Addictive Drums 2 and OddGroves.com

I have now fully migrated over from Tooncrap’s inferior drummer to XLN Softwares Addictive Drums 2. There are specific downsides to all the virtual drummer plugins I looked at. The final decision came down to Addictive Drums 2 and Steven Slate Drums 5. Both products have the equivalent quality sound of having a properly mic’d up drum kit in a live room. Both have MIDI content of live drummers playing in real time that can be kept as is are altered by a number of methods such as a MIDI controller or even just a mouse. The important thing is they sound just like a real HUMAN Drummer not a drum machine. 

The final decision came at the use of iLok pace DRM (digital rights management) for Slate Drums 5. The entire Pace system is built so poorly I’ve had to wipe entire operating systems to rid the OS of the intrusive bug ridden software. I made a decision 10 years ago that I would not use software that required iLok pace DRM. I stand by that decision, it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the years. For the record, if Slate Drums 5 offered its own DRM like everyone else does I would have gone that route. 

Addictive Drums 2 is not without its issues. AD2 has a sub mixer like all popular virtual drum software has where each drum has its own microphone. With AD2 they did not mic each one of the cymbals which is my preference. Only the overhead stereo and wall microphones on the sub mixer pickup cymbals. While placing each drum on its own separate track resolves that issue I generally use a plugin such as this for demos not full productions. This makes arranging songs more cumbersome and time consuming. As for me, at the end of the day, as long as it sounds good I’m willing to put in the time. 

Speaking of sound……

One of the kits I purchased with AD2 was recorded at Sound City where Nirvana Nevermind was recorded. Being a native Angeleno raised in Los Angeles Sound City has always had a reputation for having a very good sounding live room especially for drums. The list of Records recorded there in past includes:

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors

Foreigner, Double Vision

Tom Petty, Damn the Torpedos

Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion

Rage Against the Machine, self titled

Tool, Undertow

Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Hot Minute

Kyus, And the Circus Leaves Town

Slipknot, Iowa

Mastodon, The Hunter

Everclear, Return to Santa Monica

Just to name a few. This studios pedigree is well known in the industry and by many artists such as Dave Grohl who produced the documentary Sound City about this studio. Go listen to any song from any of these above titles and you will hear amazing sounding drums in the mix and if you haven’t seen Sound City yet you can see it on Documentarytube.com

Step two of this plan to migrate over from tooncrap was to purchase some creative content to load up to Addictive Drums 2. I’ve had some OddGroves libraries that I have used for almost a decade. OddGroves.com is not only a MIDI content company but it’s also literally a Jazz fusion band from Sweeden. I came across the band on YouTube maybe 7 years ago and was blown away by the guitarist Per Ulfhielm’s tone. His guitar tone is brilliant as well as his playing! I didn’t find out they published MIDI content for virtual drums until a bit later. The company was just starting out back in those days. 

The drummer in this band is a Berkley College of Music alumni Magnus Brandell who is a monster player and the session player on most of the OddGroves.com MIDI libraries. Most of the OddGroves catalog of MIDI groves are in odd time signature but not all. I like to write tunes in odd time signatures so their MIDI grooves are perfect for me. Plus using these libraries is like having Magnus Brandell in the live room on a kit. Like I said this guy is a monster of a player. 

There you have it. Replacing Tooncrap inferior drummer was a lot of work. Staring at a User Interface of a company that has just screwed over a great number of their user base in a cash grab would have been worse. I’m trying my best to refrain from making this entire entry about a software company that’s a bunch of greedy asshats. I wanted to move on and work with companies that conducted themselves in a professional manner thus, XLN Audio. 

This change also gives me the opportunity to share how great of a company I think Oddgrooves.com is. Per Ulfhielm and Magnus Brandell are a class act that are really good at helping their customers. Per has answered numerous emails over the years usually in less than 10 to 12 hours. The email I sent him at the beginning of the week was a page of questions. He wrote back quickly letting me know he had received my email and that he would answer later on in the day. The email came back over to me at 10:00PM from his time zone which I really appreciate. If he’s working that late you know he cares about his clients. 

I’ll leave you with a little bit of Per and Magnus playing in their band OddGrooves not to be confused with the OddGroves.com MIDI grooves. Same blokes but different products. Enjoy!

Ramping up the creative process 2019 epilogue

The second post I made as I revived the blog a bit further in 2019 was about ramping up my creative process. As 2019 has come to a close  I have reflected a bit and done quite a bit. I focussed on the technological side of things such as hardware and software rather than physical things like wall treatment and sound. I’ve concluded the home I am in is not worth spending the money on proper sound treatment. It can be done but I’m only planning on staying in this house for another few years. The build alone would be expensive and devaluate the house without significant costly deconstruction. 

I’m using what sound treatment I have which helps but falls far short of mixing quality. In the end I enjoy the more technical end of preparing the studio and creating within it. The sound treatment has always been out of necessity and not very enjoyable. Equate that with the old plaster walls, time constraints and monetary costs, I shelved the idea almost completely. The old wall treatment will have to do and I can mix projects elsewhere or have someone else mix and master for me. 

I found that going back to MacJournal version 6 was my “Hack” so to speak. MacJournal v6.x would let me instal the few years of journals I did have access to. The new version 7.0 would not but it’s still a new version. I created an automated Cron Job for MacJournal 6 that keeps the data backed up to the cloud. That was one of the “will not compromise points” I had, it has to have automated backup. It’s not ideal since the cloud never prunes the entries once MacJournal combines them, but I certainly won’t lose any data. Loosing 14 years of Journals was crushing. 

I have to give a big thanks to Steve Zeoli over at welcome to sherwood. Not only for the massive amount of data he has written on Journaling and note taking software, but also letting me bounce things off him in his comments section. He has been very helpful, thanks Steve. 

On to MasterWriter! I was lucky that I was able to get the old non cloud version to install and verify after I purchased a Mountain Lion disk from Apple. The MasterWriter publisher was absolutely bullying me to buy the newer YRR based cloud solution. I own the software I’m not going to be sold into something I already own by anyone. I simply figured out a way around the DRM verification. The endpoint the licensing was pointed to is no longer present those shmucks. I was able to import all my projects and am going through them one at a time. Once I sift through the lyrics then I can upgrade at MY leisure. There will be no arm twisting in 2020 I can happily say. 

The rest of the year was spent seeing up hardware I had never worked with previously. There was a learning curve especially on the Alesis VX49. I had purchased that controller 18 Months before I moved and had been using my M-Audio Key Station 88 for over a decade. 88 keys worth of controller is just to large for the room I have. In that time inMusic had really started running the Aesis brand into the ground like they have with all the other brands they’ve acquired. The once great manufacturer of ADATS can’t even support a simple keyboard controller. I look at what they’re doing to M-Audio since DigiDesign sold to them and cringe. The Microphones and Preamps M-Audio were improving over the years had become fantastic. Now they are absent from the new product page entirely. InMusic is like the Private Equity of Music Gear Manufactures. 

For obvious reasons finding information for the VX49 was hard and what you could find was not much. That Akai (another InMusic brand) VIP software it was built around was just garbage. The controllers 4” LED screen (the wow factor) was largely built around VIP. This made the configuration of the controller hard to work with and very time consuming. I have it almost dialed in to my specs but it took 2 months. That’s a one day endeavor normally but the VX49 fits perfect size wise. Even another 49 key controller would not fit nearly as well, believe me I looked. 

As for next year I’m not going to look too far forward. In Q1 I will finish all the software setup and dial in the DAW so the workflow is quick and easy. Beyond that I just want to use it more and work on it less but don’t we all. 

Have a Blessed 2020! 

Building a passive attenuator

I purchased that quite large 150 Watt point to point hand wired Bugera 1960 guitar amplifier. I’ve posted a few short blogs about the amp. I certainly had to wait long enough to get it from Musicians Friend but that’s another story. After seeing (or should I say hearing) Matt Pike play a vintage single channel Marshall at the Sleep show on 4/20/2015 at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, I was hooked on that single channel Marshall tone. It was a sight to behold and witness!

You can still purchase the Marshal 100 Watt super lead reissue but they are $3500-ish. That’s rockstar money. I had looked for an alternative since that show, I found it about a year ago when a friend told me about the Bugera 1960 infinium. I’m not a stranger to the brand, I have a vintage 22 that’s my go to gig and jam amp. It’s loud all hell, a little too loud and it’s really good at taking pedals on the front end. I paid $250 out the door at GC years ago for this little amp and have hauled it all over in 2 different states. My buddy Chris nicknamed that amp “Mo money Mo problems.”

When I started looking at specs for the 1960 I was blown away. It is truly point to point wired, this is the inside of the chassis:

I’ve had my shiny new amp in a friends commercial studios live room and a large rehearsal space in the last 2 weeks, it’s loud! I’ve owned both Marshall and Carvin heads before, none were as loud as this amp. Unfortunately it’s far too loud for my house, but I would love to play the amp at home and do some recording with it. I need an attenuator, DI box and / or speaker emulator of some kind.

My Goals are as follows in order of importance:
• Bring the amps high volume sizzle to a reasonable live speaker volume.
• Create a DI environment so I can record the amp direct.
• Speaker emulation and sound manipulation.

Another blogger I follow named Chuck (who I don’t know but writes great articles for musicians) is looking into the bipolar other aspect of this. He’s looking at using amplifiers to record direct. That is not my main goal but a secondary goal that’s a priority. You can read his article on DI and impulsive amplification here at Chucks Guitar Geekery!

The products I’m searching for are not very abundant. Many attenuators I’ve looked out simply pull -20 DB with a switch. -20 DB will not be nearly enough for this head, not even close. The other issue I am seeing is a decent reactive attenuator is pricey. They range from the $250-ish to $1295 price point. Most I’ve seen online are not attenuators first but DI and speaker emulation. That’s making this project even more elusive.

What’s available:

Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box street price is $1295 as is the new Boss WAZA . The last time I saw Nuno he was using a UA Ox amp, his tone was spot on. Once again $1200 is rockstar money far out of what I am willing to budget. Rivera, Two Notes and Radial make models in the $400 to $600 price range. That’s still really pricy without being able to test drive one but I do like the UA Ox amp, a lot!

Bugera actually makes a passive unit for $99 but passive is not what I’m really interested in, or is it? When I did some research into passive attenuators I found there wasn’t much to them. Most are just two 1/4” input jacks and a 100k pot.

I have all of those parts in the man cave with the exception of an enclosure. I ordered an enclosure from Parts Express that was supposed to be here yesterday. With the snow storms blowing through my state have been I doubt it will arrive anytime before Saturday.

The two things that I feel like I am accomplishing with this project are: One, not spending a ton of money on something I have zero experience with. Any musician can tell their G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stories, some worse than others. Two, keeping it D.I.Y. is always fun, challenging and cost effective. I will share here when I’m done putting it together.

The Verdict on iOS music Creation

I’ve been working with the iPad Pro for the better part of 6 months. I’ve purchased 3 DAW’s, Garageband for iPad, Auria and Cubasis. They sound pretty Legit, Cubasis having the overall best sounding Virtual instruments (GarageBand a very close 2nd). If I were recording electronic Music only, I wouldn’t use anything other than an iPad. You can do just about everything you can carry out on a MacBook Pro in that realm.

For making organic analog music using Real Drums that have true groove, it fails blatantly. I’ve purchased the Real Time alternatives to Superior Drummer and BFD, Sonically they all fall VERY short but one. The best sounding acoustic Percussion with any decent workflow was Garageband’s x drummer. If you use it for Logic X and you like the sound you’re golden.

I like the sound of X Drummer, but it’s not very flexible in the choice of sounds and tones. For instance I could never get Full Kit sounds like some of the Steven Slate libraries I own for Mac and PC. You can get true non-quantised human groove like a Superior Drummer or BFD. That’s really important to me.

I also like how every thing plugs in seamlessly with AU. With the release of iOS 10 AU became more useful and feature rich. I rarely used AudioBus even back under iOS 9 with the Previous version of AU, the exception was Auria. Using X Drummer in GarageBand for iPad as a plugin to Auria or Cubase is a walk in the park with AudioShare. It’s actually easier and more seamless to use plugins, even whole DAW’s plugging into each other in iOS (more so than a PC).

I think you can make really great Acoustic instrument Demos giving the restrictions of iOS music creation. I don’t think you can create something professional and polished for Pandora Radio etc. The two pieces that are missing from all 3 DAW’s are:

Flexible good sounding Percussion creation somewhat resembling the Mac and PC world.
The feature that allows one to do several “takes” or “comps” of the same passage of music.

I believe as time moves forward these issues will be solved sooner more than later. There’s too much open market opportunity here for software companies.

EDIT: I forgot to tag this with categories and Keywords and originally posted this a few days ago, I was really tired! I reposed with the right SEO information.

The first track in a new DAW – iPad Pro 12.9 Review

In the past when adopting a new DAW, that first track was always the real learning curve. I am amazed at how much functionality from Logic Pro (X) is in Garageband 2.2 for iPad. I have my first scratch track put together. Musically it’s really bad, but I learned a lot creating it. I really dove deep into the MIDI arranging aspect, I have to say I am quite impressed.

What Garageband for iPad has from big Brother Logic X:

  • Drummer – This is the full Drummer from Logic X. Darcy is just as funky as she is in Logic.

 

  • Sampler – No it’s not the EXS 24, but having a bona-fide sampler in a Garageband environment is pretty amazing.
  • Full MIDI editing just like in Logic X.
  • Automation – Yes really, the automation is the fully robust exact method Logic Pro Uses.

Check out this video of the automation on an iPhone:

If you’re a Logic Pro X user, you know that feature is the real deal that resides in Logic Pro.

In creating my first project, I found myself finding many portions that I’ve previously mentioned of the UI to Mirror Logic X. I could not find a screen shot of the new Garageband iPad MIDI editor online, so I took one directly from my iPad pro. You can see, it’s the same MIDI UI in Logic X:

Garageband for iPad MIDI UI interface

Garageband for iPad MIDI UI interface

 

The thing I’m enjoying obviously is the Logic Pro UI elements, but with the added touch capabilities. It makes the learning curve so much less difficult! It’s been 10 awesome days since I brought the iPad Pro home, I am very seriously impressed. Not just with the iPad itself, but with how powerful the new 2.x version of Garageband for iOS truly is. This DAW is no toy! I’ve had it on my iPhone’s for years, in the past it was a novelty IMHO only useful for electronic music. However I can clearly see that this is the future of DAW, not just as a controller but as serious hardware.

The sounds of the virtual instruments are solid. There’s a few that don’t meet Logic X’s standards, but the bulk are the same great sounding sampled technology Apple’s Logic Pro is known for. The 4 speakers are bloody amazing! Rather watching NetFlix or arranging MIDI, audio it is really something that really blows me away. The sound quality absolutely stomps the latest Mac Book Pro by a far margin.

When I was watching the Key Note on 9/09/2015 I thought “wow who would pay this much for an iPad and not just buy a MacBook Air?” One thing I can say now is Processing Power, this iPad has MAD PROCESSING POWER! According to Apple iPad Pro is faster than 80 percent of the portable PCs shipped in the last 16 months. I’m certainly a believer….

Until Next Time…… Stay Thirsty my Friends!

As advertised I’m just a guitar geek, it’s never changed, it hasn’t changed since age 4 ~ Joe Bonamassa

As advertised I’m just a guitar geek, it’s never changed, it hasn’t changed since age 4
~ Joe Bonamassa

Forward this to 31m 29s :)

I <3 this!

Capo 3 Review

A while back I posted a Video for the Capo 3 titled “This looks very cool.” Looks can be deceiving, here’s my review.

Capo claims to have fully automated cord detection, that’s very subjective. It can’t detect a VII cord major or minor, in fact it can’t detect any VII, 9, 13 or bV cords period. The major and minor chords are sketchy at best. This feature does not function properly in my opinion.

It’s feature touted as the spectrogram display does not come anywhere near to normal wave output graphic detection such as DAW or Melodyne. It has many diagram artifacts that make the visual feature unusable. Trying to outline notes of a guitar arrangement as they illustrate in the video is a FAIL. Ears would be much quicker in this case. This feature does not function properly in my opinion.

The loop feature is broken, it does not loop whatsoever in version 3.0.2. This is a huge bug, the software is really hard to justify paying for. (See Video Below)

As for the other functions of the software, I didn’t test them. After taking it for a test drive It’s obvious this is not a very good piece of software. Overall this app should be free, it’s not worth $29.99 price tag. I hope the developers over at Super Mega Ultra Groovy actually improve upon this, it’s a great idea.

I give it 1 star and I’m so thankful I didn’t purchase it but instead opted for the trial. Don’t waste you money on this one just yet, it has a very long way to go.