PiDeck makes a USB stick into a free DJ player, with turntables

There’s something counterintuitive about it, right? Plug a USB stick into a giant digital player alongside turntables. Or plug the turntables into a computer. What if the USB stick … was the actual player? In the age of rapid miniaturization, why hasn’t this happened yet? Well, thanks to an open source project, it has happened (very nearly, anyway). It’s called PiDeck. And it radically reduces the amount of gear you need. You’ll still need an audio interface with phono input to connect the turntable, plus the (very small, very cheap) Raspberry Pi. But that’s just about it. Connect your handheld …


This app turns iPhone 3D touch into an expressive instrument

You can get the feeling of “pushing into” an iPhone as of the iPhone 6S. It’s an expressive, intimate gesture, which is generally used for … wait, really, shortcut menus? That’s pretty boring. Ever since I saw the feature, I wanted to see it used for music applications. And one obvious fit is an emerging standard for sending expressive pressure-based control over MIDI. The futuristic, sleek black ROLI Seaboard does it. The lovely, wooden Madrona Labs Soundplane does it. Roger Linn’s innovative grid-covered Linnstrument does it. It’s all a (draft) specification for control called MPE – Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression. (Early …


Grab a free secret sauce channel strip for Ableton DJ and live sets

The beautiful thing about software is that it’s flexible. You can reconfigure an entire live rig on the fly. But it’s still necessary to channel that flexibility into consistency, especially playing live. Reuse the stuff you need most so it’s always there. And train your hands and muscle memory so you can play fluidly. Savages – the Chicago/Dallas duo of Ted “TJ” Pallas and Alexandra Hartman – have shared their go-to channel strip full of all their favorite tools. And while they were at it, they recreated a unique EQ. EQ differently PLAYdifferently’s Model 1 mixer takes a different approach …

The DX7 - one of three instruments in a new library for Ableton Live. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Bernd Sieker.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether. Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound. Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle …


Only a randomize button can save this synth with way too many knobs

araucann looks like what would happen if someone’s plug-in SDK … exploded on the floor. It’s a six-oscillator synth – okay, so far, so good – but then it also has 33 envelopes and 32 LFOs and things sort of get out of hand from there. This ocean of parameters is then encapsulated into a set of simple, musical controls that let you easily — ha, no, only joking. They made a knob for everything and called it a day. Each individual oscillator has its own bank of controls, and then even one of those banks is already slightly overwhelming. …


Slow is a super long reverb delay from Tim Exile and it’s free

Well, if you’re on a tight deadline for delivering an ambient/experimental/IDM album, and you’re totally out of money (and even possibly ideas), good news. You’re saved. Tim Exile just released S L O W, for free. To those who don’t know him, Mr. Exile is a professional mad scientist specializing in Reaktor engineering, virtuoso laptop musicinator, electronica personality, and man about town. Tim’s exploits are widely known and buzzed about among nerds and sonic weirdos, but since they won’t reach everyone’s ears that way, he also has a mailing list. Signing up for said mailing list is your key to …


Get a library of floppy drive sounds for almost nothing

You’ve been watching those wild YouTube videos of people performing tunes with hacked floppy drives – most recently Star Wars and Nirvana. Now get those sounds in a sample library for nearly-free donationware.


Grab free sound samples of Montana’s ringing rocks

I’m going to let you start off with whatever bad rock puns you can think of. (Rolling Stones, rock music, uh whatever.) Done? Great! Okay, now let’s talk about the mysterious ringing rocks of Montana – and how you can grab some free sounds to use in your music right now, just in case you can’t make it out to the great American west at the moment.


Meet Skram, the free iPad app full of patterns and synths

We’ve reached the mature age of music apps. You’re likely to use fewer of them, and the landscape is saturated with the most popular ideas. It’s also clear that iPad, not Android, is the viable tablet platform. But the few apps that are left standing as serious music tools are better than ever. They’re easier to integrate with your computer and standalone hardware, and they feel more like instruments and less like toys. They walk some line between making music production more accessible to beginners, and offering refreshing simplicity to people who are mixing them with other gear. And Skram, …


A Richard Devine soundscape from a crazy modular nest

Richard Devine’s Vimeo account is something special. It’s certainly partly theater – there’s something entirely alien about seeing a nest of gear, tangled in cables and blinking, as if modules have achieved sentience and starting interconnecting themselves. But behind that facade of nerdy chaos is some real thought about how to make sounds by creating unexpected combinations of signal processors. It’s something I’ve been discussing with a lot of people lately – this interplay between stability and instability, automaton and entropy.