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Alternative Musical Expression: A DIY, Pressure-Sensitive, Multi-Ribbon Controller

Keyboards have worked for centuries, but they restrict continuous expression and pitch. Touch is more flexible, but most readily-available touch controllers (like the iPad) lack pressure sensitivity. That leaves ribbon controllers. When do you don’t have quite what you want, you make your own. Just ask Rasmus Nyåker of the Copenhagen Noise Lab. Rasmus writes us with copious details of his project, which he built just to get more enjoyment out of playing. It uses multiple ribbon controllers, aligned for easy access from the hands, with pressure sensitivity. He tells us how he built it and why. And if you …

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Reclaim the Album’s Soul: Tips for Handmade CD Artwork, Make One Sunday

You hear the repeated chorus: music in the digital age has become meaningless and valueless, like turning on water from a tap in the middle of Rome. But, quietly, a movement is stirring that is reclaiming the value of music. Armed with nothing more sophisticated than markers, paper, collage materials, and imagination, they send mixes of music like grade school Valentines. Heck, they even use the mail. It makes the album more personal than it was even in its golden, mass-produced age. Many of the practitioners in this case are returning to the cassette and mix tape. But I was …

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Handmade Music, From 3D to Wires, on October 10 in NYC, Austin, or Your Workbench

Handcrafted CD covers for records and mixes, meditative music made in game engines, handheld chip music creations, analog light synths and drone labs, VL-Tone classical music, and more surprises are coming to New York on Sunday, October 10. (Austin, Texas gets its own event, making noisemakers and ring modulators.) We promise music you can dance to, music you can’t, and tapas (at least in NYC). And on October 10, a little secret will finally be revealed to Manhattan and the world. If you’re a citizen of The Internet, we’ve got lots of sounds and creations to explore here on The …

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Summit Touts Open Source Hardware, Q+A with Co-Creators; Music Hardware?

Summit co-chairs Ayah Bdeir (left) and Alicia Gibb (right) are hoping to galvanize a community around open source hardware, from NASA to Arduino. And that could have an impact on music and audio – if creators of gear for musicians get onboard, that is. Open source software has proven itself in technological, economic, and cultural terms – it’s simply a matter of reality. This site runs atop free software nginx, WordPress, MySQL, and (Red Hat Enterprise) Linux; in music, we have Csound, SuperCollider, Pd, Ardour, JACK, Processing, and so on. Csound has even appeared on karaoke machines. These tools run …

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The Most From Free Software: Book Review, Getting Things Made, Un-Procrastination

Is it time to get a round tuit? Photo (CC-BY-ND) Denise Mattox. For this book review, we welcome guest writer Andy Farnell, who himself has a terrific book on interactive sound design and free modular patching environment Pure Data, entitled Designing Sound. It began as a review of a book on using free software – but it could be, more than that, a chance to fight procrastination. And while this runs the gamut, including graphics and design and not just sound, that could be even more relevant to those of us who need to delve into those other areas for …

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Record as Record Player: DIY Turntable, Donuts for Serato in New Releases

Record giant Universal Music Group is cutting prices on the CD, as analysts clamor for still-lower prices. But as for actual records – the kind made of vinyl – odder and odder innovations flourish. If the CD is dying, the vinyl record is an undead, sexually-alluring vampire. Two recent releases not only treat the record as “delivery mechanism,” but also tools for playing the record. The late hip hop great J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) gets a well-deserved tribute from his label Stones Throw, complete with some fantastic, unreleased instrumentals (“Safety Dance”, “Sycamore”, “Bars & Twists,” and remastered cuts for …

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Extended Through Friday: One Button Objects Call

You have until Friday to change the way we think about buttons. We live in the age of multi-touch, of sophisticated GPS and accelerometers tracking gestures, of augmented reality and $100 computers. In other words, it’s the perfect time to meditate on the lowly button. And as visualists and designers, you have a unique relationship to buttons and the digital worlds they control. I can’t wait to assemble the results of the One Button Game Objects show, opening at Gray Area Foundation in San Francisco with the collaboration of CDM and gaming collective Kokoromi. I’ve already seen fascinating contributions that …

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Back to the Future: Save an Old Laptop, Make it a Music Workstation

Computers can have longevity as musical instruments, but it takes a little extra effort. (CC-BY-NC-SA) Bill Van Loo. Computers and computer software can have as much or even more longevity than traditional music hardware – that is, if elements like copy protection don’t intervene first. As a postscript to the discussion last week, prompted by a new software release for the Apple II, here’s a report from our friend Bill Van Loo. He was able to make a productive little workstation out of an old iBook (500Mhz), with access to Reaktor Session instruments and an Apple electric piano now gone. …

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DIY MIDI In, MIDI Out For Your Gear: New Kits from HighlyLiquid

MIDI control of analog devices from Michael Una on Vimeo. John at HighlyLiquid has been busy this year- he’s got a new kit out and one in the works that really step up the game. You may be familiar with his previous kits, which add MIDI control to Speak & Spell, Atari 2600, or pretty much every Casio. HighlyLiquid also stocks more open-ended kits which can add MIDI control to pretty much anything- I used one in my MAKE Magazine article last year to build a drum-playing robot.

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Mod the $50 SX-150 for MIDI: Instructions + Code

Photo via Flickr courtesy (C) MrBook aka heurtubia aka Hector Urtubia. A $50 synth that makes neat noises is fun. But a $50 synth that has a proper housing, audio jacks, and can be MIDI controlled — that’s a whole lot better. So readers were wowed last week as we saw the work MrBook did with his Gakken SX-150. Now, by popular demand, MrBook shares his techniques with specs, instructions, and code. This isn’t a bad project to get started with if you’ve been thinking of doing something on these lines. The basic ingredients and process: Find the connections on …

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