Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Spookomatic is one of a kind instrument for generating eerie ambiances, melancholic pads and ghastly atmospheres. It is using multiple layers of melodic sounds, background ambiances and sequenced environment noises, all being dynamically transformed by an array of step sequenced modulators, to create an organic, rich, living soundscapes. As the name suggests, the instrument is focused on chilly, mysterious and creepy tones, while not being deadly serious. Like a generic horror flick, it's a bit scary and a little silly, but unlike such kind of a movie, it can be quite unpredictable.
Spookomatic is self-configuring sound machine, it automatically creates random patches, which can be tweaked afterwards. Just press the shuffle button and hear what you can find, it's a sort of a ghost in the machine.

Here's a how it sounds, in a compilation of different patches:

And here's a brief guide to user interface:

There are eleven step sequencers per layer, modulating parameters, like pan, tune, filters cutoff and send effect levels. What is uncommon about the sequencers, is that the sequence can be interpolated, that is, the parameter values can change gradually in between sequence steps, according to different curves. Each sequencer can run at different speed and different cycle, creating quite non-repetitive, yet tempo synchronized textures.

Here's how modulation sequencers work:

Spookomatic in cold numbers:
  • 21 melodic sound sources, created with acoustic instruments (guitars, reed organ, voice, non-musical objects), vintage analog synthesizer and digital synthesis,
  • 30 types of background noise from field recordings, or digital sound manipulation,
  • 192 noise fragments to create sequenced ambiance,
  • up to 10 sound layers,
  • up to 110 modulation sequencers,
  • 4 instrument configurations,
  • 144 selected presets,
  • 999999999 possible patches.
The instrument requires full version of NI Kontakt sampler, version 5.5.2, or newer to run. Depending on patch, it may be rather CPU intensive (there's a lot going on under the hood).

It's available at Loot Audio.

This instrument is new take on the idea, I was exploring with older, free instrument, Scape-o-matic. It has similar character and engine, though Spookomatic takes it to a new level.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Chop Shop update 1.1

I made a small update to Chop Shop, sound collage automaton. Slice duration can be now defined as note fraction (synchronized with tempo/sequencer step interval). To change duration mode, click on duration label and select from drop-down menu. Also there are different knob pointer shapes to select (say hi to pac-knob).

See Chop Shop post, or get it right here. Full version of Kontakt 5.5.2 is required to open the program.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chop Shop

This sound machine took a long while to build, mainly because there was always something else in the way. Possibly it is the most confusing one, which might be the reason I have been putting it aside for so many times.
I have been using this tool to automate sample chopping and slice sequencing for experimental/glitch/collage kind of music. There is a sequencer, which aside from playing sample slices, can be programmed, to change its parameters at certain points of the sequence. For example, it can be set to increase sample playback offset every second sequence step and/or set different filter cutoff every 6th sequence step. At higher level it can remember several sequence parameters and play those in defined order to create complicated structures. As many of instruments I created, it takes advantage of seed based pseudo-random number generator, so any event can be set to random, derived and re-played from initial seed number. This way you an completely change the output of a complicated structure, simply by changing the seed.
In the following video, I play around loading different presets and changing general parameters. Offset, seed and sample knobs in effect panel modify those values throughout any program sequence, playing with them on presets is an easy way to start having fun with Chop Shop.

The machine is designed to use sound fragments (parts of a more or less finished tracks) and re-organize them, in a way unrelated to original tempo. In other words, it doesn't use multisamples and it's not suitable to chop 'beats'. It is however synchronized to host's tempo. I included a set of somewhat random samples. Custom samples can be used, but you will need to rename and replace the sample files.

To play with Chop Shop, you will need full version of NI Kontakt sampler 5.5.2 or newer. The instrument is free to use, you can get it HERE, it's 62MB file. It comes with fairly confusing manual in PDF file. If you don't get it, read the manual (I can't guarantee it will help though). Have fun.

A note on presets: This instrument is using its own preset system, presets should be in /presets/ folder. Each preset is being saved in two separate files, it should be possible to trade/exchange/copy presets files between different instrument copies.

And here's small intro to programming the critter...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I assembled a Kontakt bass instrument crudely nick-named Bassmeister, which is now available on Loot Audio... The samples were created with rare, vintage bass piano.

I bought the piano sometime in early 90s (took me a while to get to sample it), the guy who was selling it, advertised it as "The Doors bass". He was referring to Rhodes bass piano used by Ray Manzarek, but this box was no Rhodes. The piano is "Basset II" made by East German accordion manufacturer Weltmeister. Not to be confused with Hohner's Basset, which is electronic keyboard. Weltmeister's Bassset I, is somewhat noticeable on the Internet, as it's a keytar, it has been produced from early to late 60s. Version II has lost the handle along with proud name of keytar and has different casing, but from what I can tell of version I pictures, the interior is very similar. Unlike Rhodes, this critter is using a set of metal stripes (in place of metal rods) built into a comb shaped pickup. The mechanism of making the stripes vibrate is rather unique. There is a lever mechanism which lifts the stipe up, until it slips off its edge, which is similar to the way you play a kalimba with fingers. Lever mechanism is simple, yet quite fragile. It would explain, why there is not many of these still in working condition. My unit has five broken or missing levers, however, as the lever design is the same for all keys, I could use one of working levers, for sampling separate keys. Which was just a lot of screwdriver work. At the side there is a kind of volume modulation pedal, which doesn't work very well, probably because of aged parts. The bad thing about this piano is resonance, it's enough to tap the case harder and all the stripes start to resonate, interfering with playing keys. It might be partly because of aged (and cheaply made) sponge dumpers. For sampling I used two small towels to quiet unused stripes, the amount of work it would take to secure them all, would rather indicate a design flaw.

For Kontakt instrument I used two velocity layers and five polyphonic round robin samples per key. By polyphonic round robin I mean, there is separate round robin counter for every key. Key velocity doesn't really matter in instrument's design, but hitting a key really hard make a distinctive initial distortion sound, so I made a separate high velocity layer. The instrument has selectable filters, distortion, LFO and envelope modulators for some creative sound shaping. It requires full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or newer to work.

Finally, here's a video overview of the Kontakt instrument.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Beat Assembler XT

Beat Assembler XT is drum computer instrument based on experimental design, extended version of previously posted Beat Assembler 48. It is using randomly or manually generated pattern model, which is then being used as basis for creating a drum sequence. The machine is using series of quantizers and sound mappers to re-shape model pattern, fitting it into a time-frame of choice, allowing user to observe the results on the fly.

New and expanded features in  XT version:
  • bigger master sequence size (128 notes) and more optimized calculations, which it would require,
  • 99999 automatic pattern generator presets,
  • up to 16 voice groups,
  • drag'n'drop MIDI export, drop final pattern directly to DAW, or to a file manager to create a midi file,
  • preset system, 10 memory slots and support for saving sequences to a file (so they can be loaded into another Beat Assembler patch),
  • displacer mechanism, introduce 'little changes' to a pattern with single knob,
  • expanded manual editor with handful of new tweaks (including copy/paste mechanism, so you can drop a portion of one pattern into another easily),
  • filter bank access, filter type can be set quickly from drop-down menu, for each voice group individually,
  • resizeable drum kit, makes it easy to create custom drum kits, use the machine as sample shell,
  • 12 patches, including a re-creation of obscure polish analog drum machine from the 80's (which I took apart and soldered voice on/off switches, so I could capture each sound separately and then hand programmed re-constructed rhythm patterns in Beat Assembler),
  • 36 hand programmed patterns (as opposed to automatically generated ones) to experiment with (can be loaded from file in nka format),
  • five background variations, change the machine looks in setup panel,
  • and, as usual, a fairly confusing manual in strange English.
Here's a video overview, jamming with three instances of Beat Assembler in standalone Kontakt:

Beat Assembler XT is available on Loot Audio.

It requires full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or newer to run (Free version will run on Kontakt 4, but XT is actually using Kontakt's new features, like changing filter type from script).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Beat Assembler update

I made a small, but rather important update to Beat Assembler drum computer. Playback timing calculations have been improved, so the machine should not drift off set tempo. At least not quickly (in previous version it would be apparent after couple of measures). If you're using it, please re-download.
Extended version is just around the corner...

Friday, January 1, 2016

On reversing instruments in Kontakt

I wonder how would that piano sound backwards... That probably crossed every sampler user mind, at least once. Well, Kontakt has 'reverse' button, press it and Kontakt will play the samples backwards. However, the problem is, samples often have very long tails, so it takes a while until you can hear the sound and it's useless for dynamic playing. You would want to play the sample, but not from the beginning (or the end, depending on how we look at it). For this 'offset' parameter can be used, it tells the sampler from which point in the sample it should start playback. Now, another problem is, that samples have different lengths. To have more or less consistent volume envelope, when playing chords, you would want all played samples to reach the end of sample (reversed beginning) at the same time. Since offset is calculated from the beginning of the sample, and for reversed playback, from it's end, it's problematic. You would need to know the sample length for each note to calculate the proper offset. Considering velocity layers, it can be a lot of coding.
I wanted it, to be done automatically for any instrument, so I could play around with sound reversing. I came with somewhat crude solution, I wrote a script which will retrieve sample length for every note and every velocity in a group, remember it and apply offset accordingly when playing. To fetch the data for any sample set, I needed the script to actually play each note, so it could retrieve zone id and then sample length. Scanning takes a while, but in the end it's way faster, than doing it by hand. Here's a little presentation of reversing Kontakt's factory sitar.

You can get the script here. Both a preset file (which need to be copied to your Kontakt/presets/scripts folder) and as plain text that can be copied into Kontakt. It will work in Kontakt 4 or newer.

The shortcomings of this solutions are:
  • You can only use one group for reverse playing, so no round robin backwards.
  • It will work best on instruments build on sample per note basis. If samples are re-tuned, playback speed will vary and since offset is provided in microseconds, it will get misaligned. The more tune change, the more misalignment. To compensate for this, script would need to learn root key for each sample, which I don't know how to automatically retrieve in KSP.

About using the script:
  • First locate the group you want to reverse and set 'targ.group' accordingly. First group has index of zero.
  • Change sampler mode to 'sampler'. Disadvantage here is, that it will load all samples to memory, but offset parameter doesn't work in DFD mode. If you need to use DFD, you would have to edit 's.mod' value in wave editor to match sample length. And do that for every sample. No fun.
  • Switch reverse button!
  • You can adjust 'interval' setting, it's time to take to scan single note/velocity combination in microseconds. Lower the setting to scan faster. However I found that at low settings, the script failed to retrieve data correctly, 500 didn't work for me, 1000 did, but this may depend on settings/setup. I would consider 3000 a safe setting.
  • Now press scan button and wait for it to complete. If you need to break the process press it again.
  • Scanned data will be remembered in DAW project / patch, so if instrument/project is saved, you don't need to scan again.
  • Note that, the scanner will skip any note that hasn't a sample mapped at velocity of 1, to speed up scanning process.
  • Position knob sets the offset value, that is how far from the beginning should playback start. You can adjust this value while playing. Try not to exceed shortest sample length, or shorter samples will get misaligned.
  • When duration knob is set to zero, samples will play as long as the key is held (or until they reach the beginning of a sample). Any other setting will generate notes of fixed duration, defined in percentage of offset setting. You can use it, to prevent playback to reach the beginning of the sample and for smoother sound tail, if combined with volume envelope.
  • This script can interfere with other scripts, particularly those which also do ignore_event, play_note sequence, like factory portamento script, so you may need to disable other scripts, if it doesn't work.
  • Have fun reversing!