The EM Poll
Archive for July, 2010
I saw a Deadmau5 show last night at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ. It was sold out and pretty wild. Deadmau5 doesn’t use a band, but instead DJ’s his set from a massive cubelike stand in the center of the stage. On either side of it are metal frames containing many of the lights and projectors for the incredible light show, which built in intensity as the set progressed. The music sounded great. It would be really cool on a subsequent tour if he brought some live musicians into the equation as well. I was seated in the front row of the balcony, and it was literally shaking from all the people moving to the music. Deadmau5 has become quite a phenomenon. Check out the video interview that I did with him just a few months ago, where he talks about his production techniques.
I finally broke down and upgraded to an iPhone 4. I’ve only had it for a couple of days, and haven’t had a chance to use a lot of music apps yet. Compared to my 3G, it’s way faster, and the new camera (which takes nice video) is a huge upgrade from what was in my 3G. The display is also amazingly crisp. I’ve heard that the battery life is better than in previous models. So far, I haven’t noticed that, but, it’s really too soon to tell. I also wanted to mention that I have access to an iPad for a while, and will looking at iPad music software and reporting on it in the near future.
Finally, a couple of tidbit items from around the web:
First, an incident involving pigeons at a Kings of Leon show caused the band to abruptly stop their set last weekend in St. Louis. The band’s set literally went to s*@t.
Check out this story and video about a man who took out the guts of an old combo organ and made it into an “8-bit chipophone” for those chiptune sounds.
Not a lot of weighty stuff to discuss today, but there were a few interesting (and definitely “non-weighty”) items that I noticed while perusing the Net.
Music apps are becoming so popular that Billboard has announced that the Billboard Music App Awards. Billboard’s website lists the following categories for its awards:
Best Artist-based App: Apps created specifically for an individual artist
Best Music Streaming App: Apps that allow users to stream, download or otherwise enjoy music, such as Internet radio or on-demand.
Best Music Engagement App: Apps that lets users engage in music in various ways, such as music games, music ID services, etc.
Best Music Creation App: App that lets users make their own music.;
Best Branded App: App that best incorporates a sponsor with music capabilities to promote both the sponsor’s message and highlight the music
Best Touring App: App created in conjunction with a specific tour or festival
Naturally, the Best Music Creation App is the one I’m most interested in. However, I imagine it’s going to go to some consumer-oriented app, rather than one that appeals to actual musicians. But hey, I can hope, right? The winners will be announced on October 5th. The deadline for submissions is July 30th, so you app developers better hurry up.
Do you still have a Yamaha DX-7 in the back of your closet or garage? According to an article on the Blue Music Group website, DX-7′s in good condition are becoming more valuable.
No question, today the DX7 is a true treasure and a mint condition instrument will soon be sold as a rarity, and at a far higher than the list price in 1983.
Well, maybe so, but not as of yet. I did a quick search of completed listings on E-bay and found that DX-7′s sold recently range between about $250 and $500, which, if I am recalling correctly is a lot less than they cost new, back in the day.
While I’m on the subject of keyboards, the London Daily Telegraph, and other British press outlets are reporting that the upright piano that used to reside in Studio 3 of Abbey Road Studios, and that the Beatles used on such songs as “Paperback Writer,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and “Old Brown Shoe,” is going to be sold at auction by its current owner.
The piano, shown here in a photo from The Guardian will have an asking price of £150,000, which, according to today’s exchange rate, translates to $231,075. You’d have to sell a lot of used DX-7′s to raise that kind of cash.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to visit Korg‘s offices on Long Island, and get demos of some of the company’s latest products, all of which should be shipping by sometime in September. I saw some pretty impressive stuff. (BTW, to enlarge these product photos, just click on them.)
The most unusual product was the Monotron ($59.99), a single-voice, analog synth that fits in the palm of your hand. Its all-analog circuitry includes an oscillator, LFO, and filter. There are knobs to control pitch on the oscillator, rate and intensity on the LFO, and cutoff and peak on the filter. It has a tiny 1-octave keyboard on it, but probably its most useful function is as an effects processor. You can plug a stereo audio signal through it (1/8th-inch) and process it through the filter, which can result in some extremely cool sounds. To have an analog synth circuit at your disposal for just under $60—especially one that fits in your pocket—makes for a unique product, and I suspect it will be popular when it is released.
Compared to the Monotron, the 61 keys on the Microstation ($599) seem gigantic, but they’re actually mini-keys like on Korg’s other “Micro” keyboards. Due to ship in August, the unit has a huge range of Korg sounds in it (480 to be precise), is multitimbral, and has built-in effects and a sequencer, just like you’d get in a full-size workstation. I wondered about the mini-keys, and how easy they’d be to use. But after trying them out, I was impressed. The keybed feels really good and the mini keys, while requiring some adjustment, are useable. The sounds and effects were impressive. For the money, you get a lot.
The 61-key PS60($699) is designed for the performing keyboardist, and has full-size keys and a newly designed and very intuitive user interface. It features mean and potatoes sound for the gigging player, which are organized into simple categories—acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, brass, strings, and synth—each of which has its own dedicated knob for quickly dialing in presets. The sounds are very impressive. You can easily set up splits, and you can layer up to six sounds.
Finally, the Korg folks showed us their latest handheld, 1-bit stereo recorder, the MR2 ($699). As you may recall, the MR line of recorders use ultra-high sampling rates to achieve extremely high quality sound, recording at 1-bit, 2.8224 MHz. It can also record multi-bit PCM formats up to 24-bit, 192 KHz , and even to MP3, should you so choose. One of the significant changes from the MR1 is a switch of recording media from an internal hard drive to an SD card, which makes the unit a lot quieter (no drive noise), thus allowing Korg to use more sensitive built-in mics. The MR2 is scheduled to ship at the end of August .
Here are a few items that came across my desk over the last couple of days, that might be of interest to EM readers:
Gary Numan, the synth-pop artist who had the hit song “Cars” back in 1979, is appearing on a commercial for DieHard batteries on which he plays a rendition of the song on a “synth,” whose sound source is 24 cars whose horns and lights are wired together and controlled from Numan’s keyboard. Check it out.
Did you know that Native Instruments is doing a public beta of the new version of it’s effects processor/instrument Reaktor? If you’re a Reaktor owner, you can participate, if you wish. Get more information here.
You may remember the EM cover story on Vampire Weekend that we featured in the February issue. The woman who is pictured on the cover of Contra, the band’s latest album, is suing Vampire Weekend over the rights to use her photo. The band has announced it will contest her suit. And, in case you missed it, don’t forget to watch my video interview with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij about the recording of the album.
Also, here’s a tip on a cool iPhone/iPod touch/iPad app called Beats. It lets you tap the tempo of a song you’re listening to in order to determine its BPM. It also has a metronome, and a utility for figuring out a song’s key. Although Beats is designed primarily for DJ’s, the tap tempo feature is one that could find a lot of use in production and rehearsal situations, and the metronome (although a bit limited in time signature support–only 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4 are supported), is solid. For $1.99, you can’t go wrong.
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