The music journey – Making an album (week 3)

The past week I have focussed on going through the whole proces. My planning consisted of the following parts.

      • Building a patch on my Eurorack synth.
      • Programming sequences for that patch.
      • Recording it.
      • Making samples out of the recording.
      • Making a composition with the sample pack
      • Finishing the track.

As a study and research subject I took scales, tonality and musical notes.

Execution

My planning was pretty clear, now onto what really happend. The patch I partially finished and I started doubting my choices surrounding the layout of modules in my cases. So back to the drawing board and trying to downsize a bit for this project. In order not to get lost and keep patching. Less is more.

After this rebuild I have recorded a small drone and got on with it. I was way out of my planning as a result. So for next week my planning remains roughly the same. Learned a lot though and had a reaffirmation that my framework is solid.

It’s just not that straightforward , it will remain a search to what works and what doesn’t.

And given the limited time I get to spend on this project every planning I don’t meet automatically means a delay. Just as it was the case last week. But that in itself isn’t a real problem. The end result will still be there.

I will keep making (and adjusting) my planning and try sticking with it. It gives a very nice structure to the whole proces , and it has a build in continuity , ever since I started working this way I have been at it every week for that set amount of time. Which in itself is very important.

The music journey – Making an album (week 2)

Week 2 in the house, time flies when you’re having fun. And fun it is. Week 1 resulted in my project framework for what I want to achieve. For this week my goal was to start building my sample library for my tracks.

Firstly, I want to talk about time management. I don’t have a lot of quality time due to my brain damage , so I can’t be at it for hours on end or listen to a lot of sound for a long period of time. So my schedule is an hour of intense activity at a time.

Which means making actual sounds for sampling , listening to loops etc. Working with sound basically. Learning and reading is easier on my brain so I can do that more often. So it’s preparation , and then making the noise.

Things like building my Max MSP patches, Eurorack ideas and learning both Max MSP and Ableton are at the forefront at the moment. And about 2 hours of sound design and sampling.

Another thing I got to do, is make a moodboard of my influences for the album. Which is fun to do, it has also brought some new angles to the project in ways of getting it all together.

One thing I have noticed is that it’s way more fun to have a goal. I enjoy simply sitting with my gear and making sounds, this really gives it an edge. Being not solely a tool to escape but to really create is something I have never done.

Not all the planned stuff got finished this week, and maybe my initial goal is something I need more time to accomplice , but for now I just keep at it.

Max MSP project – Looper design

It’s been awhile updating my looper project, mostly because I have been busy learning MAX.

The looper project has reached the design stage. Building the looper by following the YouTube video’s by dearjohnread is done and now I have a functioning looper patch.

Now it’s time to start designing my own looper. In my Eurorack system I have an Expert-Sleepers ES-9 with a few audio inputs. 16 to be exact, now keeping track of 16 loops is a bit much whether it is in a live set or a jamming session. The start will be 4 tracks, inspired by the old 4 track recorders. I can always expand later.

The 4 tracks need to controllable by a midi controller, these functions must be available:

    • Start and stop recordings
    • Start and stop  playing the recorded loops
    • Mute and unmute of the loops

This will be the basic controller wise. Besides the loops I have several ideas for applying effects , like stutter, reverb distortion and whatever else comes to mind.

Functions need to be :

    • Effects per loop channel
    • Add & Delete
    • Turn on & Off
    • Building effect chains per channel

These functions also need to be controllable via a midi controller. I own an old Push 1 , which should be enough. I will start with that and make it customizable later on.

This is the basic concept for the design, I will post the more expanded design notes on my GitHub. Here I will go into the whole learning process.

The music journey – Making an album (week 1)

Starting a new project , making an album. And as with many bigger goals in my life in the last few years , I got some expert help guiding me along the way. The idea behind this is I can get up to speed a bit faster and avoid some common pitfalls along the way.

It’s also a shift from making music pure as a hobby to something more serious. Going after a goal I have had in the back of my mind for ages. Whether I have the guts of actually releasing it remains a question. But that’s the idea.

I will try and write a weekly update on the process , for the first week it’s mainly about writing the concept of the album down on paper and making a rough planning. That alone gives me a focus and energy in going forward.

Max MSP project – The idea , a looper

In order to learn Max/MSP and give the proces more focus , I have opted for a simple idea. Making a Looper. Think the hardware loopers like the Boss RC-505 and more on the experimental side, the Soma Cosmos.

It’s a looper aimed at live use and jam sessions, with the Eurorack as the input. The sound source.

The Looper needs to take care of recording loops from the modular. In order to have more control about the end result and what you heard in a live set. Adding loops , editing then and adding effects to it.

The interface between the Eurorack and the computer is an Expert Sleepers ES-9. Which is an audio interface for Eurorack. It has 8 audio inputs. So the looper will be one with 8 channels. The looper will be a buffer between the Eurorack and the music coming out of the speakers.

I am starting with a basic patch and will expand on it as I learn more. I will divide the project into little steps so I can keep control. And don’t get list and get finished results.

I have found a number of YouTube video’s on making a looper, first order of business will be simply building these. And later on changing them and building the functionality I want in them. And then I will release the first version.

The first version will be the basis for all future additions and built out on this.

video list :

Dearjohnreed – Four track looper part one
Dearjohnreed – Four track looper part two
Dearjohnreed – Four track looper part three

Soria box – Loop pedal from Scratch

I will share it on my Github when I have my first version. This can be found here :

Cornerman – Github Max/MSP

 

Max MSP project – Start learning , some resources

The new project has started. So first off , I started my search for good learning materials. Books, video’s the lot.

The phenomenal help within Max/MSP is the starting point obviously , because it’s really good. Once you know what you are looking for. It’s a bit like learning a language first you need to know the words.

Books

To counter my lack of knowledge on the language and what to look for, I needed additional sources. As a lot of my time is spent away from computers, I always start out with books. I already had bought two very good books on Max on my bookshelf. Ones that would look great in anyone’s musical book collection. Especially if you are into making music and the theory behind all of it.

Electronic Music and Sound Design series

These books by Alessandro Cipriani & Maurizio Giri are very good and go indepth on everything regarding Electronic music and Sound design. The fiets chapters being the theory behind waveforms and how sounds work towards more max oriented chapters on how to build your own tools for building synths and other musical systems.  As far as I know there are 2 parts available with parts 3 and 4 on the way.

The first 2 are also adapted for the latest max version, 8. If you can get an older version it’s fine too. The additions for the new version to the books can be found online for free.

Just started with part one again and although pretty steep in the theory part of things , after some dedicated studying you will get a lot out of these books for sure. I don’t think there is a more comprehensive set of books on music theory, sound design in combination with Max/ MSP.

Step by step : Adventures in sequencing with Max/ MSP

A book dedicated to building sequencers in Max/ MSP. Bought it last year and haven’t started reading yet. Given the importance of sequencers in electronic music and the immense possibilities surrounding them this is a very nice book to have in the collection.

While browsing and reading the introduction it’s emphasized you have some basic Max skills. This book will be on top of the reading list when I will go and built my own sequencers.

YouTube

Loads of really good tutorials can be found on Youtube , some just single video’s on certain topics, but also a few very good channels with loads of material. An overview of channels I found so far:

    • Nedrush : Loads of Max tutorilas and other video’s on Ableton live , the Elektron Octratrack and many, many more.
    • Must1002 : Max video’s , from beginners stuff to more complex, topics nicely cut into small video’s so you won’t be overloaded with long tutorials and can do tiny bits.
    • Dude837 : Wealth of video’s , loads of interesting topics.
    • BazTutorials : Found during my looper research, loads of neatly done video’s per topic.
    • dearjohnreed : Again mountains of content.

Probably missed a lot of channels and cool material. So let me know about cool stuff.

Misc.

There is also lots of ,material available in the PDF format, from research papers , tutorials and general Max oriented content. Which can be found with university library search engines and on the internet in general. I will post some links in the future whenever I use them in my projects. Also GitHub is a nice source. As well as the Cycling74 website which has lists of stuff.

 

Book review – The war of art , Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles.

I am reading more frequently nowadays and increasingly run into fun and interesting books, in this case a book written by Steven Pressfield, primarily a fiction writer. I had never read anything from him and came across this book in a search for better managing my projects and the aspiration for big(ger) goals in life than I previously aspired.

The war of art is about the resistance within ourselves to give into our own (creative) goals. The creative between accolades because it is also perfectly applicable for the non artists among us. And moreover a lot of professions and goals you want to achieve require a high degree of creative and artistic thinking to materialize.

It’s about overcoming your own internal blockages , the resistance that leads to procrastination , seeking distraction and basically doing anything but get started on the stuff you like to do most.

Writing that book, making that music album, starting your own business, going for that one study you always dreamt about. The first part of the book goed into that resistance and how it manifest itself.

The second part of the the book is about overcoming the resistance and what it takes to stay productive on a constant level over a long period of time.

The final part is about inspiration and how it manifests itself. The book is very compactly written and it has a lot of the known elements of getting things done which are mentioned. Start now and keep at it, which we all know deep down.

But this book describes it in a wat that keeping busy and the overcoming of the resistance is very simple all of a sudden. No extra complicated descriptions and elaborate plans, no simplicity. A nice and elegant solution for getting things done. And it reads like a breeze.

Max MSP project – Open source and the learning curve.

For ages I have MAX/MSP by Cycling 74 installed om my machine and from time to time I am completely obsessed with the endless possibilities which exists in this space. For the ones not familiar with Max, it’s a developing tool for creating anything relating to producing music and integrating visuals. From synthesizers to art installation stuff. And everything in between.

And that’s exactly where my problem manifests itself, it’s just too much. However small I begin, I always get lost. Lost in my own brain to be more exact. And then I stop with pursuing and learning. I have not been able to let it go or start in a direction to try and really push it.

So the idea behind this series is to get more grip on my own learning proces and share everything I learn. I will post it on this blog and I will put stuff in a , yet to put up, GitHub page.

The ultimate goal is to build an interactive looper for live use. A looper which takes the input from my Eurorack synthesizer and takes that input and loops it. Which I can then further manipulate. I will share all my progress (or lack of) , and will share all my notes, first designs and the road when building the patch itself. And ultimately also the music that comes out of the proces.

That’s the main goal , every time I test the patch a series of recordings emerge. I will not share all of them, just the ones at the end of each stage. And that I think are worthwhile sharing.

This might result is a nice collection of useful notes on my own personal learning method, a nice max patch and enough music to compile an album with.

A big project indeed, but by working this way I hope to get into a rhythm and work on it more consistent. On all of it, learning, music and sharing.

Braindamage – Broken memory and remembering things.

Frequently I get asked how I remember things with my broken short term memory. The short answer is , I make a list. In this little article I’m getting into the subject of lists and how to go about them. Not making too much or too few lists and what not.

This is purely my way of getting by with memory disfunction and a lot of the stuff is applicable for people with fully functioning brains as well. Because everyone’s mental energy drops during the day. And in the end only sleep can recharge the brain.

It’s also nog a ‘one size fits all’ solution. There are lot’s of variations within the field of memory and how to memorize stuff. This is just a representation of how I do it. And I hope some of you will get some inspiration for managing ones own memory deficiency. We all have it. We all forget stuff.

I thrive with stability, a good nights sleep, a steady day planning. And my day to day is where my first list comes around the corner. My weekly planning. It’s a weekly representation of what I’m doing that week. The must do’s and how much time a have for other stuff which I can use to plan things. Or not.

I am working with a fairly simply point system. During my recovery period I have experimented with how much an activity costs energy wise. For my daily load balance I derived the number 28 from these experiments. So in order to be able to get on the next day and be my cheery self I don’t want to go over that number.

So I have a maximum points in cognitive energy which is set to 28. My Energon (Transformers reference !) so to speak. I can use these point during my day and must not go over them. For example, reading an easy book for half an hour , minus 1 point, A hard one minus 2. Outdoor appointment 3 points down.

I can also collect points by resting, well not totally, like mediation for 15 minutes 0,5 points added, running for an hour 1 point added. All adding and subtracting towards the 28 total points available.

So that’s the rundown of the first list. It’s not an exact science by the way, it’s my guideline for the week. There are weeks which will be better, or weeks that are worse. But staying near to the 28 points will mean the majority of my weeks should be stable.

But there are more lists, a list for when I set foot outside my door. Which contains of stuff I need to bring. Phone, keys, wallet, headset and so on. That list has been replaced by a ready to go bag which contains most of these items. Basically a list in a different form. Always ready for its purpose.

There is a list for whatever pops in my mind. So stuff that comes to mind and I want to remember. It’s basically the collection of my short term memory.

Within my daily planning there is stuff to do. Which will get on a to do list. I really hate that list as it is the never-ending list of lists. It gives you the feeling that you are never finished. Which you are not. But this can be contained.

I have a small to do list which only contains 3 items , which have the most priority at that time. Ones I completed these 3 I trash the list. Which means I have finished something.

Breaks , my and everyones best friend. It’s impossible for me and the rest of us to be fully cognitively active at a high leven all day long. Yes even for the superstars among us. Cognitive energy declines during the day. And recharging only really occurs when sleeping. Processing the experiences of the day takes place during our sleep. And we have to process it all in order to recharge.

Taking breaks have the function of recharging in between. So in my planning they are there all during the dat. These have 0 in value, so they don’t do anything against the decrease of my cognitive energy. Only meditation and exercise will do that.

The one thing you must remember is not to start the to do list and knowing you cannot finish it. It leaves an open ended task at the end of the day which will haunt the mind during the rest of the day. So quitting earlier sometimes is not a problem.

If you are doing a high cognitive energy task, plan it strict. Make sure there are no distractions. Mail off, phone out of reach, take a break before starting , stop when the planned time is up.

Someone which has trained for doing high cognitive energy tasks has about 4 hours of real energy during the day to do these effectively. So going over that time hardly does the job any good, grinding it out for 8 hours might be fun for the hashtag ‘#alwaysbusy’ but really does not do you any favors. The elimination of distractions does.

The day planning and to do lists are what you can do at the maximum of one day. And very important, leave room for unexpected stuff, You can’t plan a day from dusk till dawn with pre planned activity’s , meetings take longer, so then also do breaks. You must not skip breaks. The day needs to breath , have room to grow or shrink. Otherwise you will loose steam and energy and that all takes away from doing stuff properly , and your day will be run by the unexpected.

Practical lists, or more notes are the final variety in my list repertoire. I write a daily entry in my journal which has all the stuff I did, my mental and physical state and whatever thoughts need writing down.

Besides the journal , I write when I read books. For some just a quick scribble to remember some things so I don’t need te re-read pages and get on reading. And notes when reading books I need for future reference. The things I want to remember I take notes and later I will work these notes out till full blown notes which takes a larger picture into account. I have a lot of summary’s of books I read. Very handy if I want to revisit some of the knowledge.

I used to memorize a lot and could revisit a lot out of the top of my head, nowadays that is very hard, and writing helps me with this proces.

Finally, write the lists and notes on paper, with a pen, or pencil. Not in digital formats. Not in an app, not in words excel or whatever just write it down.
Ok maybe just a format for the weekly planning, but fill it out by hand.

Writing as an activity, etches the writings in the brain. And amazingly enough also in my damaged brain. So buy notebooks in all shapes and sizes and start writing.

This is the first epistle about life with brain damage and the practical side of things all people can benefit from. Nobody has endless amounts of (cognitive) energy. But with some simple methods you can improve some aspects.

Book review – the why axis: Hidden Motives and the undiscovered economics of everyday life

Hidden motives and undiscovered economics of everyday life. Intriguing subtitle isn’t it? But it’s the way the authors discover what motivates people to do things , via field experiments. To see what works if you want to motivate people to behave a certain way.

It seems logical to try stuff out and see what works and what not. But for economy it’s always been more about reasoning and building mathematical stuff to see if it holds up. And changing some parameters and checking what this does with the outcome.

This book is about real world field experiments with control groups. It’s the just trying and seeing what works. It’s about stimulating behavior which is good for people by means of rewards.

Apart from the rewards , it’s also about who you need to motivate and seeing what else is necessary , how to formulate the proposition for instance.

The book covers experiments with discrimination, education, crime and so on. It’s easy to read and understandable for everyone. It’s a book you can read if you don’t want to read a thriller or a heavy scientific book.

It’s nicely sets the argument for more field experiments to really see what happens in real life and what works and what not. In stead of just reasoning everything to the last comma. This goes for everyone, just experiment and do stuff.