Friday, December 23, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night

Just finished an arrangement for "Silent Night". My first arrangement, ever, and it sounds more or less quite awful. Not only that, I tried a new miking position that's closer, and makes the sax sound so damned thin. Maybe I should EQ the sax - if I knew how ;-) Last month's try on Fly Me To The Moon had a really nice tone, and that was done with the mic a fair distance away. GAH! :D

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Harmonica and sax :3

We had a secret santa on our show, and my secret santa gave me this harmonica above! I don't know that much about harmonicas - apart from what they sound like - and some research proved it to be a very capable - and inexpensive - instrument indeed.

For a start, what I received was a 10 hole diatonic harmonic keyed in C. What's interesting is how the notes are produced - not only by blowing into the harmonica, but also from drawing air through it. I'm guessing mine is based on the standard Richter Tuning. Many props to my secret santa, that made my day :)

In other news, today was the last day of my sax class, for the year anyways, and we covered *alot* of topics, vibrato, tremolo, improving the articulation on the upper register, subtoning, and modes. Whew.

Articulation didn't take too long as I'd already mentioned to my teacher last month that I was having trouble articulating it, and we'd look at it the next lesson (i.e. today). In the mean time though, I worked on improving my embouchure - which seemed fruitless - but changing it - more lip out - seemed to do the trick, and my teacher agrees. Not only did it allowed me to articulate the upper register, it also added more harmonics to the high notes. Win.

Subtoning is new for me, so more things to practice, and modes, something I was never interested in but since I am learning about basses (mmmm double bass) and walking bass lines, that came up and had me throughly confused. Thankfully my teacher cleared up my misgivings quickly. Can't wait to get started on my arrangement now.


Friday, December 16, 2011

HunbleBundle - Indie games - for all platforms!

Stumbled upon The Humble Indie Bundle a few days ago and have been gaming the past few nights. Oh joy! The main game of this bundle I was after is Gratuitous Space Battles, aka GSB. Reminds me visually of Master Of Orion 2, so picked it up hoping the gameplay would be similar.

Yes, and no. It's basically MOO's fighting and ship building section, in continuous waves. No building ships, no worries about space amoeba, just design ships, hit deploy and watch your fleet take on the cpu's fleet :D

Found a nice tactic of tanking with heavily shielded ships up from, with a second line of ships with just missiles. Shreds enemies reaal fast. What's curious, is that the *basic* weapons seemed to do the best damage *shrugs*. At the core, it is still a scissors-paper-stone kind of game.

Towards the end, I didn't even bother to deploy small ships, just the main cruisers in the pattern above, or for the giggles, a whole menagerie of the middle sized space ships armed with nothing but missiles and torpedos.

Apart from that, other games I tried were the a platformer and shump, Cave Boy+ and Jamestown. Jamestown refused to run on linux - spent a good hour browsing forums to no luck. Luckily, my "audio production machine" - a mac - runs the mac ports perfectly. Download, click, install, game on! No fussing about with dependencies or segfaults, gah.

Both games are superb, and they take me back to my youth, with Cave Boy's old school pixel art and fm sounds. Jamestown is a great shooter, graphics are amazing, and alot of attention to detail was paid on the sprites. The music is superb, with great cut scenes as well.

I've mostly stopped gaming as I know I get tunnel visioned to complete the game, and with games like FF XIII clocking in at more than 50 hours of game time, it's not a way I wish to spend my time.

These smaller games don't seem to suck me in that much, especially with smups like Jamestown that don't seem to have any leveling system in place - easy to just hop on and get distracted for an hour or two.

Oh well back to more serious stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Audio Synthesis in Houdini

I purchased Logic Studio recently for my recording and mixing needs, and came across the synthesizers in it, learned alot about alot (ok two) of them and have fallen in love with the concept of synthesis, be it subtractive synthesization, FM and what have you. I've learnt a bit of this in school (yay engineering) applied to linear systems, and have some experience with RF modulation, but never for audio synthesis like this.

The concept of creating an initial tone, which is then filtered and passed through an envelope generator to give us a sense of articulation, sustain and delay is just... wow. I'll never listen to electronic music the same way again.

Having been doing various tutorials with Logic's ES2 synthesizer, which is a mainly a subtractive synthesizer. Whipped up this little test in Houdini's chops for giggles.

It's exactly as described above. My base tone is a Triangle wave, which seems to give a very pure tone with some harmonics. A square wave is then generated and passed to the trigger chop, which generates envelopes. (The envelope controls are surprisingly, a step ahead of the ES2's controls, including features such as interpolation type, delay *hold* length, among many others).

CHOPs node layout

Multiplying the envelope train against the triangle wave gives a psuedo wind instrument sound.

I have a copy of Andrew Lowell's Simultaneous Music, Animation, and Sound with Houdini - from years back that I did not finish. Looks like it's time to figure out how I can link my music to houdini :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ignore Everybody

Came across this website, of all places, a forum discussing the merits of different audio compressors, i.e. VCA vs Opto vs FET vs etc etc

It's a very pleasant read, and I hope to incorporate a few more ideas into what I do in my free time.

The bottom line I read from the extract is:

Choose to live your life the way you think is best for you. No one else knows what is the best for you.

Chase your dreams, no matter how small. Don't copy*, be original even though the path may be lonely and un-travelled.

Work hard. This brings up the 10,000 hour rule, and the question of talent vs hard work. I'm sort of in-the-middle of the rule. I think talent is important, but more importantly, I think is the desire, the drive, and the (shudder) "passion" for what you love. Talent (which I wish I have) plus drive and dedication means an uber vfx td, imo. Which I am not. Yet. :P

Challenges. Everyone has their own set of issues with which to conquer. I think I have a fair number of those, like my inability to go socialize. I am sooo sad here, and it is what I believe to be a BIG challenge to tackle.

* I some what disagree with the no-copy idea. As stated in posts before, copying is a very good way to develop skills, not to exist as a copy. Skills learnt can be applied in so many ways (e.g. I use alot of wedding photography style flash, BUT I've never shot a wedding ;-) ) - once again, it brings up Everything Is A Remix.

This quote from the URL easily summarized the path I've chosen to walk.

"The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care."

No regrets. Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Parallism of Learning II

Another aspect of learning is your tools, or rather, learning the nuances of our tools, before we can actually perform. In the case of photography, it's learning about just how to operate the camera, from basic stuff to like filenames, to more advanced stuff like setting up dynamic AF, tweaking the exposure meter, AF tracking time etc.

Things like this take time and experimentation, and only experience gives you the knowledge when to use it e.g. If I have time, I will use a single point AF combined with the AF confirmation light, if it's a fast moving street type situation I might go the hyper focused route, quick busy situations may require the dynamic af, giving the focus more chance to be "in focus".

Not to mention the exposure meter, no reflective meter is that good, and after years working with the camera, I instinctively know when to increase/decrease my compensation for the exposure I need - without checking the histogram to know I'm in the correct ballpark - comes with experience and many, many thousands of deleted frames.

Even though cameras are built to perform similar functions, I choose mine because it is the most intuitive to me, and it is only after years of use on the same camera that I can quickly adapt to the situation.

Similarly for the saxophone. Unlike cameras, they don't come with instruction manuals (ok it does come with a fingering chart), and it takes years to learn the nuances of the instrument. For example, my Middle D plays very sharp - a characteristic found (supposedly) in almost every saxophone.

Adjusting your embouchure (shape of mouth, in layperson terms) supposedly is the way to fix this, but not on my sax - it drops to the octave below. I need to play it with another key (high D) pressed down, just to get it on pitch. That said, I've noticed that my middle D intonation is actually getting better, so much so that with high D pressed, I actually go flatter......

Apart from variables like these, we've got the favourite part every saxophone player tends to fiddle with at times - mouthpieces, and their ilk, the ligature and reed. I've swapped a few mouthpieces in my short span of playing the saxophone, and everytime I tried on a new mouthpiece, I have to relearn how to play the piece. With my current piece, the Vandoren V5 A27, I think I've had it for at least 4, 5 months, and I'm still learning subtle nuances about it. How to hit harmonics, where to put the jaw, breath pressure for different notes.

Bottom line is, unless there is something majorly wrong or holding you back, equipment nowadays is more than suitable for most of us. Ok well more than suitable for me. No plans to change the saxophone (although I am still drooling for a vintage finish keilwerth sx90r) - and definitely not for the camera. Heck, ever since I got bitten by this music bug, the camera's usage has dropped significantly, only bring it out once a month or so.

Let's see how long it takes before I buy a new sax or mouthpiece :3

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Parallelisms of learning

Today I realized how similar the path I took with the saxophone versus photography. In terms of learning, I approached them similarly, but one of self taught (photography) versus the saxophone, which I had the guidance of a really good teacher.

First, is learning from the masters.
One underlying topic my sax teacher has pushed is transcribing (I am pretty sure I wrote this in another post but whatever) - by doing so not only do we train our ear, we also learn the nuances of how the pros play, how they articulate to give a certain feel, it's like parker vs pepper vs desmond. Learn from the masters, and incorporate them into one's playing.

Exactly like what Everything is a Remix is trying to get across.

On the flip side for photography, I do the same, analyzing how the photographers I respect do their photography - this is exactly what I've seen mentioned in the many books I've read. But I only took to this several years ago. And indeed, it seemed like my photography skills improved quite rapidly after that.

So bottom line, copy. Devour everything you enjoy, find out how they do it, copy copy copy. And like the borg, become something greater than the sum of the parts.

or not.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

One year of sax...

And what a year it has been. The good, the bad, the ups and downs, the time wasted, things learnt. Looking forward to the future.

In more positive note *ahem* this is also my first outing with Logic Pro 9 :3 I finally bit the bullet and bought a whole slew of software and books for my xmas break. So far, Logic seems like a pretty good step up from garageband - it allows really basic stuff, for example, recording from mic 2 only (garageband only allows mic1, or mic 1 and 2 on the same track)

There is also a proper mixer, with peak levels display which is great to know when I'm clipping. Still very new to the package though, just figured out enough how to record, add reverb and export :) Logic studio comes with Space Designer, a convolution reverb that I'm just getting my feet wet with. The video above has the "Jazz Vocal Room" reverb engaged. Seems nice, but I need to do more tests to compared it against the AU Matrix Reverb, which is very nice in its own right.