Category Archives: Music

Production of music–usually with Cakewalk’s SONAR as my recording/midi software.

Therion – Sitra Ahra

I finally got my copy of Sitra Ahra in….I must say…. AWESOME album, but nothing super-extraordinary compared to their older work. “More of the same”, although I’ll admit there’s much more¬†complicated choral work than previous albums (and this is saying A LOT).

The more I listen to it, the more it grows on me.

Don’t just take my word for it:

Lords of Metal E-Zine

Metal-Archives User Reviews (3 at the time of this posts writing)

Stu’s Review

The Re-envisioning of “You’re not the Only One”

I’ve set out to rerecord/re-envision my favorite of my released songs: You’re not the Only One (recorded in 1999).

The recording will start next week. Right now I’m letting my fingers learn the riffs on my guitar (it was originally composed on my Roland JX-305).

I’m really, really working to keep the track count to a minimum so it may sound much more simple compared to the 1999 original.

If any musicians want to join me in this project I’d be very happy to have you as there’s already a model for the vision.

Feel free to listen to the original.

I have no set date to when I’ll be done with it (such is Music!), but I’ll keep you posted.

Here are the Lyrics:

(Sample: “Listen to them… children of the night… what music they make”, Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931))

Are thirsting for attention?

Are searching for dissension?

Are you seeding your temptations?

Are you meeting your expectations?

(Chorus)

Of all the pain you feel inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

of all the shame you conceal inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

Are you teeming with frustration?

Are you feeling your sensation?

Are you wishing death’s vacation?

Are you seeking termination?

(Chorus)

Of all the pain you feel inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

of all the shame you conceal inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

(bridge/solo)

You don’t know anything about this life!

How can there be happiness with so much strife?

Be wary of the shadow and don’t stray too far.

My creature of light… that’s who you are!

(Chorus)

Of all the pain you feel inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

of all the shame you conceal inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

(bridge 2)

You’re not the only one!

You’re not the only one!

You’re not the only one!

You’re not the only one!

Just like the only one……

(Chorus)

Of all the pain you feel inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

of all the shame you conceal inside

You’ve gotta know you’re not the only one

A quick 15 minute test in Apple’s Garage Band

Like yesterday’s very rough, but has a 5th track layer (Horns, Bass, Drums, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar)–totally different style.

Each track is a single take and no post processing other than just adjusting the volume levels for each track.

The drums and bass are loops from GarageBand (I won’t take credit for the quality of those, and to be honest it’s what makes the clip even remotely pleasurable to listen to).

A quick 10 minute test

Yes, it’s rough it’s and simple and even uncut but at least it’s quick.
This little test was created in about 10 minutes. 4 tracks (1 GuitarRig track, 1 drum, 1 bass, 1 Orchestral) 37 seconds…. this is what I was testing the new Windows 7 (32bit) installation with SONAR 8.3 on my Mac Mini.

Windows 7 32 bit, Mac Mini, SONAR, and Conspiracy Theories

Well early last night I set up boot camp for 32bit Windows 7 (since it’s only a 4 gig box) on my mid 2009 upgraded Mac Mini. Partitioned out the Windows 7/OS X partitions equally and installed Cakewalk SONAR 8.3 (as I’ve not upgraded to 8.5 yet).

Not a single hitch, after 2 hours of installing 7, Boot Camp Drivers and the DAW software (which was by far the most lengthy part as it’s a 4 DVD install) then immediately switching to ASIO drivers (and installing the ASIO drivers for my M-Audio Keystation 49i) I was in business.

I’ll make my claim: Windows 7 is the best version of Windows released thus far. Sure it has its issues (as every complex software does), but it’s a smooth install and works very quickly and efficiently to run your software.

I spent about 10 minutes recording a quick little diddy to test out the performance and I’ve got a good, stable machine without being tied down to Apple hardware. Which finally introduces the following ranty thought (as I do like Mac hardware and software):

Apple really needs more customization and latest generation hardware in their consumer lines they just released the new iMac with a puny 4000 series ATI video card when the 5000 series has been out for long enough for them to have a beta version of the chip to test and eventually produce. The 4000 series can marginally drive 3D games at the resolution of the new 27″ iMac (a monstrous 2560-by-1440 LED backlit screen).

On the OS side, I’m not crying about having to buy Apple hardware to run MacOS–that’s not the issue. But the latest version of Ubuntu (a free and ‘hard to use’ OS) actually puts MacOS to shame when it comes to finding and adding/installing software. Sure most software is drag-and-drop easy on MacOS, but Ubuntu’s Software Center is two-click install and automatic upgrades and updates from then on inclusive with the system updates. Apple really needs to support an Open Source repository for software or release an Apple Store for Mac (as they have for iPhone) or both as some sort of  integrated solution as Ubuntu has released a very early, rudimentary version with 9.10.

I prefer Linux as its open source software repositories are second to none, but the biggest problem that I’ve always had with Linux is the lack of mid to high level software support from various ISV’s such as Adobe. If Adobe released Photoshop for Linux that was on par with the Mac & Windows version I think there’d be quite a migration to the OS.

Microsoft is scared of Linux and Linux is Microsoft’s #1 threat (not Mac, despite what Apple would like for you to believe), and I suspect there’s some behind the scenes trading and dealing to keep Adobe from deploying on that platform (perhaps from both Apple and Microsoft).

DAW Latency Issues

Well perhaps my problem is with SONAR. I’ve loaded the 64 bit stand alone version of Guitar rig and there was very little latency and hiccups while jamming with my guitar plugged straight into the instrument jack on my new Keystation 49i. However when I open up the Guitar Rig audio effects in SONAR there’s much crackling and about a half second delay.

I’m going to switch to the ASIO drivers in SONAR and see if this fixes the issue. If it doesn’t, perhaps I need to shop around for another 64 bit DAW solution.

LUNCH UPDATE
Wow the switch to ASIO was the trick…. it’s running like a whole new computer–exactly how I would expect it to (better, in fact) with my quick couple of tests during lunch.

If you’re having issues in SONAR with latency, switch immediately to the ASIO Driver Mode and see if that helps you too!!!

Tools->Audio Options->Advanced->Driver Mode dropdown

NO to Mac

After several months of deliberation I’ve decided not to invest my money in the Mac platform although my little PowerMac G4’s a neat little machine. I’ve always used Cakewalk’s SONAR (at least since it’s been out) and before then Pro Audio (from version 7 or 8–I can’t remember–cocaine’s a helluva drug, heh) and I think that the learning curve, the fact that I already have fantastic hardware and the advertised new Audio engine performance improvement and the workflow changes make an upgrade from 5 to 8 a very, very tempting offer. So tempting I ordered my upgrade today.

I think the only thing I’ll miss is the choir AU from Logic Express/Garage Band, but I’m sure I’ll find an equivalent DX or VST synth equivalent in time. Once I have the box in my old hands I’ll go ahead and order the Rapture virtual synth upgrade from Cakewalk as well since SONAR 8 comes with Rapture LE their upgrade price is only $129.

Between that and the formal piano lessions I started to take last month I foresee some creative boosts in the future!

I have several reasons I’m against the Mac platform:

  1. It’s a developer unfriendly environment (e.g. NDA insanity and some App Store Shenanigans
  2. It’s a closed system. I’m no hardware geek but I get by. I’d prefer to be able to build a tower to MY specifications instead of having to spend more than double on a machine that I won’t use to full effectiveness daily.
  3. The most of the cross-platform software I use (mainly Lightwave) seems to be a few months or a year behind in development maturity compared to the Windows platform. Even Adobe has 64 bit versions of their products for Windows while this version doesn’t have 64 bit for a allegedly ‘more mature and elegant’ 64 bit system. This goes back to point #1. Apple refuses to back-port libraries that professional developers are using and forcing them into Cocoa (although it’s very nice).
  4. One doesn’t have much choice with software with Apple. You can purchase 1st party apps such as Logic or Final Cut which is quite mature and seem to be industry standard, but other than those choices they’re bleeding the market by pricing it to the point it’s difficult for a 3rd party to compete against them. Yes, the end-user seems to win, but choice is more important to me than price alone. With the Windows platform I have dozens of choices of Video editing platforms while on a Mac there really is only one (ask anyone what they edit video with on a modern Mac it’ll be Final Cut Express or Pro–even the old Avid guys either jumped ship to PC or switch to FCP).

Now don’t get me wrong. For a consumer Apple is very enticing and easy to use, and I’d love to have a MacBook or MacBook pro to replace my aging Acer (mainly to boot to Windows), but the desktop selection is far out of my league or not enough cowbell for my needs. Id’ still suggest a Mac to a new-to-computers person since Vista although is stable and usable, still has some complexity issues for a new customer (although a new customer in a 1st world country is very rare these days).

I despise the Control Panel layout in Vista it’s WAAAY too busy. Microsoft needs to take a look at the MacOS control panel for some ideas. UAC is great, but I’d like to see an ‘always run as administrator’ option in the shortcut options where it UAC prompts you once but never prompts you again unless the executable’s checksum changes. A modern program shouldn’t need to prompt you for UAC every time it launches, but there are a few legacy apps & games that I launch occasionally that required it.

Logic Express 7 & MacOS

I installed a trial version of Logic Express (casually termed as ‘Logic’ from here on) that I downloaded many months to a couple of years ago when I was just about to purchase a Mac (instead of my Dual Core Acer Laptop that I own), and looking retrospectively I think I may have made a mistake.¬†

My experience making music so far has been with Cakewalk SONAR (v5) and Project 5 (v2.5). I’ve always had driver and latency issues (even when I was running it on XP). My main box is a Quad-core Q6600 system with 4 gigs of RAM. I use a Roland UA-4fx for my audio input and output, have all the latest drivers and still I had either Audio Engine crashes or terrible latency.¬†
I plug the same hardware into this G4 Mac, install the drivers and the latency in Logic is non-existent. I’m pretty disappointed. There’s quite a bit of getting used to the details and quite a few hotkeys that I miss (the W key was one of my favs in Sonar & P5), but all in all it’s still set up quite sanely–and sounds fantastic even with a basic, non-optimized mix. My tests so far have been quite successful. I’m not sure if it’s successful enough for me to purchase a new Mac in the next few months though. It IS enough however for me to look into purchasing a copy of Logic 7 (as Logic 8 is out of specs for this machine).

Musical itchings and lack of practice

I’ve been working on some music again, as well as changing my style a bit too. It’s been years since I’ve done anything semi-seriously, and I’ve had songs in my head for the last few years that I’ve been wanting to push down to .wav.

Also, I’ve been getting the itch to go back to caressing my artistic side. Once upon a time I was quite a freehand sketcher, but since becoming a professional nerd/geek I’ve not done this so often anymore. So I suppose that a slight regression to make me a more-whole person is in order.

I blame my semi-sudden rush of artistic need on some of the work my liberal buddy (I’m a moderate with conservative tendencies) Junkyard Sam has produced in the last few months. That man’s got some serious talent and imagination.

I think it’s probably time for guitar & piano lessons to help me focus and refresh my skills (my piano skills especially). I’ll probably do a few online and see if I can learn anything from them. Otherwise I’ve got a few sources that can teach me the basics of two-hand playing on the keyboards.

The composition software that I’ve been working with the last few weeks is Cakewalk’s Project 5 but I’m running into some creative workflow limitations and I long for something a bit more flexible. I honestly think that Project 5 would be great in front of a live audience once properly set up and it’s great for prototyping, but still not as familiar in composition as my old Roland JX-305 (which is having issues with the LCD screen after almost 10 years) — I’ve been more into software synths lately anyways.

Although I’m a SONAR version 5 and Project 5 version 2 licensee, I’m going to download the trial of SONAR version 7 to see if it’ll fit my workflow a bit more smoothly. I’ve always been a fan of Cakewalk’s software and Cakewalk’s user-centric licensing scheme (which borders on the honesty system–too many companies out there treat their users like criminals). The upgrade cost would be about $225 but it’s been a few versions since I’ve updated, but that software series is phenomenal.

So this blog may turn into my dark art blog over time, so beware. Honestly though I think I’d find that much more interesting that some random XBox gamer’s blog, eh?