Electribe 5 Days In

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Well, it’s been a busy week getting everything prepped for the big move still, but I’ve been trying to get as much time on the Electribe as possible. Overall it’s been a super fun experience, and I’m really starting to feel like the new Electribe could be my new main instrument for some time to come. Given all the gear I’ve been through this year trying to find “the one”, that’s a great feeling.

Now that I’ve had more time to get deeper into the synthesis options, I’m getting more and more confident that there’s a lot of sound design capabilities. The Mod section in particular really adds a lot of animation to your sounds, especially when you start adding in motion sequencing too. One of the few downsides of the Mod section is that a lot of the BPM synced LFO are also key sync so the cycle starts with each note on. Not a huge deal since there’s unsynced LFOs that can run freely, and happily the rate on these goes super low for really long evolving sounds.

One of the few frustrations I’ve been having is with editing my sequences after I’ve recorded something. The Electribe has a Step Editor for this exact task, which allows you to change a note’s pitch, velocity, or the gate time (note length). Unfortunately it seems that because you can’t have a note longer than one step, really long chords and the like are recorded as tied notes. This makes it hard to see which step has the actual note trigger, and which ones are tied. I still need to dive into this a little more, but for now it’s just been easier to delete the part and just record it again. More to come on this.

I’m still exploring the basics of Pattern creation at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to do much from a live performance standpoint. I’ve been experimenting a little with how to do transitions from one pattern to the next, mainly using master effect delays. If you set a really long decay time for the delays (and use the same delay for both patterns), you can do a decent bit of blending to smooth out the transitions. Unfortunately the Hold button on the Touch Pad doesn’t seem to work when you switch patterns, so you need to keep your finger on the trackpad to keep the delay effect on and at the same level. Still, better than nothing and at least it’s s starting point.

In happier news, it was recently discovered that you can connect an iPad or iPhone to the Electribe via the camera connection kit, and the Electribe will show up on the iPad and a MIDI source and destination. This means you can sequence your iPad apps from the Electribe, or use an iOS MIDI app to enter notes on the Electribe instead of the Trigger Pad. ThumbJam and Genome users should be happy with this!

Especially when you realize you can then route the audio from the iPad into the Electribe, either directly through untouched, or to be effected by the Electribe effects. Since each part on the Electribe can host its own Audio Input OSC, that means in theory you could have 16 different effects processing the audio input signal in parallel, all at once. Sweet. I starting to think the Electribe and my iPad running Gadget could be a pretty awesome live combo!

I’m still trying to get a video review and some audio examples done asap, so hopefully I’ll have some more info soon. Stay tuned!

Tarekith

A Better electribe Default Pattern

I felt some of the settings in the stock Korg electribe default patterns (upper 200’s of the Pattern list) were a bit odd, so I made a new default of my own. Thought some people might want it, feel free to use it or modify it as you want.

To use it, place the file in the “KORG -> electribe” folder on your SD card. Then in the Data Utility menu, select Import Pattern, choose the card as the source, and then use the data encoder and Enter button to navigate to where the Pattern File is. By default it’s set to load into Pattern location 001, just change the file name to the correct number if you want it somewhere else. Here’s the file:

http://innerportalstudio.com/files/ElectribeInit.zip

A few of the things I changed:

– Length set to 4.
– Pattern Level set to 100.
– Chord Set changed to 4 for all Parts
– Gate Arp set to pattern 28 for all Parts.
– Groove Type changed to laidback for all Parts.
– The lower row of Trigger Pads are set up with the first drum type from each category, and all Voice Assigns set to Mono2.
– The upper row of Trigger Pads are set up with a mix of the different OSC types, and all Voice Assigns are set to Poly2.
– Trigger Pad Velocity and Scale Mode turned on for all Parts.

In addition, I set up all Parts to have a default Level of 64 to give some more headroom. I also switched the Insert Effect to the “Delay 1/4” effect for all parts, I just personally reach for distortions very infrequently.

Anyway, fixes some of the obvious ones like Trigger Pad Velocity and it also gives you more headroom to play with. Hope it helps.

Korg electribe First Thoughts

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At long last, it’s arrived.

In some respects it feels like it’s been forever that I’ve been waiting, having pre-ordered my electribe back in September when it was first announced.  On the other hand, in some ways it’s been almost ten years for this moment, when Korg would finally release a successor to the EMX.  Not that I didn’t like the EMX, it’s insanely deep if you spend the time with it, both for performance and composing.  But for some reason it just never had that specific sound I was looking for.  I always wanted to see Korg take it one step further, give us just a little more creative control and depth of features.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of grooveboxes, it’s by far my preferred way to make electronic music.  I’ve owned most of the major ones, and gotten pretty good at knowing them inside and out over the years.  Recently I decided to take a break from hardware live sets to focus on other musical endeavors, so I’ve been without a groovebox for almost two years.

The big question on my mind, is will the new electribe fill that role for me?  Does it have an interface that sucks you in and makes you lose track of time without realizing it?  Will the sounds match my tastes today, and can I actually perform those live in a way that lets me express myself in a way I enjoy?

I’ll be doing a more in-depth review in the coming days, but for now I wanted to note my first thoughts after only a couple hours playing with it.  Just the things that first struck me about it as I learned my way around.  So, let’s get started.

I was happy when I first picked it up after unboxing to learn that it’s definitely as solid as most people have been saying.  It’s got some weight to it, though it’s not overly heavy at all.  A bit lighter than I expected in fact.  No flex in this thing at all though, it’s definitely a metal body and feels like it.  I don’t see any issues taking this thing live.

The knobs are pretty good overall, nothing spectacular, but they feel solid enough for live use and after a bit of use are loosening up without feeling wobbly at all.  The trigger pads are nothing special either, but again they feel more than up to the task.  They definitely aren’t as responsive as say Maschine in comparison, but I had no issues with double-triggering or not being able to enter different velocities while playing.

The touchpad is probably the cheapest feeling part on the unit, you can feel a sort of bumpy, textured surface underneath.  It’s not as smooth as it looks.  It works well enough in use for most things, but it was a bit tricky so far to accurate play scales with it, for instance.  In time perhaps.  Anyway, not a deal breaker by any means, as most touchpads are pretty cheap feeling to me.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even listen to the factory patterns at all.  The first thing I did was initialize the first pattern, go through the menus setting all my preferred defaults, and then save it over all the 250 factory pattern slots.  Sorry James, I gotta start mine from scratch 🙂

I did start to have a bit of a panic doing this though, as I realized just how many menus there are, and how often I would have to be using them to write music on the electribe.  Luckily, I tried holding Shift while going through the menu pages, and this jumps you from one edit menu category to the next.  IE, you can skip from global settings, pattern settings, part edit, etc.  That helped a lot.

I later remembered that by holding shift and pressing a trigger pad, I could also access shortcuts to different menu pages.  This works MUCH better, all the major functions have their own shortcut, and the ones that don’t are now only a button press or two away in most cases.  Really speeds up any menu operations, so I’m a lot less worried about this.  It’s brilliant in fact.

This sort of thing applies in a lot of places on the electribe, for instance holding shift and turning the OSC select knob skips you between the different drum types, then different samples, finally the raw OSC types.  Same with the effects, you can hold shift and skip through the distortion category, the delays category, etc.  This type of thing really speeds up the work flow a lot, so I’m happy to see they didn’t just do it in a couple places, but machine-wide.

The sounds and the unit itself sound really good, no disappointments there.  I haven’t had time to really dive into the synth editing as much as I want yet, but the drum sounds are uniformly up to date and useable, and the PCM samples have a lot of potential too.  Some cheese as well, but I think with some clever editing we’re going to see more use ou of these than people would expect.  The raw OSCs have a lot of tweakability thanks to the OSC edit knob, which sometimes drastically alters the sound of the OSC beyond what you’d expect.  Overall there’s a lot more room for sound design than on any other electribe to date I feel.

I did have a few issues with clipping internally causing some clicking noises, but once I adjusted the volumes of my parts down a bit it cleaned right up.  Headroom is apparently pretty important given the complex processing going on.  Keep it a tiny bit quieter than you might expect, and it all works and sounds amazing.

I’ve already read the manual a few times (it’s only 16 pages) so it wasn’t too hard for me to find my way around and start making my own patterns.  The first one sucked, total preset cheese sounding, even I cringed 🙂  The second one was much better though, and had exactly the sort of depth of sound I wanted in a modern groovebox.   Good low end, nice bright mids, and effects are really clean and blend well with each other.

Big sigh of relief!

Basic editing operations all worked as expected and were simply to find via the shortcuts mentioned above.  It’ll take some time to become second nature, but already I feel pretty quick on the unit.  There’s a lot of depth here, and I think Korg did a really good job of making it easy to get to.   It’s still early, but so far I’m still really excited at what I’m going to be able to create with the electribe.

So, what about the not so good things?

As mentioned, headroom is important if you want to keep things click free.  Not really a huge deal, you just can’t get crazy with your levels internally.  I did have one weird lock up too, some notes got stuck and the display always showed the same menu screen no  matter what I did.  A power cycle fixed it, but still a little worrying.

You can save your patterns while they play and you are editing them, but occasionally it seems to throw the timing out.  You get a slight skip in the pattern playback.  Not something you probably want to do live, even though it only happens about 3 in 10 times.

A lot of people are worried about the whole pattern change glitch issue, but for me it wasn’t really something I noticed.  Yes it would be awesome if reverb, delay, and amp release tails carried over to smooth transitions, but that’s just not how this box works.  So far it’s really only with the part delays that I find it’s that noticeable, and I’m sure I can think of a workaround once I get a bit time with the box.  Maybe not ideal, but not something that really is a huge turnoff for me either.

Other than that so far it’s been a mostly positive experience, hell it’s been downright fun to be honest.   I’ll post some more thoughts and a video review in a few days, hopefully I can cram as much time as possible on the electribe so it doesn’t take too long.

If you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll address them if I can.  I don’t plan on using this as a MIDI sequencer, so anything related to that side of things will probably be the last area I dive into though.

Stay tuned!
Tarekith

Inching Forward

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Well, things are slowly marching towards my move to Luxembourg, even though we still don’t have a firm move date which is dragging things out a bit (waiting for our visas).  The process is going well for us so far otherwise, we sold our house without too much issue, and in the meantime have been slowly getting rid of all the crap we don’t need to bring with us.  The one real benefit to any move 🙂

Figuring out all the details involved with getting my studio overseas has been rather more convoluted than I expected.  One of the downsides of moving to a relatively tiny country, had it been England or France information is much more readily available.  The biggest hurdle so far has been news that shipping all the studio gear might take up to 3 months now, instead of the original 6-8 weeks we had been quoted.  Thank you dock worker slowdown.

Oh well, nothing I can do about it, it’s the only practical way to get that much gear overseas.  Gives me more time to work on the book I guess.

Needless to say, all of this hasn’t really left me with much time or brain power for writing music.  At least not in any sort of serious way like working on actual songs or an album, though I’m constantly tinkering with random ideas.  For now I’ve decided to just focus whatever free studio time I have into creating samples and loops to use later.  My Ableton Push jams, guitar ideas, messing about with the Monotron Delay, you name it.

Oh yeah, and I bought a Korg Volca Keys at long last.  Just picked that up a few days ago, but so far it’s a great way to spend short bits of time coming up with fun ideas to record.  At the moment I’m just recording everything into one large Ableton Live session, since it’s so easy to fire that up to capture lots of ideas.  I’m hoping to post a video review once I get a bit more hands on time with it.

VolcaKeys

Like I said, I still have no idea what I’ll do with all this material, but at least I have it recorded and ready once I decide.  Possibly going to use it for a new live set, perhaps with the Korg Electribe sampler when that gets released.  Or maybe I’ll release a sample collection.  We’ll see, at the moment not too concerned with the end result, just trying to have fun and unstress from anything having to do with the big move. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m still up and running when it comes to mastering and mixdowns, trying to get as many of those done as possible before I’m shut down for weeks.  Oh well, like I always say, heads up, chin up, just keep plugging away!

Hopefully I’ll have more news soon, until then peace and beats,

Tarekith

Mixing & Mastering in the 21st Century

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12PM PST – Mixing and Mastering in the 21st Century  | Jake Perrine and Erik “Tarekith” Magrini

“As technology continues to advance, so do the practices for delivery in the audio industry.  With many producers working entirely on their own, how do we deliver the highest quality product we can?  Are CDs relevant?  What aout the MP3 and the many online portals for distribution?  Are there any standards we should be following?  Lead Trainer Jake Perrine hosts a conversation with Erik “Tarekith” Magrini, owner and operator of Inner Portal Studio to help you navigate the many pitfalls of mixing and mastering your own music.”

I hope some of you can stop in for the session!

Tarekith

Inner Portal Studio Is Moving!

Luxembourg

It’s been months in the process, but it’s finally official:  Inner Portal Studio is moving to Luxembourg!  While my wife and I love Seattle, we both felt lately it was time for a temporary change, and luckily an opportunity like this presented itself at the right time.

The actual move date is still being worked on, but it’s tentatively going to happen around mid-January we think.  I’m doing everything I can to minimize how long the studio will shutdown during the transition, so hopefully it won’t affect anyone’s upcoming projects.  Luckily the beginning of the new year tends to be a little slower as people recover from the holidays anyway 🙂

I’ll keep everyone updated as I find out more, and I’ll be writing about what is going into moving a studio halfway around the world as well.  First step, find a good step-down transformer so I can use all my gear on 220v!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Mastering Trends

bassNow that I have been mastering other people’s music for around 15 years, it’s interesting to look back and reflect on some of the trends I’ve seen come and go over that time. Not so much in terms of musical styles, but rather the mixdowns I’ve been sent. So, how’s does the music I was sent 15 years ago compare to what I get today? Here’s a few examples that stick out in my mind:

1. Bass issues. By far the number one issue I used to deal with when mastering other people’s tracks years ago was the low end. Too much bass, too little bass, bass all over the place. These days it’s still an issue for some people, but the range of extremes seems to be a lot smaller. People generally seem to have a better grasp of what’s happening in the low end of their songs.

I think it’s largely down to studio monitors getting better more than anything. It’s a lot easier and cheaper for producers to buy a fairly accurate monitoring setup for their studio. And more musicians than ever recognize how important it is combined with acoustic treatment.

These days it’s actually the opposite that I find true, people are putting the high end all over the place. Cymbals that will tear your ears off they are so loud, or high hats that are so quiet you can barely hear them. I have no idea why this is happening, but there you go 🙂

2. Tracks lacking stereo spread. Early on I used to get a lot of tracks that were very mono focused, some were straight up completely mono. These days it the opposite, I get so many tracks where everything in the song is panned so far out to the sides, or some type of stereo-widener was over-applied. I’ve gone from spending time to give tracks depth, to working on bringing back some solidity to the center channel.

Lots of stereo effects pushing things really wide, combined with people doing a lot of writing in headphones these days are my guesses to the culprits. Along with people over-applying stereo widening plug ins as I mentioned before. You need the key elements of the song in the center of the mix too!

3. Tracks are clipping or distorted. A pretty common phenomenon early on, people just weren’t used to paying attention to their levels as much as they are now I guess. Or they were DJs used to pinning their signals in the red all the time. Luckily with increased awareness of how to use digital audio, increased use of 24bit audio, and understanding of proper gain staging, this seems to be a lot less of an issue. A few times this year I even got a couple tracks with over 48dB of headroom, oops.

4. Producer confidence. Out of all the trends I’ve seen, this is the one that still surprises me the most. Years ago people would submit tracks and tell me “this is the bomb track, make it really slam for me!” when they submitted a mixdown for mastering. People might not have the best sounding tracks, but boy did they think they did! 🙂

Today I get so many mixdowns where the producer is obviously really insecure with what their work. They apologize for issues that I don’t even hear, or they expect me to send them a detailed mixdown revision list with a ton of fixes. The ironic thing is, usually these mixdowns sound great, fantastic even! I’m not sure if producers are just under more pressure to compete among themselves or what is causing this lack of confidence. The music sounds vastly better, but everyone expects that their work really sounds bad. Weird. Heads up, chins up, have some faith in your music people!

Anyway, that’s just a few things off the top of my head. It’s kind of interesting being in a position like this long enough to even see a trend in music making, here’s to hoping I can do another post like this ten years from now. Who knows what we’ll be seeing then!

iOS8 Anti-Rant

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Given how much talk is going on in the iOS music community about iOS8, I wanted to share my thoughts on the situation.

When I first switched to an OSX based computer from Windows, one of the first things I learned is that if you want things to go easy in Apple land, you stay current.  Apple has no qualms about abandoning standards, ports, OS’s, whatever if they think they have a new and better way of doing things.  It’s just the way they are, their main attraction to consumers is being cutting edge, and that means not looking behind too much, which is unfortunate for a lot of people.

I learned the hard way when I bought my parents an iMac years ago so they could surf the web and FaceTime with us.  It was a nice closed system, it worked, and we agreed not to update anything.  Except then you get cut out of the Apple ecosystem eventually.  You need a newer OS than your hardware supports just to sync, or to do something like FaceTime.  You wait too long, you get left behind, and no one at Apple will care.

So I update right away when OS updates come out, not because I’m an Apple lemming, but because that’s how their whole ecosystem is set to work.  Look, here’s the newest way we’re doing things, everyone get onboard.  You too with the iPod Touch, you have to stand in back though.  Apps are expected to be kept current, and Apple is going to adjust the OS however they want to make things better.  You don’t have to agree with it, that’s just how it’s worked so far.

This has happened to me a lot over the years, both on the laptop and on iOS devices all the way back to the first iPhone.  Each time, I’d say that a few apps probably have issues, but in general it goes very smoothly.  The few apps that do have hiccups, usually get an update in a few weeks and then it’s like nothing happened.  Ironically iOS8 was the first time I’ve noticed more than 1 or 2 issues, and they are all related to Audiobus, not the actual iOS8 update.

I don’t make all my money from using my iPad to make music, but I do use it a lot for writing songs that I sell to supplement my income.  Never have I run into a situation where I didn’t have some other apps I could turn to that got the job done.  Any time you rely on too strict of a configuration of gear to get work done, you’re setting yourself up for a disaster eventually IMO.  There’s THOUSANDS of apps available for writing music, don’t blame the tools if you’re calling yourself a craftsman.

I DO make all my money running a business that relies on OSX software (Audiofile’s Triumph) for me to function and make money.  So I know all about wanting things to work right in order to feed my family.  But it’s also taught me that you have to really focus on the developers who KNOW how important it is that they are on that update bus just like Apple wants them to be.  One of my best friends writes iOS music apps, and I see with each of these iOS updates how much prep work they put in to make sure their user base has the least wait possible.  Good developers know what’s going on, they’re not (usually) surprised by OS updates.

It’s taught me to focus on a lean set up that uses software from developers I know are in it for the long haul.  Many like the people on this forum, you can tell by the way that they interact with their user base that everyone is on the same page.  You find the right group of people making software you like, those that have a great record for staying current and fixing bugs fast, and you don’t have to worry about many of these issues.

At least not for long 🙂

People have been freaking out as if things are the end of the world, but the fact is there’s enough that IS working that you can figure it out if you need to get a job done.  We’re making music with a computer, which means there’s actually a LOT of things that are integral to how we express ourselves that are out of our control (and always will be).  You need to be flexible to deal with hiccups when they come, because we are never the intended user base for the way these devices are designed.

Things like this will happen, adapt, move on (and support those developers that want to support you).  It’s critical to being a 21st century musician IMO.

(first posted on the Audiobus forums I admit)

Tarekith