Sunday, 1 December 2013

Introduction to Music Production (Coursera)

I just finished another course at Coursera: Introduction to Music Production by Loudon Stearns of Berklee College of Music.

The most demanding stuff from this course were the assignments, in which we had to create short lessons explaining some of the concepts that we learned each week. I went for the screencast mode of teaching, and these are the assignments for each week. Doing the assignments was hard work, but I learned a lot that way, and I hope I can take another music-related course from Coursera in the near future...

Week 1: Topic: "Typical recording signal flow using your own equipment"




Week 2: Topic: "Efficiently create a compile from multiple audio recordings in your DAW."



Week 3: Topic: "Submix practical: Demonstrate the configuration of a Submix in a DAW or physical mixing board and Parallel effects practical: Demonstrate the configuration of parallel effects in a DAW or physical mixing board."


Week 4: Topic: "Demonstrate how to use a specific compression plugin, including threshold, ratio, attack, and release. Describe what visuals the device has, including gain reduction meters, transfer functions, and gain reduction traces if any."



Week 5: Topic: "Demonstrate the delay spectrum with examples of comb filtering, creating pitches with delays, slapback delays, and synchronized long delays."



Week 6: Topic: "On a synthesizer of your choice demonstrate the usage of these controls: Oscillator waveform, oscillator frequency, filter type, filter frequency, filter resonance, and amplitude envelope ADSR. How are they similar and how are they different from the simple synthesizer used in the video demonstrations?"


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Classical guitar progress logging (Nov'13)

Soon I'll have a decent microphone, but for the moment another recording with the crappy one. This month a very nice piece by Julio Sagreras: "Maria Luisa: Mazurka".



Maria Luisa: Mazurka (by Julio Sagreras) from Angel de Vicente on Vimeo.


The video is here.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Screencasts with Ubuntu Studio 13.10

For a course I am taking on Music Production at Coursera, I need to do screencasts and upload them to YouTube or similar. Before I forget what I found, I put it here. Some details about my settings:
  • I'm running UbuntuStudio 13.10 with the XFCE4 Desktop Environment
  • The screencast recording application I'm using is Kazam (during my first attempts there was an issue with libx264-123 which was causing Kazam to crash, but luckily for me the bug was solved just a couple of days ago).
  • The video editing software I'm using is OpenShot Video editor.
  • My display has a resolution of 1920x1080.

So, first I just use Kazam to record my screencast. For this course I'm mostly interested in recording the Ardour application, which has lots of information, so I will be recording the whole screen.





The resulting video has a very good quality, and I can edit it with Openshot (though remember first to stop Ardour and to stop JACK, since Openshot is not JACK-friendly). Once ready I can export it with the following settings (just by modifying a couple of things after choosing the Vimeo-HD profile given by Openshot):


The resulting video is of very good quality, and I can upload it to YouTube. In YouTube the quality is still very good, but you have to view it at the right resolution. As far as I know you cannot give a link to the video to stream at 1080p, but you can at least force 720p by adding &hd=1 to the YouTube link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGChX3eJ4Zc&hd=1

So that gives a quite nice video quality, and you could have it almost perfect by making sure that your viewers will use 1080p, but this might not be possible due to their bandwith, and in any case there is a lot of information in a full screen, so it is nice to add a little help to focus minds (i.e. zooming).

Zooming looks like it should be quite basic, but I couldn't find any other satisfactory way of doing it than by running Compiz. I certainly don't want to run Compiz in a regular basis, but I installed it and learnt how to activatate/desactivate it just for the recording session. Basically, to install it (taken with changes from http://www.webupd8.org/2012/11/how-to-set-up-compiz-in-xubuntu-1210-or.html), I just did:

sudo apt-get install compiz compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-extra compizconfig-settings-manager

I didn't have to do any of the other stuff suggested in that page. With that in place, I start Compiz by running in a terminal:

compiz --replace

Then I open the CompizConfig Settings Manager and configure the magnifier as per the images below (it was important to de-select the "Enhanced Zoom Desktop", as otherwise this seems to override my preferred Magnifier effect):





Now, when I'm done with the recording, if I want my resources back and I want to get rid of Compiz, from another terminal I type (which I can killl with Control-C after the command has done its magic):

xfwm4 --replace

This will kill Compiz and give me my XFCE4 desktop back.

With all this in place, I can have a very nice indeed screencast. As an example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tts9ob5Dlk&hd=1



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Classical guitar progress logging (October'13)

October log is a continuation of the September one (another exercises for the  Coursera course "Survey of Music Technology". In this case we were experimenting with algorithmic composition. So I came up with this program that creates random (in a controlled fashion) music. The program will create different music every time is run, and this is just an "incarnation" of the algorithm.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Music production with Linux (part I). Routing sound with Pulseaudio & JACK

I have decided to document some of the stuff that one needs to know in order to make music with Linux and the idea is to write a number of posts covering different aspects of music creation.

The platform I'll be using throughout these posts is Ubuntu Studio 13.04 (64 bits), and first of all I wanted to write here the settings to properly and easily route all the sound generated in the computer.

Many standard applications use Pulseaudio, and only the more musically oriented ones (and not all) use JACK (JACK Audio Connection Kit), so it is interesting to know how to mix all of them together, so let's see some examples:

* Route pulseaudio stuff to JACK, so that we can, for example, listen to YouTube videos while making music with JACK-aware applications.

In UbuntuStudio, JACK Sink and JACK Source module are already installed, so the whole thing is very simple. We can start the JACK server with QJackCtl, and we will see that by default a connection from PulseAudio JACK Sink to system is already done, so JACK will route the audio of any application that goes to PulseAudio JACK Sink to the system for playback.


So now we just have to make sure that PulseAudio application will send their audio to the JACK Sink and all should be set. We do this with pavucontrol (PulseAudio Volume Control), and just select PulseAudio JACK Sink as the fallback output device.



With that in place, we both PulseAudio and JACK applications can live together happily.






 * Routing audio input, for example to record a Skype call

In order to record a Skype call we also need to change the fallback input device in pavucontrol to be PulseAudio JACK Source. With the system -> PulseAudio JACK Source connection in QJackCtl, the microphone data will be sent to JACK Source, and after setting JACK Source as the fallback input device, Skype will get that as the input for the Microphone. At the same time we can record the whole conversation for example with Audacity by also connecting JACK Sink -> JACK Source (JACK Sink will give us the audio coming from skype, otherwise we would only record what is coming from our microphone). As an example:




When this is correctly set, we can add all sorts of extra routing to our audio. For example, in the previous example with Skype, perhaps we would like to add some filters to our voice? We only need to change the routing in QJackCtl, so we do not send the system directly to JACK Source, but we route it through some other module. In the following example, I route it through the application jack_rack in order to apply some basic distortion to it.



I think you get the idea by now...

By the way, in order to get the previous screencasts, I just used Kazam, and again selecting JACK Sink and JACK Source as the devices to record from, as can be seen below:



Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rooting and unlocking my new Android mobile phone: LG-E400

Last week I got an LG-E400 for free because her owner was not really taking advantage of all its features. The phone was locked to her phone network, so I had to unlock it and root it in order to make it usable. Since I will likely need again this information in the future, I write down some of the resources used.

First thing was to hard reset it, thanks to this page, and then root it. To root it I tried with SuperOneClick, but I was having troubles. As it turns out the firmware of my phone was V10P, and so the version of SuperOneClick I was using was not able to root it. But thanks to this post by AlexPS I got it rooted without problems (it didn't work using "mono" in Linux or in a Windows virtual machine, so I had to borrow a real Windows PC just for this). 

To unlock the phone from its network, I was looking at pages like http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1693491 and http://www.emudesc.com/threads/como-liberar-tu-movil-con-sistema-android-100-funciona.413513/, but the method in the second link didn't work, and the first one was for another model and I was not sure it would work, so in the end I went the easy way: just went to CodesIMEIS page, and by using the promotional code "GSM" (I got that info from some Forum I can't remember anymore), the phone was unlocked for 1€ in about 10 minutes. Then to access the Internet, I followed the instructions from my network provider to configure the phone properly.

The next thing was to increase the very small system memory (157MB, where all the applications would go by default), so that I could install more applications. For some reason the installed SuperUser app was giving me trouble, so I updated it before continuing. The next thing was to prepare a MicroSD card to hold the installed apps. Despite what it is said in some guides, I had to partition my 2GB card as 999MB FAT32 (Logical) and 898MB ext2 (Primary), following the advice at http://www.htcmania.com/archive/index.php/t-449048.html  (pictures, etc. go to the FAT32 partition, and the installed applications go to the ext2 partition).

Then, the next thing was to download Link2SD, so I followed Part C of the instructions at http://rootlord.blogspot.com.es/2013/06/how-to-increase-memory-on-lg-l3-e400.html

After that, I installed a number of applications (Angry Birds, Endomondo K-9 Mail, ...), and the internal memory status is quite healthy, while I see that 181MB of application data have gone to the MicroSD card. Bingo!


Classical guitar progress logging (September'13)

August was too hot to play, so I skipped that recording. In September instead of a guitar recording I present this little exercise that I had to do for the Coursera course "Survey of Music Technology" (here I'm not really playing the guitar at all, but learning to mix audio (July's recording and some other sound clips) with MIDI in a DAW, this time Reaper).