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Brain is the nom de guerre of Bryan Mantia, a drummer, composer and producer known for playing drums in Primus and with Tom Waits, Guns N Roses, Buckethead, as well as scoring and recording music for movies and video games. We caught up with Brain to talk about his life behind the kit, the world of electronic music production he’s built, and how he began to grow beyond the role of a drummer with an intense exploration of a wide array of composition techniques. Read more »

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A few months ago we had the opportunity to team up with Dan the Automator to realize a project that he had been thinking about for a while; a realtime multitrack playback system, a way to play and mix the stems of the many many records he has produced over the course of his career. The resulting project we completed doesn’t have a name, but at the heart of the system is a K-Mix to run all the audio. A touchscreen and the insides of a Mac Mini run Logic and arcade-style buttons trigger and mute clips; all of it housed in a sleek case reminiscent of an old computer console or arcade game for retrofuturistic flair. We also had the opportunity to check out the soundcheck at the sold out Dr. Octagon show in San Francisco and to sit down with Dan and DJ Hard Rich to talk about the K-Mix project and the return of Dr. Octagon. Read more »

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One of the most often requested features for the BopPad is the ability to send out multiple notes per quadrant. In a previous article we discussed setting this up in Ableton Live, but what if you don’t have Ableton Live? I’ve coded up a Max application (mac only for the time being) that can act as a middle man between the BopPad and music software. This app will allow you to send out multiple notes per quadrant to any DAW, synth or sampler on your Mac OS system. You can download the app and project here: https://www.keithmcmillen.com/projects/boppad-zones/  Read more »

Posted by & filed under Ableton Live, Blog, Featured, Tutorials.

The BopPad is a highly flexible MIDI device that can spit out a variety of data to control MIDI capable software and hardware. One thing that users have been wondering about is how to play different sounds based on the location in a particular quadrant. This is usually done with notes, and while the BopPad cannot send out different notes from one quadrant based on location, it can send a CC based on the distance you are from the center of the pad. With some creative MIDI mapping in Live, we can quickly set up “zones” on our BopPad in Ableton Live. Read more »

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I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Kaiser, the trumpet playing experimental electronics wizard, pfMentum label head, and professor of Composition and Music Technology at the University of Central Missouri about his musical practice, the relationships in which he finds inspiration, and the questions that drive his unique and towering musical accomplishments. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Blog, Interviews, Picks 10 Albums.

Scott Amendola is a drummer and central figure in the SF Bay Area music scene. As a founding member of the Nels Cline Singers and through his work both leading his own bands and with other legends the likes of Charlie Hunter, he has expanded the field at the intersection of jazz, experimental funk and avant rock. We’ve been working a bit with Scott to get the BopPad dialed in, and took the opportunity to ask him to tell us about some of his favorite albums; the lauded or sometimes under-appreciated recordings that were formative and impactful to his musical sensibilities.
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K-Mix is a very flexible device covering audio input and output over USB, standalone mixing, and MIDI control. Having control over the audio going in and out of the K-Mix, as well as control over software all from the same box, can be extremely handy. Some software allows for third party integration through their own APIs or more covert means; some software has their control surface implementation wrapped up in a black box. Luckily, most music software allows the user to map and customize the MIDI input and interaction. Logic has a fairly robust- although daunting- MIDI implementation, and in this tutorial we will cover setting up a custom Control Surface through Logic’s Controller Mapping functionality. Read more »

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Chagall is a London-based electronic composer and performer, an early adopter of the mi.mu glove gestural controller system and a budding digital artist with performances and showcases in venues ranging from the TED stage to the Ableton Loop Festival. We caught up with Chagall to ask her about the genesis, process and execution of her music, the balance of technology and expression afforded by embodied, gestural controller systems, and a bit of advice for creators from her namesake. Read more »

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Have you ever wondered why you need to plug your turntable into a special input on your receiver? Or why K-Mix has “phono” and “line” options for inputs 3-8? Or why you can’t just plug it into a pair of powered speakers, start enjoying your old records and call it a day? Maybe you’ve recently finished recording an album and wonder why you need to have it specially mastered for vinyl production. The answer to these questions lies in the special standardized system of frequency pre-emphasis and de-emphasis known as RIAA equalization. Read more »

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We met up with Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson from the experimental hip-hop band clipping after their sold out show at Starline Social Club in Oakland, Ca. They were cool enough to tell us about their process and philosophy, interesting media they’ve consumed recently, and a bit about how they get the most out of the routing capabilities of the K-MixRead more »

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At this year’s NAMM show I had the opportunity to try my hand at the CRAFTsynth digital mono synth from the fine folks at Modal Electronics. You’ve probably seen it, it’s the $99 synth kit that can be assembled in under 10 minutes IKEA-style. But until I got my hands on one at the show I hadn’t really experienced how awesome it truly sounds. Read more »

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Marc Urselli is a 5-time nominated 3-time Grammy Award winning engineer, producer, mixer, and sound designer based out of New York City. He has recorded the likes of Mike Patton, Laurie Anderson, and has recorded all of John Zorn’s albums since 2007 (as well as some on Zorn’s label Tzadik). We asked of him the ridiculously unfair task of picking 10 of his favorite albums, or just 10 albums that were influential, or perhaps 10 albums that fit one theme or another, but there are some musical tastes that cannot be bound by such lists. However, on a trip to visit his parents in Italy, Marc was reunited with his old collection of tapes and CDs from his youth as a kid in the 80s. It’s from this trove that he has selected for us 50 of the albums that shaped his musical tastes at a young age.
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Sylvia Massy is a master recording engineer known for her work with Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash and Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as her innovative and unorthodox recording methods. Her book, Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques came out last year and is an amazingly fun and enjoyable guide to kicking down musical roadblocks unlocking creative potential. We also really like her illustrations*. I asked Sylvia for a quick list of 10 of her favorite albums, and so, without further ado… Read more »

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The K-Mix has a lot of places to plug cables into and out of, and the type of cable you use can make some practical differences. I’d like to spend a little time talking about balanced, unbalanced, and differential signals, and share a few good resources with you.

A good place to start this discussion might be with the reason that these three signals (and their corresponding cables) exist in the first place, which is thanks to the invention of the difference amplifier.  An ideal difference amplifier (or differential amplifier), as its name implies, amplifies or passes only the difference between two signals, while ignoring everything else they have in common. Read more »