Theo Verelst Diary Page

Latest: Februari 4 2001

I've decided after good example to write some diary pages with toughts and events.

Oh, in case anybody fails to understand, I'd like to remind them that these pages are copyrighted, and that everything found here may not be redistributed in any other way then over this direct link without my prior consent. That includes family, christianity, and other cheats. The simple reason is that it may well be that some people have been ill informed because they've spread illegal 'copies' of my materials even with modifications. Apart from my moral judgement, that is illegal, and will be treated as such by me. Make as many references to these pages as you like, make hardcopies, but only of the whole page, including the html-references, and without changing a iota or tittel...

And if not? I won't hesitate to use legal means to correct wrong that may be done otherwise. And I am serious. I usually am. I'm not sure I could get 'attempt to grave emotional assault' out of it, but infrigement on copyright rules is serious enough. And Jesus called upon us to respect the authorities of state, so christians would of course never do such a thing. Lying, imagine that.

Previous Diary Entries

February 4, 2001

Let's all pray to the holy Drumcomputer

It seems that some don't realize it, but I heard 10, 20 years before at least such things became manifest enough for no appearent reason that certain circles in the world would want as part of their sort of agenda for their world dominion game, want to gradually introduce africal rythms in music and erode the whole idea of it and give place to what I would now call deamons, but at least to mess things up in their own advantage. Not by some obscure literature, but simply a primary school teacher. Who was not against popular or (as far as I know) rock and other types of rythmicly not underrepresented music.

Not that I can't like certain rap or housy or such types of music in general, that depends on the song, it sort of is surprising to me that I must see so many almost content and certainly almost music-less 'artists' on various channels doing nothing much but succoming to the same type of semi talking in a at least quite uninteresting manner. Even for those with little music experience of a normal enough kind.

The title is about another phenomenon, lets say from the disco age, where various types of music started to rely for a major part on the then new drum machines pounding away almost mathematically accurate rythm patterns, regularly also with a non-negligable to major boredom factor. Not that there is something fundamentally against the idea, but the machines were not particularly needed as replacement for their human and mechanical counterparts, except for two objective reasons: tight rythm accuracy, and lower variable cost in the music production machine.

And of course, they're fun enough, some even worth the work of getting to know them and work with them, so thats not an issue. IN fact I owned one myself, and 1500 guilders ($800) for a student is not little money to invest in one. Which in fact reminds me of a third objective reason for their desirability: that they can be used in a small bedroom and still give access to hopefully good and maybe big and varied drum patterns. Oh, and that you don't need playing skills like a drummer to program one, but that's a shadier agrument, since the rythmic skills required to program it may just as well be practiced to do the real thing, and pushing the buttons is not for intimate awareness of what rythms are about and can do.

It can help, though.

I learned various basic rythm and even bass patterns by having memorized another electrical (only partially digital) machine: a Casio keyboards rythm machine. It was one of the top keyboards of their previous product line about 20 years ago, and it was up to at least making music, thouh I was all to aware of the fact that if I wanted to fat, maybe funkey, or rock style or real synthy style of sounds, the prophets and oberheims were out of the price league at the time. Quite so, in fact.

At least it was a musical instrument, realy playable, nice enough even, and it had enough variation aboard. It even had a barcode reader for bar code music books, and would light up little leds about the keys as a music instructio naid. Fun stuff, completely worth it as instrument and playing device at the time.

I didn't need the barcodes, realy. I had learned score reading just enough as a little kid being tought and playing the recorder for a few years, and learned all the notation from library books, just like what the interesting parts of the piano in certain respects were from the Yehudi Mehunin or something like that name. The keyboard was my second, after I had built my own, as I described elsewhere. Mine was meaner when I think back about it than I though for a long time. Those perfect, hard, and rock solid (also phase wise) square waves were quite good to practice chords on. I soon new em all, starting in C: major, minor, 7 maj7, aug, dim, 9, 6, sus2, sys4, various combinations, and was into learning them in every key, mainly with my left hand, as on an organ, playing melodies with the right.

The Casio could do automatic chords, which was for weenies, like sometimes some of the household, of course. ANd it would add rythm chord chopping, sometimes permitted, soon boring, and automatic bass lines, who were permitted and major fun. Just not good enough to do real rock and roll, swing, or slow rock, but the swing was almost good enough, the english walz quite bearable, and rumba, and samba nice enough. Me put chords down, the machine the rythm and the bass, that worked good enough, except it had a processor limiting the allowed chords set (apart from being generally quite a touch slow), to the one it would play itself, and it would not do a walking bass over notes it couldn't itself characterize as known combination.

I learned the rythm patterns by heart, including their variations. There was a silver touch sensitive bar, conveniently positioned below the left (chord) side of the keyboard, which could easily be used to trigger a rythmic 'break' pattern, and they were tastefull enough to use, and loads of fun. Anyhow, I learned practically about rock, swing, march, walz, rumba, bossa, and some variations mainly through that machine.

A number of years later, when I had a poly800, a hip and quite acceptably synth enough polyphonic synthesizer for my main playing, I had the opportunity to purchace a Yamaha Rx-15 drumcomputer, a new, digital machine, quite up to standard in the budget profi range, sort of the competition of the Roland 707 I think it was at the time. Both can be heard on numerous hits and commercials.

Being a digital machine, the samples in it are recognizable, because they can't realy be changed, and for instance the bright and bodypresent rimshot and quite cool ride cymbal as well the purposely lowly unclear snaredrum II can easily be discerned and are regularly found.

Programmingwise, the machines at the time, just like many today, can be programmed with a combination of patterns and songs. A pattern being one or a few bars of rythm patterns, while a song is made by calling patterns in the right order, and usually with repeats. The results could be good enough to use for serious music, somewhere halfway between an electronic set and the real thing, and when programmed right, like in a few parts of the demo song, it would definately swing and rock, though not funk much.

Took me years to master: rythms and also playing sharp and tight to them. I think I can now, but it took me years of deliberate effort. Drumco on, single pattern repeat, play along, record the thing, and see if it's right on every beat, that's work, but it's rewarding, it did teach me.

Now what about that DJ stuff (again), and the title? In fact that was a risk, if that's the right termonology, at the time the drumcomputer was starting to be available for more than the happy few, because microprocessor and sampling technology was allowing it. Currently, there are some drumcomputers are up to even doing some convicing jazz stuff, when you know how to use their sensitive pads, and there are electronical drum kits (including the real thing sized electronic pads) that are good enough to use on stage as replacement.

Ever try to do Hakim on a drummachine?

Let's put it this way: at the time the machines were the limiting factor, the samples were limited, in quantity and quality because rom and processor stuff wasn't cheap and easy enough, and effort was done to make the machines worth it where that would be possible: pan and volume controls and accents, programmable tempo changes (not sure the rx could), midi control and syncing, pattern editing and song manipulation bottons, and such.

Currently, technology lets you have minutes of CD quality, tunable stereo samples, to put in quite a quality set of sounds from a good drumset or combination, and have more than enough display and processing facilities (effects for instance) available to do quite some things with. Then the question becomes one of the user or player, and maybe of the versatility of the software. The first factor is essential. It simply isn't easy to know your rythms, make them work, and be interesting, not even with so much technology. Not that that is a problem: just play the demo's steal some more patterns and drum sets from friends or the web and have a ball, completely fun enough. But making something isn't different that much from the skills required to work with oder technology: musical skill are required and need to be developed. Being pityfull? Did you listen to the charts lately ?! Not that there isn't music, but seriously, quite some has not that much to do with music, which is at least a missed opportunity.

Concerning the software: in rythm area, to some degree the same happens for quite some time already as in synthesis, that there is a tendency to have interest for both older machines, and especially for electronical, analog machines. The good reasons are that they have distinct sounds of their own often with a pleasing straightness in them, and that their sounds can be modyfied in various ways. Lets say the filter knob 'sweeping' sort of thing. Electronical drum computers can have differences in the sound, which are not simply fixed samples, which makes them more interesting. In digital machines, manipulationis possible, but even when one has to option of drawing samples, it is quite a step from the sampel to an instrument, and there is not much in between.

Samplers used as synthesizers have the same, commonly known problem. It's not for nothing that synths (not mixers) with a fromt panel full of knobs have been in demand and supply again, even with 'old' analog simulations. Only a few go beond that and offer new types of synthesis, such as physical simulations, which are not yet made to control 'live' that much. I tried a korg synth some time ago with new enough types of synthesis which at least work as synth in such sense, nice sounds, though not characteristic enough to realy call a new class of instrument, but definately a complete difference with samples. Nice development, but could be stronger with current dsp and computer horsepower.

Drumcomputer-wise, probably sequencer are the better bet for stationary and somewhat experienced use. Their editing facilities for rythms and rythmic patterns are far less limited by display and interface limitations, and the ones I know quite a lot about let you program quite good rythm patterns and even do oprations on them that are fun enough, such as matching the rythm to certain styles, even dynamically. The modern ones even do audio siganl processing and therefore sample palying internally, which gives ample opportunity to do pretty much everything in near CD quality (though there are some sampling limitations to be well noticed). But then again, it leaves you with generally powerfull tools, but not with extra musical luggage: if you don't know rythms, the machine is of limited use.

A nice practicing or maybe party tool is software like the well known 'band in a box' program I used already years ago on the Atari ST, that's a sort of automatic band that you can play along with, that send rythm patterns to your drum computer, chords to you second rythm midi instrument, bass patterns to another, and varies the whole idea with a 'live' feel. All that is needed are the chord patterns a jazz musician or guitar accompanist may also use, and the thing sounds nicely like a who band minus the soloist. It does bore, it isn't up to picking up all things important in playing, though some later versions even do pattern and rythm recognition on the fly, but it's good enogh for a try and for practicing.

About the real thing, I was of course listening to quite some record and radio music, as many, I guess. Luckily, there were also acoustical concerts at school, with live bands, apart from the parties with the same. I quite remember that I found it tantalizing to find out that the same seemingly simple and limited drums from a set could be use to completely solo be interesting and musical to the point of keeping all (many ?) of the audience of teenagers (lets say) near spll bound for minutes in a good drum solo. Absolutely desirable to listen to, and not considered possible to repeat at the time by myself, that was an area I wasn't into enough to imagine I'd soon get the skills (or the instrument) for.

Nice enough, for me at least, in the time I learned to use the drumcomputer, when I was into those rythmic sides of things, too, I learned enough, and I'm sure at least I can do interesting things with just drums, either mechanically (did it some time ago again), and electrically, as I regularly did with either drumcomputers or synths playing drum sounds. Fun.

Is God an organ ?

'God is a DJ' I remember, meaning whatever it means it conveys something that may be true in musical emotional sense when some way of making music starts to take on a role of major elevation or impact, or just emerges a listener (or player) pleasently anough to create an experience, without physical addiction or illegal drugs.

I think my experiences of the kind where at least in 4 categories, childrens choirs (as little kid), church music, lets say certain (protestant) hymns, certain musical instrument being played, probably mainly the piano, topped of the electronical organ of stature (not the farfisa, cheesy pop kind), and various quality pop songs.

The pop songs still work, certain hymns without question, the piano without question, but is hard to get there, and the organ remains potential top, though I'd have to add various kinds of lets say contemporary jazz/fusion as runner up or more desired musicwise.

The organ. Does Jimmy Smith do both? Sometimes. Sometimes. Then the Hammond works, the music is right, and he allows a little passage where it indeed works that way.

An organ with some classic melody? Can do it when used right. As instrument alone? Completely possible.

I've played, beside my own keyboards, an organ and sometimes a more advanced one for years, a few times per week. It wasn't top quality, though it worked enough as an instrument to be fun to use. Not too heavy stuff, not much of the resonances I guess are in certain hammond circuitries, but still drawbars with a nice solo sound, vibrato or lesie, a nicely enough reproduced bass pedal and apt enough playing is good for musical experience. And very good for development, I guess, registration, bass, chords and solo voices working together, various sounds and effects, and of course the rythms in it all are good learning materials, and rewarding to get right, which is completely non-trivial.

And why do those sparingly used lower manual drawbars, maybe just a 16' and a touch of 8' with well chosen lower range chords work, even without anything but a touch of vibrato? And how do they make classical types of harmonic combination work with the pedal bass patterns? Good for much practice and subsequent effective use. Up to the point of full out tremulant upper manual with strings and even delay vibrato and a solo voice on top, there are a lot of possibilities.

And then away from that type of drama to the strength of rythms, maybe rock. And even to withdrawn and hardly noticble subtle stabs of making that work within daring rythmic variations and still making a song full and swinging.

Very different to pipe organs, though there is a quality in them when they are played right and built right that is quite good, too. Some time ago I shortly played a not too big but definately not bad one, and was pleasantly surprised it would make many chords, harmonies, and bass/chord proressions work quite good.

But the former is probably the highest christian instrument use, currently...

The art of noise

Not the band is intended, but an experiment I didn't report on yet, which I was just reminded of. I made not just sine, filtered and sample combination noises, but made a noise generator simulation work. In its simplest form, that is easy enough, on takes a random generator in some prgramming language, use a nice seed, and makes the amplitude right, and out comes the white noise, which probably is even quite decent white noise, in that the spectrum is spread evenly.

I recently read literature, I found that graphically self-convolving some stanard random algorithms easily reveals major correlation over fixed intervals, but currenly I assumed that using the random generator I have will generate too big a problem practically for the moment.

The white noise seems to be no real problem, also not with a pattern being used by two detuned oscilators. The filter I use responds interesting resonancewise, something I'm not sure I remember from the analogs I had: the resonance could be cranked up quite some more before major oscilation occurs with a noise oscilator.

Clearly enough, the noise sample cannot be looped, for instance over 256 samples, such as with a additive sample with harmonics based on an integer ratio with the fundamental, the ears pick up such correlation immedeately, though the effect may well be a strong enough sound basis.

Submarine noises through drum sounds, they're all possible using the noise generator, fun and usefull, I should of course add it as a seperate oscilator with its own at least adsr generator to add to flute sounds and the like. Another experiment was even more rewarding.

I used a (japanese voice mode on) 'vely special algolitm' to do band limited noise. After some thinking I though I would want band limited noise as in maybe a 1/3 octave filter band approach, but didn't feel like doing the whole filter design and implementation at the point, and the low pass with resonance very up didn't work satisfactory for the job I had in mind enough. So I used a variation of the filter where the cutoff and the resonance are mildly varied by noise, on a sample of white noise. With resonance set not too high, that gives more or less band limited noise patterns that are quite strong as the basis for drum sounds, ranging from typical noise based 'gun shot' kind to quite acceptable synthetic noises of drumish nature, in mid lower mid and low range.