The Salamander Grand Piano, and LinuxSampler CVS

NOTE: The link below was to an older version of the Salamander, so the link now goes to a download page that lists the latest version. Also, LinuxSampler isn’t as temperamental as it once was when it comes to loading SFZ files, so you don’t have to follow the instructions below to the letter any more — just add a sampler channel, set it to SFZ mode, and load the SFZ file, and you should be good to go.

After a bit of a wait, what’s perhaps the ultimate free piano sample library, the Salamander Grand Piano is available! One of the guys on the linux-audio-user spent I’d-hate-to-think-how-long recording every note on a Yamaha C5 grand at 16 different volume levels with a pair of stereo mics, and the result — all 1.9GB of it — sounds lovely.

Getting it running, however, is a bit fiddly right now. Due partly to its heft, it’s distributed in SFZ format, instead of the more common GigaSample “.GIG” format. Linuxsampler supports SFZ in CVS, but it’s buggy, and the instrument needs to be set up just right to load without crashing Linuxsampler. Once you’ve installed Linuxsampler from CVS — a bit of effort, but fairly straightforward, especially since it comes with Debian package scripts — follow these steps, in order, to get the Salamander up and running:
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new track: frozen summer

The Tunestorm02 reveal was today, so I can now post my submission for it: a breezy little tune that, for want of a better title, I called “frozen summer”. In accordance with the rules, it’s made entirely from sounds sampled around my house — there’s our doorbell, a blown beer bottle, and a stretched out balloon that I strummed to get a bass sound, along with percussive sounds from hitting various things (mainly my coffee machine).

Software-wise, I used Specimen for the melodic samples, Hydrogen for the drum samples, and seq24 for sequencing, before recording and mixing in Ardour. I’ve also uploaded my Hydrogen kit in case anyone’s curious.

mp3 / vorbis / flac: 2 minutes 48 seconds

new track: daybreak

It seems a bit odd to post a new track called “daybreak” in the middle of a sun-blanketing thunderstorm, but here we are! This is the slowly evolving ambient soundscape from my last sketch, but polished up in to a finished track. It’s not actually vastly different to the sketch (it still runs the same full length), but I’ve smoothed over some rough edges, and added a tiny sprinkling of extra interest; not too much, though, since I didn’t want to spoil that zen-like mood.

It’s obviously very different to the beat-driven video-game-esque tracks I’ve posted so far, but hopefully it’ll find some fans!

mp3 / vorbis / flac: 7 minutes 22 seconds

looking back on 2009

Around this time last year I said (not on my blog, but on my LJ, for those that are reading this there) that I wanted to do a bit more with myself in 2009, rather than just wasting time online. I can’t say that I spent a lot of time reading or writing (probably a lot less time writing, in fact), and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time outside with my telescope, but I did play a good few games, watched some new TV, and spent a lot of time cooking lunches for work.

Most importantly, though, I actually did something productive musically. Until 2009, the best I’d managed since high school was a couple of minutes of generic techno, but in 2009 I produced two complete tracks, both of which I’m still pretty happy with. My dalliances with music in the past have usually ended in frustration, but this year, through a combination of new hardware, much-improved software (mad props to the Ardour guys), and perseverance, I got over the hump. I now feel like I have the tools I need to make whatever I decide to make, and perhaps most importantly, my desire to make music is just as strong as it was a year ago.

I’m usually not one to set hard goals, but if there’s something I’d like to make this year, it’s a proper song — lyrics, singing, and all of that good stuff.

dabbling in podcasting, and studio upgrades

Given that I record my music entirely under Linux, I was very happy to hear of the Open Source Musician Podcast; so much so that I’ve already contributed my own segment to the show. In the recently-released episode 26, I discuss the equipment (hardware and software) I use to record my music, as well as the workflow involved.

In other news, I got an awesome new studio toy on the weekend — I replaced my Singstar mic with a Rode NT1-A condenser mic. While I’ve only had a brief chance to play with it, it sounds very clean and clear, so it’s a revelation compared to the hissy, muddy mess that I got with my old mic. It also came with a shock-mount and pop shield, so it looks très professional in my mic stand:

new track: clipper

Here’s that new track I was working on — it’s another synthy thing which turned out, not-entirely-deliberately, like something from an old-school arcade game soundtrack. Lots of Blofeld, and a bit of distortion. It came together more quickly than my last track, and I’m pretty happy with the results, especially since I didn’t feel the need to spend hours and hours tweaking EQs and compressor curves to get it to sound alright to my ears. Enjoy!

mp3 / vorbis / flac: 3 minutes 8 seconds