Presenting GridInstrument: a musical grid app for iOS

GridInstrument is an iOS app that lets you play your iOS device like a musical instrument. Instead of a piano keyboard, notes are arranged on a grid (much like the Ableton Push or scale-mode on a Launchpad Pro).

One of the coolest features of the app is that you can hook up your Ableton Launchpad controller directly to it (using the Apple Camera Connection Kit) and it will let you play your Launchpad like a musical instrument. Here’s a video of the Launchpad tethering functionality:

The app has a simple sound generator built in, but where it really shines is in its ability to output MIDI data. It has Audiobus 3 support so that you can send MIDI to other apps. It also has Core MIDI out support so that you can send notes to outboard hardware or even to a Network MIDI connection. Here’s a video showing how to connect it to a Moog Little Phatty:

Features:

  • Change octaves
  • Change keys
  • Choose from over 20 musical modes (“Major, Minor, Dorian, Mixolydian, etc.”)
  • Choose between two grid layouts (“Diatonic 4th” and “Chromatic”)
  • Core MIDI out so that you use GridInstrument to control your other instruments
  • Audiobus 3 support
  • Launchpad integration (connect your Launchpad Mini in low-power mode without a hub or any other Launchpad with a powered hub)

OK. That’s it. Enjoy!

Crossposted on the Decidedly website.

– Dave

Free Multisample: Korg Volca Keys Sawtooth and Square Wave (Kontakt, Ableton, & SFZ)

I love my Korg Volca Keys. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s basically a small, MIDI-controlled analog synthesizer.

In the past few months, I hadn’t been using the box as much as I felt I should be. Since the birth of my son, I’ve had a far less predictable routine for music composition. Instead of having prescheduled music time, I often find myself putting together beats across many stolen moments throughout the day. In such cases, I generally don’t have time to go upstairs, unplug the Volca Keys, unplug my MIDI interface, and bring it down to the kitchen or wherever I happen to be working. My solution to this problem was to make some multi-samples so that I could still incorporate the Volca Keys sound into my music regardless of where I happened to be.

Here’s what the waveforms look like:

Volca Keys Squarewave Waveform (C4)
Volca Keys Sawtooth Waveform (C4)

I sampled each note over six octaves, set loop points, then turned them into multisamples.

Features:

  • Three formats: SFZ (tested with Sforzando), Native Instruments Kontakt 5.6.5, and Ableton Live 9.7.1 (Simpler & Sampler).
  • Recorded in 96khz, 24-bit using a high-end audio interface
  • Seemless waveform looping
  • Recorded without lowpass filter (add your own software filters within Ableton, SFZ plugin, or Native Instruments Kontakt)
  • Control envelope within SFZ, Ableton or Native Instruments Kontakt
  • Both Volca Keys waveforms: sawtooth and square wave
  • 5+ octaves
  • Allows for higher polyphony than the actual Volca Keys
  • Allows for polyphony using Square wave which the Volca Keys does not

Download:  Korg Volca Keys Sawtooth and Square Wave (353 downloads)

Here’s a sample track (all sounds come from this sample pack except for the drums):

Free Multisample: Electron ECHO Mini Piano

When I was a kid, a bunch of my friends had the same little musical toy. It was about a quarter of an inch thick, about the size of a smartphone; it featured a row of rubbery buttons which, when pressed, would play different notes on a scale. It was, essentially, a tiny, very primitive synthesizer.

Electron ECHO Mini Piano (Photo by Flickr user 'Kasten')
Electron ECHO Mini Piano from 1980s (Photo by Flickr user Kasten)

It was the oddest little device: it could only play one note at a time, had no ‘Off’ switch, and it came in a little sort of wallet thing with a cover that you could close when you weren’t using it. I never saw one on sale at a toy shop, either. It seemed to be something that only existed at my friends’ houses.

Well, last year, I did a bit of research. It turns out that the toy was called the Echo Electron, although it was actually sold under a variety of names. The reason that I never saw one in a toy store is that they were actually sold via mailorder. Go figure.

Even stranger is that it seems they’re still being made, although the packaging has changed slightly since the 80s. Needless to say, I had one shipped from China for the princely sum of $1.99. Here’s what it looks like:

HC-02 Mini Piano from 2016
HC-02 Mini Piano from 2016

 

It sounds exactly like I remembered: the notes all lasted the same amount of time, and the pitch wasn’t 100% constant. It would start one one note and slowly slide down a half step as it got softer and softer. As an instrument, it’s terrible. Ostensibly, the notes are supposed to form a major scale, but the pitches drift so terribly from one note to the next that by the time you reach the top of the scale, you are actually in a different key from where you were at the bottom.

Anyway, I opened it up, and plugged the little speaker wires directly into the audio jack of my sound card and recorded. Now, I’ve made multisamples (SFZ, Ableton 9.7, Kontakt 5.6) for those who wish to use them with their music software. I’ve done my best to tune the instrument so that it is in key, although that’s very difficult for an instrument that doesn’t hold its pitch (you may find yourself adjusting some of the samples by hand as needed.) What else? I’ve added polyphony, and I’ve also expended the key range so that you are not limited to the major scale that the actual instrument plays.

Download: Electron ECHO Toy Pocket Synth Multisample (Ableton, Kontakt, SFZ) (2504 downloads)

OK. That’s it. Enjoy!

— Dave

Free Multisample: Warren Trachtman’s Steinway Model C

A while back, I was looking for a decent piano sample to use in some compositions when I stumbled on a free Steinway Model C sample released by a man named Warren Trachtman. The patch, which I use in just about everything I do, is pretty much impossible to find on the internet right now, which is why I’ve decided to upload it here.

—Dave

Free Multisample: littleBits Synth Kit Sawtooth and Square Wave (Kontakt, Ableton, & SFZ)

littleBits Korg Synth Kit

littleBits Korg Synth Kit

The littleBits Korg Synth Kit sounds great, but it’s exceedingly hard to use for musical purposes because its oscillators don’t stay in tune for more than a few minutes at a time. After a few frustrating afternoons of trying to record a synth lead with this thing, I decided the only way that I would be able to use it is if I created a multisample out of it.

Here’s what the waveforms look like:

littleBits Square Wave C4
littleBits Synth Kit Square Wave
littleBits Saw Wave C4
littleBits Synth Kit Sawtooth Wave

So…after painstakingly tuning each one, I sampled each note over six octaves, set loop points, then turned it into a multisample.

Features:

  • Three formats: SFZ, Native Instruments Kontakt 5.1, and Ableton Live 9.1 (Simpler).
  • Recorded in 96khz, 16-bit using a high-end audio interface
  • Seemless waveform looping
  • Recorded without lowpass filter (add your own software filters within Ableton, SFZ plugin, or Native Instruments Kontakt)
  • Control envelope within SFZ, Ableton or Native Instruments Kontakt
  • Both littleBits waveforms: sawtooth and square wave
  • 5+ octaves
  • Allows for polyphony (which the actual synth kit does not)
  • Responds to velocity (which the actual synth kit does not)
  • Ableton instrument responds to pitch bend and mod wheel (which actual synth kit does not)

Download: littleBits-Saw-Wave.zip

Download: littleBits-Square-Wave.zip

If you make a cool track using these samples, post it in the comments here!

Enjoy!

— Dave

Listen to Awkward Island, Manwomanchild’s 2nd album!

Check it out: We’re releasing our second album, Awkward Island, today. Recorded over the space of five years, and in three different cities, this album represents a substantial evolution in our sound. We can’t wait for you to hear it!

Here’s the album’s first single:

You can buy the album on Bandcamp or on iTunes.

 

 

Podcast Episode: Zombie Nightmare

I’ve just released the second episode of my podcast. Here’s the blurb:

My grandmother was a lot of things: an abstract expressionist painter, a social worker, a collector of antiques. But as far as the internet is concerned, she had just one real claim to fame: she was the associate producer of Zombie Nightmare (1987), a movie so bad it’s featured on the IMDb’s “Bottom 100” list. Strangely, it stars Adam West and Tia Carrere.

In this episode, I do a deep dive into this extremely minor footnote in my family’s history. I rewatch the movie and try to get to bottom of what makes it so bad, and I also reach out to people who were actually involved in creating it. Terrible movies don’t make themselves. A movie this bad has to have a lot of secrets.

Related Links:

– Zombie Nightmare IMDb Profile: www.imdb.com/title/tt0092297/
– The paintings of Eleanor Hilowitz: www.eleanorhilowitz.com
– Frank Dietz’s Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1824891397/sketchy-things-the-art-of-frank-dietz
– Paul Corupe’s Canuxploitation Website: www.canuxploitation.com

Podcast Episode: The Fiverr Song Project

Check it out! I’m launching my podcast, Sample Size: 1, today. In the first episode, I explore the bizarre world of Fiverr, a website that lets you purchase services for five dollars. As an experiment in online music collaboration with strangers, I take one of my own songs and replace each instrument track with a new recording made by a Fiverr session musician. The episode chronicles the process and culminates in a version of the song produced entirely by the Internet.

–David Child

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