Posts Tagged ‘audio’

This is going to be cool. Zoom is coming out with the Q3 in September –  the first ever pocket-size, semi-professional audio and video recorder to hit the market. Zoom is announcing the street price to be around $250. The Q3 will definitely help tons of bands get their live-gigs uploaded to Youtube. Can’t wait to get one myself. Read more about it in the great music/tech blog Create Digital Music.


zoom q3

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Last year, we wrote a post on Melodyne’s Direct Note Access – an audio program that perfectly analyzes chords and separates them into single notes – much like altering audio like you would MIDI. This very impressive application represents a huge step for the musical production process and may well become a new standard in a not so distant future.

Today I stumbled upon an interview with Direct Note Access’ inventor Peter Neubaecker explaining in further detail how his software works. I found this to be most interesting, and I take advantage of these two videos to promote yet again this amazing concept:


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991For a couple of years now, the musician community as a whole witnessed the uncompromising rise of the DIY era. Not so long ago, almost every element in the production, promotion and distribution processes of an album cost non-negligible amounts of money and time. Now all that has changed thanks to advancements in technology and the growth of sharing communities. Music recording and production is probably to most notable example. Needless to say that booking a recording studio for a couple of days is a fortune – depending on the studios it can amount to easily 500 to 1000 bucks for 12 hour sessions. Add some mixing time and your budget is gonna be making you eat pasta for the rest of the year. Now with decent audio knowledge and a reasonable set-up (lets say about $2000 without counting the computer) you can work wonders.On the video front, with the development of Youtube we are seeing an increasing number of bands hosting their music videos.

What astonishes me the most I suppose is that the sentences I just wrote above sound cliche to me, as if I had already read about and witnessed these evolutions many times before – we all know about this DIY phenomenon, but taking a step back helps us realize that, damn, all this stuff is only a couple of years old.
Let’s see. In the music production field, communities started sharing software only about ten years ago, but “a cubase in every home” started maybe no more than 4 to 3 years ago, and now even your grand-ma is probably producing music.
Home-made music videos and youtube uploads of live gigs on the other hand is something much newer (due to digital camera prices plummeting these past years). I remember that, a year and a half ago, I was delighted to see a band have an embedded youtube vid of a gig on their Myspace. It was still something pretty uncommon to see on a band’s profile. Now, only a dozen months later, it’s the exact opposite – bands that don’t have vids fall into the uncommon category.

To stop my blabber-mouthing and to get to the point the point of this post, I introduce to you www.99dollarmusicvideos.com. Founded by Fred Seibert,  ex-director of MTV’s Network Online and founder of Next New Network, it’s a site that encourages any band to send their home-made music videos produced for no more than $99. The idea is for bands and directors to collaborate on something original and creative and to submit it to the site for a weekly feature (subscribe to their Youtube channel here to be notified of the releases. I think there is one every Tuesday and every Thursday).

Here are the simple set of rules bands and directors must follow:

  1. It must be made for $99 (or less).
  2. It must be shot in one day (24 hours).
  3. It must be edited in one day (this doesn’t include rendering, digitizing, or exporting — just the creative part of editing).
  4. It must be a collaboration between the band and the filmmaker.

The launch has been a success if we take into account the number of emails flooding their gmail account, and they already have 6 videos scheduled (some of which who were probably planned before the launch) but this does little to surprise me seeing how $99’s launch was orchestrated.

Verizon is also in the picture – probably sponsored the servers and the website’s creation in exchange to capitalizing on up and coming bands or something (oh, and also to promote their FiOS cable connection:-). They have  been very active these past years integrating the music scene. They have their successful V Cast digital music store with whom they promote monthly subscriptions for phones and computers to downloaded unlimited music. Last year they gave a bus fully loaded of audio equipment to Timbaland so he could roam around the US in search for the next big hit. They partnered with many top selling artists such as Timberlake, Shakira, Prince, Madonna, AC/DC etc. for album and concert promotion deals.

Whatever the reasons and  the means behind $99, I’m happy to see such a website launch and am planning on following-up on their growth and activity. Even thinking of producing a $99 video of one of my tunes. I don’t have a band at the moment, nor have I even opened up my Nuendo these past months, but I do got a dozen completely produced tracks I would love to visually illustrate, even if I don’t count on extensively promoting myself with it.

What I particularly like about the idea is that it doesn’t really help you do anything (well $99 does have a creative team that will produce one video a week) yet only the concept that promotes the idea that it is possible to produce a music video for les than 100 bucks, and that people can do it, is enough to get people to do it. Because of that, $99 has great potential (this kind of makes me think of Songpull.com’s concept – it’s just a website that encourage musicians to write a song in less than a month, get together for a house-concert and record the show, and it works).

Here’s the making-of of the very first $99 video of the folk Brooklyn-based band, La Strada:

MTV 2.0?


Side-note: I think $99 probably would benefit going down the social network route. Done tactfully, a classified-ad site/social network for bands and film-makers could have the potential of creating a big niche in no time. A penny for your thoughts?

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I’m four days late on this, but better late then never: votes are on for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. They started on Feb 14th and will on go till the 22th. Over 3000 contestants applied and submitted their videos to youtube and now only 200 semi-finalists have been selected for the public voting phase. Absolutely anyone can cast a vote and play a role in the elaboration of the YouTube’s first ever orchestra that will perform a Tan Dun composition at the Carnegie Hall on April 16th.

Check it out here: www.youtube.com/symphony

When I did my first post on this event, I guess I didn’t really have an opinion besides the fact that it would probably be successful. I don’t see it failing, but I now ‘feel’ a certain level of absurdity behind the recruiting method. I’m listening to a pianist performing some Beethoven while I’m writing this post. Before that, I listened to some flutes, violas and violins, and all in all I’m having a pretty hard time voting down :)

I have been playing music for quite some years and know people who make a living out of it. I also know some people who are trying to make it in the classical scene. I have extensively worked as a sound engineer and composer on different projects and have been surrounded by musicians all my life (some of which I consider to be true geniuses and others average amateurs). Well even with my musical background and my understanding of the art, I find it hard to be properly subjective in the time frame I allow myself to spend on this Youtube orchestra thing. I don’t believe people that know nothing else about music than the top-40 charts will willingly spend time listening to these classical pieces, but some will, and I truly think many voters will be more influenced by the pretty face of a girl participant than by the quality and subtlety of her playing. And if there aren’t any pretty girls or young prodigy’s, people will tend to listen only to the videos that are on top of their list (the lists of vids hopefully mix-up everytime you refresh the page).

Speaking of misleading criteria, by the very nature if the recruiting process participants recorded their performances with whatever recording material they could get their hands on. Well some recordings are crappy and distorted. Now you have to truly be passionate and a real adept of classical music to feel the subtle differences between an orchestra directed by lets say Karajan and Furtwngler. Well the same basically applies for the musicians – how can one cast a proper vote with audio glitches, slow buffering and horrible audio compression? Well they can’t.

Maybe I’m a little too extreme here and maybe the large majority of the voters will be true musicians from the classical realm, and maybe this whole recruiting 2.0 process is all mighty and revolutionary (argh! again in the extremes). Ok, simply put, maybe the chosen artists will make up for a beautiful orchestra and their performances will be a true success. After all they all sound like frigin’ pros.

Actually I’m more confused about my opinion after having written this post than before. What’s your take on this?

I’ll leave you to the performance that impressed me the most:


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Ryerson University’s Centre of Learning Technology and the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) Lab have been working on the Alternative Sensory Information Displays (ASID) project to develop a ‘musical chair’ precisely made to induce vibrant emotions to deaf people thanks to music (ouch, that was a tough one).


In other words, the ‘Emoti Chair’ as they call it is built to bring musical pleasure to the deaf and the hearing impaired. The chair has a multitude of build-in speakers and vibrating devices delicately calibrated to “translate music and sound into movement. Whether it be rocking or vibrations, the music can be heard through the movement of the chair, expressing to the person sitting, the emotion heard in sound”. Music becomes the medium and the vibration became the generated art form (I remember citing a similar sentence in my post on Daito Manabe’s facial experiments, also extremely related to that audio-tactile realm of manipulating sounds and music)

The concept in itself is already a beautiful and a revolutionary one, opening our beloved musical world to the hard hearing people, but it is also an intriguing and very interesting means of experiencing music like never before.

Reading testimonials from the deaf people who experienced the chair really got me thinking about how personal and subjective a musical stimulus can be. Ellen Hibbard, a deaf PhD candidate in Ryerson’s Communications and Culture program explains: “The first time I used the chair, I was blown away by the amount of information I could get about music from the vibrations” . “For the first time in my life, I could feel sad or happy because of how the music vibrations felt on my skin. I never felt those kinds of feelings before when music was played.” She even goes on to saying she experienced flashbacks triggered by the vibrations of the music, much like music constitutes an amazing memory buffer for us all.

And here’s another interesting quote I found by Frank Russo, director of SMART Lab, who took a prototype of the chair to the Bob Rumball Center for the deaf: “It seemed that deaf people were able to identify the emotions that a hearing person would. The people became really animated, they would just dance in the chair and many of these people have been deaf from birth”.

Beautiful…just beautiful. Let alone the fact that music is made inaccessible to you if you’re deaf, so is dancing and singing. The technology behind these experiments may change that in a not-so-distant-future.

And so to get to the original point of this post, the second ever concert for the deaf (they had already tried out a test gig I think somewhere) is taking place in Toronto’s Clinton’s Tavern on March 5th, with a series of Canadian performers and bands (that I’m discovering while I’m writing this here article) such as Hollywood Swank, The Dufraines, Fox Jaws, Dj Stephane Vera and some other acts that you can actually see on this flyer I just found.

I contacted a couple of guys from Hollywood Swank (the drummer from Hollywood Swank, Carmen Branje is apparently one of the main organizers of the event and has worked on the development of the chairs as a student at Ryerson) and The Dufraines and here is what they go to say about the gig:

rehab1I think its a pretty cool opportunity for us to be involved with the event. There’s gonna be a few genre’s of bands at the show and I guess there will be a number of deaf people there coming up and trying the chair while we’re playing, so it’s a cool way to connect with the audience on a totally new and unique level.

Donny from Hollywood Swank

foxjaws1As far as playing we’re amazed. The concept and the whole idea is crazy and we couldn’t be more excited to play. This is the kind of show that will carry the fondest memories of any show we are likely to play, ever.

Dan from Fox Jaws

So there, for all of you living in Toronto, I wouldn’t miss out on this, and If ever you go, I’de love it if you could leave your comments and impressions on this post (would be great to have it streamed live or something. I’ll see if my doggy psychology will help me convince someone).


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I’m am currently viewing Robert Scoble’s video of the two Microsoft Engineers who act in the Songsmith Commercial. Now for those of you who somehow missed this video, behold the wonders of Microsoft’s ad campaigns (who actually used a Mac covered with stickers. Go figure).

Ok, it looks bad, really bad, as if a smruf or a snorky produced it. Well first off, maybe I’m the exception but I can’t get it out of my head and have watched the ad more than once. They wanted it to go viral, and they succeeded marvelously.

My first feelings about the product were mixed – I found it to be a cool idea of course, imagining how complex the algorithms to make it work were, and I knew that yet again we had broken down another boundary towards our musical demise with robots generating music and all, but still, it looked so childish that I didn’t give it much thought.

Now I see things differently. Songsmith is on to something big but that stupid yet very effective ad doesn’t honor it’s capabilities. The video Scoble shot of those two engineers really grabbed my attention as they explain in much more detail how it works. Granted that commercials can’t last 20 minutes, but in those 4 very long minutes composing the ad, Microsoft could’ve demonstrated the good stuff instead of ridiculing themselves. Like the fact that the algorithms can easily scale the music from major to minor, or that you can actually alter the chord progressions and re-work the produced music. Also, the system pre-populates a media section where all you have to do to send your song to Youtube with whatever video or graphic display you want as a background is to click on a couple of buttons.

Actually I think this ‘childish like version’, which is probably going to be more popular at drunken parties than at pre-teen sleep-overs, is a spin-off to some more complex versions, and possibly some heavy-duty pro-audio software. If they can generate harmonies and melodies by analyzing ones voice, they can surely generate an instrument’s score for a mix. In a pro-audio context, they could let the producer tweak the sounds, import sound banks, link it up to virtual instruments etc. Re-tweak the results with Melodyne’s Celemony or Direct Note Access and you could really start getting creative. Another thing they don’t show you in the ad is that we can actually export a generated song’s MIDI files, tweak them in an audio host like a sequencer, and re-import them into Songsmith. Not sure many people are going to use this feature with such chipmunk-sounding instruments, but I appreciate the attention to detail, and in further releases this might seem more relevant.

I’ve been playing around with the demo version and I must say that from a musician’s point of view, there are some major downsides, like basically having no control over the instrumentation. We can change basic stuff like the chords, the swing, the tempo and the mood of the song, but I still felt pretty limited after 20 minutes – all styles only have one instrumentation preset making the experience kind of dull after a while (everything sounds the same). Then again this version was never meant for musicians, on the contrary, and in the end that’s a good thing. It opens up  music to the vast quantities of people who are absolutely positive they are tone deaf, kind of like that Beamz Music System we reviewed in September. Speaking of self-proclaimed tone-deaf people who could benefit from products like Songsmith, Andrew Dubber’s blog, ‘New Music Strategies’ has a very interesting post called ‘Amateur Nonsense‘ on the matter.

By youtubing ‘Songsmith’ you’ll encounter quite a few entertaining videos. Here are a couple I linked to my new Sqworl account (new bookmarking platform that enables users to create folders of bookmarks).


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