Expression is the soul of music. In this episode of Digital Media Insider, we listen to the techniques players use to coax emotion out of electronic instruments and software. (DMI 02-12-2007: 14 minutes 0 seconds)

Production Notes

After experimenting with a headset mic last episode, I returned to the Rode Podcaster, which sounds vastly better. I recorded my voiceover into BIAS Peak as a 16-bit, 44.1kHz, mono AIFF file. Next, I used Peak's editing tools to clean up the false starts and lip noises.

Most of the music examples started as MP3s from the artists or our articles, although I captured two examples using Ambrosia Software's WireTap utility. WireTap is a streamripper; it records any sound playing on your computer. I used it to extract the soundtrack from one of Stephen Kay's KARMA videos as well as a sound bite from an interview I had recorded with him in MP2 format. (I used my AppleScript transcriber trick to zoom in on the sound bite I wanted.) I imported all the examples into Peak, tightened them up with cuts and fades, and then normalized their levels.

KARMA Manual Advance

Stephen Kay demonstrates the KARMA manual advance feature, which triggers new notes based on the keys you hold with your left hand and the rhythm you play with your right.

Next, I imported everything into Ableton Live, where I arranged the music examples around my voiceover and theme music. I compressed and enhanced the voiceover with Izotope Ozone. Finally, I rendered the mix to an AIFF file, converted it to an MP3 in Peak, and then used iTunes to clean up the ID3 tags and add artwork.

The theme music came together in Live as well. I made the opening sound effect by splicing a compressed mouth noise onto a tone cluster I generated in Native Instruments Reaktor. The main groove is from Steinberg Xphraze. (Jim Aikin turned me on to both virtual instruments in his article "My Five Favorite Soft Synths.") The piano is from the Garritan Personal Orchestra, which I discovered when we interviewed Gary Garritan. Then there are a few percussion samples dredged from my hard drive. Altogether, the theme took just six tracks. Effects processing was courtesy of Live's default plugins and Freeverb.

Morrison Digital Trumpet

The Morrison Digital Trumpet makes no sound itself; it's a MIDI controller with numerous input sensors. See it in action here.

Source Articles

Look Ma—Hands! Choosing and Using MIDI Controllers

If you really want to play today's wonderful software instruments, drop that mouse and grab a dedicated MIDI controller. In this tutorial, you'll hear the dramatic difference controllers make in musical expressivity, and then you'll get buying and usage tips. It features audio and video demos by renowned wind synthesist Matt Traum.

Bring Your MIDI Music to Life

Jim Aikin shares numerous tips on getting the best musical expression out of MIDI controllers—both through playing technique and crafty computer editing.

Inside a Luxury Synth: Creating the Linux-Powered Korg OASYS

This $8,000 super-keyboard fuses unprecedented audio quality with a flexible open-source brain. Create Digital Music's Peter Kirn goes behind the scenes at Korg USA to learn how the designers finally built the dream instrument they'd been planning for 15 years.

The Synful Orchestra: Better Music Through Database Splicing

Eric Lindemann's goal is to help musicians play more expressively, and this inventor, composer, and former session keyboardist has developed some groundbreaking technology to do it. The Synful Orchestra is a new concept in virtual instruments that has audiences buzzing. Here's how it works.

Gary Garritan: A Personal Orchestra for Everyone

Producer Gary Garritan has made it his mission to put a high-quality digital orchestra in your hands—along with extensive free training. Hear how composers have seized the opportunity.


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