Akai S950 Memory Upgrade

The Akai S950 is not too hard to upgrade, and there are not too many options. One upgrade that can be important is to increase the amount of memory that your S950 has, since it can triple your sample time. Before you start though, make sure you don’t forget to unplug the Akai S950 from power. You don’t want to accidentally fry your S950 or yourself.

You can get access to the memory ports to install by taking the bottom off. To make life easier I normally draw a small picture and place the screws onto the picture so that I can put the same screw back into the same spot. This helps so that you don’t accidentally put the wrong screw into the wrong spot and accidentally strip out the metal.

Though as you can see in the picture above, I just place the screws by the holes. This was okay, but if you’re worried about dropping a screw inside the electronics then definitely get yourself some paper and a pen and draw it out.

My S950 didn’t have any memory upgrades, so it was running with the default 750kb of memory. In the picture above you can see that I installed two additional memory boards to get memory up to 2.25mb, allowing for a maximum of 63 seconds sampling time at 7.5khz sample frequency. When installing the boards I made an effort to make sure that I aligned the memory card to the port and pushed with some reasonable force, but I was trying to be careful enough to make sure I didn’t bend any pins.

This upgrade is not too hard, so as long as you are handy with a screw driver, and not too clumsy, I would say this is something an average person should be able to do without too much effort.

Modular Tennessee

This is a patch I’ve been playing around with on my eurorack gear while I am awaiting the case to get everything installed.

The intent for this recording wasn’t to get a clean sound… and yeah… I’m just using my cellphone mic. I was mostly testing out a new stand I got to see how much bump/wabble/wiggle the stand introduced in the video. You can hear some background noise (sorry about that), but I wasn’t too interested in hooking up a proper audio recording device to sync everything. Probably next time.

For those interested in such things… this is roughly what is going on with the patch:

  • The DPO/RxMx is playing that noise and percussive type sound. I achieved this by using Brains to sequence Pressure Points, and cause the mix of the DPO’s final sound around. It’s nothing too fancy, but it can be a quick way to get a strike gate on the RxMx and generating sounds.
  • The Morphagene is doing some pad type duty of a piano chord I recorded, and then moving the pitch around and then driving in through Magneto to get some screwy tape delay effects. From here… the Magento output is going into Mimeophone, which is then adding some additional space/depth to the pad.
  • The Assimil8r is driving the main drum sounds, using the built in 808 effects. This is being sequenced by Pamela’s New Workout… which is effectively just mapped to output a pretty standard house four on the floor kick, snare, and hat… by just changing the gate speeds. Really not fancy, but was a quick thing to put together.
  • Wogglebug is playing primary clock duty here, and is providing a lot of the signals to get sound movement. I kept the routing rather simple here with Wogglebug… but it added enough to keep things interesting.
  • The other “tricks” here… I’ve setup X-Pan to so that I can do some light mixing duty, but it isn’t anything terribly fancy, and then this is output to QPas just so I can do a smile pass filter to help accentuate different sounds.

Staying Active

I suspect I am not alone in this, but I checked my weight a few weeks back, and I’ll say I was not shocked to have gained a few pounds when I checked my weight on the scale. Still, it didn’t exactly make me happy when this is usually the season I’m dropping a bit of weight from going outside and hiking, doing outdoor projects, or just walking around the neighborhood.

I’ve had the Apple Watch for over a year now, and normally I just ignore the nags at 10pm to finish off the day, gotta close those rings! Over the last few weeks though I’ve begun to take it much more seriously. I’m not trying to take time between calls and meetings to get myself outdoors. Getting back to being active has been a challenge though, and excuses are super easy to come by.

Instead of pushing time off to go out for a walk, I’m starting to switch to a move is now my objective, and I’m letting my family know. Instead of letting the reasons pile up for me to go out later, I am just taking the time now so I don’t end the day with three sad and incomplete rings. Am I letting the watch rule my life? Not at all, but I am trying to be more definitive in making sure I am using it as a tool to make sure that I’m not just sitting around.

Over the last few weeks this change has really only netted me a couple pounds loss, but hey, I’m going to take it. Loosing weight isn’t easy, and I’m now past the getting started hurdle. I am definitely going to stick with keeping up the momentum.

Stems from Finished Tracks – Splitting Tracks with Spleeter

I know a lot of folks have been looking for track splitting technology as a holy grail for a while, and figured it’d be worth dropping a post. I originally posted this over at MPC Forums https://www.mpc-forums.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=197608 so if you’re looking for an MPC head’s take on this tech… check it out over that way.

First word of warning… this is super nerdy, and requires a fair bit of knowledge to get working. Here’s the video I accidentally stumbled upon that turned me on to this tech

If you haven’t seen anything about it, definitely check out Spleeter https://github.com/deezer/spleeter

At a high level, you give Spleeter a track, and Spleeter uses some trained neural network technology to spit out a bass stem, a drum stem, a vocal stem, and an other stem. If you know what you’re doing with it, I believe it can also get you a piano stem, and presumably it can be trained for other things… I digress… I’m lazy as heck, and don’t mind using somebody else’s work. The stems that it kicks out are pretty good, they’re not great, and depending on the track your milage may vary. To my ears this sounds like spectral band processing and you hear artifacts that sound like this in the tracks. Honestly though, it is still pretty good.

Now off to the races. Specifically, the Azuki Max4Live Spleeter https://azuki.bandcamp.com/merch/max-for-live-stem-splitter-spleeter. Azuki put together a video showing off what she did here:

Azuki put together a Docker container that has all of the bits that you need to run this by itself, and a Max4Live device that can work on the selected track. So once you’ve got it setup and working it’s as easy as loading the plugin, selecting a track, and then telling it to process.

Installation is fairly straightforward if you are fairly technical. Azuki’s site has a $1 band camp donation link, but you don’t need to pay for this. She has a link where you can get it for free (and all this tech is free) at [url]github.com/diracdeltas/spleeter4max#spleeter-for-max[/url]. So donate if you end up enjoying the work, but it definitely is not necessary.

What you’ll need:

  • Ableton Live
  • Max4Live
  • Docker

Given these parameters, you’ll need to be running either a Windows or OS X environment. For me, I got this working on an OS X Catalina deployment. I might try this on Windows later… but we’ll see.

You’ll notice that in the instructions it says to give Docker 16GB of memory. For small clips you can probably be able to get away with 2GB, but I found as soon as I started trying to process anything in the 4+ minute timeframe I needed more memory. This is an area where if you want it to work fast more memory and more CPU will probably help.

My first attempt at using this technology for real was in the BB 278 https://www.mpc-forums.com/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=197539. For my entry, I took the track and split it up into the drum, bass, vocal, and other sections. That was the only processing that I did on the PC, everything else I did on the MPC including normalizing, chopping, etc. While each track individually had that spectral sound, I’d say when you mix the whole track back together it really fades away.

Splitting the tracks made it very easy to adjust volumes of different parts individually, from filtering, normalization, and I’m actually quite happy with the results… especially given that this is free software.

Here is the track I ended up with

Anyways… if you’re looking for some new tricks to keep up your sleeve definitely check this out. You can probably get it to work without Ableton Live, but what Azuki put together is super slick, especially given that this is free.

I’m probably not going to be able to support people too much who are looking to set this up, but for those curious, definitely reply to the thread and I’ll do what I can.

Album: A Passing of Time

This was the third album I put together and was still heavily influenced by Acid Pro, I think I was using Acid Pro 4.0. I was getting far more comfortable using loops, the interface, and was starting to incorporate the Triton Studio into my productions too. Sometimes I would play a lot by hand, other times I was just playing chords and letting the arpeggiator do a lot of the work for me.

Listening back to this music is just reminding me of times sitting in the book store with my laptop with headphones on, and just noodling out songs and trying out new ideas. I was probably seen a lot with a copy of Computer Music or Future Music by my side as I flipped through articles and just listened. This was definitely a fun time for me because I had learned enough to be “dangerous” but was still really unsure what worked and didn’t. I’d have to say I’m still satisfied with where this work lands, and it was a lot of fun to put together.

Besides, I’ve never been into music creation for the money, it’s been about having fun, learning, and being able to meet new people.

Selling Gear Off

I’m not going to link off to anything I am selling, as I am not looking to drive attention to it or try and raise awareness. Instead I figured I’d write up why I am going about selling gear off.

Over the last year I have really been looking to tighten up my process for making music. I also have spent about twenty years collecting gear, and some of that gear has had a habit of collecting dust. It is no particular fault of the gear, but when we work on music we’re constantly making choices, and a lot of my choices are of the type “this versus that” and “I know how to use this really well and that other device not so much”.

This has led me to having some level of nostalgia for some of these gear, as I got it at a certain time in my life, or for a specific project, or I just really like it for some reason. However nostalgia alone doesn’t really help me make music. While it might inform my tastes of what gear to use, it isn’t really helpful as a way for what makes for a more effective process.

Case in point… when I was goofing around in #Jamuary… I mostly used the Pocket Operator KO-33, and while it is definitely not the best sampler… as something you can have in your pocket for when inspiration strikes. I made more tracks just goofing around with the Knock Out than I had for quite some time before that. Are they finished? Nope, but it really helped get the creative juices flowing.

Back to the old gear, I’ve had a lot of Korg gear, Akai gear, Moog gear, etc… all just sitting in the closet. Once I got passed the emotional level “need” to keep it, I’ve been having a great time moving the hardware on for a new generation to play with, and it’s been helping me fund my next gear I do want to get to. It has really helped me understand the value I have on my gear, and what I can actually get out of it. Sure, some of these boutique pieces of gear would be hard to replace if I wanted it again, but on the other hand they had their day with me.

Anybody who’s out there… I would really suggest thinking about your gear and how much of it you really need instead of just holding on to “just because”. For me it has been a great exercise that I will continue. This isn’t Pokemon, and there’s no reason to “catch ’em all”.

For me, my new rule is to only keep what I have the time to take care of and maintain. Now to see how well that keeps working out for me 😀

Social Distanced Gaming

I’m just writing this for families that, like mine are separated by distance, and are looking for some ways to be able to socially interact together.

When getting together with my extended family, we’ve always had a blast playing board games and video games together. Given the current state of social distancing and the miles we are away from each other, it has effectively become impossible to see each other in person.

Like others, a couple of months ago I decided to try setting up some Jackbox games over video conferencing to be able to play some games together. This works by using a video conferencing application that allows you to share your screen or application so that other’s can see. What makes Jackbox Games work so well is that everybody has control through their phone, so regardless of location we can all get our phone, tablet, or computer and have a device to control the game.

Initially we were having audio problems including echos. I’ll be honest, this was because I was trying to be too fancy. Also, the video application I was using was not playing well with Safari, so I needed to switch over to Google Chrome and use Google Meet for it to share the screen nicely.

Below are a few notes that might help get you started:

  • I believe Google Meet is now free, so give it a try
  • If Google Meet behaves oddly in your browser of choice, give Google Chrome a try
  • Use Google Calendar (or another shared calendaring system) to schedule game times
  • Get one (or more) versions of Jackbox Games to play… personally I bought them on steam
  • When you load the Jackbox Games, set your audio volume to about 50%, this will make it easier to talk with others
  • When you are ready to play the game, make sure to share your screen or better, just the application
  • Most importantly, have fun!

We have found with a party of 8 players, which is the max for most games, it takes about twenty minutes per game. A little over an hour will get you three games. We’ve found that we mix the games up week to week, and sometimes we let the kids choose, sometimes the parents, and sometimes we put it up for a vote.

The games that we’ve all had the most fun with are the creative games. The games with drawing in them, and Quiplash, have definitely been favorites. The games that have a lot of talking and no written words on the screen have been the hardest to play. Also, we’ve just avoided Fibbage because it does require lying and reading the room.

Have fun everybody, and keep looking for new ways to keep your family together!