Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scape-O-Matic

Scape-O-Matic is sound amusement, gambling device, for Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. It generates random weird and spooky sounds and soundscapes from a button press. If you like to just spin the wheel and see what happens, you may enjoy playing with it.

Here's a preview:

This machine has no user manual, so one needs to figure it out by herself/himself. I can offer few tips though.
  • Press the red button, then play the keyboard.
  • The equalizer works on dry signal only.
  • There are hidden buttons.
  • The machine will build sound out of a number of voices. Each voice is likely to have different settings for volume envelope and glide, although you only see setting for the first voice.
  • If it sounds really out of tune and you don't like it that way, try setting glide amount to zero. Even, if it seems be be set to zero already.
  • There are ways to edit single voices.
  • There is a 'data box' labeled 'lucky number', if you feel lucky, you can type in a number there. It will be used as a token for creating next sound (or for performing any randomizing procedure). Same token always creates the same sound.
Here it is. Free of change, but full of little critters. Use it at your own risk. You will need full version of Kontakt 4.2 or newer to make it work.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Key shuffler script for Kontakt

Another little Kontakt script today. This one will reorganize key-note assignments within an instrument. It can turn a pop ballad into modern atonal composition, or it can be lots of fun on drum kits. It looks like this:


Quick manual. 'Shuffle range' - here you set the range of keys to shuffle, set the lowest and highest key. To set it up quickly, use 'learn range' button, then press two keys one after another (in any order), the script will set the knob values accordingly. 'Shuffle intensity' - set how much shuffled you want keyboard to be. In one round the script takes two keys and exchange their note assignments. 'Shuffle method' - here you set the starting number for calculating key numbers to shuffle. When it's all set press 'shuffle keys' to perform the operation, or press 'restore keys' to return to 'un-shuffled' keyboard state. The shuffle is not random. It's calculated from range, intensity and method, so you can easily get back to a result you like, or you can automate shuffling in DAW. There are 1000000 possible combinations for each note range.

Here's how it works applied to one of Kontakt's factory drum machines. This machine is using 'drum computer' to create rhythms, so the notes can be shuffled. In this video I keep one rhythm pattern going while trying out different shuffle parameters.


If you like the idea, you can get the script here. It should work in Kontakt 4.2 or newer. Have fun.

Update: Revision A.

After a while of playing with drum kits, I though I would explore this idea a little further. I attempted to expand this script functionality.


First, I wanted to leave some keys out of the randomizing process. So I could e.g. have a bass drum and a snare going on, while randomizing sounds for the rest of drum pattern. I introduced two new buttons to script. 'Learn exceptions' - turn it on, now press the keys you don't want to be affected by the script, turn it off when finished. This procedure won't change the way keys are shuffled, it will just disable note properties modifications for keys in exception list. Exceptions list can be cleared any time with 'clear exceptions' button.

Another new feature is randomizing sound pitch, which can be quite fun with drums. Now every time 'shuffle keys' button is pressed, the script will create a pitch map for all keys, which will be derived from 'shuffle method' number (this is not depending on number of rounds). You can then control how much of the pitch modification to apply with 'shuffle pitch - range' knob. Also you can change pitch map polarity with the switch, mysteriously named 'pitch md. polarity'. Note that once pitch map is written, it will affect sounds also after you un-shuffle keys with 'restore' button. Pitch will be drawn from range of -24/+24 semitones. You can change maximum pitch range in the script, by editing $DETUNE_RANGE constant.

Get the expanded version of the script here.


Update 2: Small changes.

I make two small changes to the script... I have been testing its usability as a de-tuner. You can put a little life into some instruments (particularly synthetic) by de-tuning notes a little. Try this procedure: select a method number, shuffle keys, restore keys and move 'pitch range' knob just a little bit.
Some Kontakt instruments, like pianos, generate several notes, on one key stroke. It was quite disabling 'learn note range' function. As a workaround I added a condition to not to accept the same note as the second note of the range in learn function.
Another change is note range functionality, thus far it was only used when shuffle button was pressed. I added a condition, so the range is checked each time a note is played. Now you can manipulate range button while playing a shuffled keyboard, so you can automate restoring some keys original assignments and tuning.
The download link has been updated.

Update 3: Revision B.

Wouldn't it be handy, to trigger some of those buttons by a key? My controller has only knobs and sliders. Automating buttons with CC is not quite comfortable, so... Excuse me for yet another incarnation of this script. This one has 'key-learn' function for shuffle, reset and polarity buttons. They are color coded on virtual keyboard, red for shuffle, green for reset and yellow for polarity. Note that key assignments may interfere with instrument's key switches handled by other scripts, so it's best to make sure the key of choice has no other function.

Key shuffler script, revision b, download link.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fake random round robin script for Kontakt

This little tool spawned from Terrible piano instrument. It's a script for NI Kontakt which simulates round robin functionality. What is does is: take incoming note, trigger random different note from defined range and tune it to match the pitch of the incoming note. So it is using 'neighbor' notes, to introduce sound variations.
Obviously, it will only work on instruments which have different samples assigned to each note (or most of notes to some degree). If the instrument is based on a single sample, stretched all over the note range,  it will produce no audible results.
Besides 'faking round robin', it can also fake classic stereo effect, where you record two takes of the same phrase and then pan them in stereo. There are two controls. Round robin range is, how far from the original note can the machine look for substitutions. When range is set to zero, the effect if off. Stereo spread activates stereo effect. It only works when round robin is active. It simply triggers another random note and then positions both notes in stereo field according to spread value. In some cases it can produce a flanging effect.
I don't know, how to automatically detect instrument's note range in Kontakt, so it has to be set manually, by editing values in the script. Else some notes may wander off instrument range and produce no sound in effect.
Here's how it works, applied to one of Kontakt's factory e-pianos.


The effect can be subtle or weird, depending on instrument and settings. If you'd like to go weird way, try it on a choir library and push it to the limit.

The script is using classic algorithm to generate random numbers. It will restart the generator on transport start (whenever you press play in DAW), so if  you use it in a project, it will always render the same result.

You can download the script here. It will work Kontakt 4.2 or newer. Have fun with it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Terrible piano

There are countless beautiful sampled pianos, but what if you're not in the mood for a nice, quality piano sound? If this is one of these days and you want some bad, broken, out of tune, lo-fi piano with eerie sound, I may just have something for you.

Yes, this is actual photo of the piano.
This set has been recorded by accident. I happened to need to wait some hours alone in a room with this old upright piano, which has been quite obviously kept there purely for decorative reasons. I started to play around with it, recording notes to portable recorder. To make it somewhat interesting I picked rater unusual microphone position, I placed it under the piano. It barely fit the space between the floor and the instrument, and so the recording has a sort of claustrophobic, creepy vibe. If you have ever wondered, how would piano sound from a cockroach perspective, this is it.

It has been cut to samples and patched into an instrument in Kontakt. The piano was way out of tune, surely it hasn't been serviced for decades, if ever. I made a rough attempt at fixing the tuning in Kontakt, it still sounds broken, just not as much as before. Kontakt patch offers both tuning versions, it also has an EQ, convolution reverb and mono/stereo switch. Here's how it sounds, once again murdering a classic for demonstration purpose.

http://www.fairlyconfusing.net/docs/terrible_piano.mp3
First part is re-tuned version, then there's part with original (de-) tuning, then there's part in mono and finally mono + some reverb.

There are no velocity layers or round robins in this set. Not even all notes are sampled and the noise floor is noticeable. There are however release triggers. There are 41 samples for the range of 83 notes, totaling 87 samples with release triggers and some pedal noise samples. To save disk space and bandwidth, the original 96/24 stereo recording captured with Zoom H2n, has been down-sampled to 41,1/16 in SOX.


The download - 71MB zipped, is free to grab and use, contains 87 samples in wav format and patch for Kontakt sampler. You will need full version of Kontakt 4.2 or newer to open the patch. It will only work in demo mode in 'Kontakt Player'.

Update: Following a suggestion, I added 'fake random round robin' mechanism to Kontakt patch. It is using random different note samples to mimic round robin functionality. It can create some crazy sound variations at the cost of sound realism (as samples are being re-tuned in sampler). There is extra knob labeled 'fake RRR', when it's set to zero, the effect is off. If you already downloaded the whole pack, you can get new resource file here, as only the instrument script has changed.

Update 2: here are mappings for sfz, place them in root folder, along with Kontakt patches.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fog Horns

I've got a pair of these noise makers, plastic horns attached to spray cans. They are named fog horns, but people mainly use them to get deaf at sport events. These can be truly instruments of doom, as the noise is overwhelming. Obviously, I had to try to get them into sampler. I recorded a handful of sound samples in two sessions, one using portable Zoom recorder and the other in my home studio setup. I've got some sustained tones, some short horn noise bursts and some strange sounds, achieved by blocking the horn tube opening with various objects. Got me quite an ear ringing...

Later, I made experimental scripted interface for this in Kontakt, based on a kind of button matrix, which can be used, to quickly create sound combinations and play them in round robin.

Here's a sound example, generated by single instance of Kontakt instrument, changing sound clusters with mod wheel while playing...



And here's how interacting with the Kontakt device looks like...


Well, this can sound quite horrible and it sometimes gets way of of tune. It is the nature of these toys, pitch is constantly drifting along with changing air pressure and  temperature. These cans can get quite cold after longer periods of decompressing. So, this instrument has a lot of character.

Getting to the point, I've got a crooked deal on this little devil. First off, the pack of samples, 35 samples, plain wav, normalized, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, mono - this is free to get right here. It weights 6 MB zipped, use them as you please, or as you displease. Now the other twist, Kontakt instrument based on these samples, is available on Bandcamp at the price of your choice. Comes with raw unprocessed samples, 96 kHz, 24 bit, Kontakt patch and a confusing manual in funny English. It requires full version of Kontakt 4.2 or newer to make it work. Take your pick.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bleepman

Bleepman is yet another Kontakt device with sequencers, that I wrote. It is based on Queuescape engine, but it's somewhat less complicated. As the name implies, it is aimed at retro computers muzak re-creation / chip-tune vibe. The sound source is set of 40 waveforms recorded from various forms of old electronic equipment, or generated digitally with bleeping sounds in mind. It has four step sequencers with selectable transition shapes, which can be assigned to modulate various parameters. There are two additional voices, which can be used to fatten sound or to add texture.

And here's how it sounds, this is compilation of preset examples, these sounds are included and can be loaded via instrument preset system.



If you want to sink into details try reading the manual, although I think it's quite better to try a direct approach. My writing can be more confusing than facing arrays of mysterious red knobs.

This synthesizer requires Kontakt 4.2 or newer full retail version to run. It's free to grab and use in your music. Here's the file - 1MB, zipped, includes manual and presets. Have fun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Queuescape, sequencing bleeper

Queuescape is another confusing device for Kontakt 4 sampler. It's virtual re-creation of  imaginary retro synthesizer. It's based on single cycle waveforms and it has a lot of internal step-sequencers which can control various parameters. It has a kind of bleepy sound of early home computers or gaming consoles.

Here's a set of sound examples:


This device is written in Kontakt script, as a sort of experiment. It is constantly recalculating sequencing data and modulating parameters, which results in surprisingly high CPU usage. Parameters are being set according to sequenced program and tweakable frequency, transitions between sequencer steps can be more of less smooth, according to transition shape and set frequency. Sequencers can be programmed by hand or transformed in many ways with sequence tools. Alternatively you can create random programs with only few button pushes. There is a simple preset system, ready sequences can be saved to file or to memory slot (which can be then recalled by midi note).

Queuescape in numbers:
170 step-sequencers
15 KB of samples
12 pages of confusing and deceiving manual in funny English
10 oscillators
9 in-between-steps transition shapes
6 stage volume envelope
5 effects rack
1 monophonic mode

If you'd like get into details, you will need to confront the manual.

And here's how interacting with it looks like:


Download link - size 650KB. Queuescape model 10 is free to download and use in your music. Note, you need full version of Native Instruments Kontakt 4 or newer to make it work.

If you like it, you can get beefed-up model 20, which is a variant of Queuescape synthesizer. It has the same functionality as  model 10, but has 20 oscillators instead of 10, plus each oscillator comes with selectable alter-ego. The default waveform set is similar to that in model 10, but waveforms come in pairs, there are two sine oscillators, two pulse oscillators and so on. It makes some creative space for the phase inversion setting. Last two in the set are noise oscillators. Alternative waveform set is cut from various exotic acoustic recordings, like one of bicycle horn, penny whistle or fireworks. Model 20 allows even more combinations and requires even more CPU power. It is available on Bandcamp for whatever you think it is worth. However, tame your enthusiasm, test model 10 first and make sure it suits you.