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.

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.
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'.

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 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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Junk percussion.

Junk percussion sample set is side product of Psychodrumma II development. At one point I needed more percussion sounds, I quickly collected some junk around the house and I took a long evening session of banging on stuff. Some of these sounds were incorporated into Psychodrumma soundbanks, but still there were plenty of leftovers. I finally had time to edit them, so today I'm offering household junk percussion set. With a little of reverb on, it sound like this:

List of object used for this sample set: broken 8 mm camera, empty beer cans, bicycle horn, bowed metal plate, broken heater, carton boxes, the remains of an old clothes airer, dirty lid, duct tape, dusty box, hollow plate, iron plate, metal tube, moldy books, motor oil can, oily plate, self propelled plastic toy mouse, plastic bowl, plastic rainpipe, fat chunk of rubber band, rusty lid, rusty saw, shiny lid, shiny pot, some other pot, yet another pot, stapler and woodblocks.

There are 200 wav files, 44 kHz, 16 bit, trimmed and maximized, royalty free to use in your music. Recording equipment: AT3035 microphone, Focusrite ISA One preamp, Echo Audio Audiofire card.

Download here. 13MB zip file, fresh, free and fragrant. Have fun.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Psychodrumma mk.II, chaos management workstation

Psychodrumma mark II is reworked and expanded version of Psychodrumma, fantasy, neo-retro drum machine/music generator for Kontakt 4 sampler. It can act as a drum machine and generate random rhythmic, ambient or melody patterns. It is based on matrix of nine synchronized step sequencers, and a meta-sequecer. Most of settings can be programmed automatically by randomizers, creating strange machine music. It has plenty of knobs and a lot of flashing lights. The device comes with three banks of 100 one shot samples each, these eclectic sets were made from synthesized sounds (digital and analog), field recordings, animal sounds, unusual percussion, bass and guitar tones and noises, voice fragments, objects (metal plates, pots, radiators, machine parts, bicycle horn, plastic tubes, firecrackers), radio noise, vinyl crackles, car engine and icy snow squeaking under heavy boots.

You can get mark I version for free two posts below.
Some of new features of mark II version:
  • algorithmic mode, makes it possible to playback or loop sequences of random events,
  • music box, tunes melodic samples to defined pattern, to create melody sequences,
  • reworked and expanded sound banks, including third tonal bank to use for generating melodies,
  • saving and loading presets, presets can then be sequenced in meta-sequencer, to create tracks inside the machine, preset-set can be then saved to file,
  • automated effects rack.
And are example tracks, sequenced entirely in machine's meta-sequencer:

Rhythm patterns were partly programmed by hand and party shuffled by the machine. Melody lines were applied entirely by machine's looped randomizers.

You can find detailed description in the manual.
To see how it works look at videos in previous post.

Psychodrumma mark II is available with the album of 16 tracks created and sequenced with the machine. Besides audio files, those tracks are included as machine tape programs, you can load any of them and playback it with metasequencer, reprogram, change tempo, effects or scale. It is available on Bandcamp.

Note, you need full version of Native Instruments Kontakt 4 or newer to make it work. It won't work properly in Kontakt Player. Also, as it's written in KSP script, it is quite impossible to import it to any other sampler.

Psychodrumma mk.II, videos

Here's set of videos for Psychodrumma mark II.

Browsing pre-programmed sequence tapes:

Programming a sequence, a possible way to play with the machine, first I create some steady rhythm manually, then I add random patterns:

Playing piano. In this example Psychodrumma midi out is being re-routed from midi channel 1 to channel 2 and then send back to the same instance of Kontakt, where it is propelling a piano.

Metasequencer functionality and application.

Just for fun. Controlling Alchemy by Psychodrumma randomizers. First send melody, then cast drifting controllers.