How to force Logic Pro to have an arpeggiator

Seriously, this should just be a plugin…and seriously Ableton Live & Reason do this better.  I still feel like this is a magic voodoo trick to have to do to get this in Logic, but I want everyone to know it’s possible.  Let’s begin:

1: MAKE YOUR INSTRUMENT

No further explanation needed.  I picked ES1 if you need a suggestion.  I’m going for something like the arpeg found in “Ayo Technology”.  Yes I listen to fiddy.  Next!

2: CLICK ON WINDOW -> ENVIRONMENT

Or just hit command-8.

3: GO TO THE “CLICK & PORTS” TAB

Located in the top left of the environment window.

4: TURN ON YOUR CAPS LOCK KEYBOARD

Play some notes to see how the MIDI signal path that you see is working.

5: CLICK “NEW” THEN CHOOSE “ARPEGGIATOR”

Also, take a moment to send Apple feedback reminding them that everyone else just makes this an included plugin and doesn’t require Max/MSP -style patching to accomplish this.  Moving on.

6: PATCHING

Connect the output of “Input View” into the Arpeggiator.  Connect the outlet of Arpeggiator into “Sequencer Input”

7: IT STILL DOESN’T ARPEGGIATE

Until you hit play.  Go to the Environment window to change the note values, etc.  (setting both note values to 64ths will get you that Timbaland sound that’s so popular with the kids these days).

(p.s. to preempt all of the Logic defenders out there, I’m one of you.  I just wish this one feature were packaged in an easy to turn on/automate plugin rather than using the environment.  I realize the advantages of keeping the environment around but also that most non-MIDI-guru users aren’t going to realize it exists at first.)


Miking Carmina Burana

Last week the local orchestra I play with performed Carmina Burana.  I got to speak in depth with Mike Hughes, the recording engineer for the event, to see what his strategy for recording a big event like this is.  I noticed he changed setups a couple times during the last rehearsal, which is uncharacteristic for him.  Here is his process:

SETUP ONE

Two Sennheiser omnidirectionals spaced in A-B pair about 10’ above stage and 15’ back from stage lip.  Two Schoeps subcardioids spaced 25% on either side of the choir onstage, set up about 8 feet.  Mike ended up changing this setup due to his favoring a less dry-sounding choir.

SETUP TWO

This is the one he went with for the show.  Same omni A-B’s in center.  Schoepps capsule change to cardioid and move to about 25% positions on the same height plane as the omnis in front of the stage.  He also added a cardioid spot mike on for the children’s choir, which was coming through a bit soft with only the omnis picking it up.

A-B VS ORTF VS ???

Why would you use A-B stereo versus something like ORTF for a large group recording?  Simple: A-B is much more directional, and a choir is a directional ensemble.  A multi-directional group like a band or orchestra can be picked up with many various patterns and still retain an “attack” quality – choirs end up sounding muddy or washy in a non-straight pickup pattern.

OTHER NOTES

All of the gear is going through a Soundcraft mixer (only hard pans – this is still a pure stereo recording barring the spot mic of course), and then into a 1-bit DSD recorder.  The preamps are hand-built from the now defunct Decca Classical label (the engineer I believe sells these himself now).

I admire Mike’s commitment to pure recordings; he doesn’t really add effects unless something is really off (air handlers, etc.) and he tries to only gently compress a recording during the mastering phase.  His recordings have serious dynamic range and clarity.

Mike Hughes corrects my earlier post, confirms that i like to just make crap up sometimes

FROM MIKE HUGHES HIMSELF (THANKS, MIKE!)

Thanks for the blog post about recording Carmina.  Haven’t really listened to it yet, but I’m hopeful!

That was really a suboptimal set of circumstances to record in … that room is an acoustical nightmare (as you well know), the air exchangers/HVAC are the noiseiest on the planet, the orchestra was too loud for the chorus’ capabilities, you couldn’t get decent isolation for the chorus (too much brass/perc bleed … a string of four figure 8s run through a reverb unit would have helped a lot there!), the on-stage acoustic is DEAD but three feet off the stage it’s an echo chamber, etc etc!  I definitely had to make compromises and I’m not sure everything will be well served, but that was the hand I was dealt.  Orchestra pickup will be fine … but the main choral forces will probably be somewhat weak in the final recording.  That’s the deal with “organic” recording … if it sounds that way, that’s what you’ll get :).

A few observations re your blog post, just FYI…

1. The main pair was actually Schoeps CMC6-MK2S diffuse field omnis in 2′ A/B.  Here’s the mics: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.schoeps.de%2FE-2004%2Fomnis.html%23mk2s.  I switched to these because they capture the weight of the orchestra better than cards or subcards, but have better reach than the Sennheisers.  I needed all the reach I could get to get some choral clarity!

2. The flanks were Sennheiser MKH8020 omnis (link: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.sennheiserusa.com%2Fnewsite%2Fproductdetail.asp%3Ftransid%3D500965).  I had to resort to flanks in order to pick up the soloists (who were placed MUCH differently than where I was told they would be … this fact along with the dead “too-close” pickup of chorus on-stage necessitated the change in setup.)

3. There was no spot on the children (the right flank covered them).

There are many approaches to miking choirs, but IMO the best is to avoid mics that are too directional.  Cards or hypers can be a big problem because voices can stick out badly (beaming).  Better choral blend is usually obtained using a wider pattern (subcards or omnis).  However, in an orch+chorus situation, the bleed problem can make this impractical.  A great approach (if you have the gear) is a series of 3 or 4 fig8 ribbons across the front of the choir with the nulls pointed on the back of the orchestra.  Ribbons are great on voice, smoothing out sibilance and “crunch”, and the nulls can effectively isolate the chorus.  But having a little space between choir and orch is usually necessary, of which we had NONE!

If we had a closed recording session, I would have done the following:

1. Put the chorus on the floor in front of the stage, facing the front of the orchestra (mirror imaged to their placement behind the orch).  The omni mains and flanks would pick them up great from there, they’d have plenty of presence and the benefit of the room acoustic to create blend.

2. Tame the battery a bit.  Some of the bass drum playing got a little crazy in performance, so I’m going to have to apply some compression to get an overall useful result.  If that had been more under control, the dynamic range in the recording could have been apparently much wider.

3. Place the soloists in the middle (where they belong!).

4. Turn off the damn HVAC!!!!!!!!!!


Miking Carmina Burana

Last week the local orchestra I play with performed Carmina Burana.  I got to speak in depth with Mike Hughes, the recording engineer for the event, to see what his strategy for recording a big event like this is.  I noticed he changed setups a couple times during the last rehearsal, which is uncharacteristic for him.  Here is his process:

SETUP ONE

Two Sennheiser omnidirectionals spaced in A-B pair about 10’ above stage and 15’ back from stage lip.  Two Schoeps subcardioids spaced 25% on either side of the choir onstage, set up about 8 feet.  Mike ended up changing this setup due to his favoring a less dry-sounding choir.

SETUP TWO

This is the one he went with for the show.  Same omni A-B’s in center.  Schoepps capsule change to cardioid and move to about 25% positions on the same height plane as the omnis in front of the stage.  He also added a cardioid spot mike on for the children’s choir, which was coming through a bit soft with only the omnis picking it up.

A-B VS ORTF VS ???

Why would you use A-B stereo versus something like ORTF for a large group recording?  Simple: A-B is much more directional, and a choir is a directional ensemble.  A multi-directional group like a band or orchestra can be picked up with many various patterns and still retain an “attack” quality – choirs end up sounding muddy or washy in a non-straight pickup pattern.

OTHER NOTES

All of the gear is going through a Soundcraft mixer (only hard pans – this is still a pure stereo recording barring the spot mic of course), and then into a 1-bit DSD recorder.  The preamps are hand-built from the now defunct Decca Classical label (the engineer I believe sells these himself now).

I admire Mike’s commitment to pure recordings; he doesn’t really add effects unless something is really off (air handlers, etc.) and he tries to only gently compress a recording during the mastering phase.  His recordings have serious dynamic range and clarity.

Granular Syntheis: Examples

I just have my laptop now, so I’ll prove this is possible with the LOWEST quality samples.

Step one (pic) (audio): my finger snapping (recorded on MacBook mic)

Step two (pic) (audio): playing a scale on this snap using Simpler

Step three (pic) (audio): looping the sample and shortening the loop, effectively turning the sample into a “grain.” Notice the timescale in the picture.

Step four (pic) (pic) (audio): turning on the lowpass filter and adjusting release to make the granular synth sound more ‘piano-like’

If you use a different sample, your final instrument will still be usable but will have slightly different tonal qualities as you turn it into a grain. I find that complex tones such as a cough have quirky tonal properties (Harpsicough.mp3) in this study, while simpler sounds like my snap tend to sound more pure and piano-like when they’re done becoming grains.

Tutorial: Granular Synthesis in Ableton Live

Quick tutorial on how to make some neat-o granular synth sounds out of virtually any sample you’ve got.

When I did this in class, my favorite demo was taking a sample of a student saying the word “beef” and making it sound like an organ.  I then played a phrase from a little known Bach chorale: “No. 92 Das Rindfleisch”

Live 8 – where the puck is headed

There’s no shortage of coverage on Ableton Live, so this is more of a commentary on the general way in which Ableton is using their releases of Live to drive the DAW industry in new directions.

INSTRUMENTS

Look at any other DAW package (especially the expensive ones) and you’ll see a plethora of sampled instruments.  Logic Studio’s box set is one of the more expansive collections, taking over 20GB of hard drive space for all of these highly detailed, recorded instruments.

Ableton Live 8 comes with some sampled instruments (if you buy the boxed version) but they’re not the highlight, either in the marketing or the software itself.  To Ableton, modeled instruments are the future and are seen as an obviously better choice.

It seems it would come down to this: once a set of instruments becomes widely recognizable (like the ones in GarageBand have), it’s very difficult to use them in a way that doesn’t give away what program/package you used.  Ableton’s way of addressing this is saying “OK, so you want to sound unique?  Here’s the most extensible set of instruments we could come up with – make whatever sound you want.”

The only thing conceivably separating one modeling synth from another is UI.  Tension, for instance, could easily be combined with Collision in a similar way to Logic’s “Sculpture” synth (using a materials grid to define the medium for wave propagation.”  I think this is important for Live 8 and future versions, because Ableton could decide to combine/split these modeling algorithms into whatever product mix they’d like.  You can’t do that with sampled sounds, which are usually sold in genre-related packages.

SESSION VIEW

Another thing Ableton is ardently pushing is the Session View, which is simultaneously the coolest and most fear-inducing feature of Live for new users.  Once someone new to Live learns how to use Session view, it’s like the clouds lift and the world is spread before them, but the first time someone sees Live, they will invariably say “where’s the timeline?”

I like that Ableton is not backing down on this.  Session view is the default, and they’re highlighting it first and foremost in all of the marketing for Live 8.  Heck, the video on Ableton.com doesn’t show too many new features; it shows a guy making music with Session view.  Any Ableton user already knows how to use this, so this feature is obviously being used to introduce new users to Live.  I’m guessing that Ableton is anticipating a huge increase in users after the high degree of media coverage at NAMM when Live 8 was announced.  This is great news for anyone who already uses Live, as more users generally equals better support for all (look at how much better Logic was after a few years of Apple fans jumping onboard).

I’m honestly surprised there aren’t any companies trying to outright copy Session View from Ableton.  It’s their sleeping giant.  We’ll wake up one day and everyone will be composing music like this, and all the other companies will wish they had gotten on board earlier.

MAX

Or not.  The most disappointing thing about yesterday’s news was the exclusion of Max for Live, though it was admittedly already planned as a separate release.  I feel pretty strongly that patching is an important tool in audio creation, and it would have been nice to see it spotlighted alongside the rest of the new features.  Then again, doing this might have the effect of scaring off users who think it looks too difficult; I don’t really care – I’m just way too excited about this feature to hold back in saying I really wanted to try it out like NOW.

ONE MORE THING

Also, it would seem that Ableton is following the Apple style of marking new releases with a plethora of slick-produced video segments designed to walk new users through the program.  Live 8 will benefit more from this than many other products because there are still quite a few people in the audio field who haven’t used it yet.

A year from now at NAMM it will be interesting to see if the Ableton keynote becomes the “Stevenote” for audio professionals.  Here’s hoping.