Not so long ago, musicians wanting to record and release an album would need to head to a brick and mortar studio, gather together all manner of technical specialists and disappear for a few months. And probably have a major label bankrole the operation. But powerful and affordable personal computer systems and the general release of pro-level music creation software have put high quality music production within reach of the average working band. However, the learning curve for getting the most out of feature rich suites like Ableton Live, Cubase or Pro Tools can be very steep indeed. For his latest album release, veteran French musician, remixer and producer Joachim Garraud has decided to share some of the secrets of his trade, and provide a limited number of bedroom producers with all the tools needed to lay down some top notch tracks.
Just a few short months after the first ever Russian was crowned Air Guitar World Champion, a new wireless system has launched on Kickstarter that's aimed at giving virtual musicians the chance to play music of their own creation. The patent-pending Kurv Guitar system is made up of a large pick-shaped air strummer and a handheld virtual fingerboard, and combines touch, motion and gestures to generate tunes based on player actions.
At first glance, the Explorer X1 has the look of a hip flask. But rather than offer a wee nip to help take the edge off a chilly autumn stroll, the X1 is aimed at satisfying a very different thirst. Echobox is taking aim at the modern audiophile's pocket with a high resolution media player housed in a curvy wooden jacket.
With a few notable exceptions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that laptop audio circuitry is something of a manufacturing afterthought, with decisions on such things made at the very end of the design process when there's very little money left in the pot. Plugging a pair of top drawer headphones into a notebook's (often cheap and cheerful) audio out jack can therefore be a little disappointing, leading many music lovers to look to the USB ports for help. Though some USB digital-to-analog converters and headphone amps can be a good deal bigger than the laptop they're connected to, and have a suitably large price tag to match, smaller options are available. The successfully-crowdfunded ZuperDAC from Zorloo, for example, is about the size of a USB thumb drive and supports audio file resolutions right up to 24-bit/192 kHz. We've spent the last few weeks diving into our hi-res FLAC and WAV vault for some lossless easy listening.
Whether for private practice or full-on live performance, electronic drum kits offer a number of benefits over their traditional counterparts. They don't take up most of the room in the band's van, players can call on many different percussion sounds, and they're pretty neighbor-friendly when not cabled up to a PA system. But they can be just as pricey as a non-digital setup. The latest eight piece e-drum kit from Alesis promises responsive play backed up by professional features for a budget-friendly ticket price.
In rock music, there's something quite captivating and magical about a power trio. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana, Cream, ZZ Top, Living Colour ... oh wait, that last one is a four piece. And that's just what the folks behind the robotic rock group Compressorhead are now aiming for. The Berlin-based "heavy metal" bot band has turned to Kickstarter in its search for a new lead singer.
From familiar-looking keyboards to portable projection-based tables, there are a good many touch-enabled flat controllers available that can help turn strokes, taps and bumps of the surface into music. There are also a few spatial types like the Motus that can transform mid-air moves into funky digital sounds. Pulse combines the two, allowing players to create tunes by caressing its touch-sensitive surface or going gestural in the space above it.
Though Onyx Ashanti's Beatjazz controller or McGill University's Instrumented Bodies are pleasing to eyes and ears, making music creation part of the performance or dance routine doesn't necessarily mean also having to look like a cyborg. Paris-based phonotonic, for example, turned motion into music last year by pairing a handheld device with a smart device running an app. The Motus from TZM Creative Lab out of Lithuania also facilitates the creation of sound from motion, allowing its users to electrify the room by strumming an air guitar, bash an imaginary drum set to within an inch of its life, key a grand concert piano while walking around the stage or play an invisible violin.
Spain's Reactable Systems first blipped on our sonar in 2006 with the launch of the "seeing is believing" tabletop modular synthesizer. Where large format modular synths like the Moog System 55 can be rather intimidating behemoths, the Reactable digital music maker made use of a projector-based touch surface onto which the player placed blocks to generate sounds and alter parameters. Development of the system has continued, and last week the company unveiled its latest intuitive, modular and portable iteration – the Live! S6 table.
MIDI music scientists will doubtless be very familiar with sequencers, hardware or software used for recording, editing and playback of a series – or sequence – of notes, chords or rhythms. Many will also have come across an arpeggiator in their tune creation travels, which, in simple terms, is a feature of many synthesizers that takes the notes being played and turns them into a looped pattern. The Arpeggio brings sequencer, arpeggiator and synth together in one portable package designed for music melody composition, storage and performing on the fly.