a lot of UI changes, most of which I like, some of which I love, a couple of which… I’m not as happy about, but nothing I can’t get used to. It has updated project formats; I’m figuring out how much that matters, it seems to maintain double root files now, one for Ardour 2.x use, one for Ardour 3.x use, but I haven’t tested that.

I love love love the new project view window.

It’s a lot smarter about use of screen space; I can fit all the tracks of, say, Voiceless usably into the editing window now, and even have a bit of room to spare. “Maximise editor space” is now actually worth using; it’s much smarter about use of screen real estate. Plug-in management in tracks is much better – that was one of those things I’ve been wanting. Click track now lets you set files for both emphasis note and basic notes, and it has an exposed level control. (You could do that before; it was just difficult.)

One way in the past to crash Ardour has been to get freaky with editor zoom controls while the transport is running on a complex project; 2.6.8 would crash pretty easily that way; I’ve only seen 2.6.14 do it once. 3.1 hasn’t yet, despite trying – but the night is still young.

Anyway, those are all just some first impressions. I’ve already made a scratch project for the soundtrack album in 3.1; if things continue to go well, I’ll do the whole album in it, and post new impressions as I have them.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (music)

Over the last few days, I’ve realised there’s a studio toy I really want, but can’t quite find. If I can’t find it, maybe I can build it – or maybe that should be the other way ’round, eh? Regardless, maybe some of you guys can help.

One of the many cool things about midi is how you can have arbitrary controllers in variety of functionalities. You can, for example, buy banks of knobs and sliders. And all they do is send MIDI signals. This is great, because then you can assign them in whatever software you’re controlling to any function you want controlled. There are also banks of buttons, and so on. More commonly, you get mixed devices.

drool pad not included… or needed, really, but I would like this one or this one

I want that, but USB (or wireless-to-USB), and sending user-settable keyboard character combinations. I want a small remote pad that I can set up to have one button send a space, another button to send Shift-R, another button to send HOME, another to send END, and so on. Ideally, it should be able to send any button combination from a 101-key keyboard.

There are two reasons I want this.

One: If you’re surrounded by drums and mics (just for example) in my studio and you want to enable record and start the virtual transport, it’s difficult to do so in time to sync up with the pre-existing tracks you might be working against. Not that this was driving me crazy over the weekend or anything.

Two: Ardour is FULL of keyboard shortcuts. No, I mean full, like every goddamn key on the keyboard does some damn thing. If you’re reaching over something to get to some key or other (say, SHIFT-R, to enable master record), or in the wrong mode (which this mostly won’t fix), it is really easy to either hit the wrong key(s), or hit the right keys, but have them do different things, because not only are they loaded, they’re overloaded.

overconfidence not included

Basically I want a control panel that isn’t so overloaded, and I want it to go anywhere in the room.

I’ve thought about getting a minikeyboard, maybe a wireless minikeyboard, and hax0ring it. I may well do this, because I don’t want to build a USB interface and I don’t want to build a keyboard interface for that USB interface, and besides, I might want to add some more buttons later. But I worry about how easy (or difficult) it might be to send numeric keypad keys specifically, and how reliable soldering to surface pads will be, since I want to move this thing around a bit and it will get knocked about.

Now, there are some gamepads out there that might be good. The cheaper one I found doesn’t actually let you reprogramme what keys the pads send, and as annoying as I can find Ardour’s spaghetti of hotkeys, I don’t want to change them. I might want to use someone else’s workstation at some point. The ones which do let you reprogramme the pad’s keys are a bit spendier, and tend to be large and/or weird. But more importantly, they appear to require external software. This may just be for the purpose of changing key assignments, so I could run it once on a different machine and forget about it – but the data pages don’t make that entirely clear. If someone knows for sure, tell me?

Also I’d need to take a hacksaw to parts of it because of all the do-not-want.

Really, do I need to go all Arduino for this? I don’t want to. Anybody got ideas?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (Lecturing)

Criminal Studios’ workstation desk has had a usability problem.

Ardour, my digital audio workstation (DAW) software, has an editor view and a mixer view. Both are really useful for different things, and Ardour will happily display both at once. But both want lots of screen space, making you toggle between them, which is a pain in the ass. Avoiding that requires huge tracts of land, and those big monitors are spendy.

Last week, I realised I could cheat. First, Linux, Windows, and OS X all support multimonitor/multicard displays. Second, for the last year or so, everybody’s been dumping 4:3-ratio LCDs, even newish ones in good shape; nobody wants them. Pretty good ones go for $20ish; I spent $16. Third, old-school 4:3 ATI Rage cards are $15, new in box.

Combine these facts, and $31 buys you:

Huge Tracts of Land

The blue field on the left display is part of the background graphic, made by modifying a standard Ubuntu Studio desktop. There’s no actual special functionality; it’s organisational notation. “Files left here need sorted.”

2560×1024, aw yeah

(Click on either to enlarge.)

By themselves, neither display is good, by any modern definition. I mean, lol 17″ 4:3 LCDs. Would you want to play games on this? Hell to the no. FPS would be wretched, you have this screen divisor bar where the monitors meet…

…but that’s totally irrelevant.

All you need for a DAW is to match screen resolutions and have enough oomph to draw sound level metres moving. That’s about the same graphics power as you need for something like, oh, Word. Getting that functionality cost, I repeat, thirty-one dollars.

It’d've been $16 if the old graphics card sitting in the parts box hadn’t been the wrong slot type. Do you have an old PCI graphics card sitting around? Thought so.

After all of two days in this configuration, the usability difference is tremendous and obvious. Being able to have all this extra data in view at the same time is really useful when recording other people, and there’s actually a lot less mousing even as I do more things, because I’m not having to change views and move windows around to get to tools.

It’s so useful, I’ve decided to shell out another $44 for a cheap dual-monitor bracket. But you don’t need that; you can just sit the monitors on boxes to get them to the right height. But I need screen mobility.

See, the studio desk is double-sided. I set things up on the outer side when I’m recording myself or rehearsing. It’s for best access to the DAW controls from the recording floor:

Note location of chair and keyboard; recording floor is to the right.

When recording others, I set up on the opposite, further side, so I’m out of the way, and can see everything they’re doing:

Flipped about

Needing to move the monitors every couple of days? That’s worth a pair of monitor arms. If you don’t have that, don’t bother.

This situation won’t be last forever, because all the good old 4:3 monitors will go away, or get old, or become rare enough to be more expensive. But for the time being, it’s pretty cool. And dirt cheap, so you can spend your money on things that matter.

Like microphones.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (Lecturing)

I’ve been fine-tuning the studio in preparation for work on the soundtrack, plus I have some other work coming up for Leannan Sidhe – their Roses and Ruin project and some second-studio work on their next full studio album. (Having their main engineer and studio be in Oregon when they’re in Seattle is problematic from a scheduling standpoint, so I’m helping out.)

And I have to tell you something: before the latest round of adjustments, I would never have put the words “Bose” and “precise” in the same sentence together. Not without also including the word “not,” anyway. I even dragged Anna upstairs and into the room to listen and she was all, “…<blink> wow.”

Remember my Bose? I’ve talked about them before. They’re old 301s, from this post where I talk about how terrible they sounded in the living room because of the room’s odd shape – see the link, it’s relevant. They sounded much better in the studio – a rectangular room – but still not the way you’d think they should.

Turns out, the way to get their best performance is to put them in a finely-tuned recording studio. IS THAT ALL? WHO KNEW!? ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

But I put on a test track and was suddenly transported back to my radio days, because they finally sounded like pro gear. I was… not expecting that! It’s not even that they’re just high-end precise; they’re unexpectedly crisp in the low end, too. You particularly hear it in percussion and bass guitar; suddenly, I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before, which means they’re worth having as monitors. For special cases.

Anyway, here’s a video showing the current state of studio tuning. It’s short, and annotated heavily. Enjoy!

Oh, and since people have asked, I will indeed talk about the Big Board, probably next week. Or the week after, I have another topic queued up also. Advance reading (or spoiler, if you prefer): “Heijunka box.”

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

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