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 post 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!

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.

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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.

Who’s Home – PO-33 #Jamuary

I’m not really happy with this, but I also had a bit of a gap for #Jamuary. Guess it was too much to think I’d put something together every day. On the other hand, it is freeing to have just taken a few takes, and going for the best of them so that I can move on.

There really isn’t anything too special here, and I actually sampled way more than I ended up using. Some of the other tracks I’ve posted I’ve been thinking of going back and actually tracking them out and mixing them up a bit, but this one I was super into last week, and now it just kind of falls flat for me.

Another thing of note, I decided not to use any of the PO-33 FX, and it was probably the right call in this case, I wasn’t exactly feeling the track, and while the PO-33 FX can add some fun, it helps to enjoy jamming with the track.

My last note, I usually spend time balancing out the guitar pedal effects, but you can very clearly hear that the audio levels bounce around. I am not proud of this, but again, probably best to just get something down and out sometimes. It’s now time to move on from this track and start recording in some more samples 😀

Heavens Gate – OP-1 Track

I’ve had this audio sitting on my OP-1 for a while (okay two weeks), and while I’d like to have sampled and chopped it up some, I figured I’d send it out into the universe. I had sent the loops over to my father and brother in-law to see if either of them wanted to try and play some guitar over it. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Maybe they were too intimidated, I mean this is super awesome! If you’re interested in playing around with or adding something to this track, I’d love to hear it, so link something in the comments!

For those who are curious, this was created by playing a couple of sounds from Reason, I wanted to check out some piano sounds and effects, as well as the Humana Vocal Ensemble. I played the two different tracks at different speeds, and ultimately ended up slowing the OP-1 tracks down six semitones. Running at 1:1 speed it’s a bit too chipper, but I still find this track to sound uplifting and fun.

I think there something interesting that can be done on the PO-33, so don’t be surprised if you hear this coming up in another song in the future!

No More Technology – #Jamuary

No eurorack modules were harmed in the making of this video. The PO-32 (Tonic) makes up the drums, the PO-35 (Voice) is how I got the “No More Technology” hook, and… the lead/bass came from some Eurorack mess. I recorded all of this into Ableton Live for some FX processing. All of this was recorded back in October/November, and I’ve meant to create a finished track.

In the spirit of #Jamuary though, I figured I’d break out some gear and refine the track a bit more. I’m really trying to cap myself to about 30-60 minutes of production time this month for each song. This is good in some ways because it’s forcing me to get ideas down, but it is bad in a few other ways since I’m really not mixing/mastering anything. Leaving this track with a bit more of a tinny sound than I’d like, but hey it is what it is.

I used to be a master with Ableton Live back in the day, but I haven’t touched it much lately. First, I have been kind of a hardware snob… so there’s that. Second, most of my productions were done between Live 1.1 and Live 6.0. I’ve really fallen quite behind in a lot of features, so I’m going to have to learn the software again.

Its my Jam – PO-33 Track

The image is courtesy of a road trip I did with my family from the East Coast out to Montana. On the way back we stopped at an amethyst mine, and I got some really cool pictures of some older beat up vehicles. There was some really cool stuff going on here, and we got some neat amethyst crystals to bring back home with us.

As for the song, nothing too fancy here, just using samples of thumps and bumps from everyday objects. A lot of the magic is just pitching things up and down, using filters… and then just jamming it out. I’m going to stick with the PO-33 a bit longer, but a lot of the initial magic playing around with the FX again is a bit gone, it has now gone from being novel to producing some pretty similar sounds to my ear. The device is still fantastic, and it might just be time for me start considering what I am going to move on to for a device to keep going on making tracks.

This is also another track I struggled with sounding like two different songs from the two four bar patterns I created. To remedy this I tried to create a couple two bar transitional sections to get it a bit more under control. I’m pretty happy with the results, and decided to take it for a spin through the Chase Bliss Audio effect monster. I’m pretty happy with it, but I think it’s time for me to play around with the ordering of the pedals soon. They weren’t put into any particular order other than what I thought might be interesting a couple of months ago.

I don’t think I have hit the end of creativity with this little device by any means, and I’ve definitely spit out more content in the last week than I have in the last few months, but it is also what it is. Maybe I’ll try and knock out another six to ten tracks, and actually write up more thoughts on it. Where I am is perhaps just a six or seven day slump. Too much creative energy expended?