linux music tutorial: seq24, part 2

In the first part of my seq24 tutorial series, I looked at creating patterns in the pattern editor, and then triggering those patterns in real-time from the QWERTY keyboard. In part 2, I go in to more detail on both features. This video covers:

  • Advanced pattern triggering techniques: queuing and snapshots
  • Basic note editing: copying/pasting notes and changing velocities
  • MIDI CC automation
  • Background patterns
  • MIDI note entry (step-sequencing) and MIDI recording

It’s a little longer than I’d have liked, but there’s a lot in there! If you’d prefer smaller, shorter tutorials in future, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

For downloaders, there’s also a 720p WebM version available (107MB).

linux music tutorial: seq24, part 1

I promised I’d make an introductory tutorial to seq24, and now, I’ve delivered! If you’ve tried seq24 in the past and been confused by it, hopefully this will clear up some of the mysteries; if you’ve never tried it, this might just encourage you to give it a go!

There’s an unspoken “step zero” here — get yourself a working copy of seq24. I’m not sure about other distributions, but on Ubuntu, especially 64-bit, the packaged version seems very unstable. The best thing to do is to grab the 0.9.1 version from the seq24 Launchpad and install that — this new release includes a bunch of bug-fixes, and a few new features, too.

The original plan was for a straight screencast, like my earlier synth tutorials, but I was so impressed by Kdenlive that I decided to have a bit of fun with it — hopefully the fun I had comes through in the finished product.

For downloaders, there’s also a 720p WebM version available.

a demo of live sequencing with seq24

Despite a whole bunch of idiosyncrasies, I love seq24, and even though I tend to think of Qtractor as my MIDI sequencer of choice under Linux, it’s actually seq24 that I’ve used the most in producing my tracks. I’m planning on making some video tutorials for it, since it’s such a strange beast to deal with at first, but before doing that, I want to demonstrate the kind of things you can do with it.

Here, then, is a “performance” of my track tiny droplets — the various MIDI loops used are all pre-sequenced, but I’m triggering them all in realtime using my QWERTY keyboard. In this case, seq24 is driving Hydrogen and my Blofeld, and I’m using Ardour as a live mixer to process and mix the audio from those synths in to a stereo stream.

UPDATE: If you’d prefer to download the video rather than streaming it on YouTube, I’ve uploaded a WebM version of it. WebM is still quite new, but current versions of VLC and MPlayer support it.

On a brief side note, I have to give a shout-out to my good friend AutoStatic for describing his new video capture process using Xephyr and FFmpeg — I used it here, and the results look great. The audio was captured with JACK TimeMachine, and in another first for me, I edited it all together using the brilliant Kdenlive.

fingerplay: a midi controller for android

I’ve been slack in updating ye olde blog, but I have an excuse — I got a new phone! It’s a HTC Desire, running Android of course, and I’ve been having great fun trying different apps and discovering what I can do with it. I started a lengthy post covering my thoughts on both the Desire and Android, but in lieu of finishing that, I present you instead with an introduction to FingerPlay MIDI, a very cool MIDI controller app for Android.

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new track: phase transition

It’s been about six weeks since I posted my little SooperLooper jam, and here it is in its final form, or at least what became of it. This was a difficult one to pull together — I initially just polished my sketch version of it, but that didn’t give me the results I was after, so I ended up ditching that effort and re-arranging it from scratch, finally getting an inspiration for the central progression and ending last week. Once I had that idea, it didn’t take long on the weekend to flesh it out.

This is another Seq24/Hydrogen/Ardour recording, with Blofeld synths, though I also created my own drum sounds (mostly on the Blofeld again) for this one. I also used PHASEX as the synth for the lead arpeggio — it’s a simple patch, but I really liked how it sounded, so it stayed in the final version.

EDIT: Turns out that the download links were broken! I’ve fixed them now, so if you had trouble downloading, please try again now.

mp3 | ogg | flac | 5 minutes 4 seconds

roasting bacon

I don’t often listen to the TLLTS podcast, but I caught a recent episode (number 361) featuring Jono Bacon, and I was not impressed. I wish Bacon would stop commenting about the state of Linux audio, because it’s clear to me — but probably not clear to the larger community — that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

He explained on the show that he doesn’t use Linux for his music production, and I should say up-front that I don’t have a problem with this. Linux certainly isn’t ideal for everyone, and if Bacon has a solid, working Windows-based setup, there’s nothing wrong with him sticking with that and focusing on making music.

However, it’s very clear to me that he has no idea about the current state of Linux audio production, spreading the usual outdated nonsense about JACK being overly complex to set up, ignoring the existence of quite usable MIDI sequencers like Qtractor and Rosegarden, and giving very short shrift to Hydrogen’s abilities as a drum synth. These tools, with a suitable velocity-layered drumkit, might not give the same results as quickly as Bacon’s proprietary setup can, but they’d certainly do the job, especially once you run each drum in to Ardour for separate processing.

Why do I have such a problem with this? Well, it’s because Bacon is widely known and respected as an open-source evangelist, and also as a musician, so his words carry weight. I and my fellow Linux musicians know he’s mistaken, but a casual listener would assume that he knows what he’s talking about, given his background, and would probably write off Linux as a music production platform because of it.

Again, to be clear, I’m not saying Bacon should use Linux. I’m not even saying that he should spend the time to learn about making music on Linux. I just wish he’d stop talking about it as if he does know what he’s talking about.

sketchbook: psindustralizer drums

I’ve been playing with percussion lately, and wanted some metallic sounds, and I remembered a little app that I played with a while ago called Power Station Industralizer, a physically modeled percussion synth. It’s a little unwieldy — it’s non-realtime, so you have to “render” the sound after tweaking parameters before you can play it, and it has some annoying issues — but it can certainly make some nice clangy, smashy, metallic drum sounds. I came up with a few and threw them in to Hydrogen; the results are below.

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thinking inside the box

The computer has revolutionised the way we make music, but it also begs a question: how much work do you do “in the box”, using software sequencers, effects, and instruments, and how much do you do with hardware and traditional instruments? When I started making music again last year, having a powerful hardware synth was a huge enabler for me — I really do believe that it, as much as anything, is the reason I’m still making music with Linux now after so many abortive attempts over the years. Now that I have a few tracks under my belt, though, I’m as surprised as anyone to realise that I seem to be working “in the box” more and more.

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new track: tiny droplets

Two tracks in as many months? Madness! This is another ambient track, but without the drone — it has more of an early Aphex Twin vibe, but with some glitchy drums. I sequenced this in seq24, a pattern-based sequencer designed for live use, and in fact this was originally a “live” take, which I’ve edited and added to. Apart from that, it’s the usual suspects — Blofeld on the synth sounds and some drums, Hydrogen on the rest of the drums, recorded/mixed in Ardour.

mp3 / vorbis / flac: 4 minutes 26 seconds

sketchbook: distorted doofy thing

I’ve been playing around with some more distorted sounds on the Blofeld, so here’s a couple of them, with some 909 drums courtesy of Hydrogen. The pad sound is running through a chorus with fairly extreme settings — they’re not far from the chrous plugin’s defaults, and while it wasn’t at all what I was going for, it sounded cool, so I stuck with it.

20090912: 50 seconds