Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Schrittmacher deception

I wanted to like the Schrittmacher.  Very much.  With all its knobs and buttons it was calling to be tweaked and played.  Yet I've tried it and it was an instant deception.  This thing feels cheap. Around 2000$ for a simple dedicated MIDI step sequencer, and they managed to miss the overall feel of the interface.

I can't say much about it's long term utilisation, as I've spend only a few moments with it.  But after a few moments, I didn't cared for it that much anymore.  I like the concept, I like how it looks, I like it's overall design.  But when I grab it, it doesn't feel good.  For an instrument that puts most of it's value in it's interface, that is a big problem.  Is it just me?  Maybe at half the asking price I would have forgive the knobs and buttons feel.  To a point.  But even there, the overall navigation and usage of this sequencer is not as intuitive as I would have liked.  Yes, you eventually figure out what is going on and how to achieve proper results.  But my comprehension was that this sequencer was to be all about ease of use, so that you grab it and start playing it right away.  By opposition to, say the Notron, that is notoriously complex.

Maybe CV/Gate outputs would have made me liked it a bit more, but the interface comments stays.  It's too bad as there isn't a lot of products in this class.  So my quest for the ultimate step sequencer is still going on. 


Monday, January 26, 2009

Chysalis Ni by Saltline

There is just SOOOO MUCH free VST synths and FX around.  I spend a lot of time trying them.  And you know what: I enjoy doing that.  But it gets  boring, since there is a lot of similar products.

Of course, there are exceptions.  

I like those moments: you download a free synth without knowing anything about it, but the snapshot looks interesting.  You drop it in your host and you go: "What the ???".  You play a few notes you wonder what is going on, then you tweak a few parameter and you're convinced: this IS different.

Chysalis Ni is not revolutionary, but that's not the point.  First of all, the presets are just plain fun.  They don't try to reproduce the "cliché" sounds we just can't stand anymore.  Some presets bends the thing and in doing so they show you where you can take this instruments.  It's far from the bread and butter category, but also it doesn't go in the glitch/FSU/weird useless FX category.  Refreshing. 

For me this is a good discovery.  You know how it is with freeware, because they are free we don't expect too much.  And then there are those like Saltline that don't seems to know about this and gives you the quality you expect from good shareware synths ... for free.

I won't use this in every composition, but I like having this kind of instruments available to trigger ideas.  I think the interface could be a bit clearer and easier to use, and if the sequencer could sent MIDI notes at the output it would be even better, but it's still very useful as it is.  And original!  A rare thing.  Oh, and did I said it sounds beautiful?  Well it does.   Go download it and give it try.  It will be time well spent.  Thanks to Saltline for this offering:


Boring details:
Chysalis Ni is a saltline VST instrument in VST format for the PC platform.  The technical specifications are irrelevant as they give no clue about the sound.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The BEST Virtual Midi Controller

Ok, so I said I was to talk about tools, so let's introduce one of the most important one, dare I say precious, to me: Virtual Midi Controller aka VMC.  Piano style keys are fun, but it's not something I swear by.  First of all the induce patterns associated with traditional piano fingering.  Nice if you're Liszt, but I'm not.  Second, they're not always at hand.  Laptop composing anyone?

So, I sometimes use my QWERTY keyboard as a way to input notes.  Like a lot of people, I'm sure.  So, a few years ago I went for a quest to find the best QWERTY to MIDI software there is.  I'm pretty sure I've tried them all, and my conclusion is this: Virtual Midi Controller is the best software in it's class.  No competition.  The top.  5 stars.
But it doesn't stop there.  This thing is completely customizable.   Ever heard of the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee?  A great concept and very creative.  And you can program the equivalent of it here, in VMC.  Ever heard of the Axis controller?  Great isn't it?  Expensive also.  I've built my Axis program there in VMC.  Want your QWERTY to arpeggiate notes?  Go ahead.  And why stop at the QWERTY controller?  This thing can mutate any MIDI controller!
Please go check it out:
You can download the free version and make your mind about it.  If anything, you'll probably at the very least keep this light version and use it a lot.  But the full version is well worth the 20$, so you'll be going for it very soon.  Think about it: how much did you pay for your last hardware piece of gear?  We're not talking about a "me too" soft synth or FX here, but of a piece of software that will be possibly used every single day and that might change the way you do music.
Martin, the conceptor, is a nice guy and his software never got the exposure or the recognition it deserve.  Hope this post will help a bit.  If there's interest I might post some patches for it.

SoundCo - Virtual MIDI Controller

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's a good day to start a blog

Well, nothing special, but here's the start of it.  Hope you'll enjoy.  At first I wanted to focus on making it about music tools, then about music making, then ... then... nah!  Let's just go with whatever I got that day and you'll see. 

I hope to get people interested in some alternative music making tools and I'll give you my opinion about some gear, mostly soft synths.  There's SO MUCH stuff around, and I often observe that there's no opinions around talking about some of the software that I use and love.  So you'll get to read about it here.

Hope you'll enjoy!