Mac Universal Binary Applications

Macintosh Universal Binary applications are ones that run natively on both PowerPC and Intel-based Mac computers. These are sometimes referred to as Mactel versions, because they run and the Macintosh Intel-based machines.

Mactel Music Applications:

  • Airfoil
  • AudioExpress
  • AudioLeak –  an Leq (Long-Term Equivalent Level) analyzer for audio files.
  • CastAway – Wooden Brain Concepts
  • Crystal Synth
  • Boom Recorder
  • eJamming Station –  Real-time Internet-based music collaboration software
  • iFeedPod – Carnglass Software
  • iSquint – iPod Video convertor
  • iTuneMyWalkman
  • iTuneSEnabler –  copies iTunes songs, playlists and Podcasts to mobile phones or any other device which can mounted as a volume.
  • Garageband
  • Max –  an application for creating high-quality audio files in various formats, from compact discs or files.
  • MIDI Monitor
  • MIDIPipe
  • MUVO Helper
  • Nuke4All –  Allows using the Hartmann Music “Nuke” USB Controller to work as remote control for other synthesizers and devices via MIDI.
  • Pod2Go – Kainjow
  • Podcaster
  • Podcast Maker
  • Remodellizer-  Allows editing of the model files for the Hartmann Music Neuron music synthesizer without the time consuming re-modellizing process.
  • Sample Manager – Audiofile Engineering
  • Senuti – iPod to Mac music transfer
  • SyncTunes
  • Video2Pod
  • Vodcaster – TwoCanoes.com

If you have information on other major Mac music/audio apps, let us know!

Advanced Audio Effects in GarageBand

by Jeff Tolbert

GarageBand ships with plenty of fantastic effects and several useful presets for those effects. But the wonderful thing about audio effects is the vast range of things you can do with them, many of which you probably wouldn’t stumble upon just by randomly moving sliders. This article will help you create three of these less obvious effects: pumping drums, ping pong delay, and a comb filter.  You can create these effects using both GarageBand 1 or 2.

I’m assuming at the outset you have some experience with GarageBand and its effects. If you don’t, check out two ebooks I’ve written to get you started: Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand covers GarageBand basics, using loops and introductory song composition; the latest, Take Control of Recording Music with GarageBand, is loaded with information on recording Real and Software Instruments and the basics of using GarageBand effects.  Both ebooks have been updated to cover GarageBand 2.0.

Pumping Drums

One cool trick is to create a super-funky “pumping” drum effect. What this effect basically does is to overuse an Audio Units compressor in such a way that it only allows the main body of each drum hit through before immediately clamping down and squelching the sound for a moment.Then the compressor enhances the quieter parts, emphasizing the quiet high-hat hits and the tail of the snare drum sound.

For this example I used the AUDynamicsProcessor, the loop Modern Rock Drums 02, and a tempo of 120 BPM. Here are some compressor settings to get you started (see Figure 1):

  • Compression Threshold: -80 dB
  • Head Room: 33.3 dB
  • Expansion Ratio: 30
  • Expansion Threshold: -87 dB
  • Attack Time: 0.005 Secs
  • Release Time: 0.087 Secs
  • Master Gain: 6.0 dB

Pumping drums in Garageband

Figure 1: Starting settings for the “pumping drums” effect.

Play with the sliders to get the effect you want. The following guidelines will help:

  • The Compression Threshold should be fairly low for the effect to work. However, if you set it too low you’ll squelch everything. At the same time, if you set it too high you won’t end up compressing anything and you won’t hear the effect.
  • Head Room affects how “hard” the compression is. You probably want it fairly high or all you’ll hear are the initial attacks of each drum hit. You can almost set this slider visually—play with the slider while you watch the Comp Amount readout. If the entire bar consistently fills with blue you’re maxing out the compression—in other words, you aren’t giving yourself any headroom. I like to set it so the Comp Amount only fills about halfway.
  • Expansion Ratio and Expansion Threshold are fairly enigmatic, and honestly, I’m not sure quite what they do. Suffice to say that if the Expansion Ratio is set to 1.00, it doesn’t seem to matter what you do with the threshold control. If the ratio is set relatively high, moving the threshold closer to zero can have some very strange repercussions. I generally set the ratio high and the threshold low and leave it at that.
  • Set the Attack Time so you can hear it clamping down on the bass drum. If you set it too low, it will start compressing the initial attack, and the bass drum will sound a lot quieter. For the pumping effect, you want the attack to come through before the compressor kicks in.
  • Set the Release Time fairly low. If you set it too high, you won’t get the “breathing” effect, especially noticeable in the high hat.

For even more control, you can use the AUMultibandCompressor to set different compression levels on different frequencies. This way you can compress the bass drum and the high-hat separately. For example, you may want the pumping effect on the bass drum only, leaving the high-hat more natural sounding.

GarageBand Tips and Tricks

Apple’s GarageBand is one of the hottest new music applications in years, and it brings state-of-the-art music technology to a broader audience than ever before. It’s a fantastic tool for making music quickly and easily, and lets you do a lot using just your computer and the loops that come with the program. Other GarageBand users have those same loops on their machines, though, so if you want your songs to sound unique, you’re going to have to do a little extra work.

In this article, author Jeff Tolbert shares some of his favorite techniques for being more creative and productive in GarageBand. Many of these suggestions are taken from his 68-page electronic book, Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand, which you can purchase for $10 online. This article was written originally for Garageband 1.0, but should still be applicable to new versions.

Plan the Song

It’s fine to play around in GarageBand—dragging loops up from the browser, rearranging them so they sound cool together—but at some point you’ll want to stop and think about your goals. Are you making a soundtrack to your latest iMovie project? If so, what’s the mood of the movie or the scene? The clearer you are about your goal the smoother the process will be. You might want to make a little drawing of what you want your song to “look” like. Maybe you want it to start with a bang, then alternate between quiet sections and loud sections, and end with a longer loud part that fades out at the end (Figure 1). Or maybe it should start quietly and build slowly until the end. It’s your call. GarageBand comes with a ton of loops, so you should be able to find something that fits your goal.

sketch of a GarageBand song

Figure 1: A simple sketch of a song.

Change the Default Tempo and Key

Dare to be different! To keep your GarageBand tunes from sounding like everyone else’s, change the default tempo and key. If you listen to songs on Web sites like MacJams.com (http://www.macjams.com/), where GarageBand users upload their latest creations, you’ll notice that the vast majority of the songs are in the key of C and have a tempo of 120 beats per minute.

Even if you only change the tempo by a few beats per minute (118 instead of 120), that will be noticeable; subtle, yes, but noticeable.

Electro-Acoustic Music

Electro-acoustic music is a term used to describe a broad range of modern classical electronic music. It often explores the interaction of natural and electronically generated sounds and effects.

The term electro-acoustic refers to a process that happens in any microphone or loudspeaker – sound is transformed into electrical signals, and then transformed from electrical form back to sound. This process is central to all electronic music, because it turns sound into something that can be shaped using electronics and computers.

As a musical genre, electro-acoustic is sort of a catch-all term. As electronica is used to refer to any pop electronic music, electro-acoustic is often used to refer to any electronic music in the classical tradition.

Electro-acoustic grew out of the pioneering work of experimental electronic musicians of the 1940’s and 1950’s, such as Pierre Schaeffer. Shaeffer created Musique Concrète, a style of music that anticipated the later rise of sampling. Schaeffer was interested in the idea of manipulating sound as a tangible object. He took tape recorded sounds and created a huge variety of effects through splicing, speed changes, looping and reversing them.

It also incorporates the tradition of the early synthesists, such as Edgar Varèse. Initially, electronically generated sounds were used as source materials for further tape manipulation. In the mid 1960’s, the emergence of modular synthesizers and computer-based sound manipulation allowed further control over the shaping of sound. Artists like Morton Subotnick explored using gestures to control sound, and combined electronics and synthesizers with acoustic instruments and even dance.

The term electro-acoustic has been adopted by many artists and organizations working in the world of classical electronic music. While the technology of electronic music is constantly changing, electro-acoustic artists continue to draw on the history of ideas pioneered by early electronic musicians.

Modular Analog Synthesizers Return!

modular analog synthesizerModular analog synthesizers may seem like dinosaurs in this age of virtual instruments and computer-based music. In reality, modular synthesis has experienced a renaissance in the last few years. The Internet has made possible communities of interest to build around modular synthesizer manufacturers, and connected manufacturers with willing buyers. As a result, a new golden age of modular analog equipment is emerging, where the hands-on immediacy of big modular equipment is combined with reliability and repeatability of modern electronics.

Modular synthesizers provide musicians with a tremendous sense of physical control over the sound. With their walls of knobs, just about any aspect of a sound can be changed in real-time, without having to load any software, map any controllers or page through any menus. While they are largely based around analog control voltages, they can be used with MIDI to Control Voltage converters and be integrated into any system. A large modular system, like the Synthesizers.com system shown at right, offers tremendous capabilities for live performance, experimentation, and sound exploration.

What makes a synthesizer modular?

In most synthesizers, the signal flow is pre-patched within the synthesizer, which is great for making sounds quickly, and for making synthesizers portable. However, having fixed signal flows limits what synthesizers can do.

Modular synthesizers take a different approach. They allow you to patch anything into just about anything else, giving you almost infinite flexibility. This means that modular synthesizers allow you to explore a larger range of sounds than you can make on other synthesizers. They also give you the ability to change your synth over time. If you like the sound of another synthesizer’s filter, you can get a new module and add that filter to your system.

Modular systems are more affordable than they have ever been. While still not cheap, starter systems are available for a few hundred dollars, and big systems no longer require that you mortgage your house to buy one. At the low end, PAiA makes a modular system that can be had for around $500. At the high end, a basic Synthesis Technology MOTM system will run about $1,500 – $2,000, about the same price range as many good quality acoustic instruments.

Unlike most acoustic instruments, though, modular systems tend to grow, and many musicians find themselves addicted to the concrete control over sound that modulars provide. This leads many to expand their systems as funds allow, which can lead to monster-sized modular setups!. As systems grow, they capabilities expand, and as more people get involved in modular synthesis, the options available expand, too.

About Modular Synths

Moog Modular system at UCSCMost modular synthesizers are modeled in many respects after the classic systems of Robert Moog. The photo at right shows a vintage system from UCSC. Each module in these systems fits into a rack. The modules are connected inside the rack to a common power supply. Other than that, the modules function relatively independently. This means that patch chords must be used to connect the various modules together to make a “patch”.

For example, a very basic patch would be to connect the control voltage (CV) output of the keyboard controller to the CV input of a Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO). The VCO is used to generate cyclical signals and is generally used to create pitched sounds. The CV output of the keyboard is a signal that changes depending on which key on the keyboard is depressed. The audio output of the VCO can be patched into a Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA). The VCA controls how loud a signal is. From there the audio output of the VCA can be patched into an amplifier so it can be heard.

That’s an extremely basic patch. Most patches would also include trigger or gate signals from the keyboard. These are used to “trigger” things like envelope generators (EG’s). Envelope generators are used to shape a signal over time. The most commonly used envelope generators are Attack – Decay – Sustain – Release ones that have four controls that change the levels/time of four stages. EG’s are commonly used to change the volume of a signal over time. They are also used to control the brightness of filters over time.

Voltage Controlled Filters (VCF’s) control the frequencies that can be passed through them. The most common VCF’s filter out frequencies above a level set either with a control knob or a control voltage. This lets the synthesist control the brightness of a signal.

Moog and Buchla were two of the most influential early modular synth designers.

Modular Synthesizers In Use

Wendy Carlos made the most influential synthesizer recording to reach a large audience, Switched-On Bach, using a Moog modular synthesizer. Paul Beaver was another early user that was an active session musician, but he also pioneered the use of modular synthesis in the world of environmental new age music.

Keith Emerson was the most famous performer to use a modular synth in live performance. Emerson used it as a glorified lead synthesizer, as much for effect as for musical utility. His monster Moog would have certainly looked impressive on stage. He also was known to wield a Moog ribbon controller in a decidedly phallic manner.

In the seventies, modular Moogs were used around the world by musicians of all sorts, including Paul Bley, Malcolm Cecil, Florian Fricke, George Harrison, Bernie Krause, Klaus Schulze, Tomita, Tangerine Dream, Sun Ra, and Stevie Wonder.

Modular synthesizers fell out of popularity for nearly twenty years. In the 80’s, cheap digital synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7 offered an inexpensive way to get meat and potato sounds. These synthesizers did a good job of meeting the basic needs of performing keyboardists, and they did it for prices that blew away analog equipment. However, they could not duplicate the tactile control of sound that modular synthesizers can give you.

Some would say that we are experiencing a renaissance of modular synthesis. Analog equipment is hugely popular, with used equipment fetching tremendous prices. Modular synthesizers are the Cadillac or holy grail of the synth world.

Big modular analogs are wonderful to use, especially after using a digital synthesizer. While a equipment like a DX7 or a Kurzweil offers tremendous flexibility, power and polyphony at a reasonable price, they don’t have the immediacy, the flexibility, or the ease of use of modular equipment. Analog equipment also offers gradations in sounds that are still difficult to achieve with digital equipment. Controls on an analog synth don’t have 128, 256, or 1024 possible steps; they have as many steps as there are positions on the dial.

Modular synthesis has been recreated in software, such as Native Instruments Reaktor. Nevertheless, there are many synthesists that still enjoy the tactile feedback that modular synths afford, and the vibrant analog sound that these synths are known for.

In the last few years, monster Moog users Peter Namlook and Klaus Schulze have released a series of “Dark Side of the Moog” titles. Techno artists, such as William Orbit, have adopted modular systems as tools for generating new and interesting sounds. Ambient artists, such as Robert Rich, are using modular systems to create exotic electronic soundscapes in live performance, a feat that would be difficult to with other approaches to synthesis.

Modern Modular Synthesizer Manufacturers

There are a surprising number of manufacturers of analog equipment that can be used in a modular fashion. Many, like Moog Music, make synthesizers and effects units that are patchable using standard control voltages. Other companies, like Synthesis Technology, are making true modular synthesizers, but updated for the twenty-first century. The best new modular equipment, like that in the MOTM line from Synthesis Technology, retains the best qualities of classic modular equipment, but updates it with modern electronics and improved designs, so modules have greater stability, reliability and flexibility.

The synth manufacturers listed below all are currently making analog equipment designed to be used in a modular manner. Most of the equipment uses the same electrical standards that Moog pioneered, so it can generally be mixed and matched. The physical characteristics of various systems vary widely. Some systems, like PAiA’s, are designed for compactness and low cost. Others, like the MOTM system, use larger form factors that are great for performance use, but increase the cost.

Building a System

If you’re considering a modular system, it’s good to start small and leave room to grow. The modules that you will want will vary depending on what you want to do with the system. There are many modules, though, that are classic modular components that most users will want to include in their systems. These include, VCO’s, VCF’s, VCA’s, LFO’s and EG’s. A good starting point for sound synthesis use would be two VCO’s, a VCF, a VCA, an LFO, two EG’s, a power supply and a rack of some sort.

Leave room to grow your system, though! Today’s synthesists have more module designs available than ever before. This includes modern recreations of exotic classics, such as ring modulators, comb filters, sequencers, sample and holds, fixed filter banks, and noise generators.

Many innovative new designs are also available to tempt the poor synthesist. Wiard has a module known as the Waveform City that supports wavetable synthesis. MOTM has the juicy Triple Resonant Filter that combines three voltage controlled bandpass filters with two LFO’s. Oakley Sound Systems has a lovely voltage controlled phaser, known as the Equinoxe. Cyndustries offers a uber-sequencer, and many other interesting modules. Doepfer and Synthesizers.com have systems that are relatively inexpensive, yet have many unique modules. Encore Electronics makes a delicious 8-stage Envelope Generator/Sequencer/LFO, called the Universal Event Generator.

Download Bittorrent and Install

Bittorrent is a P2P file-sharing tool that is generating a lot of interest. Here is what you need to know to download and install the latest version of it.

Bittorrent is a P2P application designed to solve the problem of distributing large files over limited bandwidth. It communicates with other Bittorrent clients and works with them to allow you to download large files, even if the network is unreliable.

The application was developed by Bram Cohen, who calls himself a “Practitioner of evolutionary design”. He’s developed the BitTorrent application, a free program that runs on OS X, Windows, and Linux/Unix.

Downloading and Installing Bittorrent

The application can be downloaded from his site.

  1. Save the installer to your disk, when prompted. Open the installer, and it automatically run itself. You’ll know it done when you get an alert that says “BitTorrent has been successfully installed!”.
  2. Once you’ve got it loaded, just go to a site that has a torrent link and click it. This will open a save dialog box:

    Bittorrent

  3. Click OK, and save the file:

    bittorrent

  4. Once you save the file, Bittorrent will open and connect to peers in order to download the file.

    bittorrent

  5. Once your download is complete, you may need to uncompress the file prior to using it.

If you have problems working with BitTorrent, a detailed FAQ is maintained by MXDomain.

Symphonic Electronica

This style grows out of the tradition of classical orchestral music and features synthesized orchestration. It often features melodies and harmonies that are neo-romantic in style.

The best orchestral electronica uses electronics as an important element in a wider palette of instruments, to create new types of orchestration that would be impossible using traditional instruments. It takes the ideas of traditional orchestration and expands them, using the new capabilities that electronic instruments and studio treatments offer.

Some of the composers that work in this style are Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, and Mychael Danna. Vangelis is the most prominent composer using this approach. His soundtracks to Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise are good examples of the style. On both of these soundtracks, Vangelis uses traditional orchestral instruments and voices, but he dramatically expands the orchestral range through the use of synthesizers and electronic processing.

House Music

Disco never really died.

Instead it mutated, and one of its mutant offshoots is House Music. House music retains much of the heavy regular beat of disco, but tends to be more electronic, with drum machine rhythms and synthesized basses. The music is song based, and draws on a variety of influences, including Latin, jazz, soul, gospel and reggae.

House music grew up in the early eighties in Detroit and Chicago clubs that appealled to poor and disenfranchised populations, especially the gay community. The music incorporated the Roland Rhythm Section, TB-303 Bassline and TR-909 drums. There’s both instrumental and vocal house music. Vocal house rarely focuses much attention on actual lyrics, instead trying to deliver an intense hook that will get people dancing. C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now” is catchy as hell, but doesn’t try to be anything more than a call to dance.

One of the most notable early house cuts was Rhythm is Rhythm’s “Strings of Life”. House grew in popularity as mainstream artists like Madonna gave it more of a pop twist. Even though house music is twenty years old, most club-oriented dance music that is played today is still a variation on the formula created by early house musicians.