halo: reach

It’s almost uncool to admit it these days, but I’m quite a fan of the Halo games. I wasn’t always — in my earlier years I was quite the GameCube fanboy, so I hated Halo with a passion — but when I got my 360 I found the first two games on eBay and finally discovered what all the fuss was about. When Bungie announced that it was working on one last Halo game before partnering with the devil Activision, I hoped for something great, and I’m glad to say that Reach delivers; it may even be the finest of the Halo games.
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sketchbook: rd3 groovebox for android

Audio apps for Android are still coming of age, fighting a bit of an uphill battle against the platform’s current latency limitations, but there are already a few neat options, ranging from fun toys to genuinely useful tools. Somewhere between those two extremes sits RD3 Groovebox, which combines a 303-style synth and sequencer with an 808/909-style drum machine.

The drum machine certainly isn’t as full-featured as Electrum, with a fixed 16-step layout and just a few sets of built-in sounds, and the 303 is similarly simple, with just the classic options you’d expect (three-octave range, no real velocity, etc.). It all works really well, though, and it’s great fun to play around with, especially once you get your fingers on the 303’s real-time controls. That unavoidable Android latency is there, but because everything’s sequenced, it never seems to get in the way.

You can write four patterns for both the 303 and drum machine, which is just enough to scrape out a basic song; here, then, is such a song! There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before — just some simple 303 lines and 909 drums — but it was still fun to make. RD3 has no export facility (you can save your songs, but only in its own format), so i had to use my laptop’s line-in to record it.

RD3 is 3.49€, which is perhaps a little steep for what’s there, but it’s definitely a lot of fun, and with a few additions, such as audio export, more patterns, and some effects, it could be a cracking little app. Check it out!

mp3 | vorbis | 2:46

welcome back, bandcamp!

It seems I may have jumped the gun a little with that last post about Bandcamp’s policy change on free downloads; as is often the case with the Bandcamp team, they’ve taken user feedback on board and come up with a compromise that’ll make just about everyone happy. Now, any accounts that have less than 200 free downloads left will be topped up to 200 once a month, so free music guys (like me) can keep using Bandcamp for nothing, as long as they’re not too popular (also like me).

Given Bandcamp’s generous definition of “a download” — streaming playback within the browser is still unlimited and free, and album downloads count as just a single download — 200 a month will cover a fair bit of activity. I’ve yet to reach 200 downloads in total so far, so 200 a month will probably always be enough for me.

Once again, Bandcamp proves that it’s a class act. Rock on!

so long bandcamp, and thanks for all the fish

I’ve long been a fan, and user, of Bandcamp, the fantastic music hosting site, but Bandcamp is growing up, and as part of that, it looks like we’ll be growing apart as well. It’s still a great service, and I wish it well, but for free artists like myself, the honeymoon is (mostly) over.

The writing was on the wall earlier this year when Bandcamp started taking a 15% cut on sales in order to cover its costs. I think that’s perfectly reasonable, but the question remained: how would Bandcamp cover its costs on free downloads, where there’s no revenue to split? It answered that question today by announcing an end to unlimited free downloads.
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playing with pianoteq play

I’ve mentioned Pianoteq in the past, and I’ve played with several demo versions over the years, but now I’ve finally taken the plunge and bought a copy. Pianoteq boasts great Linux support, and its new entry-level version — Pianoteq PLAY — is just 99€, but why is it worth buying when I could use (and indeed, certainly have used) the Salamander Grand Piano for free?
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