Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More on Microtuning in Synthmaster: easy transposing

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a dolt. I was complaining about Synthmaster not having an easy transposition control, so when I loaded Scala alternate tunings that had very few divisions to the octave - like equal tempered 4 or 5 note tunings - the center range of the MIDI keyboard would be ridiculously high. After playing around with some software that generates .SCL files, this obvious solution smacked me in the face:

Just about every DAW worth its salt has some kind of MIDI transpose insert like this - I happen to be using Reaper. This is the easiest, fastest way to control where the lowest note falls. I'm just embarrassed I didn't think of it sooner.

And Bulent (Synthmaster developer) - I'm sorry I hassled you with an unnecessary feature request. The .SCL support in Synthmaster is already perfect, don't mess with it! It's so nice to be able to directly use the human-readable .SCL files rather than having to export as .TUN or .GLY files as other VSTi plugins require.

Oh, and another thing to love about Synthmaster: it holds its tuning as you change patches. That lets you easily audition different patches with the same microtuning.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Synthmaster and Alternate Tuning (Scala) support

It's fantastic to see alternate tuning support already in Synthmaster, but a couple of small enhancements would make it far more usable.

Number one, there needs to be a master tuning control that pitches the entire instrument up and down by semitones (or whatever units the currently loaded Scala file uses), and also a fine tune control. There's already a fine tune control, so a scale unit control would be easy to add, I would think. Here's how it's handled in Zebra:

Also, for some equal temperament Scala files like 5-TET, it seems like Synthmaster pitches the entire tuning way too high. A way to set the "scala center" would be extremely useful, like we see in the Sforzando plugin:

And while we're on the subject of tuning, I find Synthmaster's individual oscillator tuning controls very difficult to work with - is there really no way to make the units snap to semitones? It's fiddly to get the oscillators tuned just right.

(These are quibbles - I still love the hell out of this plugin!)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sale on Audio Nerd Books (And Others) at Packt

I read a post at FlipMu on a book about using the JUCE library for C++. I've been wanting to jump into JUCE as a way of building compiled instruments for non-Reaktor users. Not that I'll ever stop using and building in Reaktor - but I'd like to reach out to people who aren't "of the body" as they say on Beta III.

Having missed the deadline to win a copy, I looked up the publisher's website and discovered a giant sale in progress - all books and videos are $5! I immediately grabbed Getting started with JUCE and am now eyeing these guys:

Mapping and Visualization with SuperCollider

Multimedia Programming with Pure Data

Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified

The SuperCollider book is especially interesting, as it has chapters on synthesizing waveforms from data. Unusually, it's more oriented to visuals than audio, but the math and programming principles still apply to the language, and it covers stuff the free / online tutorials don't. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Desert Island Plugins: The Best Virtual Instruments

I have too many instrument plugins, like anyone else who uses a DAW. Some are free, some are paid, and put them all together and ya got options paralysis. So I decided to get out the pruning shears.

Here's what I consider the top plugin instruments, the ones I can't do without:

Reaktor. Duh. It can do things nothing else can do and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Synthmaster - this thing has completely spoiled me for most other "straight" plugins. And by straight plugs, I mean not a construction kit like Reaktor or an elaborate scripted sampler like Kontakt. I can load up a beat and noodle around on Synthmaster presets for hours. It's like ear candy laced with ear crack. Ridiculously gorgeous sounding. If you think the buzz about Synthmaster is just hype - nope. Try it and see for yourself.

Geist - a superb plugin for cranking out swinging MPC type beats. Well designed, great workflow, enough bells and whistles but not too many; it's a productive and stable beat-making environment with low to moderate resource usage.

Tremor - for a drum machine from the same company that makes Geist, this has very little overlap. The polyrhythmic and probabilistic features remind me of my own ParamDrum ensemble for Reaktor, but it uses synthesis instead of samples. Going by what people say, I think the sound is a love or hate thing. I love it to death, me. Great workflow like Geist. I can put together a beat in this that morphs over time and just listen to it chug hypnotically for half an hour instead of listening to an album.

Kontakt - like Reaktor this can do things nothing else can do, and approaches much of what Reaktor does in the area of sampling, thanks to its scripting language. I find myself exploring Kontakt more and more, and using it for creative sampling rather than as the big dumb multi-gigabyte library playback leviathan it also is.

Honorable mention: DCAM Synth Squad. The mind melting sound is unparalleled in the sphere of analog emulation, but the lack of a stable 64 bit version has me reaching for it less these days. I hope the FXpansion fellas do something about this soon, so I can add it to my list of vital desert island coconuts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fixing Scrolling in Firefox in OS X 10.9 Mavericks

It's the one really annoying thing in Mavericks, aside from Launchpad (which it appears I'm too late to complain about, since I skipped over Lion and Mountain Lion).

The problem is, scrolling will periodically stop working with the magic mouse in Firefox. Here's how to fix it. First of all, deactivate this crap in the control panel:

Now, get yourself BetterTouchTool and set it up like this:

The first two entries are the important ones. The rest are my personal preferences. Setting up the paging forward and back with two fingers here rather than in the OS X control panel fixes the problem. No more restarting the browser and cursing. Happy scrolling!