Proof of concept.

This is mostly a note for myself, just so that I won’t forget what I did here.  There are still many more questions out of this than there are answers, but this was truly an interesting experiment.

Components

  • Strat guitar, tuned C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-G4, strung with flatwounds
  • Behringer UMC404 audio interface
  • MacBook Air laptop, running Tracktion 7 DAW
  • Morley ABY pedal
  • Boss ME-70 multi effects pedal, running “clean” amp at about half gain and 3/4 preamp output;  master out for unit set at about half
  • IK iRig 2, set at max HW input gain and set “thru” for amp out
  • iPhone SE, running AmpliTube with a high-gain amp model

Signal path

  • Strat direct into input 1 of the 404, instrument level with 20dB pad engaged, gain about halfway up.
  • Hardware insert set up on input 1.  Send signal went into iRig guitar input.
  • iRig amp out (set to thru) went into ABY pedal to be split.
  • “A” leg of split went to the insert return.
  • “B” leg of split went to ME-70 unit.
  • Output of iRig went to channel 2 in the 404, set as Line level without pad, gain halfway up.
  • Stereo output of ME-70 went to channels 3 and 4 in the 404, set Line level without pad, gain halfway up.

DAW settings

  • Channel 3/4 treated as stereo pair.
  • Levels tuned to slightly favor clean signal by 1-2 dB.
  • Levels brought to peaking at between -10 and -5 dB.
  • Saturation and reverb plugins used on “direct” guitar signal.
  • Channels 2-4 used no processing or plugins.

Observations

  • Took a while to get input levels matched.  Still need to understand this audio interface better, and the exact difference between the “input” and “playback” sources on the “Mix” dial.  Also, it seems that using the hardware insert may cause the input level meter in the DAW not to report input levels.
  • Interesting that the 404 could, conceivably, be used as a hardware-only interface here.  The way this was set up, the mix was available entirely at the “inputs” end of the “Mix” dial;  in this case you’re using the preamps, line/instrument level and pad selectors, and the channel inserts are like a serial effects loop.  May want to look further into how to use the assignable and main outs with this in mind.
  • This wound up being, then, a single signal from the Strat, split into 4 channels:  1) dry signal, 2) wet signal from AmpliTube, 3/4) wet signal from ME-70, all in parallel.
  • The idea of “tricking” Channel 1 with the hardware insert seemed to work well.  Signal degradation from the send to and return from AmpliTube was frankly better than I’d expected.
  • The Mac must cause some sort of ground loop, as there is definite noise added when the power adapter is connected.
  • I like this idea of the parallel signals.  In this case it was interesting to hear the initial signal with the high-gain amp sound, but then the delay repeats coming from the ME-70 were clean, not dirty.  Likewise, having a clean signal in parallel with the dirty one definitely helps note clarity.  It will be worth doing more work on this.

 

A successful experiment.  Now, to figure out what I want to do with this idea.  🙂

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Props to the humble Raspberry Pi.

Well hell, that seemed almost too easy.

Here at Wilmachek World Headquarters (which graciously sublets this Craftygrass thing) we’ve long desired (if not aggressively sought out) a reasonably simple, low-cost means of sharing our music library so that we don’t have to manage multiple instances, etc.  We didn’t want it in the cloud, both because where we live the cloud is not always reliable and because we pay our ISP based on data volume, and because it can be a mess to manage silos of files separately the traditional way…

Enter the humble little Raspberry Pi.  Sabre was given one some years back by a family friend, and as I started to learn a bit about what Adam had in mind behind the gift, the idea mill started to grind into action, and when I asked Sabre if she’d mind us using the Pi in part to share music, she was happy to do it, even if she didn’t quite understand what I had in mind.  (She’s cool that way.)

And so, gradually–I’m new to the landscapes of Linux in general, of the Pi in specific, and of this business of sharing media–I learned a bit about how to set things up, and eventually figured I’d try out the simplest idea, that of setting up a Samba server on the Pi and just treating things as a simple file share.  And holy cow, it looks like this may just work out great, with nothing fancier required.

So our Pi is now set up with the music library installed in a root folder on a 128GB flash drive, occupying almost no space at all in one of the Pi’s USB ports;  that folder is shared by the Samba server to devices that can connect on our home network.  I’ll probably continue to learn about tweaks to folder permissions, etc., but the setup was pretty straightforward, and making incremental changes and reboots on the little champ is luxuriously quick and understandable.  And so we’ve now got us a share folder on our local network, abstracted out into a pretty convenient storage arrangement.

The really pleasant surprise came with trying this out on the playback side, with the VLC media player.  I did not realize how simple it would be to consume the whole library from both the Mac and our iOS devices, and since the VLC desktop app is substantially the same on Windows, I expect our Windows machines will be similarly easy to use.  I was hoping we could find a media library player that we could use instead of iTunes, but I didn’t figure we could use VLC across the board, and so simply.  And I hadn’t considered that we could incorporate video, as well, but the VLC app makes that so obvious we’ll have to try it out.  Sometimes, it’s really excellent to be wrong!

So now, testing, both kicking the tires and using it in daily use over a bit of time.  And with this hurdle now surmounted (after a big effort to consolidate and purge the several silos of library variants we have had floating around), it also promises an end-in-sight to finally (after a lot of years) getting our library into a state which is both understandable and conveniently usable.  Yeah, it’s not a perfect solution still (not solving the synchronization problem fully), but the promise is so much better than anything we’ve had before, that seems like a minor problem to have!

Kudos, then, to both the VLC Media Player app, in all its variants;  to tiny-format USB flash drives of startling size, to the long-established Samba server for the fileserver functions, and to the humble Raspberry Pi for making it all work so smoothly in such an inexpensive and convenient format.

 

 

Test: first ambient recording.

So just this week for the first time I committed an ambient improvisation “to tape”.  I may discuss further details of that later, but for now I’m trying to figure out the best way to ramp up storage for such things, and naturally, there are stumbling blocks.

So, for now, I’m going to try a direct link to the .mp3 file in a public Dropbox folder.

That is here.

Note that depending on what I set up etc. etc., this post may wind up being overtaken by other events, but for now, we’re a-testing.  Stand by…

Also, for anyone who does find himself here, please understand that this file is pretty raw:  a very simple edit (clip trim, start and end fades), one additional reverb plugin added, and the most rudimentary volume adjustment to get it up above the (roughly -18dB) recording level.  By no means has it been mastered, or even really mixed–and the signal processing settings felt very arbitrary in the first place.  (Understand it is quite literally the first recording of an ambient improv I’ve ever done:  I am new both to the end-to-end of production, and also to the art of soundscaping as a player as well.  It sure promises to be fun, but right now at least I am the quintessential n00b!  🙂  )

UPDATE:  Here is a second release candidate, after having applied some more mixing and mastering attentions.

An 8-string tuning for the next instrument build.

An interesting tuning idea flashed across the brainwaves today, as I seem to continue to chew on the idea of the reentrant tuning.  (It was relatively recently that the idea of the upside-down ukulele tuning occurred.  Apparently this means I’m fascinated.)

The tuning would be for an 8-stringed, guitar-scaled instrument, and would proceed, from strings 8 to 1:

C2 – G2 – D3 – A3 – E4 – E3 – G3 – B3

Hm.  Chicken scratch followed.

img_4782

Continue reading An 8-string tuning for the next instrument build.

Perhaps this could be called the “eku-cello” tuning.

See, “eku” is “uke” upside down, and this tuning idea combines an upside down ukulele tuning with cello pitches…where the two 4-string groupings overlap the C2 and the G2 strings.

Maybe I should explain…

Continue reading Perhaps this could be called the “eku-cello” tuning.