Northeastern Electro-Music Festival

I just returned from the Woodstock of electronic music! A phenomenal experience complete with a modular synth petting zoo and creativity workshops. Here is audio from my gig:

Special thanks to Joe Wall who gave me a ride and was the coolest roomie ever!! I could not have done it without him!!

‘Tis the season!

Spring has finally sprung!! Winter provided enough snow days for me to finish another EP. This one, Drag-On, features sampled loops from Lisa Moscatiello and the Window Shoppers, plus a lot of doodles created on Caustic and various iPad apps.

I am no longer releasing physical CDs but the digital download is available at Amazon, CDBaby, and Google Play, and iTunes.

I am having a release party April 25th at the Montgomery College Planetarium at 8pm. Hope you can make it!


Switching Teams


I am an avid SPC music sketchpad user but otherwise find the Android really lacking in the music production apps department! The openness of the system makes for inconsistent support and there is a huge latency issue. And no midi!

If I have adequate setup time i will bring my laptop with Abelton Live and a controller, but for tight gigs such as Sonic Circuit’s open mic night i will use a rig consisting of a droid tablet triggering loops via the SPC app and an iPod touch played via the Fingerist for “live” keys. However I wanted a mobile alternative for DJ gigs and found the droid DJ apps didn’t quite deliver. So I finally broke down and got an iPad, albeit a refurb first generation so I appear to be an early adopter rather than a cheapskate. I now use the iPad with iRig MIX, an inexpensive mixer for iPad and iPhone.  You can either mix two devices, or use a magic cable that splits the left and right signal to use the iRig like a mixing controller between two virtual decks. I was disappointed and a little surprised that iRig’s DJ app is only for iPhone but it does run fine in x2 mode on the iPad (UPDATE: iPad version now available). Also the iRig is app neutral so other apps such as DJay can be used with it instead. Here is a photo of me at this year’ Capital Pride arts stage. This is very quick and easy to setup compared to the laptop, which was in turn much easier to setup than CD players and turntables! And I get to use the iPad to obsessively watch episodes of The Good Wife!

As far as other music apps go, I really enjoy AKAI SynthStation, and Nanostudio on iPad. But the midi connections are a little complicated. Apple mucked about with the power for USB devices to thwart aftermarket products, so even after you buy the overpriced $30 camera kit there is no guarantee your controller will work with it. Being the gear whore I am I own 5 midi keyboard controllers. Only two will work with the iPad–the Korg Nanokey and my Behringer UMX49.

Photo by Dave Dunham

Making a Scene

Version 2.0 of Mikrosonic’s SPC – Music Sketchpad for Android tablets and phones is awesome!! The app lets you import your own wav files, download sample sets, or record your own audio to manipulate and trigger up to 16 loops. The interface is easy to use and the latest version features onboard FX with X/Y control. And it is only $4.99 from the google play store! I recently submitted scenes from “Special When Lit” that are now available for download and deconstruction!

What’s On My Tablet

I finally got a tablet, ostensibly so my Kindle App displays more like a real book and I can write e-mails that read better than ones sent by an orangutan with a speak and spell. Since I am carrying the thing around everywhere on a transit system plagued by consumer device theft I opted for a sub-$200 model with a 7-inch screen. 1SaleaDay, one of my destination sites each morning, recently featured the Elocity A7 for half the retail price so I took the plunge. I was able to pretty easily root the device to gain access to the market thanks to a very helpful Android user community.

Though CoreMIDI offers the potential for the iPad of the future to replace my laptop, the iPad2 appeared to be a gateway to expensive interfaces and apps for what would amount to a toy. In the meantime I am enjoying what my comparatively cheap droid has to offer. The three apps I love so far are SPC and RD3 HD by Mikrosonic, and Caustic by Single Cell Software.

SPC has 16 pads that can be loaded with samples that can be looped or sequenced via a pattern editor. Pads can be set up to toggle. I have been loading loops from some of my tracks augmented with patterns created by the drums kits the app provides. It is only $4.99.

UPDATE: Mikrosonic has posted a couple of scenes I sent them so you can deconstruct ALP. Click here for more info.

Here is a demo video from Mikrosonic below:

RD3 is a groovebox with two 303-style basses and a drum machine with onboard effects. I enjoyed the phone version already, but the tablet version puts everything on one screen. It is incredibly intuituive to use with nice large intuitive knobs for tweaking filters. It is a bargain at $9.99

Caustic is like a more visceral version of Reason, with two 303 style bases, a subsynth, a PCM synth, and a beatbox. Patterns can be arranged on a piano-roll timeline along with synth lines. The mixing section has great inline effects. Version 2 will enable the user to load .wav files and soundfonts. Version 1 of Caustic has been free but version two looks like it will be well worth the $8.

One thing I have not been able to find yet on the droid platform is a good DJ program! So far I am using the simplistic Party Mixer which does the job, though it has less bells and whistles than my Ford Festiva. Droid DJ has nice visuals but is buggy. DJ Studio 3 had the nicest interface but crashed quite a bit, though people with rooted tablets should not throw stones!

Droid Apps

I love iphone music apps as evidenced by the EP Touch. However when it came time to buy a smart phone to keep up with my verbose texting friends, I ended up with an Android. I didn’t want to be locked into a proprietary system, particularly after having spent $40 on an iPod video cable after Apple pushed out an OS upgrade that rendered aftermarket video adaptors useless. I also found the call quality of conversations with iPhone friends to be cringe-inducing as well.

Although I love being able to carry around a spare battery and load an SD card into my phone, the quality and selection of droid music apps still lags behind iPhone offerings. But the gap has narrowed as evidenced by this recent selection of droid apps. My favourites so far are Single Cell Software’s Caustic and Mikrosonic’s SPC.

Caustic is a step and song programming app reminiscent of Propellerhead’s Reason that features a beatbox, two 303 style bassline generators, 2 synths, and a virtual analog subsynth. The built in sequencer allows you to place the patterns created in the beatbox and basses into a timeline, and then step program the synths. The mixer section provides delay and reverb sends, as well as FX inserts that include flange and phaser. One feature missing from droid apps is the intuitive pinch-zoom of the iPhone, but Caustic makes great use of easy to get to, minimalist screens to minimize the desire to enlarge the display, and you can zoom on the timeline pretty readily. Here is a doodle:

Mikrosonic SPC is a loop player with 16 pads. You can import samples via an SD card, grooves from their addictive 303-style RD3 app or third-party scenes downloaded from their site. Samples can be assigned to a keyboard or step programmer, looped or set as one-shot. Related phrases can be set to toggle. Samples can be sliced and diced. It is colorful, intuitive, complex and fun. I have it on my bucket list to make some scenes! But in the meantime I am having fun deconstructing the ones available at Mikrosonic..