Friday, January 06, 2012

Acid Pro 8 will be a dead duck

You may or may not like the fact that Apple bought Emagic, but the fact is, they did something with it. As a PC user, I'm angry at Apple for doing it and leaving us to a slow death, but I can't deny that Apple did their homework and made something out of Logic. It's living, it's growing, it gets somewhere. Again, you may or may not like WHAT they did with it, but they did something. Same with Roland and Sonar (Cakewalk), they do something with it.

Unlike Sony with Acid. Acid Pro 7 still as a GUI that looks likes it's still 1995. Plugins pop up in an horrible box, automation is laughable and the whole product is so far behind the competition, it makes me sick. After Apple announced Logic for Windows users were not invited to the party, I made some shopping around and bought Acid 5 thinking it was a good move.

Well it was at the moment, a good product, but then it all stopped. From Acid Pro 5 to Acid Pro 6 there were a few enhancements and so to Acid Pro 7, but that's it. A few enhancements. Enough to keep the product usable. And not enough to keep it competitive.Sony did not do their job like Apple did with Emagic's Logic. They just made a Studio version out of it and sell some more, and a Media Manager to push the sales of their sample libraries. That's it. All the rest of the features added up to version 7 are "catch up"features that were in the competition products long ago. No innovation. None. Beatmap? Chopper? Please, be serious.

Music industry magazines (Sound on Sound, Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician, etc) barely mentions Acid as part of the current DAWs lineup, and non keep a column on it anymore. It's treated as a thing of the past. Because it is.

Thank God for Sony's weekly 8 packs, that's a real nice concept, but not the least bit "part" of the actual product. It doesn't make Acid any better.

I'm still using Acid Pro, it has some usefull features, but I wouldn't be using it as my only production software. I've added Catabile Solo and Ableton Live 8 along the way, so that I can feel like it's 2012, not 1995.

In the end, it looks like Apple bought Logic (or rather Emagic) to sell more computers. I'd say it worked. Sony bought Acid to sell more libraries. It probably worked, up to a point. My opinion is that where Apple continued to push the concept to make their whole brand better, Sony just stopped there and never had the vision to push Acid into new directions. Sample libraries are selling with or without Acid. They keep making them and the keep selling. So why would they bother with Acid Pro?

Now you might ask, why the heck am I still using Acid Pro if it's that bad? The answer is, it has still some very useful features that makes it valuable. I use it because I own it, but I wouldn't go has far as saying that those features are worth buying it.
  • Easy preview of WAVs synced with your current song, making selection fast and easy
  • Tempo curves
  • Easy to use "section" system for creating arrangements
  • Easy to use for putting together clips
  • Nice crossfade management
  • The clip pool is a nice touch and can be use to test different sounds
  • Beatmap can be useful
  • Groove tool is easy to use and useful

So, what is to expect of Acid Pro 8? My guess is: just a small upgrade that will still leave it outside of the current DAW world. If it ever sees the day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Artistic creation rules

Artistic creation is about two things:

1. Having your mind completly free

2. Being disciplined

Achieve both and you'll create.

Achieve only one and you'll have either a pile of unrealised ideas or a pile of crap.

Now create.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A room without a view

I've been away for a long time. There's a reason for that. I've been constructing something. I now have my very own room without a view. My studio. My own studio.  

For a musician, any kind of musician, this is a dream come true. The problem you're faced with as an audio artist is that you have to be free to experiment with sound.  Whatever you instrument is, as an audio artist, if you want to create, you have to make sounds, and that is disturbing to other people. That will limit you liberty to make sounds.  A studio,  is a room that you construct to give you sound creation freedom.  It can serve other purposes, but creation-wise, it is above all a freedom zone.

I have now my very own sound freedom zone.  The room is a piece of gear of important than most other equipment I had before. 

To have a meaningful output, an artist, any artist, needs two things. Freedom and discipline. My room gives me the means of audio freedom. It's now up to me to take this freedom and use it. Discipline is what I need to transform this freedom into actual artistic creation. 

PS: About the title, I'm a fan of Helena Bonham Carter, so it has to come out somewhere.  And my studio doesn't have any window.  So no view.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No guitar land

For your reflexion, here's a proposal for a new musical instrument.  It will be played by your two hands.

Left hand:
Your left hand will determine the pitch. So place your finger according to the chord or notes you want to get with this hand only.

Right hand:
You right hand determines the note trigger, its gate (or how long it will sustain), its intensity (velocity) and polyphony.  

So, if your right hand picks two notes, their pitches will be determine by the left hand position. Your right hand is responsible to dictate the phrasing of the notes: arpeggiated, legato, staccato, etc.

Like it so far?  Me too.

Using a traditional keyboard, split it at C4.
Left hand is below C4 and right hand is over C4.
Now pick a software that let you do splits and a bit of MIDI routing, and use the zone below C4 to determine pitch but WITHOUT note trigger.   Over C4 will be the triggers for the notes. If nothing is pressed on the left hand, you would get: EADGBE.  

Just a proposal.

Yeah, I know, we call this a guitar. But for a moment please forget the fact that a guitar can do this, and imagine how the guitar can be an inspiration for you. Forget the strings and think about the very basic concepts: 
left hand = pitch
right hand = gate

There's something natural about this, why don't you try it on whatever controller you have?

Be bold, be original: don't get a guitar.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Obviously I'm dead

What else is there to say after such a long absence.  I mean, every blogger of this side of the  universe comes to a point where the more time you take to write your next blog entry ... the more painful it becomes.  So to the reader who isn't aware of my inner life, it's basically down to two things: I'm either not interested in writing anymore, or I'm dead.  Therefore the title.

I've got an article coming about the Triadex Muse.  Hope to to make it available soon.  But most importantly, I wanted to use the blog for two main reasons.

The first was that I thought I had things to say that might be of interest.

The second was to give me some kicks in the butt and have a window to show some of my work.  

So far, you haven't heard any musical work from me.  A partial failuire.  So I have to kick myself harder.  It's gonna hurt.

Ok, so what's the point of posting if it's just to say: hey, I'm posting?  None.  So I'll leave you my opinion on the current news:

Please, I'm gonna puke.  This tools serves one purpose: use Ableton Live like Ableton and Akai think you should use it.  A dedicated hardware for a software is for me like a total nightmare.  Have these people heard about Monome?  Someone please tell them.  We want OPEN, O-P-E-N, OOOPPPEEENNN hardware!!!  Geee.  Ok, now you can send me one for free so that I can change my mind ;-)

Ok.  Whatever.  Like if the world was missing yet another DAW.  It seems that software companies are like artists.  They are innovative it their first years, then they seem to stick to what people expect of them, and then they start to do stuff that nobody cares about.

Ok, so nobody is talking about this one, yet I find it to be one of the most refreshing host to see the day for a while.  Great fun to use, very flexible and lot's of user feedback thrown in.  More on it later.

Not really new, but I just tried it.  And loved it.  Might even buy it.  I've got quite a few softsynths already, so I try not to buy any new ones, but this one is very tempting.  There's a few things about its modulation that I'm not quite sure, but it's worth investigating.  A serious piece of software.  Looks very creative.  A rare thing.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Software Obsolescence and Music Creativity

It's a growing frustration. The time wasted leaning tools that becomes obsolete too fast, that is. Using technological tools comes with this frustration: you spend a great amount of your time learning the inside out of tools that you will use only for a certain time. These tools will then either be superseded by others or you will choose to willingly make a change for a concurrent one.  Because the grass is always greener on the other side. 

We know that and assume this risk when committing to a tool. Of course, these efforts are very small when you end up using a synth solely for it's preset. But even then, you will probably need a certain longevity for those synths so that if you call up an old song after making some changes to your system, all the notes are still sounding as they should.

So, we know the usual pitfalls: changing your OS will mean incompatible software or even driver problem that may lead to an hardware change (Audio/MIDI interface). In theory you should get it all up and working within a few driver and software updates. But sometimes the company that sold you your software will just not support it anymore. Or worst: they went belly up!

Of course, you can take actions to protect you from these situations. The easiest way is to committing all the tracks to audio files, so that you lower your dependence to plugins for older songs. You can also keep an old setup that will always work with your older software. It's unlikely you'll take that path because your components can still fail and be hard to replace. It's quite a commitment for keeping track of old mixes. Usually, it's not worth it. Good practice is then to consider your old songs to be left for dead after a year. If not, you should update it so that it stay current with your setup.

But I'm realising more and more that on top of that, an obsolete software also means wasted knowledge. The thing is, the more powerful softwares gets, the more complicated they become. So, when you commit - often with a fair amount of cash - to a product, you'll usually want to become good at using it. You want to make it fly. It's at this point that you also also realise that software manufacturers assume you have no real life and that you are willing to spend hundreds of hours to learn there things.

And so you learn. And become good at it. You become an expert, knowing all the keyboard shortcuts, and tricks to get special envelopes quickly, or twist the bus setting to get the sidechain to work, etc. But all this knowledge is wasted with a software change.  

My first sequencer was Hybrid Arts Edit Track. Didn't liked it much and latter went for Cubase 1 on Atari ST. When I switched to PC, I went for the natural choice: Cubase. When Cubase introduced the VST standard, I think it was with version 3, my computer wasn't up to this task. So I took the opportunity to take a look at the competition. And felt in love with Logic. So I went for Logic. Until version 5.51, moment at which time Apple announced that it took over Emagic and dumped the PC platform. Ok, so I decided to stick to Logic anyway. Well for a time. I mean, when you see ALL the other software making real-time audio sync to tempo, you start to feel left out in the cold. So I went to Acid 5. Then 6. Now 7. And the grass does look greener on the other side: Live. Or would it be back to Logic on Mac? Obviously I'm trying to stick to Acid.

That's without talking about all the abandonware I bought.  

Groovecube's Exciton 
A great piece of software. I still love it and use it. But no updates for 5 years now. Obviously I must consider that I will have to do without it soon as it won't work soon (Windows 7 coming, Intel I7 CPU, etc).

Virsyn Tera 2
You could argue that Tera is still current. For my part I was very dissatisfied by the protection scheme used that made it a pain to install. So I was not too hot for a paid upgrade when version 3 came up. But on top of that it wasn't made available for download. WHAT??? I had to pay 99E + shipping + customs + taxes ... Forget it. So I end up with a software I paid close to 300$ for that will be abandonware in it's current form. Because Virsyn won't update version 2 is it's not compatible with future evolutions.

ReFX Trash, TBL ... eventually QuadraSID
Yep, bought those 7 years ago. Of the 3, only QuadraSID is still updated, but for how long? ReFX has an history of dropping their products when sales drops. I don't expect QuadraSID to live much longer.

SpinAudio RoomVerb M2
I thought I was getting a good deal. The company closed it's site about 2 years after I paid more than 100$ for this software. Dead.

Native Instruments Kompakt
Got it with Acid, and it was dropped by NI a little while after.

And that's without mentioning the hardware I had to drop because it wasn't compatible with my setup at one time or an other: Yamaha DSP Factory + ADB AX88, Opcode 8Port/SE, etc.

So what can I do about it? Is there a lesson to be had? Yes and no. I'm convinced you must commit to certain tools and learn them. I think there's only one exception so far to the pattern I described: CSOUND. Not even Pro Tools: at one time or an other you have to drop your old hardware to get the new version, etc. But of course on the software side, pro Tools is a steady one. But you can't beat CSOUND. It's been there forever, it's solid, for any platform and it can sound like anything you want. The learning curve is steep and the time investment is tremendous, so it's not for everyone.

I'm not going 100% CSOUND, it's too much for me. But I think you must consider it if you want to avoid the above frustration.

The other shift I made was to see my recording session as a live performance. What I'm recording is my performance. Commit every track to audio, and that's it. But it's hard to make that shift. Still working on it.

How do you cope with obsolescence? 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fabio Biondi (Europa Galante), classical virtuoso

Today I'll take you a bit away from the usual electronic, synthesizer, soft-synth stuff.  We stay well inside the musical domain, but in a different area.  Classical.

I was surfing on YouTube this evening and listened to some Jordan Rudess stuff.  I'll probably make a blog entry alter about Jordan Rudess, but for the moment let's say that, although I appreciated very much his technical skills, I had to admit that musically speaking, we were not connecting.  Don't get me wrong: I liked what he was playing.  It was just not my cup of tea artistically.

I don't know how many of you are like me, but after listening to music that I'm not "that much" into, I need to compensate by listening to material that I feel more connected to.  The problem is, Jordan Rudess is a very skillful player, so I needed to listen to material that was at least as challenging technically speaking.

Spontaneously, my finger wrote the name: Fabio Biondi.  It was the first time I ever looked up Mr Biondi on the net, and I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few descent videos of him and his formation Europa Galante.

To me, Fabio Biondi is a great source of inspiration.  The first time I ever heard Fabio Biondi was in a Quattro Stagioni interpretation ... that literally blew my hat off.  I mean, wow.  He picked a composition that everybody knows, and interpretated it in a way that took it in a whole other level.  It felt like I heard this piece for the first time.  It revealed aspects of the material in bright new light.  Some of you might think: OK, so the guy got impressed because he  heard too few "contemporary" versions of Vivaldi's stuff.  It's not the case.  Although I'm very much into electronic music when it's time to compose, I'm much more into classical and jazz when I listen to music.  And I've heard my share of fair, and bad, interpretations of the Quattro Stagione - or of the full Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione.  Would I go as far as to say that the guy is a genius?  Well time will tell, but as far as I'm concerned, yes.  If you disagree, you'll have to at least admit he is, at the very least, a virtuoso.

So I invite you to get a listen to the man's work.  I've find this Scarlatti video that will enable you to hear his skill, with a descent audio quality:

And also: