Well, the intro to digital sound design class on Coursera is over. That was an interesting class, and I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to the next class I’m going to take on Coursera, Intro to Music Production, taught by one of the faculty at Berklee. It will be interesting to see what’s the same, and what’s different. I wonder if they will cover anything related to Reason, my DAW of choice. I don’t really use Cubase as much as I should, but it’s because I’m not invested in VSTs.
I stopped by our local hackerspace, Splat Space, for a Blender workshop yesterday. Blender is used for 3D modeling, and it’s something I’ve always been kind of curious about. It was a good introduction to what the software could do. Blender can do a lot of interesting stuff. Also, the people at Splat Space are pretty cool. Sometime I’d like to drop in and learn more about maker-y stuff. (Like 3D Printing, learning to solder, and building my own synth. That would be fun.)
When I got back home, I decided to look up some tutorials on the internet, and got a better idea of how to use Blender. It’s pretty powerful, considering that it’s free. But the one thing I can’t get over is the reversed mouse buttons. That drives me nuts. You can change them, but I’m not a fan of Blender’s interface. Maybe after I use it more, I’ll feel more comfortable with it.
I also started messing around with another 3D modeling program called Metasequoia, which has been around since 1999, according to Wikipedia. (So it must be true.)
The LE version is free, but it has some limitations on the use of plugins and file types, which can be a bit of a problem later on. The full version is only $45. Considering that some of the higher-end programs can easily run into the thousands, this is a bargain.
The original program was written in Japanese, and so was the help file. The English translation is serviceable, but in order to find out how to use the program, I went to the Internet for help. DeviantArt and YouTube saved me in that department.
I’ve been messing around with Metasequoia all day. It’s a lot of fun to play with. I can see how one could easily lose track of several days like this. And Metasequoia itself is pretty straightforward to figure out.
When Propellerhead Software released their new PX7 FM synthesizer for Reason last fall, I bought it on sale because I fell in love with the sounds of my childhood. It comes with over 100,000 patches that are translated from the Yamaha DX7, and that’s great.
But there’s one small problem: I don’t know anything about programming an FM synthesizer. I understand the basic theory behind FM synthesis and how it works, but I don’t know how to turn that into PX7 patches that sound musical and not like train horns. Yes, I could just use the 100k I got from the Props, but I’d also like to make my own.
Someone on the Propellerhead User Forum suggested this book: “FM Theory and Applications by Musicians for Musicians,” by Dr. John Chowning and David Bristow, Yamaha, 1986. I went to my local library and requested a copy, and they got it through an interlibrary loan. It just came in today. Looking forward to reading it, and maybe untangling those FM mysteries.
Also, I’m really enjoying the sound design class on Coursera so far. It’s all pretty easy to understand and relatively straightforward. Some of it I already know, some I don’t.
Two exciting things happened in my world today.
First, it snowed! Okay, it didn’t stick, and it wasn’t a whole lot, but it was pretty.
Second, Sony released a proper BIOS for the Nex 5N! Now it will do auto-bracketing of up to +/- 3.0 EV! That’s huge! Now the Nex is a “proper” camera in my opinion. I’m sufficiently pleased with it to the point that I’m okay with it if Sony abandons it from here on out. (They probably will, anyway, new NEX models have been out for a while now.)
I signed up for Coursera today, mainly because I was interested in an Intro to Sound Design class taught by Steve Everett of Emory University. I’m coming in a little late, but I’ll still have time to finish it and get my certificate, if that’s what I want. What I really want is to learn how to do sound design.
I’ve been trying to get more and more into music production, but it’s always a question of time. I don’t seem to have enough of it to figure this all out on my own, so I’m hoping I can pick up some knowledge here and skip ahead a few steps.
I like the offerings in Coursera, but I wish they had more of a Udacity model that lets me pick up and finish a class whenever I feel like it, kind of like Khan Academy, only with certificates if I want one.
All three sites are pretty amazing in their own way, but it’s still a matter of making the time to get the work done.
Nektar Panorama P4
I keep forgetting to mention this. A few weeks ago my patched-together Edirol MIDI controller was dying again, and this time, no amount of pencil work could bring the dead keys back.
So I started looking at new MIDI controllers. I first went to the local Large Music Supply chain store, and tried a bunch of keyboards out, and just wasn’t impressed with any of them. Some were too mushy, some were too hard, none were what I was looking for.
I could have spent $300 now, and wound up buying another new keyboard in six months when I got sick of it.
So I kept looking, this time online. I decided to give the Nektar Panorama P4 a try. Amazon is good about taking returns, so why not?
The P4 has really tight integration with Reason, and the keys feel great. There’s some weight, but not full weight. The display and rotary knobs/sliders mean that I don’t have to fiddle with the computer as much.
Nektar also says that they’ll be doing frequent updates to keep up with the growing number of Rack Extensions in Reason. If a RE isn’t mapped, you can’t do anything with it from the P4. That’s kind of annoying, but it only affects the latest REs.
I like this growing trend of creating instruments that feel like instruments, and pull me away from the monitor.