maxBreakwell.com - Music, Sound Design, and Multimedia Experiments

Stardom Advice via The Book of Audacity

I was thrilled to win a copy of The Book of Audacity on the excellent website AudioTuts+ recently. It was a great excuse to become more efficient with this amazing free software program. My audio editing tasks are usually done using Ardour, a more feature-rich open source program dedicated to multitrack recording and production, but sometimes, if all you need is to do is make a few quick edits, Audacity is an easy choice. A certain amount of technical knowledge about Audacity is also a wise choice for any audio geek. It's free, open source, works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and if you are the musician in your group of friends, there is a high chance that someone will come asking you for help using it one day. continue reading »

May 3, 2011  1 Comment

On Failing the RPM Challenge

(and why I’m still glad I tried)

 

For the past month I have been participating in the RPM challenge, which in their words is,

Record an album in 28 days, just because you can.

What is considered to be an album is either 10 songs or 35 minutes of music. I was shooting for 35 minutes and fell pretty short of the mark.

 

It’s quite a tall order for if you have other responsibilities in your life. I could imagine it being not so difficult had I been able to retreat to a secluded studio somewhere, or taken a few weeks off of work to dedicate my mind, body, and soul to the task at hand. I knew I would not have these luxuries, but I also don’t think that is the point, nor do I think most musicians, amateurs or professionals alike, have these luxuries.

For me, I was enticed by one of their poster’s tag line,

What if every musician you knew put their music first for 28 days?

Sometimes it seems there is an infinite list of reasons for musicians to put almost any other aspect of lives before their music. I decided to take the month of February this year and spin that list right around. Equally important to the challenge I had with myself was an understanding that their would never be a “good” month to do this, or some magical distraction free place to run away to, and that the next step for me as a musician was to realize that fact and embrace it. In this case, by attempting to put 35 minutes of music on and CD, during the shortest month of the year, without taking any days off work, and mailing it to New Hampshire.

Side-note:

I once saw an interview with Smokey Robinson where he talked about writing a song everyday just because he can. I’m sure there are thousands that never make it onto a record, but he did point out that he doesn’t “have to go on top of a mountain” somewhere so he can work, it’s just a simple part of his day and life. I’m not a huge Smokey Robinson fan, he wrote some great hits no doubt, but that particular aspect of him I respect most.

Positive Effects

Despite throwing in the towel mid-last week when I realized there was no longer a chance of having 35 minutes of music finished, I still feel that some good things came from the experience.

  1. Workflow: Having an upcoming deadline forces you to stop tinkering with your setup and start producing material as fast as possible. The RPM challenge is a good way to put your DAW workflow strategies to the test and also realize how they can be improved.
  2. Writing Every Day: Get yourself in the habit of spending every free minute enjoying the life of a composer. Doesn’t matter how you do it, record it, sing it, write it down on staff paper, program mathematical algorithms, or just draw some abstract shapes, you’ve got to be creative every day.
  3. Form and Completion: This is the one that gets me. I’ve always had more ideas on the table than finished products, but again, that deadline looming over you forces you to figure out how to build on those random bits of inspiration and give your pieces form and structure.

Finally, here are two of the more “finished” sounding pieces that I was working on during February. They are both just one part songs which feature more free guitar improvisation than solid melody, but I hope you enjoy anyway.

 

The first song is temporarily titled Egypt 2011 because I had been watching news reports of the riots before sitting down to record this one. I tried to give it a dark feel.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

The second song has the working title of Tuesdays which I got when added the melancholy horn lines on a cold dreary Tuesday afternoon. The whole tune ended up having a slightly more wistful feeling than I was really going for, but I guess I can live with that.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

 

 

March 1, 2011  Leave a comment

iRig Amplitube + Aebersold = No Excuses

Amplitube_app_screendisplayMost of the emphasis in reviews of Amp Sim apps these days seems to focus on tone, and the application’s ability to achieve, with flawless accuracy, the nuances of the classic gear we all love.

This obsession with perfect tone in software is a bit misguided at times. With the $60 I spent on AmpliTube for iPhone and iRigI was mostly interested in a practice solution that didn’t disturb my neighbors, or wake up my girlfriend late at night.

I got exactly that, and the tone was pretty decent considering that I was playing my Gibson ES-135 into my phone.

In addition to being able to upload your own songs and loops, one extraordinary feature that caught my eye was the SpeedTrainer slider. This allows you to slow down the tempo without changing the pitch of whatever song you are working on, perfect for uploading and practicing with Aebersold tracks.

continue reading »

January 17, 2011  Leave a comment

Audio, Video, and Creative Code Tutorials Review

All of my previous projects have come to a dramatic halt these days while I spend more time educating myself with some real programming skills.

Not having a lot to show for the past couple months, I thought I’d simply share my opinions on some of what I believe are the best book/tutorials available for those looking to dive headfirst into computer programming, creative code, and/or interactive media installations.

First off, the book that is essentially responsible for allowing me to think that I have any business whatsoever writing any kind of code:

continue reading »

June 28, 2010  3 Comments

My Apologies…

…to anyone who visited my site over the past couple weeks. I was hacked and I wasn’t able to get around to fixing the situation and setting up a new site until yesterday.

Everything should be fine now as far as I can tell. Google has taken down their malware warning on my site too. Things have been extraordinarily busy in my personal life recently, but you can expect some new posts and projects to be coming out over the next couple weeks.

Please Stay Tuned,

Max

May 4, 2010  1 Comment

TouchOSC and Ardour

TouchOSC Layout Page 1

After too long a delay I finally finished my first version of a TouchOSC based transport for Ardour. One of the most difficult aspects of this project was the sheer number of Ardour’s functions that can be controlled via OSC. Deciding what to incorporate into the layout and what to leave out took hours of consideration and experimentation. I tried to keep everything as streamlined as possible only using using functions in my layout that I thought would be of the most use.

As I discussed in my previous post, you will need to run Max5 patch in the background to allow better communication between TouchOSC and Ardour. Please go ahead and download the .zip file which contains the TouchOSC layout, .maxpat file, and a .mxf file as well.  Even if you don’t own Max/Msp/Jitter, the patch should work fine using the Max/Msp runtime version, which is free to download.

continue reading »

February 10, 2010  5 Comments

Technical Difficulties

FYI

In the process of updating some things on my site today I unknowingly erased the downloads database. It’s probably going to take me several hours to maybe a day before everything is re-uploaded and working properly. I apologize to anyone who is trying to download something.

Come back real soon and I should have things all sorted out.

Thanks,

Max

February 5, 2010  Leave a comment

Amazing Jazz Guitar from Kevin O’Neil



It’s a shame when life gets in the way of your blogging. This has been the case with me ever since the holidays, but I’ll be back soon with some projects and interesting ideas to share.

In the meantime, I highly recommend listening to 23 Standards by Anthony Braxton. The entire album is amazing, but as a guitarist I was immediately impressed with the performance of Kevin O’Neil. His sense of timing and phrasing is completely original, entirely different from the funk sensibilities of my old favorites such as Grant Green or Melvin Sparks. Rather than constraining his improvisations to the “in the pocket” feel that most guitar players stick to, he manages to push, pull, and destroy the groove more like an avant-guard tenor sax player.

He also shreds with incredible speed and persistence throughout the entire range of the guitar. I have this image in my mind of him having to buy a new guitar every few years or so after wearing down the fretboard on the one he currently owns. It’s probably not true, but his playing sounds that sick.

Give it a listen until you hear from me next. You won’t be disappointed.

February 4, 2010  Leave a comment

Ardour and OSC Ideas



Ardour is a very inexpensive open source DAW software that runs on Mac OS and Linux though the use of the Jack Audio Connections Kit. It is essentially free, however a small donation will give Mac users the ability to save AU settings with a project. In addition to it being open source, many of its functions can also be controlled through OSC.

Considering the high price tag on most DAW software I was a little skeptical of the stability and usefulness of something that was basically being given away for free. No rewire support and its dependency on Jack also made me wonder if it was worth the time exploring.

After using Ardour for a few weeks I have to say I was wrong to ever doubt it. I have found it to be a very stable program that is fully capable for most applications, and the use of Jack to route audio has worked flawlessly on my MacBook Pro so far. In fact, being free from the constraints of what is rewire-able has actually opened up some creative possibilities that I though wouldn’t have been possible before. continue reading »

December 15, 2009  5 Comments

« older posts