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.

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 😀

Track – Work Work

Dropping this track… now… folks in the MPC Forums have seen this in my sig for a while now… I’ve just been super lazy in posting.

The ride I happened to see while I was grabbing ice cream and had to take a picture. While I don’t want to old one of these older vehicles, I can appreciate them when I see them!

This was done almost entirely on the MPC X for sequencing sections and building it out into a song… in song mode. Haha!

In writing it, the song sounded way too clean to me. As it stands, it’s now way too muddy, but that was the sound I was looking for. Making it all good right?

To really get the muddy sound I ran the track through my Chase Bliss Audio pedals, specifically I got a lot of work from Condor for tweaking the EQ… and this was quite heavy handed since I wasn’t worrying about mixing and master the track… so I was doing some lazy 3 band eq filter mixing… because that’s all you’ve got from Condor. If I had tracked everything out through it, one track at a time a 3 eq band can definitely suffice, but yeah… for a final mix without really any thought to mixing tracks, this is a quick way to get a bit muddy. Again though… I didn’t care for this track and it was half of the point.

The other muddy buddy in here is the Generation Loss. You can hear that I went pretty noticeable on the wow/flutter, and there’s a bit of VHS tape noise simulation in the mix that I filtered down with the LP filter. Ultimately I was going for a sound that really sounded like some of my old tapes that had been used and abused a bit too much, and this is where my memory took me.

Is it too much? Absolutely! Am I happy with the results? Absolutely! One of these days I might put up the clean version of the track, but for now I will let this stand as it is.


LoFi Buttery Piano – Akai MPC X Program

Let me start by explaining the patch a bit, and how I got here…

Life started off on the Akai S950, using piano multi samples from G1 through C4, every sixth note… My goal was to get some of that S950 12-bit grit and artifacts, but still keep it relatively free of the crazy stretching artifacts you can get by just sampling a single note and stretching it across the entire keyboard. This way, it maintains a lot of the characteristics of a piano, instead of heading into the field of creating what sounds like a more synthetic instrument.

From here, I routed the audio output into my guitar pedal board. The output on the S950 was a bit hot coming out of the mix channel though, requiring me to get the output level down to about halfway so that I wasn’t hearing any clipping or distortion on the output signal from the S950. A little bit of strategic EQ’ing helped to round out the sound through Brothers, I wanted to get a bit of that old school Casio sound, though I don’t have one handy any more for reference, so I was going from memory what of “that sound” was.

Once I settled into how I wanted to EQ the audio, I routed it to the Generation Loss. You’ll definitely hear the Flutter the most, but there is some Wow in the background as well. I also switched on the Noise, I really wanted it to sound like the piano was recorded from an old school tape that had been played quite a bit, and the tape player was about to fall apart. This definitely shines through in the samples recorded.

Everything was sampled in through the Autosampler on the MPC X, and here I recorded every note, as I didn’t want the Wow or Flutter distortion to get further distorted through the sampling engine on the MPC. Although the noise exists in the samples, I decided to tame it a bit by adding a low pass filter into the program. It helps pass through that strained sound without the piano sounding so harsh. If you want to add the noise back in just go into program mode and modify KeyGround->All and open that filter up.

Anyway, feel free to play around with this program, I had fun sampling it, and may end up adding some variations as I play around with it. I’m not sure you can tune anything to it or with it, but it definitely has a vibe all its own.