Friday, July 31, 2015

JBL LS305 with Roland Duo-Capture EX

Haven't touched music in the last few months thanks to my move to Vancouver, BC! Only finished furnishing my place last weekend, and only got the final bits of my music setup, the audio interface, this evening.

The last year in Adelaide, I'd gone with a Komplete Audio 6 with Presonus Eris E5 monitors. Unfortunately, the E5 were only for 220V, and not suitable for use in Canada. I'd also think shipping a pair of 300-ish dollar monitors would not be worth it, so I sold them both when I left.

I was going to buy another pair of E5s here as I really enjoyed them, but decided to try something else, and got the LS305. They appear to hit the correct price/performance sweet spot. There were some Adam F5s around, but while I really love them when I last tested them, they are just too expensive for justify. In the end, I'd ordered the LS305 from Amazon last Friday. Even with the free shipping option, they somehow turned up on my doorstep 3 days later, on Monday! I was like (o.0) as I didn't expect them so soon, and haven't had a chance to really look up which audio interface to get.

The Komplete Audio 6, for some reason, costs almost a third more here in Vancouver than Adelaide, and that's before the sales tax included! In any case, I was really looking more for a pure DAC than an audio interface as I haven't recorded through my audio interface in over a year. Plus, I don't even have a mic. (Er... crap. I really don't have a mic. I was planning to record some irish whistle. oh well.).

Unfortunately, most USB DACs appeared to be for the hi-fi audience, with only RCA outputs, so after a few hours of hunting, I went back to looking at regular audio interfaces.

The entry level audio interfaces only had RCA outputs. I was going to go with them - never used RCA before, so might as well try it. My main concern was hum and interference, but after choosing the LS305, that option was taken away, as it only has balanced (1/4 and XLR) inputs.

The cheapest interface I could find was the Mackie Blackjack, which I'd used several years ago and was a delight to use. However, stock was nigh impossible to find, and Tom Lee music said it was a special order, and could take up to two weeks to arrive, if the Mackie dealer had stock.

I then decided to look at the other interfaces they had. I'd visited them 3 times before, and more or less knew what they had, and I was going to pick maybe the Focusrite 2i4 (again) or Steinberg CI2, when my eyes fell on a small Roland interface I'd never noticed before (the packaging is very new!), the Duo-Capture EX. Was in my budget, had xlr outputs, a quick google for reviews indicated it's not too bad, so I bought it.

Setting it up in the evening, I realized that it's not class compliant. GRRAAAH! Which means I had to install drivers. Apart from the Focusrite VRM Box, I'd been always using class compliant devices. It's not an issue really, it's not like I'm going to be running linux nowadays - it's just I hate the idea of the manufacturer no longer updating drivers for future versions of OSX and having to buy another audio interface. I then remind myself, I have no idea where I'll be in a year, and probably will be selling it when I move to my next job.

After the drivers were installed, it proceeded just like any other audio interface I've used. What's interesting though - maybe it's because its using drivers - is that I can control the volume of the speakers through OSX's usual volume slider. The other interfaces I've used had the volume slider disabled, and only controllable on the audio interface. I personally have little use for that slider if I have an audio interface, just something I'd noticed.

If there was anything I would like to pick on the Duo-Capture EX, it's that the volume control could be bigger. I really enjoyed using the big knobs on the Focusrite 2i4 and KA6. The Mackie blackjack also had a similar small knob, but IIRC, it's slightly larger, and much smoother to operate. The volume knob on the Roland has a bit more resistance, and doesn't give the slick feel the other interfaces have. But. It works, and it works great. 

The speakers, I've only had them for a few hours and it's nigh impossible to say how good they are or not. But I must say initially, testing some of my favourite test tracks featuring pizzicato bass told me that this speaker has the deepest bass of all the monitors I've owned.

 This LS305 is also the first speaker I've bought that has a bass port on the rear; usually the places I've rented do not have enough space for the speakers to be placed far enough from the wall for rear ported speakers, and have had to always pick front ported speakers. This current place I'm renting is actually very small, but it's a perfect rectangle, so it affords me more layout choices.

I'm digressing. The bass response was the first thing I've noted. Then I noticed that some of my oft listened tracks appeared to be different. Like something was missing (?!). After a closer listening, it's because there is a lot of depth to the speakers, I could really hear instruments in front vs those in the back.

The E5 OTOH, from my memories of a time months ago, in a totally different room in another continent, was much more up front and exciting. The LS305 is much smoother, the high end purer, and, dare I say it, makes orchestral and acoustic pieces really sing. Pulling up some pieces by Carbon Based Lifeform reinforces my opinion that the LS305 has much more depth to the pieces. I need time for the ears to accept hearing things in the background and things closer.

Another thing I checked out was to listen to my own pieces. I've noted that the pieces I mixed on the E5 sound rather muddy now - but the pieces I've mixed on the Yamaha MSP5s, and even headphones + vrm box with the JBL On-Tour Micro sound as I'd expected.

While this post might point to the E5 being not-so-good comparatively to the LS305, I would like to remind the reader that I had a totally different audio interface, totally different room from what I have now, and I've only used the speakers for a few hours. Perhaps if the E5 and KA6 were in this room I'm in, they would totally blow away the LS305, who knows.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Little Mouse Run

Has it been 5 months since my last post?! Been rather busy between work and other non-musical project. Last week - ok, something this month - I discovered Symphony Pro, a very nice app that runs on tablets. It's great, as I can just curl up in bed before I sleep and write some melody fragments out.

Last Sunday, I took the time to write this short piece for string quartet, sequenced most of it on Tuesday, then finally got around to mix and apply the finishing touches to it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Path of the Reindeer

Totally forgot about updating the music blog :P This above piece was the assignment I chose to orchestrate from a piano score to a full chamber orchestra. Must say working on this took a long while, and highlighted how little I know about orchestration.

In the end, I hunkered down, wrote the string parts first, added in the other parts in. I think the starting few measures are quite good, but halfway through, it loses its focus and appears lost (now that I think about it, it may be good to see where I went wrong, if I ever need that!) then picks up at the end.

IIRC, this is near 100% vsl - apart from logic and a limiter plugin from toneboosters.

The next assignment is on harp and percussion, which again is unknown territory for me. On the flip side, this assignment had me pick up the Harry Potter And The Scorcerer's Stone Suite for Orchestra. Have had it for almost a year now, and haven't done more than flip through it.

Starting slowly going through the score to examine how John Williams orchestrated it. My OSTs don't seem to match the score, but I did a quick search on youtube and this orchestra appeared to have played it exactly note for note.
Something to do over xmas break? :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Upgraded to Printmusic 2014

Have been using Printmusic 2011 since I started my musical journey, and it's served me very well. I honestly didn't see or have the need for the full version of Finale. The only feature I thought would be very useful would be the indication for out of range notes. Been just checking with my tiny orchestration guide, but the recent Printmusic 2014 release included the out of range note indication, so woot! Upgraded it for a hair under 40 bucks.

Off hand, there are some odd issues with Printmusic 2014. For example, I can't seem to open my EOS reverb plugin interface inside Finale. But the other reverb plugins I got open fine, so I'm wondering if it's something on Audio Damage's end. Upgrading to the latest au had no difference. Annoying. Guess I'll go back to the au matrix reverb.

The first playback of music also stalls on my machine - it does the calculation for human playback, then nada - but stop and re-play and it runs fine, so a little quirk there.

The out of range notes are _somewhat_ helpful, though if I go below the absolute playable range of an instrument, there does not seem to be any difference between the "out of range" for player capability vs out of range for instrument, period.

For example, if I go too high on the flute, the out of range notes show up as orange. Great! Now if I went down to A below C, it still shows up as orange... I would think in a case like this, the notes would display as Red, to indicate I'm scoring something impossible to play on a regular flute.

GPO4 also worked fine with Printmusic 2014, though I needed to upgrade the player (else printmusic will hard crash!) and install some packages as directed on the finale website.

Will be writing my next piece in PM2014, so hopefully the learning curve won't be too difficult!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rule Britannia for Wind Ensemble

So, after finishing up the quartet version of this piece, I was about to submit the assignment when I realized... I did it wrongly >.>

It was supposed to be for 8 woodwind players, and obviously scoring for half of that wasn't going to earn me brownie points. Sigh.

In anycase, I decided that the original instruments would still be the main players, and the extra instruments for added punch. The piccolo I used to add ornaments - I really love the trill patch - and the english horn for some back and forth with the oboe.

I kept the bass clarinet and contra bassoon mostly out of the piece till the end, using them to add more weight to the lower end, as well as filling in the harmonic gaps.

I also took this chance to add in one of the melodies heard in the Ultima 6 version of Rule Britannia, so that was fun :) 

Also used the vsl miracle plugin, which I thought added alot of mid range thickness, and made the piccolo really sing. Unfortunately, it seems like my notebook is at its limits; 8 vsl instruments, mir pro (conductor and rear mics)  + miracle have the cpu over 80%+, and that's with the buffers at 1024 samples.

Oh well, chugging on to brass next :)


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rule Britannia for Wind Quartet

Spent a few minutes each day the last week to finish this piece, and spent a good half day today sequencing it in Logic. I think overall it's ok, though I am very pleased with the short moment when the flute trill came through, I thought that added alot to it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Setting up for speakers... again.

The last year in Montreal was my first time I had speakers for composing/mixing/general purpose listening and they were wonderful. This year, I'm located a fair distance away in Adelaide, South Australia. Having sold most of my music gear, I'm looking to build up a small setup.

First up, the audio interface. The last two I have owned, the Onxy Blackjack (really good!) and Focusrite 2i4 (generally very good, but I've had rare occasions where the audio interface would play back distorted audio - needed a reboot to fix). This time, I've decided that I will not sell the next audio interface I buy and just bring it along with me. Much review reading later, I've decided that it'll be the Komplete Audio 6. Ideally, the interface I want would have one input suitable for either mics or guitars, ouptut for speakers, and a good driver for headphones. The KA6 appears to tick all these above with seemingly quality components but without a crazy price. Was going to get one today, but the place here don't seem to have it in stock >.> Online purchase it is!

Speaker wise, I am very torn between buying a good pair to tote around wherever I travel for work, versus buying a low end pair and selling before I leave, or, actually getting some regular desktop speakers that do not weigh 7kgs each (international shipping is costly!!!).  The fact is, I'm not a pro, and I won't use the speakers for composing/mixing for more than a few hours - if at all - a week.

Also, the places I stay at are generally tiny. The place I got this time round, is probably the smallest room I've rented ever. It's actually student accommodation, and the room is maybe 8feet, if not 10 feet square? Reaaally small! As such, I started looking for smaller speakers, with woofers 5 inches or smaller.

Of course, I'd love a pair of Adam A5X monitors, but face it, it's overkill for noobs like me. And they cost a bomb, and are super heavy to boot. The Adam F5s are another option, I've tried them and they sound great. Still a pretty penny though.

Another speaker that piqued my interest really bad are the Eve Audio SC204s. I remember testing the 205s in Montreal, expensive, but I thought they were ok. The thing going for the SC204s are the size - at 3.8KG each they would be perfect to tote around if I move. The main concern is the cost - they run exceedingly expensive in Australia, but oddly if I bought through Thomann, the price is much more reasonable. But still, again, those are probably overkill for my needs.

I'd like to diverge a bit about prices in Australia. The Adams are insanely expensive here for some reason. The price I see online range from almost 550AUD for *one* A3x speaker, to almost 900 AUD for a pair. Thomann, on the other hand, costs just under 500AUD for a pair, including shipping! And if I understand correctly, purchases under 1k AUD are not subject to tax, so if I really wanted Adams I'd definitely get them from Thomann.

Much review reading on gearslutz then eluded me to the Presonus Eris series of speakers, particularly the E5. This speaker checks all the boxes - AUD349 for a pair from storedj- in this instance, thomann has those speakers at almost 400 with shipping. In addition, the speakers have specs that call out to me.
- Front bass port
- 5.25in woofer - bass goes down to 53hz
- Relatively lightweight, under 5kg each!
- Balanced connections
- Many eq settings to match the room.

Once I settle in, it's very likely I'll get this speaker. I'll update when things happen!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Classical Guitar Del Camp

So, after a long bout of deciding on an instrument that would be more friendly to the travelling nature of my job, I decided to pick... a travel guitar. The other option would be a flugelhorn (omg so sexy) or cornet, but they do cost a fair bit and I do know I suck at instruments requiring breath. The guitar has several appeals: the travel guitar I got is supremely light, only 2.5kg and does not take up too much space. I've also never player the guitar, and am curious to see how far I can take it. Finally, the music I've heard, especially the early renaissance pieces (see previous post) just make my heart go :3

I found a free online resource/forum, classical guitar del camp.
www.classicalguitardelcamp.com
Free classical guitar lessons on the internet
Lessons given by Jean-Fran├žois Delcamp
The lessons will begin in September 2013 and finish in June 2014.
These classical guitar lessons correspond to the first five years at music school.
The lessons are free. They are aimed at the isolated amateur who does not have the opportunity of having a teacher.
The conditions for registration are available on the forum: http://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/
As you might surmise, one of the conditions of attending this online resource is to publicise it. As above :3

Hopefully, I don't get murdered by work this year, and have a better work/life balance so that I can spend more time looking into music. Haven't posted anything in months as my sample drive has been on a 2 month+ journey on a ship from Montreal to Singapore.

As luck would have it, the boxes arrived the day before I left for Australia, and I managed to send the sample drive over to the office - it should arrive by next week. But... honestly, I have just been down in a funk. Half a year of 50-70hr 6-7 day work weeks just killed me, and I am not entirely over it.

Let's hope music will sooth the beast, or so the saying goes :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Woodwinds!

Been studying woodwinds lately, having played the sax and flute helps a little, but now properly learning to orchestrate for a woodwind in pairs or for quartets, it's a very different beast altogether.

For one, I never really knew the ranges of the other winds - the clarinet is one very impressive instrument! Bassoons too. Mixing all the different timbres together has been quite interesting.

Basically following one of the exercises from the Kent Kennan book: The Technique of Orchestration. Putting up 8 bars of one of Bach's masterpiece chorales, and layering the with those notes.

Really fast feedback in Finale, and with the new GPO4 setup, I think sounds great! I am, thinking of loading up VE Pro and letting the vsl instruments come through though. We'll see.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Finale Printmusic + GPO4

I have had GPO4 since forever, but only last night found a FAQ how to use Finale Printmusic together with GPO4. After installing the files as indicated, I setup another string orchestra score, switching the playback device from the softsyth to the GPO4 libraries in the setup screen.

It actually didn't do anything, but after I removed the original instruments in the setup page and replaced them with the proper GPO4 instruments from the list e.g. KS Violins 1 (keyswitched violins 1) they worked right off the bat.

I only tried simple stuff like staccatos and legato lines, and they seemed to work. Good stuff, as I was really jealous of my teacher's fantastic sounding samples in Sibelius XD Not that GPO brings it up to that level, but at least now I have at least _some_ kind of sampled orchestra with individual patches not a generic "string ensemble" patch to be used for all the string sections.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The First Noel

This arrangement took far longer than I wanted. I actually started started and finished writing the arrangement in Finale on Christmas eve. On the 25th, I took a hour or so to record the parts.

The tin whistle recording went generally quite smoothly. The D whistle a more difficult whistle to play compared to the larger whistles; I find it more difficult to maintain a proper stream of air without it doing doing unwanted broken chirps. On the flip side, playing the high notes on the D takes far less air and is so much easier.

My saxophone embouchure has weakened horribly. No surprise, it's been a half year since I touched my alto properly. While I can still hit the overtones and _somewhat_ play in tune, my embouchure got very tired very rapidly. I think I only recorded the sax parts 3 times, and that's with maybe 2-3 practice runs prior. I stopped as I knew I would not be able to maintain it. Which is sad, as I know the sax part is not as good as it could be.

The supporting harmony is also questionable. It kind of works, but I was experimenting with using minors instead of majors, and I think I got lost part of the way, trying to be too smart with the harmony. I think this is mainly being split between the strict classical harmony and ignoring the counterpoint rules all-together. I must make a decision :P Some modern scores I read have open harmony, no thirds, so I need to get my act together.

Not much to say about the virtual instruments, I used vsl flute, piccolo, chamber strings, lithophone and triangle. The sleigh bells was from Nine Volt Audio.

Mix wise, I think the start of the piece felt really empty. I did want to go for a feel of it slowly cresending into the full string orchestra, and on a part I think I succeeded, but it could be done better for sure. Perhaps the strings should come in from the very first bar, but at a super super low level.

Well, on to the next piece!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The South Wind

Woo! Wrote this arrangement a few weeks back. I actually recorded it several weeks ago, but I recorded the whistle first, in the hopes of playing the piano part to the whistle, but it was nigh impossible. Today, I played the piano part, then played the whistle on top. Seemed to work fine.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sonata for Harpsichord, Flute and Oboe

Short piece I wrote last weekend, and sequenced with DP8. After lots of consideration, it's likely I will just move to Logic Pro X, mainly for cost reasons. From the viewpoint of a hobbyist, the crossgrade price for DP8 is (at the time of this writing) $395, versus 199 for Logic Pro X.

DP8's features, which are just simply awesome like the score and midi editing tools. The reshape tool is a thing of beauty. The sad fact of the matter is also this: I'm not a professional. The various tools are really well designed for the professional composer, and it's really overkill for me.

In addition, LPX _should_ be much easier to manage and use, and I do really miss some Logic plugins :)

Maybe if things change one day I'll definitely revisit DP8.

As a side note, I had mucho help from Patrick Woo for his critique of my mix. I'll be sure to include your comments into more mixes in the future!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More DP thoughts

Testing out the DP demo tonight, created a 4 track midi piece. I really miss the effects plugins in Logic, or rather, I miss knowing how to use the many midi plugins in Logic. For example, for the final mixdown I had _no_ idea how to check in mono >.>

Also, with Logic all the music is usually routed to the master bus for output, in DP I haven't properly been properly acquainted with the workflow and it seems like every Vi simply outputs to the soundcard. I wanted to route all the tracks together for final comp and limiting, and tried the Master Fader track but I couldn't seem to find how to route the other tracks to it, so instead I created an aux track and routed everything there.

Argh.... really conflicted. On one hand you got Logic which I already know pretty well AND is cheaper, but there is DP which has lovely midi tools and I think the routing is easier, if I can figure out how it works properly.

The plus side out of this exercise is that as I don't actually use any of Logic's instruments, but mostly 3rd party plugins, moving to a new DAW (or OS, for that matter) should be straightforward, as all the tools I bought exist for both OSX and Windows.

Oh well. Going to sequence another piece in DP, and see how that goes!

Monday, November 25, 2013

DP8 Day 2

I think the interface and amount of "hidden" controls is supremely intimidating. I'm also missing the concept of regions in Logic; I have this feeling of unease that my midi data is not contained in a container, and it could disperse into the wind at a wrong keystroke.

Also, I've run into stuff like trying to move audio "soundbites" to the cursor's position, it's a right click affair in Logic, but I can't seem to find the answer for that in the manual, so I've posted in forums for help.

The thing that really blew my head was the midi editing tools. Damn, they are good! I can for example resculpt velocity data on a per note basis, or I can draw a curve, and depending on the setting, the velocity data will snap to the curve, be scaled by it, be added to it etc.

Similarly for other kinds of midi CCs (or even tempo!!!), I just drew in the curve.

I still need to figure out automation for plugins.

Overall though, I can see lots of promise and would really like to make this my primary daw.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thinking of moving to Digital Performer 8

Moved to OSX 10.8 a while back, and my Logic has been plagued with the dreaded GUI lags - it takes forever to stop a playback, even just a simple midi track!!! GRRRR. I am thinking that it may be the time to move on from Logic to a different DAW.

Protools is out, Cubase is very enticing, but expensive. More choices on Windows, but I don't run windows >.> That leaves upgrading to Logic X or getting Digital Performer 8. (There's Reason, but I want native au support, and ableton which just doesn't appeal to me)

DP is interesting as my teacher and other friends use it. From what I experienced watching them mix my stuff, it seems way more complicated but they have been doing music for decades. Me? Not even 3 years.

DP's full price is a definite no, but there is a crossgrade offer, of which Logic qualifies. That brings the price down to the "ouch, I can afford this but I'll be eating toast for lunch", with Logic X much cheaper, only slightly more than half of DP8's crossgrade.

One thing that I found nice about motu is that when I sent an email asking about the crossgrade, I got a reply the very next morning. That's something I really appreciate.

I've got the demo running at the moment, I must say it is quite overwhelming. So far, I've figured out how to record audio, some _really_ basic audio routing, and it's got a convention, unlike logic, where midi tracks are separate from the instrument (VI) tracks. You'll need to... route? The midi output over to the instrument track. Needs a bit of getting used to.

That said, it makes using a Kontakt multi instrument a breeze, unlike Logic's workflow. All I need to do in DP on each midi track is to target the correct instrument track with kontakt loaded, and select the correct midi channel.

Routing the audio for say, NY compression is still a mystery I hope to solve shortly. Will I get DP8? Who knows. It's very likely, but I want to check it out more before putting down the cash.