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 …


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 …


Finally, a different EQ model – and it’s free from Soundtoys

Vanilla. I love vanilla. But I don’t want to eat vanilla ice cream all the time. EQs lately have been like vanilla ice cream – you get the same old model over and over and over again. You can get really amazingly accurate models in digital form, enough that you might reasonably skip hardware. But it’s too much of one thing. The folks at Soundtoys apparently felt the same. And they’re giving us something different. Now, I’m happy with my Oxford plug-ins and my Pulteqs and so on – don’t get me wrong. Really; I use them all the time …


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 …


BlokDust is an amazing graphical sound tool in your browser

Just when you think you’ve tired of browser toys, of novel graphical modular sound thing-a-ma-jigs, then — this comes along. It’s called Blokdust. It’s beautiful. And … it’s surprisingly deep. Not only might you get sucked into playing with it, but thanks to some simply but powerful blocks and custom sample loading, you might even make a track with it. And for nerds, this is all fully free and open source and hipster-JavaScript-coder compliant if you want to toy with the stuff under the hood.


Funklet teaches you your favorite grooves in your browser

You can learn a lot from a drummer. The best grooves of all time are meticulously constructed – and understanding them means understanding a lot about rhythm and form. So these are objects worth study. What your Web browser can do is make that study easier – even if you’ve never touched a drum kit. That comes at the right time, too. Thanks to the power of the computer and electronic music hardware, we’ve all of us become composers or expanded our compositional horizons. We may not imagine that we’re composing drum parts when we mess about with drum machines …


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.