Track – Flying Monsters

This track came together last night from just patching and trying to see what I could do after not really messing with Eurorack for a few weeks. My wife and I have been ramping up to keep the house cleaned for showings, and it was just something that I haven’t given myself time to do. Plus, having a mess of wires hanging out all over the place probably wasn’t the best thing for pictures.

The actual production of the track fell into a few paths

  • Eloquencer and Assimil8r did the drum duties, and I played around with note/ratchet randomization to try and give a little bit of extra movement here.
  • Rene and Akemie’s Castle did duties for the bass line, and then Akemie was run through Spice to try and give it some extra punch. Modulation of Akemie’s Castle and Spice came courtesy of 0chd to keep things moving.
  • Marbles was put in charge of both Rings and Elements to give those plucky and bell sounds, and some additional modulation comes courtesy of 0chd and RND STEP to give movement with some of it in time/tempo.
  • Additional glitchiness comes from Elements going into clouds, with some modulation on Clouds to keep some interesting movement in the sound.
  • I had a riser kind of sound still running on Morphagene that gives that nonstop noise in the background, routed through QPAS and output from the BP filter to keep it from over taking the entire piece.

In order to get the intro for the piece, I ended up turning the patch off… holding my breath, and turning it back on. Then I let it noodle before I started to record… and hit the play on the Eloquencer to snap everything into time. The drop and the outro were me just hitting stop, and then riding the volume knob out. So honestly nothing too exciting.

I really ought to have spent some time mixing everything a bit better, because the bass is a bit low… perhaps I could do some post work on the track to try and fix it… but at this point it is what it is.

Here’s the patch, though I guess my camera didn’t capture it too well 😀

MPC Samples – NT S950 Volume 1

I spent about six hours yesterday recording off samples from my Akai S950, and auto sampling them into my MPC Live mk2. Near the end I think I was starting to get cross eyed. Anyway, if you’re interested, I have posted the samples below, and then will get into the details after the break.

This is MPC X/Live/One formatted… though the samples are 44.1k/16-bit mono, so should load into plenty of samplers. I considered converting this stack into a MPC Expansion, but gave up on the app for now. Maybe later, when I figure out the steps to create previews… and apparently it wants sequences for each program *shrug*. I watched a few videos on YouTube, and read Tutor’s Complete Guide to MPC Expansion Packs but got the impression that you might need to use the MPC Software in order to do some of these things more effectively.

I tried to record most of this in as hot as possible without introducing distortion (digital clipping is blah) and I didn’t use any FX other than what is in the S950. If you want to play chords you’re likely going to need to drop the master volume down a bit. Also… I tried to get the S950 to output from C0-C5 as much as possible, but sometimes the key groups fought me a bit on this, and I just moved on. All of the programs should be spreed from C-2 to G8… but I may have missed getting this to work for a few.

Overall notes for the auto sampling:
* Should play from C-2 to G8
* Sampled C0 to C5 in most cases, with a stride of 4
* Generally 16 samples per program
* Only one Sample Layer at velocity of 127
* Converted Stereo samples back to mono

The pack contains 594 samples, across 39 programs, which breaks down to:
3 Accordion
4 Bass
1 Brass
2 Flute
6 Guitar
1 Harmonica
1 Horn
2 Organ
3 Piano
1 Recorder
2 Strings
14 Synths

Workflow wise, it went something like this:

  • Load a program on the S950
  • Check what the playback range was (Pad B9 is C0 and Pad F5 is C5)
  • If C0 or C5 didn’t play correctly, then try and fix it in the key group on the S950
  • Check the levels to make sure we aren’t over driving the signal
  • In auto sampler name the program to record, and set record time and tail, then do it
  • Trim the samples as best as possible, I mostly did this by ear
  • Do a quick check on the program to make sure it plays the scale properly
  • If Scale was messed up on the C5 or lower sample, reduce the number of key groups
  • From main, go to Program Pencil, save current program

If I do this again, I’ll definitely consider if I want to try and created looped content again… though I passed on it this time because it’s kind of a pain. I probably should have spent some time in the Program menu and dropping the overall volume so there is room to play chords, and maybe having the amp envelope release be a bit longer so that it doesn’t stop quite so quickly. Of course, many of these things are to taste anyways, so I’d hope anybody using these samples will make the changes that they need to get the program to react the way that they want it to.

Mixed Media on Hobonichi Tomo River Paper

Since I have my travel water color kit sitting on my desk, and I ended up doodling a bit during some meetings, I figured I’d do a little mixed media and see how well the paper would handle it.

To start, I just did a pretty simple design sketch with a mechanical pencil (a Kuru Toga for those who want to keep track). This was not anything too fancy, and I tried to keep the impression light so that when I got to coloring the water wouldn’t pool too much. Of course, since I had already written on the other side of the page, this was bound to be a little suspect, but I wanted to try. Regardless, with the writing board behind the page, it worked well enough to get a rough outline down on paper. I suspect there is room to try some embossing techniques in the future, but for now I’ll just keep it in mind.

Compared to yesterday where I ended up using a lot water with the pigment, I tried to control how much water was applied to the page. This resulted in quite a bit more control of the colors, I will say at first. Where I tried to apply a second coat, or use where it was subtly wet already to push the pigment, you can see the tones give that not quite consistent water color look. I also found with some careful rewetting of the pigment, that I could to some extent lift the color off of the page to a reasonable effect. I definitely find with lower quality papers that this can be a problem as the ink kind of penetrates the paper, and kind of doesn’t, which can lead to some different kinds of inconsistencies.

Finally, I figured I would give the included brush pen that came with my Hobonichi purchase to do some sharp outlines. Yes, I know that no true water colorist would do this, but I was trying to see if I could do a striking design with mixed media on the page, and not a traditional water color painting. Given that I let the page dry before I did this black outline, I am quite happy that there was no bleeding, and the brush pen doesn’t appear to have picked up much, if any of the pigment off of the page.

You probably cannot notice it from the picture, but after I did the brush pen outline, and letting it dry, I did go back with a brush to tighten up some of the non pigmented spots, which again, I feel worked well enough and through careful application didn’t really suffer from any additional pigment pooling issues. Finally, I went back at the picture somewhat carefully with an eraser to clean up some of the more egregious pencil marks, and for the most part the pigment and brush pen didn’t noticeably lift off the page, however my eraser tells a slightly different story, as it clearly did lift up a little bit of both. Not enough to damage the picture mind you, but enough to I know it is something to keep in mind to be careful of… or possibly to use as an effect.

One last thought… if you’re a texture adverse, I might suggest staying away from using water color on the Tomo River paper. It ends up feeling a bit gritty, so if you like that smooth finish of the paper, this is probably not a technique for you. Personally I don’t mind it, and think it gives the paper an additional level of character that you don’t entirely get from other types of paper.

Watercolor on Hobonichi Tomo River Paper

While I have been waiting on 2021 to roll around, I’ve been taking notes and doodling in my Hobonichi Notebook. Today I figured I’d give a try to see how the paper would react to water color. Anybody who’s tried to do water color on non watercolor paper (or even with water color paper) knows that the paper will bunch and curl a lot. I’ve really appreciated how well Tomo River paper has held inks in the past, so I figured it’d be worth a try.

For the water color I used the Koi Watercolor travel kit that I picked up a few years ago. It comes with a water brush, paint, and sponges, so I figured if I wanted to travel with it that it wouldn’t take up too much space. If you look at the picture I painted, you can clearly see that the paper did distort a little bit, causing some pooling of water, which really is not optimal. I suspect that a regular brush, and a bit more towards a dry application, would create a much better effect. That said, I am quite impressed with how well the paper handled the water and dried, and while there is some pooling of the pigments it actually is not so bad.

Best of all, the color didn’t bleed through the paper, and while it is quite noticeable on the other side of the page, if you’re a regular user of a writing board, you’ll hardly notice the pigmentation on the other side of the page. For the time being I’d say the experiment is so far so good. I’ll have to try a few other things, but I suspect that I’ll be working on coloring doodles with watercolor instead of ballpoint pens in the future.

Hobonichi 2021 Haul

My Hobonichi order finally showed up!

The packaging from Hobonichi has always been fun, and the quotes are interesting.

… and as always, everything is well organized inside of the box.

This year I figured I would pick up a couple of the Drawer Pouches that match as close as I could with my Porter cousin case. From the pictures I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get, but wanted to check them out. Both seem like they probably are better with flatter content, though I will give it a try and see if I can get washi tape to fit in here well enough or not.

I also picked up the new Hobonichi Techo 2021 cousin, which came with the Fude pen, which I’ll be checking out for some artwork, and the 3 color pen that has black, red, and blue. I really liked this pen from previous years, so will definitely be keeping this. I also got some of the landscape index tabs to help make it a bit easier to read through the cousin by month.

The Case For a Clean Inbox

Folks, I’ve seen many of your counts of unread emails, messages, and other backlogs. I’m not sure how you keep the mental space to keep track of all of this information coming at you. Maybe I’m getting too old, but I just find it to be a sign of a cluttered mind.

For me, I really strive to keep inbox zero, or in other words, no email is sitting in my inbox. For me, the problem is that the longer something sits in the inbox whether it is read or unread, the more likely you are to ultimately do nothing with it. Is this procrastination, optimism that somebody else will deal with the email, or lack of interest, frankly it doesn’t matter. In all cases it results in something that takes up mental space that you’d be better off freeing yourself from. These little things can add up to real setbacks.

To help combat this, I have taken the mindset that my inbox is a precious and limited resource, and I have come up with a loose process to keep myself honest with my emails, and in particular, my inbox.

  1. If it is junk mail, I consistently look for the unsubscribe, and if it is repeat junk mail then I make a filter to auto delete it. Either way, I don’t need any more of this noise in my life.
  2. I check to see if it is informative, and if it is, I will read it, possibly move it to a relevant folder, or otherwise archive it. Many email systems allow you to archive emails these days, so that it is still searchable, but it isn’t taking up precious inbox space.
  3. Often an email comes in and I need to take an action on it. If I do, I make every attempt to deal with it right away. Sometimes the action is a response, which I will get to as quickly as possible, and then archive the message. Other times it is a delegation task and I just need to let somebody else know that they have an action.
  4. On the other hand, there are some emails that are things I would rather put off, or I just don’t want to do. For these, I tend to take a note, a ticket for work to be done, create a document, or otherwise let people know that I am at least tracking the work somewhere else and to not use the email as a place to track the work.

If all of this sounds like a bit of work, and requires some mental fortitude I will agree. I often find I have 10-20 emails stuck in my inbox at any given time, but I also find that given enough time I usually just delete or archive half of them without doing any work in the first place. Given this insight with myself, and continuing to consider how my inbox works for me, I do strive to keep it clean.

Heck, just today I got my emails back down to zero, and I couldn’t be happier!

2019 Every Day Carry

Below is what I had for my “every day carry” back in 2019.  This is the last iteration where I have dropped a thicker wallet and gone from 8-12 cards and cash, down to 4 cards.  The notebook and pen are new, but being about the same size as my phone I hardly notice it day to day.

While I am thinking about what I keep in my pockets or otherwise on my person I like to ask myself a few questions… “Why do I carry this”, “how often do I use this”, and “what utility does this provide” are all pretty good, and help me make sure I keep focus on what I am lugging around.

For me, it’s about keeping it minimal so I can fit it in my front pockets, and maximizing utility.  I don’t count clothing… I might consider a belt though since I do carry it every day.  I might consider it more if I found one that had a bit more function than just holding my pants up. A few fun ways to break this down are utility (how many different ways can you use something), go to (how many times do you reach for it), usage (how much time do you use it).

25 Ideas in 3 Minutes

When I feel like I am stuck for ideas, one thing I like to do is rapid brainstorms. This is especially helpful for me because there is a tendency to get pushed into a specific train of thought, and sometimes I just want to move outside of the box that I have put myself in. In order to push myself I find it helpful to come up with as many random ideas to address a topic as I can within a short period of time. The idea is not to get 25 great ideas, but instead to explore thoughts that you might have otherwise ignored.

For this exercise, you’ll need a topic, something to take notes on, and something to time yourself. Personally, I like to use my phone to set a timer, and a piece of paper and a pen or pencil to jot down notes and pictures rapid fire. At 25 ideas in 3 minutes, you’ll need to be writing something down every 7.2 seconds to be able to keep pace, so let odd ideas build off of each other, and don’t be afraid to throw in completely unrelated thoughts.

For example, I was struggling with my team handling things quickly or with a sense of urgency. Here’s what a 3 minute brainstorming session looked like for me

Brainstorm 25 things to add team urgency:

  • Happy/Sad Face for metrics
  • Impact bonus based on urgency results
  • Incoming reduction in headcount
  • Stop allowing remote workers
  • No group outings allowed
  • Increase frequency of all hands meetings
  • Start daily scrums
  • Forced work hours
  • Dress code imposed
  • Team hats / slogans contest
  • Pins / Badges provided for achievements
  • Wood burning art for outstanding achievement
  • In person award ceremony
  • Free Time Off / Comp Time
  • Command Keen (?) / Dopefish
  • Commander Chaos (Assigned)
  • Zombies!!!
  • 360 Team Review
  • No Conference attendance allowed
  • Notepad to voice next all hands topics
  • Announce fiscal year team goals
  • Wear Signs / Boards
  • Motivational Posters
  • Random Assignment of Tickets
  • Become the backup week

Ultimately the important part that came of this was just trying out new ideas and bringing to light frustrations that I really didn’t realize that I had. Looking back on this list, some of these things don’t even make sense, some could kill team morale, some things are draconian, and a number of things were just too costly or time consuming to implement. Yet, there are some interesting solutions that I did end up rolling out and implementing within the team because I needed to do something different.

If you’ve got something you’re trying to work out, set yourself some constraints, limit your time, and put the random part of your brain to work and see what you can come up with!

Track – I Really Don’t Mind

This track I threw together for the MPC Forums Beat Battle #293. It’s still open if you wanted to check it out and post up your own take. The sample to flip this time around is Brenton Wood “Trouble”.

Honestly, I just loaded the track into the MPC Live, set it to chop on transients with a setting of 50, and then just started looking for samples I thought sounded cool. Was this lazy? Probably, but for this beat battle I wanted to force myself outside of the mindset of using perfect loops, and some of those transients were janky as heck, making me think way outside of the box.

So for the track, every sound came out of the provided track, drum hits, organs, Vox, fx… etc… I didn’t have to do very much (if any) EQ/FX, and mostly just let my ears take me through what sounded good and played the pads louder or softer to match what I liked. A few chopped sounds I did like were way too quiet, and as a result I didn’t end up using them. I had considered making some quieter sections, but I just couldn’t find a place to land it that would feel natural.

Once I created all of the parts that I liked, I ended up doing a track -> explode to separate all of the individual sounds, and then exported from the MPC out to Ableton so that I could then get busy with arrangement. This is another track where I really didn’t do anything terribly special within Ableton Live other than maybe a few double ups and repeats, but I pretty much arranged it as played or how I think I would run this out as a DJ, but keeping the track tighter than I usually would… basically my mind set was “get to the point fast”, which is something I’ve really come to appreciate from doing the Beat Battles.

Track – Just Breath

I really wanted to do something kind of epic, kind of 8-bit, and kind of fun… hopefully this track hits those beats for you. All of the tracks were done on the MPC Live mk2, and I exported the stems for arrangement out in Ableton Live.

The most abusive thing I did was decimating that clap hit into a bit crunched bunch of noise, the rest was pretty standard flare, with maybe a bit of automation thrown in for effect just to give the track some movement.