Repurposing Bad Controller Knobs

Improvisational Optimization

It’s always been more of my mentality to try to figure out how to make optimal use of what i have on hand — even when flawed — than to try to find immediate replacements… from using a TI-83 calculator to code as a teenager (since that’s what i had access to), to learning how to mic two small guitar amps to sound amazing rather than try to buy bigger amps which i didn’t have space to store. Whether or not this is the optimal way to be, it’s been pretty ingrained in me over a lifetime of dealing with less-than-ideal equipment and environs, figuring out how to increase functionality past apparent limitations, and squeezing every drop of valuable usage i could garner out of existing gear.

~`~

Repurposing a Row of Bad Encoders

This BCR-2000 MIDI Controller i have happens to have a top row of encoder knobs which act all wonky, sending out their values all slow and choppy and making them pretty much unusable as MIDI controls. However, each knob does have a set of LED lights, and it is possible to send messages to those lights to make them move.

By using a couple of MaxForLive devices in Ableton, i have it set up so that the 8 knobs each provide a VU-meter type experience in reaction to whatever’s playing in Ableton Live. Now they aren’t useless! Yay!

I decided to use the first 5 knobs as a 5-band spectral analyzer, so to speak. I determined the Mel points for splitting the full audio spectrum into 5 nicely-spaced zones. I set up those frequency zones to each be listened to separately by envelope followers, sending their results to MaxForLive devices which translate them to CC to send along to the controller’s LEDs. Up experimentation i found that using progressively faster timing responses for the higher frequencies resulted in the most palatable and natural visual display. Higher frequencies have quicker wavelengths, after all. Each band has ideal gain-staging determined by “golden-pink noise” analysis (more on that at a later date).

The 6th and 7th knobs show the stereo width (center and sides respectively). Since the BCR has different LED light modes, i selected ones that show the stereo width visually in a cool way. The final knob shows the overall track energy using a slightly different visualization than the frequency LEDs.

So now, simply by glancing at my BCR controller while audio is playing, i can immediately have a grasp of the overall frequency balance, the stereo width, and the overall loudness (despite where my master volume is currently set). For example, if my low-mids are way too boomy compared to everything else, the second LED might be pinned to the max while the others are tickling low.

The main drawback is the CPU usage of about 8%; there’s probably a more elegant way to accomplish it using less CPU, but honestly it’s been fine on my new system, not interfering with playback. I don’t use it all the time, mainly just for mastering or pre-mixing, when technical precision is of a higher priority.

~`~

Bug Becomes Feature

Another couple of examples of making use of gear’s quirky flaws rather than replacing or correcting them both have to do with foot pedals.

My GT-8 multi-fx pedal’s expression (aka “wah”) pedal’s spring went out some years ago after heavy jamming and gigging, so it no longer bounced back up when you took your foot off, but rather flopped down. So i tightened the pivot bolt just to the point where it now stays wherever i place it. I can still use it as a wah pedal when desired, but i can also use it to set and leave floating at any specific position. Since i use the GT-8 as an external aux effects send now rather than as an in-line guitar pedal, it’s even better than it would have been as a standard expression pedal which resets its position when you let go. The “bug” has become a quirky feature.

The second example involves a purchased foot pedal for an electric piano which happened to be wired incorrectly, being “on” all the time (once plugged in) and “letting go” when you actually step on it. So instead of getting annoyed upon discovering this, i was like, “cool, now i have a reverse sustain pedal!”

A final bonus example is a preamp that randomly crapped out on my audio interface (“channel 6”). Since the company outrageously charges almost as much to fix the thing as buying an entire new interface would cost, i decided to just keep the preamp as a “lo-fi” input. Sound still comes in, but it’s all shitted out, with low level and jagged, rough transients. I’ll use it as an extra input sometimes, recording in its own dedicated channel a crap version of what another input channel is recording pristine. Then i can add some extra saturation and lo-fi processing and blend it in with the clean pristine layer slightly in parallel for a little dirt presence. Lo-fi analog glory, here we come!

~`~

Repurpose Your Own Wonky Stuff

Do you have a MIDI controller with some bad knobs, but which have lights? Or perhaps that output values incorrectly, randomly, or rest at the wrong position? Or maybe a old cheap guitar pedal that produces extra gnarly noise? Perhaps you can repurpose some of that stuff, as well. The only way to know what potential might be lurking undiscovered is to get your mad scientist hat on and experiment with no preconceptions or expectations. You’re likely to find a nifty way to make use of something that you had previously thought of as “broken”.

~`~




Dumb Stupid Tip: Faster Right-Clicking

OK, so you know when you right-click on something to open up a context menu?
And then you move the mouse cursor to the item you want, and then you left-click the option you want?

Well, there is a way to do it a tiny bit faster. Maybe you already do it.

I found myself picking up the habit due to right-clicking to change macro colours so often. By saving a tiny little bit of time multiplied by a whole bunch of iterations, one can end up saving a substantial amount of time. Anything that streamlines workflow is useful, right?

So here’s the tip: Right Click and Release

WTF?

Instead of doing this:
right-click -> move mouse -> left click

Do this:
right-click (hold it down) -> move mouse -> release right-click

Doing this implements the menu option (in Ableton Live at least — not in all programs) with a single mouse click instead of with two mouse clicks, thereby saving you a precious minuscule quantity of milliseconds. For example, if you had to select a hundred boring context menu options, you’d be performing one hundred clicks, instead of two hundred.  Brilliant!

This trick does not work in all programs, but it does in Ableton Live, at least.

So yeah.

NOTE: if following this methodology, make sure that your index finger gets some extra exercise to compensate for its less active role going forward. I recommend angry pointing.

Dry / Wet Anomalies of a few Ableton Live Effects

Often, plugins will cause an effect they don’t tell you about, and you may not realize is occurring.

Knowing exactly what is happening to audio is valuable, because otherwise if we set up chains of effects we may think that we are resulting in a more transparent sound than we really are. Subtle changes to sound can stack up and add to quite audible differences—which if we don’t know the sources of may be difficult to diagnose and address.

Here’s an overview of some of the things some of Ableton Live’s stock effects do to sound passing through them, which you may not realize at first. Some of these quirks many of you will have gotten to know by ear already just by using the effects, in which case seeing the analysis graphs can provide some “aha” moments.

Dynamic Tube: DC Filter & HQ Mode Oddity

Did You Know? Dynamic Tube provides a built-in DC filter, cutting out a bit of the very lowest frequencies. Its contour is pretty much identical to Utility‘s DC Filter.

Did You Also Know? The anti-aliasing filter of Dynamic Tube‘s Hi-Quality mode has imperfect dry/wet summing, so that if you use a partial setting (anything but zero or 100 percent) it implements a sample-rate dependent upper-frequency dip.
When using Dynamic Tube for hefty distortion, it might be better to enable Hi-Quality mode to avoid aliasing. However, for more clean, subtle, or technical usage of Dynamic Tube, leaving it off might provide better results.

Dynamic Tube, 44.1k 100% Wet (HQ OFF).

Dynamic Tube, HQ Mode, 44.1k 100% Wet.

Dynamic Tube, HQ Mode, 44.1k 50% Wet.
Notice the Dip around 12k.

Dynamic Tube, HQ Mode, 44.1k 25% Wet.

Dynamic Tube, HQ Mode, 88.2k 50% Wet.
Notice the high dip is now higher, around 24k.

And for reference, here’s Utility‘s DC Filter.

Note that the three tube models (A, B, & C) all have this same quirk, although model C also has an overall gain boost of approximately 0.2dB compared to A & B.

Secret Trick: Use the dry/wet knob of an instance of Dynamic Tube at its cleanest possible settings (making sure HQ mode is off), to provide a DC Filter that is controllable in intensity (unlike Utility‘s DC Filter). The free PerforModule Sweetie Pies pack has a rack with this functionality…

Erosion: HF Cut

Did You Know? Working at 44.1k, Erosion causes a steep loss of high-frequency, even with its Amount set to zero. However, this is sample-rate dependent, and simply doesn’t exist at higher sample rates. Even going up to 48k, it disappears and you get a flat curve. Strange!

Erosion at 44.1k, Amount: 0.

Erosion at 48k (or higher), Amount: 0.

Erosion at 22.05k, Amount: 0.
Does anybody even use 22.05k?

Saturator: HQ Mode Filter Thing Again

Saturator appears to implement the exact same “Hi-Quality” anti-aliasing filter that Dynamic Tube does, as it causes the exact same high-frequency softening when using partial dry/wet amounts in HQ mode. So the same advice applies: be aware of the possibility of this, and if you want to make sure that your high frequencies don’t get dampened by automating Saturator‘s Dry/Wet Control, try setting Hi-Quality mode to off.

~`~

The Moral of This Story

There are two obvious takeaways here:

• If using either Dynamic Tube or Saturator‘s Dry/Wet control, switch off “high-quality” mode for a more neutral and expected frequency response.

• If using Erosion in 44.1kHz projects, keep in mind that it will roll off the highs, but in projects at higher sample rates, it won’t.

~`~

These quirks are not necessarily “runkillers”, but it’s always good to be aware when the frequency spectrum is getting fudged with. Above all else, use your ears.

That’s all.
But not all! There are some more quirky anomalies of other types in some of Live’s other effects (not to mention various VST plugins) which might get covered in a future post.

~`~

“Go-To” Macro Arrangements for 16-Knob Racks in Live 11

Macro Placement Consistency.

~`~ Consistency in parameters assigned to racks is useful, for always being able to grab a certain knob for a certain result. For example, on the 8-knob racks of Live 10 and earlier, for dynamics devices like compressors or gates, i tend to place Attack and Release on Macros 5 and 6.

16 Knobs! Yay! …but also, Uh Oh!

~`~ Live 11 now has the ability to allow up to sixteen macros on a rack, which expands our abilities — but also makes things easier to become sporadic and messy by just mapping whatever, wherever. More knobs means more searching text with eyeballs. So therefore it seems helpful if certain controls are always (or almost always) in the same places.

~`~ Until now, my Elemental Mixing Templates have been left unmapped to macros since they contain too many controls. However, now it seems feasible to do so. Thus i’ve planned out a “16-Knob Template Template” for updating them according to (as well as VST Template Racks), which i will outline below. The sequence of knobs are meant to sorta align with the intended signal flow, from beginning to end. The point of the templates is “quick ‘n’ easy, quality results” but it’s always possible to unmap individual parameters i need to fine-tune individually in a project (for example perhaps to decouple a particular EQ frequency band from a “tone” knob).

~`~ Scroll to the bottom to download the blank template for yourself, if desired.
Read on for a breakdown of the rationale behind each macro knob’s existence and positioning.

Continue reading

DankVerb

Hi. Reporting that the new pack of Reverb Impulse Responses for any DAW, DankVerb, is now available.

It includes 150 dank, lush, and dystopian Impulse Responses suitable for post-apocalyptic sound design, recorded at 192kHz. They were crafted by carefully combining multiple reverbs together, mad scientist style.

Place elements in mysterious and foreboding physical spaces suitable for fantasy, science fiction, or horror settings.

DankVerb is a perfect companion to Ableton Live 11’s new Hybrid Reverb device. Drop in DankVerb IRs to augment Hybrid Reverb’s built-in algorithmic section. If you’re still on Live 9 or 10, on the other hand, they work great with the Max for Live Convolution Reverb device. Don’t even use Ableton Live? Need a Convolution Engine plugin? No problem. This article by Bedroom Producers Blog has got you covered with some sweet free options.

~`~

Full Version

Bolster your library with the full collection of one hundred and fifty fresh and steaming IRs!
Read more details about and acquire the full version of DankVerb at Isotonik Studios:
DANKVERB FULL

~`~

MPC Edition

If you want to dive in with a bit more humble of a monetary investment (understandable as pretty much everyone is strapped right now), a 1/3 sized version of the pack is available as a bonus download this month (March 2021) if you join our good buddy Brian Funk’s Music Production Club for six whole dollars. Not only that, but you’ll ALSO get the VST I Heart NY parallel compressor plugin by Baby Audio as well as a massive amount of other Ableton Live goodies, such as Brian’s Ableton Live Pack Archive i recently assisted with the curation of.
It really would be quite silly not to grab this offer, in my opinion…
DANKVERB MPC

~`~

That’s all for today. Don’t be jerks to each other, ok?

New series of $1 Racks for Ableton Live 11: “Zinglez”

𝒁𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒍𝒆𝒛 is a new series of individual one-dollar racks for Ableton Live 11 by PerforModule.

1 Rack = $1.


Simple and straightforward.
Just grab what the ones that entice you the most.
Ignore everything else!

Read about them below.

Continue reading

Organize your User Library Like a Boss ~ Live 11 Style

 One of the most popular PerforModule articles to date is How to Organize User Plugin Presets Like a Boss in Ableton Using the Hidden Architecture and it’s understandable — it’s very helpful to be able to integrate one’s own presets into the browser’s organization structure. And it’s pretty simple to accomplish. Read that article for an in-depth rundown on the topic in which is also explored further customization options for the truly OCD, if you have the desire.
 Or just read on for a briefer summary…

~`~

 •Basically, if you place your User Library presets into folders with the same specific names as the built-in categories, those presets will now also appear in their respective category folders in the browser.

 •Further, you can yourself customize the system, adding your own bespoke categories. Read about that in part two.

 Live 11 Has updated the default categories, adding a handful of new ones which is good news to me, since i’ll be able to integrate more stuff with the built-in system. Some of the choices are a bit odd… but hey, whatever.

Click here to download the blank category folders, and/or copy the following lists for reference.

~`~

Instrument Rack (Sounds) Categories:

Ambient & Evolving
Bass
Booms
Brass

Cinematic
Effects
Exotic
Experimental
Guitar & Plucked
Mallets

MPE Sounds
Orchestral
Pad
Percussive
Piano & Keys
Strings
Synth Keys
Synth Lead
Synth Misc
Synth Rhythmic
Templates
Vintage
Voices
Winds

~`~

Instrument Categories:

For presets of Live instruments that have not been racked.

The same as Sounds categories but with the addition of…

Components

~`~

Audio Effect Categories:

Ambient Spaces
Amp Simulation
Clean Delay
Distortion
Drums
Filter
Formant
Hall
Instrument
Mixing & Mastering
Modulated Delay
Modulation & Rhythmic
Performance & DJ
Room
Space
Special
Vintage Delay
Vocal

~`~

Drum Hit Categories:

Bell
Bongo
Clap
Conga
Cymbal
FX Hit

Hihat
Kick
Misc Percussion
Ride
Rim
Shaker
Snare
Snare Articulation
Tambourine
Timbales
Tom
Wood

~`~

Midi FX Categories:

Drums
Experimental
Monophonic
Polyphonic
Rhythmic

~`~

 That’s it for today. Check here for a nifty list of all my audio production tips & tricks thusfar. More on the way!

New PerforModule Pack: “Empathy”

EMPATHY is a pack for Ableton Live 10+ Suite containing a handful of high-end effect racks designed to consistently improve a wide possible range of audio sources passing through them. Each rack is suited to a particular purpose, with easy-to-dial-in controls. Together they provide a robust toolkit for general mixing and mastering.

Contains:

Ultimatum: “The ultimate” audio effect rack designed by PerforModule, it’s a 10-step algorithm to magically improve both the tone and dynamics of any audio source in realtime.

The One’: One-stop shop for suave, go-to tonal adjustment of tracks in a mix, with low & high cut focus, “light shine” focus, surgical slice, l-r twist, and M vs S intensity.

Auditory Miximizer: The PerforModule twist on the infamous sonic maximizer, with tastefully optimized frequency contours and dynamic reactivity. Comes in 3 versions: stereo, L-R, and M-S.

Dilation Warder: Combination gate and expander for when you want to increase the dynamic range, tighten things up, emphasize punch, and add more of a percussive staccato feel.

~`~

Skip to the bottom of this post to check out a video overview of the Empathy by Brian Funk, or read on for a more detailed overview of each the included devices and what makes them special.

Continue reading

Brian Funk’s Live Pack Archive — Powered Up!

Packification
So i recently helped our mutual friend Brian Funk reorganize his Live Pack Archive, a $10 massive grab bag of Ableton Live goodies assembled from the freebies that he’s been steadily churning out over the years, all the way from the very first pack in 2011 to the contemporary 200th. It’s a lot of stuff! Judging by the plethora of 5-star reviews of the product on gumroad, it seems like people dig it.

Ah, Convenience
Sure, you could go download all this stuff one at a time methodically blog post by post. However it’s much easier to just pay the convenience charge and get all the stuff in one bulk download. This collection has been on offer for a while now, but they were basically presented in a big pile of folders. Fun to scout around for sure, but not exactly optimal when it comes to workflow convenience.

Power Up!

Aha! See, now the collection is even more splendid, as all the devices come consolidated in two mega-packs with similar categories of sounds, effects, and clips sorted logistically for quick perusal and easy implementation directly from the Live browser (including signal previews). Find, grab, and use the stuff you want instantly. It’s very handy and nice. But… the price is still the same? What!? Crazy, i tell you!

Partake
Sound intriguing? Well then why don’t you pull up a chair, situate your ass real comfy, and grab yourself some.

Brian Funk’s Live Pack Archive 1-200.
click that▲
▼or that

[Pack 1 works with Live 9 or later, pack 2 with Live 10 or later.]

Synchronistically, this happens to be my 100th PerforModule blog post. Neato.

Peace, y’all! 😎

Beat Shaker for Beat Juggling

⠀⠀⠀I haven’t performed as a DJ in years, focused on raising my son and home studio work instead, but i was pretty active as one around the Colorado Springs area from about 2010 until 2014. One of the my favorite toys to use to manipulate beats live on my laptop was Alexkid’s Instant Haus, which “instantly generates drum patterns to craft into your own house track” (available free via Ableton). It’s great way to add variation to beats in an organic fashion.

⠀⠀⠀Well, i’ve been inspired lately because we now have available the freshest incarnation of beat juggling voodoo in the form of the 501k Creatives new Beat Shaker device, crafted by the very same Alexkid. It’s a similar concept, but greatly expands on the potential and flexibility.

Continue reading