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Friday, December 20, 2013


I just received this information from Nicholas Rezmerski -- thanks for the info, Nicholas! 

 For those of you who'd like to remix old video game music or use OPL2 instruments to write your own music, YouTube user "theycallmebruceful" (I think he's bsutherland on github.io) "wrapped the OPL2 emulation code from DOSBox (hardware/dbopl.c) in a VST instrument. Almost all the available parameters are programmable. Each instance of the plugin emulates a complete chip."

He goes on to say that he loaded MIDI note data ripped from the game [Syndicate] into Renoise, and loaded an instance of the VST for each instrument. Instrument parameters were programmed as closely as possible to the originals by running the game in DOSBox and capturing the register writes to the OPL device. He's named the VST JuceOPLVSTi.

Here's the YouTube demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI7U5XxTSW0

And here's the VST (32 bit): http://bsutherland.github.io/JuceOPLVSTi/

When I have some spare time, I'm going to check this out. I'll be interested in what any of you have to say about it after you try it out.

Nicholas said he has been listening to Doom midi files using this plugin.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Artistic Creations That Die

Computer game music is among the creations that die. They die because some corporation owns them and doesn't see the financial benefit to keeping them alive -- listened to.

That's where the remixers fill the void. Probably few of them have paid for a mechanical license to record and distribute the songs -- but they definitely do a huge service to society by keeping the songs alive.

A man named Bob May created "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer." He created a Christmas poem for his daughter. He worked as a copywriter -- that is a person who writes copy (usually for advertising) -- for Montgomery Ward, the WalMart of the day. He recited the poem at a company Christmas party and his bosses at Montgomery Ward wanted to print it for distribution to customers. They paid a nominal fee to purchase the rights. By 1946, the book had been distributed to the tune of at least six million copies.

Bob May decided that he wanted the rights back. He explained to the CEO of Montgomery Ward that he had composed the poem for his daughter after she lost her mother to cancer in 1938. Believe it or not, the the CEO returned all rights back to Bob May.

As interesting as this is, fate would have it that Bob May had a brother-in-law named Johnny Marks, who wrote songs. Johnny composed "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" based upon Bob May's poem. He shopped it to several notable singers, including Gene Autry, who was already a singing cowboy movie legend. Autry was like the other singers -- he wanted nothing to do with the song. But, Mrs. Autry heard it and demanded that Gene record it. The rest is history. His recording was released in 1949. It was an unbelievable success, and has sold more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

Do you think that there's a CEO today who would do the same as Montgomery Ward's did?

Only in our wildest dreams!

Remixers -- keep on keeping on!

PS I researched the story of Rudolph back in the 90's when I was writing a Christmas song of my own (finalized with my wife's lyrical assistance and singing in 2008 -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St_FctDTKc8). I searched everywhere for a copy of Bob May's poem. Finally I ordered the book. I was sorely disappointed in the poem. I didn't think it was that great -- but it was a great story. This proved to me that Johnny Marks was a great songwriter. He took the poem and told the same story in a little over three minutes of music. He wrote some other memorable Christmas songs. You can read more about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Marks

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Working on Wrack

For more than a year, I've been working on the game called "Wrack." It was originally titled "Last Bastion." The alpha version of the game was sold with a promise that the purchaser would get the full game when it's done.

The team working on the game has basically consisted of three people. A programmer/game designer/producer, an artist and me (for sfx and music). I've completed a lot of effects for the game with many more to go. The music is coming along, but I like seeing the artwork for a level before I write something for it.

Anyway, the first episode of the game is soon to be released in beta on SteamPowered.com. What's cool about that for game music composers is that Steam has started offering albums of game music. These are albums that are just like apps in one regard: they can have tracks added/edited at any time, and the purchasers of the album can update their albums to the latest version without additional costs. I think this is something that will become commonplace in the not too distant future.

Imagine releasing an album of your music and promising your new recordings released in the next year or so will be included in the cost of the album. What a way to keep fans happy and to keep in touch with them!

I'll let you know how this experience works out.

Right now the game is available in alpha form at WrackGame.com.

UPDATE: I have heard that Valve (SteamPowered.com) may be changing their policy and may no longer be allowing games to sell their soundtracks on the side. I'll see if I can find something in writing to that effect.

DistroKid.com Part 13

To summarize the DistroKid experience, it got the "music from Major Stryker" album on iTunes within a few hours of my uploading it to DistroKid.com. Spotify came through in a few days. Google Play and Amazon took 2-3 months. So I say the jury is still out. I will be uploading another album before long, and I'll post my experience here. DistroKid has only been around for a few months itself and it's a one man operation.

My question has been answered in the DistroKid FAQ about uploading one song from an album and wanting to upload other songs from the same album to go with it later). You delete the "album" of the one song and re-upload that song along with the rest of the cuts on the album.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Kontakt, Lots of Patches and Not Enough RAM

When I put my computer together, I installed 8 gig of RAM. Sometimes it isn't enough. With Kontakt, there's something you can do to help reduce the memory required for an instrument.

I read this on a website and cannot find the website to give the author credit. I'm sure it's common knowledge for those who read manuals :-) I pass it on for what it's worth.

Load any instrument you want to use. After everything loads, look under the name of the instrument and you'll see Output, Voice, Max and Purge. Purge is a dropdown menu. Below voice is the Memory size of the instrument.

Now click the down arrow to the right of Purge and select "purge all samples."

Look at the memory size now.

Now play one note. The memory size will increase, reflecting the size of the sample the note uses. You can see whenever you play a note that requires another sample. You may also see different samples at different velocities on the same note.

How is this going to help reduce memory usage for a lot of instruments?

Look at the menu bar at the top of Kontakt. Toward the right is Purge. This purge will affect all loaded instruments.

The idea is that as you add instruments to a song, you can use purge and let your playback cause Kontakt to load only the note samples necessary for that song. If you write a part that only uses a few notes, why have unused note samples in memory?

If I'm having trouble getting a sequence to play smoothly, rather than freeze a track where I cannot edit it, I use purge. I play the sequence through once to make sure the samples it uses are ready to play. When I play the sequence from then on, it usually plays without any glitches.

Hope this helps someone. It helped me :-)

DistroKid.com Part 12

I checked Amazon today and it looks like "music from Major Stryker" finally made it "on the shelves." Amazon is undercutting iTunes pricing ($9.99) and selling it for $7.99. They sell the individual songs at 89 cents.

If Amazon is going to truly give iTunes a run for the money, they're going to have to get the music into their store more quickly. Of course they do that for the artists who stand to sell a lot of product.

Friday, September 13, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 11

I just checked Amazon and Google Play for the "music from Major Stryker" album, and it doesn't appear on Amazon yet, but it does on Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Bobby_Prince_music_from_Major_Stryker?id=Bxq7ksh4u62cfrfpt4uccrp533m

On the iTunes release, I received an automated email from DistroKid when the album was live on iTunes. I did not receive a similar automated email about Google Play. Don't know what's up with that, and I don't know when Google Play added the album.

So, I'm still giving DistroKid.com a chance to get everything together.

And I forgot to say that there's a new link on DistroKid.com that allows you to "Delete album from Stores." I'm not gonna click the link to test it yet. But, I'm going to guess that the single I first submitted ("In Hiding" from Duke Nukem 3D) can be deleted and then resubmitted with the other DN3D songs. That was something I was wondering about many posts back.

As with the "days of old" in record/CD sales, the cost of the albums and singles is set by each store. iTunes has the Stryker album at $9.99. Google Play is at $9.49. Both stores sell singles at $.99.

Google Play has longer track previews than iTunes. Some of the tracks played longer than others. I don't know what their algorithm is for that.

These are some exciting times for independent artists. Once again, I highly recommend that if you have a successful album, you should put some of your income into hiring a great publicist. Such a person/organization can keep you in the public eye and get you noticed by even more potential fans.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 10

Still nothing heard about the status of Google Play and Amazon.

Royalties from iTunes were available some time in August, but I never received an email from DistroKid to that effect. I happened upon it by visiting DistroKid.com.

Details on sales are Sales Month, Store, Artist, Title, Quantity, Customer Paid, Your Royalties, Country of Sale, Exchange Rate, Tax Withheld, and Earnings.

I'll post further information as it becomes (or doesn't become) available.

After hearing from some of you who are disappointed or put off about how slowly this situation is panning out, remember that DistroKid.com is a one man operation. And, he has continued to add to and edit the website.

When I was typing this post, I was saying that DistroKid only lists income (no statistics). Something told me to check again before I posted, and surely enough the statistics had been added.

I'm still giving the guy a chance to get everything working. I love it that he is at least trying to compete with the rest of the aggregators. If nothing else, he may cause them to think twice about raising their rates.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

JTV Digital Music Distribution

Anyone out there who's used JTV Digital Music Distribution?

They responded to my earlier post, DistroKid.com Part 2, and said, "Please test our service ... if you're looking for something a bit more "serious" :-)"

Their advertised flat rates are iTunes single - 69 cents; all stores single - $3.05; all stores album (12 tracks) - $36.70; all stores EP (5 tracks) - $15.25. On top of that, they get 10% of the royalty payments.

The stores as of this posting are 7 digital, Amazon, boinc, Deezer, digital-tunes, Google play, gracenote, Grooveshark, iTunes, juno download, movistar, Nokia ovi, rdio, Rhapsody, Spotify and Shazam.

My initial reaction is that they are in a totally different league from DistroKid in their pricing. With JTV Digital, my 21 track "music from Major Stryker" album would have cost $73.40 to distribute as two albums (only 12 tracks allowed per album), plus 10% of any royalties earned. 

JTV Digital has twelve more stores over DistroKid's four. This would definitely have an impact on those who want to be in more stores.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 9

I've still heard nothing regarding Google Play, which was supposed to take three days, or Amazon, which was to take weeks.

The email address for distrokid is support@distrokid.com. You can also tweet @distrokid.

There's been no response to an email I sent July 9 regarding merging the free uploaded song with an album I'm waiting to upload.

I hear crickets chirping when I go to distrokid.com.

Oh, and if you want to see the home page of distrokid.com, you have to sign out of your "dashboard."

With the superior connectivity between iTunes and distrokid.com (uploaded and live for sale in less than three hours), I'm wondering why distrokid.com cannot receive "nearly live" sales data for songs/albums that can be routed to each appropriate user's page. I'd bet that the labels get that kind of access to data.

I will keep you posted. I'm beginning to think that distrokid.com is an excellent method for getting one song or one album up on iTunes/Spotify. I'm not so sure at this time that I'll upload anything else.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Voyetra Sequencer Plus Visited Again

There are still folks out there who are trying to work with Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold software. This is for those who still use SP Gold for whatever reason. It's especially for those who have old .sng files and want to work with them.

I use SP Gold for working with the few original native SP Gold files I have been able to locate on old data tapes/CD's.

I've lost (hopefully misplaced) the instrument bank files I created to use with SP Gold. I created them to be able to use melodic mode on the OPL2 FM synth chip found on early sound cards.

The reason for using melodic mode is it gave me freedom to use any combination of nine melodic and/or percussive notes. Percussive mode allowed three percussive notes and six melodic ones.

The down side to using melodic mode was that I had to bastardize some melodic instruments to make them sound percussive. I did that by playing melodic "instruments" well above or below their normal range. This is the reason that many of my old game songs have strange sounding tuned drums when played back on wavetable sound cards and in some emulators. Wavetable sound cards used instrument samples, and the instruments would sound melodic even above or below their intended ranges. With the OPL 2, if you played "instruments" out of their range on it, you'd get some of the craziest sounds, including many percussive sounds.

You can still get SP Gold on the Turtle Beach site. That site has a wealth of info, drivers, whatever for SP Gold. SP Gold and drivers are here: seq_gold.zip

I don't think you need the drivers separately unless you're still running an older operating system/computer with a sound card. The basic drivers came with the SP Gold zip. That includes a MIDI simulator for sound cards and a General MIDI slave driver for FM Sound Cards (including the virtual one in DOSBox).

There's the manual and other great information available, too.

I use DOSBox to run SP Gold. Since I don't have the instrument bank files, I have not used it to actually play any of the songs. If you've used it with DOSBox and actually had it play in DOSBox, please comment with any suggestions you may have about getting it to work. DOSBox download is here.

DOSBox is great for running old games on "modern" operating systems. It also allows you to record the music from the games, raw MIDI commands and OPL commands. I cannot say enough good things about it's OPL2 soundcard emulation. It "understands" my bastardization of the melodic instruments!

Here's how I got DOSBox to run SPGold by default. This is for the latest version -- 0.74 running on a Windows 7 computer.
  1. This assumes you have DOSBox installed in the default configuration.
  2. It also assumes you have SP Gold installed at c:\VOYETRA.
  3. Win Start button > All Programs > DOSBox-0.74 > Options > DOSBox 0.74 Options.
  4. This should open dosbox-0.74.conf in Notepad (or your default text editor).
  5. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this file. You'll see [autoexec]. If you already have something entered here, just comment what you added before, using # as on all the other commented lines. Add the following, starting on a new line:
  6. mount c "c:\VOYETRA"
  7. File > Save
  8. Close Notepad.
  9. Go to c:\VOYETRA.
  10. Right click SEQ.BAT and select Edit. If it doesn't open in a text editor, select one to open it (Notepad).
  11. Following the "safe, not sorry" rule, File > Save As ... > SEQoriginal.BAT.
  12. Now File > Save As ... > SEQ.BAT so you'll be working on your edited file.
  13. Copy and paste the following in the place of what's presently in SEQ.BAT:
  14. echo off
    call driver
    SpG %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9
    call driver /rem
  15. File > Save
  16. In the c:\VOYETRA window, right click DRIVER.BAT.
  17. Select Edit.
  18. "Safe, not sorry:" File > Save As ... > DRIVERoriginal.BAT.
  19. File > Save As ... > DRIVER.BAT
  20. Copy and paste the following in place of what's in the file:
  21. echo off
    if "%1" == "/rem" goto REMOVE
    if "%1" == "/REM" goto REMOVE
    VAPINUL.COM %1 %2 %3
    SAPIFM1.COM /port:1 %1 %2 %3
    goto OUT
    SAPIFM1.COM /port:1 /rem
    VAPINUL.COM /rem
Now, when you start DOSBox, you'll have SP Gold start "automatically."

You should note that you can still use DOSBox for games and such by quitting SP Gold (q q from the track view screen) and mounting your games directory to a new drive letter.

I hope this info helps someone.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 8

I was just on distrokid.com and saw that there is a Twitter account -- @distrokid.

He's tweeted album sales figures for Mar 13-Jun 13 -- about 1.4k. There's a graphic at https://twitter.com/DistroKid/status/355812542297280512/photo/1 -- you may have to sign into Twitter to see the link?

The last tweet (14 hours before this posting) was informative:

"We accept only credit cards. We pay out royalties using PayPal. 1-year term starts from the day you sign up."

I haven't heard anything new other than this. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 7

Keeping you up-to-date:

"music from Major Stryker" album submitted to Spotify by DistroKid.com at 3:02 PM on Fri, Jul 12.

The album became live at 3:42 PM today (Sun, July 14).

You can listen to the whole album here: https://play.spotify.com/album/5ywL7dTpec7SIw5TR3gPqf

I have heard nothing further about Google Play and Amazon.

Hey Google and Amazon, wonder why iTunes is on top? You'd better up your game!

Who'd ever thunk that an album could be submitted to iTunes and be on sale in two and a half hours?

Friday, July 12, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 6

The "music from Major Stryker" Album went live on iTunes in less than three hours. You can preview it here.

As for going directly with iTunes, I could have done that, but it would have been at the cost of time and expense of setting everything up -- UPC code, ISRC and other requirements.

I am very happy to see a one man operation like DistroKid.com go toe to toe with the corporation aggregators.  It goes to prove the power one person has now with the connectivity of the internet.

Has anyone else tried DistroKid.com? I'd love to hear if you have -- and what your experience has been.

DistroKid.com Part 5

"In Hiding" is live on Spotify. It took almost exactly two days. Impressive enough.

I have not heard back from DistroKid.com, but I can only imagine how much mail he's getting.

Here's the Spotify link, if you want to check it out.

I uploaded 21 songs for the album "music from Major Stryker." We'll see if the timing is as good on an album as it is a single.

By the way, there seems to be a limit of 21 songs for albums submitted by DistroKid.com

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 4

I emailed Philip Kaplan, who is the founder and one employee of DistroKid.com. I asked how to go about uploading the other songs of "music from Duke Nukem 3D" so my trial uploaded song would be included in the album. I'll let you know what/when I hear back. I imagine Mr. Kaplan is very busy.

In the meantime, I am going to upload my updated recordings of the music from Major Stryker. For years I have been putting this sort of thing off as it's like living in the past -- and it takes me away from creating new things. But, I actually enjoyed reworking the Stryker songs. Almost as much as I enjoyed working on them twenty years ago.

The original songs could have no more than 9 note polyphony, which called for lots of editing and searching for overlapping notes. Before updating any of the songs, I decided to try to maintain the feel of the song, meaning I wouldn't add new notes, instrument parts, melodies/harmonies and such. But, I did add "verses" on some, and endings.

I'll let you know how this goes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

DistroKid.com Part 3

DistroKid didn't fib when it came to the iTunes claim. "In Hiding" became active on iTunes around 5:30 Eastern -- it was submitted around 3:15 Eastern.

This is impressive!

Now to find out if I can add this single to the "music from Duke Nukem 3D" album -- if that's possible I'll be even more impressed.

The final and most important test for most of us is how is the accounting handled -- how often, what method, etc.

I'll post more as I discover things.

DistroKid.com Part 2

Sorry for taking so long to continue this experience. I had to make up some album artwork. I decided for generic, using a photo of a Les Paul Recording model that I have written a good bit of game music on.

Anyway, I uploaded the album art and a wav file of "In Hiding," a song from Duke Nukem 3D (Episode 3, Level 1: Raw Meat). It wasn't long before I received two "Good News" automated emails from DistroKid advising that the artwork (format, size, etc.) and the audio (format, bitrate, etc) "is good." Both emails included a link to more details about further processing of the files. That page stands static, reflecting that both artwork and song are "processing."

It seems that this is going to take a while.

I decided to refresh the page after waiting 10 minutes or so, and it reflected that the artwork was "Good." For the album, it listed a UPC, with an IRSC for the song. Pretty cool!

I also received another email. There's a problem with the way the system handled the one song. The Album title, which I listed as "Music from Duke Nukem 3D" is listed as "In Hiding," the song name. Will I be able to put this song with the others when I upload them? We'll see.

The good news is that the "album" has already been submitted to iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon.

There's an interesting paragraph about how long the stores take to make an album live:

  • iTunes: About 1 day, sometimes within hours. A small percentage of albums go through manual review at Apple, which takes an additional 16 business days.
  • Spotify: 1-3 days.
  • Google Play: About 3 days.
  • Amazon: 4-6 weeks (still beta testing)
I'll check these stores to see what actually happens. And I'll make a new post regarding further developments.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


DistroKid.com allows unlimited uploading of your songs/compositions, and they will put them on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify -- for an annual fee of $19.99. And you get 100% of your royalties. Of course they are paid through DistroKid.

I'm checking it out and will put my thoughts here as soon as I see how it all works.

DistroKid allows you to upload one free song to try it out.

If you get five referrals, you'll get a free unlimited upgrade. I'm trying that out with the links to their site to see if that works, too.

You don't have to pay or give credit card information when you register. Just your email address and desired password.

You can read about it via a couple of links on the DistroKid.com site.

The lack of particulars on the site makes me a bit suspicious, but we'll keep an open mind to see what gives.
Here's what I'm seeing as I look through the site:
  1. After registering, it goes to the "Upgrade for free" page that gives your referral URL and explains the 5 people register credits you with unlimited uploads. It doesn't say if that's forever or just for the first year.
  2. Links at the top of this page are + Upload, Upgrade, Albums, Bank and a symbol that signs you out of the site (learned that by clicking too quickly).
  3. I use long passwords. Don't know if that was a problem, but the site didn't recognize my password -- and I pasted it into the password fields when I registered. So I clicked "Forgot My Password" and it emailed me a link to reset the password. I copied and pasted the same password. We'll see if I get into the site again after signing out. But first, to continue while I am logged in now.
  4. There's also a link on the "Upgrade for free" page that says "Click here to upload music."
  5. It's linked to the same page as the + Upload link at the top of the page.
  6. Clicking on either of those links take you to the "Upload an album" page.
  7.  On that page, "Stores" has already checked boxes for iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon.
  8. Album types are One song (a single) and Multiple songs (an album).
  9. Artist/band name.
  10. Album cover "Choose File" button. Specs are jpg extension, perfect square, at least 1000x1000, optimal is 2500x2500.
  11. Language dropdown.
  12. Primary genre. Secondary genre
  13. For the one free upload, there's a Track 1 section with Song title, Explicit lyrics No/Yes, and a "Choose File" button. File specs are WAV/FLAC/MP3/CDDA -- optimal is WAV.
  14. And finally, a "Just making sure..." section with check boxes for "There are no typos or errors in my band name, song titles, or other text," "I've selected the correct files for my song(s) and artwork," and "My music is original, I own the copyright and have the legal right to sell it in stores worldwide.
  15. The "Upgrade" link takes you to the same page where you clicked on "Free" to try the site out.
  16. The "Albums" link takes free registrants back to the "Upgrade for free" page.
  17. The "Bank" link takes you to "Your earnings" with lines for the four services selling your songs.
There are a lot of unanswered questions from what I've been able to see on the site thus far. I'll upload a song and see if that gets me more answers.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Synching New Tracks To Old Recordings With Cakewalk Sonar AudioSnap

AudioSnap is a great thing, if it works. I tried it many times in the past and never got the results I wanted.

All I can say is that a light came on the other day. It reminded me once again that all this technology can get in the way of remembering that "simpler is better."

I had almost written AudioSnap off as a tool for those who have audio tracks with heavy percussion defining each beat.

I think I mentioned in another post that creating backtracks for my brother (a singer) got me interested in sequencing. Any recordings that couldn't be "vocal removed" gave me another project to help me learn how to create sequences.

With all the karaoke tracks out there, there are still songs my brother likes to sing, and there are no tracks available for them. Or, the karaoke is in an impossible key for certain vocal ranges. 

He sent an original recording of such a song.

Before I go any further, what you read below will be foreign to you if you haven't at least played around with AudioSnap. You can take any recording and practice doing what I'm suggesting here. I would suggest a recording that starts on beat one of measure one. Something with a relatively steady beat. And maybe something fairly short.

I dragged the original recording my brother sent into an audio track in Sonar. The tempo was about 142, but it ranged from about 140 to 145.

The mix of the recording was poor in many places, but I tried looking at the "Audio Transients" (using the drop down below the audio track name which defaults to "Clips").

Bad results.

So I took the hard road and tried EQ to bring out the bass drum and bass parts. That was a complete waste of time -- the kick and bass came and went in the mix. The transients didn't seem to line up with the beats that well.

I thought, "if only I had a click track." Then a light came on, "DUH! Why not record a MIDI track with a bass drum hitting each beat of each measure?"

So, I created a MIDI track and set it to play the TTS-1 bass drum.

Then I turned off the metronome ("P" for Preferences, Project>Metronome -- deselect "Recording").

Armed the bass drum track, clicked the record button and started hitting the bass drum. I missed the first beat, but I had the recording set to start on the first beat. I could add the first kick drum data in Piano Roll View (PRV).

Before I go further, it's important to tell you that if your original recording starts on any beat other than beat one, you should insert some audio at the first of the original recording to fill in at least to where the first beat would be if there was audio in the whole first measure. For some reason, AudioSnap loves to consider silence as a measure zero and you cannot force it to do otherwise -- at least I couldn't.

If your added audio makes the first measure too long and it confuses AudioSnap, notice where AudioSnap wants to put the first beat and shorten your added audio to that location. Then right click your audio clip and select "Bounce to Clip(s)" to get rid of the extra audio data. Now AudioSnap should give you a first measure of the correct length for what it considers the average tempo of the recording -- and it should start measure/beat counting at 1:01:000.

After recording your bass drum MIDI track, you should expand the MIDI track so you can right click in the FX bin. Select MIDI Plugins>Cakewalk FX>Velocity, and click the "Set to" fader and set it to 127.

Now you have a strong bass drum beat. You can minimize the Velocity plugin.

Next, freeze the TTS-1. Bring up the synth rack -- I use "B" for that, and click the snowflake on the TTS-1.

Your TTS-1 output track will now have an audio click track with clean and definite beats. Select that audio clip and use the drop down to view the "audio Transients."

Open AudioSnap -- I use "A" to do that.

To use the Audiosnap window you have to have your click track selected.

Now click on "Edit Clip Map."

Here's where I had a problem that you might face. AudioSnap, though it guessed the average tempo correctly, wanted to put the measure markers as if they were half the tempo. Also, even though the beats were strong, I had to adjust the threshold in AudioSnap down to zero in order to see all transients. But, since the beats were strong, each beat had a transient.

To correct the markers on incorrect transients,  I clicked on the marker of the first beats of each measure, starting with measure two, and brought it in line with the correct transient for beat one of that measure. I continued on toward the end of the recording.

That's when another problem came up. I ran out of measure markers several measures before I was through lining everything up. Pulling the last visible transient toward the left locked Sonar down tight.

I had to re-record my MIDI kick track, and I made sure to record several measures of bass drum hits after the recording ended. This was so AudioSnap wouldn't run out of transient markers for me to drag. After doing that, I froze the drum track again and started dragging beat one to each appropriate measure.

Make sure to save your file regularly as you do this -- just in case.

Next, in the AudioSnap popup, I selected "Set Project from Clip." I clicked the drop down and chose "measure." The reason was that I knew at least the beginning beat of each measure was dead accurate. This causes a tempo map to be inserted into the project, with tempo changes whenever they are needed to keep the project file in synch with the original recording.

From this point on, you can create MIDI tracks or record audio tracks with the metronome activated, and whatever you record will be in synch with the tempo of the original recording.

You can now archive the MIDI/audio bass drum track -- or even delete them. It's great to be able to record parts while listening to the original recording -- and everything synchs up.

Note that you can do this same thing by recording a MIDI track with a beat on just the first beat of each measure. That results in fewer transients to have to deal with if you have to drag the measure/beat markers to the correct location.

I'm sharing this for what it's worth to those reading it. If you're new to sequencing, creating karaoke versions of songs is a great way to learn. It hones your ability to hear specific parts and block out others. It also helps critical listening -- and much more.

If you have some AudioSnap techniques you'd like to share, drop me an email or text file. I'll post it with full credit to you.

Finally, I apologize if this post is confusing. Any comments/suggestions on making it clearer/better will be appreciated and acknowledged.

The song I most recently used this technique on was "You Be Dead" from Duke Nukem II. You can find the results of my synching HERE ON SoundCloud. I also used the crossfading technique from the previous post.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Adding Volume AND Pan Control to Windows 7

How many times do you listen to sound on your PC and want to pan left or right? I do often enough to get tired of what is required to get to the "Balance" controls:

  1. Click the Speaker icon.
  2. Click Mixer (below the fader).
  3. Click the icon for the Device you're listening to.
  4. Click the Levels tab.
  5. Click the Balance button.
  6. Adjust the faders for "1" (Left) and "2" (Right).
Actually, having the individual settings can be helpful at times, but for quick pans, they're a pain.

Thanks to an Alan Henry post on Lifehacker, I learned of a small windows program, SimpleSndVol, that puts a new volume fader with a pan slider onto the task bar tray.

The download link on Alan's post has changed, and here's where to download the file as of this writing.

It's free, but donations are accepted.

After virus checking the file, install it -- and you'll end up with two volume controls -- the Windows one and the SimpleSndVol one (which may require clicking on the "Show hidden icons" up arrow to see).

To unhide SimpleSndVol and hide the Windows version:
  1. Windows Start button.
  2. Type "customize" in the search field.
  3. Click "Customize icons on the taskbar."
  4.  Set Volume to "Hide icon and notifications." It will still be available by clicking the "Show hidden icons" up arrow, and you may still want to use it.
  5. Set SimpleSndVol to Show icon and notifications. It will "stick" to the taskbar now.
  6. Click the "OK" button.
As for SimpleSndVol, here are my observations (this is for version SimpleSndVol-
  1. It works! To check it out, I opened the Windows Balance faders (you can click the "Mixer" link on SimpleSndVol and follow the steps at the top of this post to see them). Then I panned left and right, watching the Windows Balance sliders move.
  2. To jump to left, middle or right pan, the L, 0 and R below the slider will do the trick.
  3. Clicking to the left or right of the slider will result in a 10% change in the balance in that direction. [Strangely enough, if the slider is at extreme right or left, that same clicking results in a 9% change up to 27% where it then starts making 10% changes again.]
  4. The first time I right clicked the SimpleSndVol icon and selected "Settings," I received a .net error message. I chose to continue the program, clicked on "Settings" again, and it worked without an error.
  5. For me, using the center scroll of the mouse when over the SimpleSndVol icon was a very slow method of volume control. It's easier to click and open the control. I'm pretty sure this depended on my mouse settings.
  6. Middle clicking on the icon is a quick way to mute the sound.
  7. Right clicking the icon gives you the same access to sound settings that you have with the Windows Volume control.
  8. Some of the icons included with the program reflect the volume level without having to open the fader.
  9. The SimpleSndVol control minimizes milliseconds after you move the mouse off it. It would be nice if it stayed on the screen even with an errant move off the control.
I give it a thumbs up and have made a donation to the author.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Visiting the Past

I'm revisiting the game music that I wrote almost two decades ago. It's an attempt to get it to sound like I imagined it with "real" instruments -- hopefully keeping the feel/personality of the original.

Luckily, I kept the original MIDI files (and Sequencer Plus Gold .SNG files).

Unluckily, I cannot find the instrument banks I slaved over to create the earliest FM synth songs. Maybe I failed to save them. That would be the equivalent of saving a sequencer file today and twenty years later remembering that you didn't save the instrument plugins that create the actual instrument sounds. YIKES! Double YIKES if they're pure synthesized sounds that you designed yourself, tweaking forever to get them just right for your music.

These old song files are in directories based upon the name of the project producer or the project. I started with the A's, and the first was "Alan." That would be Alan Blum, and the project was "Major Stryker," a SHMUP or Shoot 'em Up -- just "shooter" back in the day.

The first of many lessons I learned when working on the first song was I saved the  .MID files "back then" as Type 0 files. The reason: software that translated the MID file to a file containing a stream of Adlib card FM synth data required a "one track" MID file. Yes, all the data was on ONE MIDI track.

Luckily, most sequencers intelligently separate the one MIDI track into individual tracks for each MIDI channel.
This is the Sequencer Plus Gold file for SUPRNOVA. FM synth cards had limited polyphony. If you used "Percussive" Mode, you were more limited in polyphony (max. notes on at one time). "Melodic" mode had more polyphony, so I created the percussion sounds I needed. Here, I'm limited to 9 note polyphony. I put each instrument sound on a different track. The hihat has two channels, one for closed and one for open. The programs ("Prg"") were patch numbers. This sound bank was created by tweaking the patch closest to the sound I was looking for. So whatever instrument was originally in patch 6 sounded somewhat like a Kick, and changing the patch parameters got it to sound "acceptable." Here the track names are visible because this file was saved as a SPGold .SNG file.

Many was the time that I had to cut out percussion notes because the resulting game music file was too big. It was good practice in deciding which notes of a song were more important to get the idea across.
Unluckily, the original track names are not saved in Type 0 files, so the tracks, even on modern sequencers, are named "1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ...."

How was I to know what instrument was where? I used Sequencer Plus Gold (thanks to DosBox) to make new Type 1 MIDI files, with data saved for each individual track, including the track names. Now I knew the instrument I was striving for on the FM synth card.

You may be thinking that all I had to do was look at the patch number and I could tell which instrument was on which track. The problem with that is I created my own instruments and put them in all sorts of different patch "slots."

This situation was much like today where you select an instrument VST and decide what channel it will respond to. Then you may tweak the instrument/effects settings. Luckily for all of us, most modern sequencers store all of that information in the song file. But, you'd better keep a copy of your plugins and the sequencer software you use -- in twenty years the standards may be completely different.

The first song (again in alphabetical order) is CRUISINA.SNG, last saved 7/10/1992. There is also CRUISING.SNG dated 10/13/1993.

The "A" at the end of CRUISINA, stood for AdLib. It was the sound card of the day (with Creative Labs strong on it's heels). The "G" at the end of CRUISING stood for General MIDI, a 1991 standard that was becoming main stream with computer cards in 1993.

In 1992, a PC file was still limited to eight alphanumeric characters, so a file name like "Cruising With Stryker.MID" wouldn't work. Thus the cryptic file names you may see for "old" files.

This song was one of the first to use my heavily "tweaked" FM instruments, especially the overdrive/distortion guitar, which went into harmonics at just the right time for the tempo of the music. Here's the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnPALu0E4YM

Here's a demo of the "real" (updated) version: https://soundcloud.com/bobbyprincemusic/cruising-with-stryker-demo

There's a certain feel to the original that the "real" one doesn't capture. Maybe it's because the music was written to the FM synthesized sounds?

Maybe it's the "warmth" of analog coming out of an early sound card?

I decided not to change the performance of the music in any way. Any "real" instrument performance is true to the original MIDI performance data. The biggest differences in the sounds are the drums and effects like reverb.

When I get more done on this project, I'll put some more "real" versions up on SoundCloud, with a post here about it.

The best music to each of you. Remember that Richard Rodgers wrote a song a day. While I'd love to hear the ones he closeted away, he'd probably turn over in his grave to know anyone ever heard any of them.

What would be your chances of having a Song of the Year if you wrote a song a day for a year and published your best seven?

Roland R-Mix Plugin

The most recent release of Cakewalk Sonar includes a plugin called "R-Mix." In short, it's a visual audio manipulation tool. It's like looking at sound as it's coming at you (as opposed to it scrolling by you from left to right).  It's great fun to roam a recording, choosing where in the stereo field to listen. It's like using a shotgun mike with an equalizer.

In the past I may have said that I learned to work with MIDI by taking songs apart and making backtracks. My brother was singing to backtracks at the time, but they were vocal removed tracks (using the LT Sound Vocal Remover that many of you may have seen heavily advertised in magazines "of the day"). Since vocal removal didn't work well on lots of records, there was still a need to record our own backtracks. The reason these records didn't "vocally remove" was the vocal remover would cut out any center track voices or instruments in the vocal range (usually the drums and bass). It had a low pass filter that would allow low frequencies on the center track to pass through, so you would get at least some bass and bass drum. And it wouldn't delete any reverb/echo outside of the center track.

It worked great on songs with only the lead singer in the center track with no effects. I remember the original "Layla" was one it worked perfectly on.

That said, R-Mix is vocal removal on steroids. You can create a rectangle or oval, size it and place it over the lead vocal, and adjust for maximum volume. Then you can reduce the volume of the selected area and bring up the volume of everything else. The result is vocal removal. You'll still have effects that may be outside your selection, but you can find a plugin for /reducing/removing reverb nowadays, too.

And speaking of backtrack recording, the hardest part of getting a backtrack right is hearing all the parts. With R-Mix it is MUCH easier. On many modern recordings, you can find a particular instrument and isolate it in the mix. I took some recordings I've done backtracks to in the past and heard things with R-Mix that I never heard listening to the whole mix. Such things as what effect is being used on an instrument, when the instrument is playing (in a muddy mix) and what the instrument is playing.

You can learnsome secrets of good mixing by slicing recordings up with R-Mix.