Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Music Thing on the Word Magazine podcast

You can now read my feature on why all records sound the same from Word Magazine. You all get a credit at the end of the piece, of course. If you're a real glutton for half-baked opinions, you can also listen to my appearance on the Word Podcast.

Monday, February 25, 2008

eBay of the day: Coldplay's vintage drum machine collection. Who knew?

eBay item 220202883601 is, according to the listing, an EMU SP1200 drum machine from Coldplay's own studio. The Coldplay studio clearance has a few of other nice bits and pieces, including a Korg Mono Poly, an Oberheim DX and a Jupiter 8. If you're just a crazed Coldplay fan, there's some crappy cheap monitors for £38...

Which musical instrument will make me happiest?

Now it starts to get interesting (thank you for your patience). In the survey, I asked which instruments you can play "well enough to enjoy it", and which one of those instruments makes you happiest right now.
The most popular instrument was synth, followed by guitar. The graph above shows which instruments make people the happiest*. And the winner, overwhelmingly, is the humble guitar.

Is that surprising? I'm slightly surprised, but also comforted, that a geeky, gadget obsessed, synth-twiddling group like us still really, really, like playing guitars. I also feel really sorry for all you dissatisfied singers...

*It's the percentage of people who said they play a particular instrument, who then went on to say it made them happiest. So, if only one person played bass, and it made them happiest, it would score 100%. If you're better at stats than me and would like to see the raw data, get in touch and I'll pass it along.

Which instruments do Music Thing readers play?

No huge surprises here. Everyone's a synth twiddler, not that many are high-end musical programming language fans. I wonder if 'recording studio' and 'low geek' should be merged - they're both really just general recording.

'Something else' bought a few surprises: The most popular choices were, in order: Saxophone, banjo, mandolin, flute, harmonica, trombone, clarinet, violin, theremin, cello, melodica, accordion, ukelele, recorder, lap/pedal steel, circuit bending, kazoo, tuba, didgeridoo, turntable, Gameboy. Less popular suggestions included "Amiga 500 Protracker", "ebowed toaster oven rack", "Fart hands", "Mechanical monk", and two LOLlers suggested "Skin flute".

Anonymous comments turned off

Sorry, but some Polish douchebag has been depositing so much spam in the comments that I'm going to have to turn off the anonymous comments for a bit...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Toumani Diabate teaches you how to play the kora

Here's a wonderful clip of Toumani Diabate making kora playing look really easy. If that's inspired you to get started, start training, because you need to play football to play the Kora. (via Word Magazine, in whose March issue you can read a piece I wrote inspired by your comments on this post)

New Scientist's wonderful audio illusions

You'll have heard these before, but in case you haven't, New Scientist have collected five interesting audio illusions. (Thanks, Ben)

Can Music Thing readers read music?

So, the survey was a big success - 2,200 replies in a week. Thank you very much.
There are a few really interesting results which I'm checking at the moment, but first of all... Can you read music? 578 of you can, 1,124 of you can 'sort of', and 419 can't at all.

The results for individual instruments are interesting. These results are based on answers to the question: "Which 'instrument' makes you happiest right now?"

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Music Thing 'Which instruments can you play?' survey of 2008

I've been playing piano a bit recently, and thinking about how bad I am at it. Using the wondrous new Google Forms system, I thought I'd find out how you feel. I'm off to Cornwall for a week, so results and hopefully many graphs next week.

UPDATE: Sunday 24th January - thank you for the 2,200 replies. The survey is now closed. Results soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Kanye West, Daft Punk and many Lemur controllers at the Grammy awards

The awesome Lemur action starts at 2:52 - obviously they're just miming with the 'look cool' preset, but think of it as a stylised version of What are Daft Punk actually playing inside their pyramid?". More about the Lemur here. (Thanks, Raffael from Switzerland)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Show me your homemade instruments

There are many wonders in 276 responses to the challenge 'Show me your homemade instruments'. My favourite is this chap whose Dad bolted together a Vox Continental and a guitar, but there's a lot more: Sxip Shirey plays bowls with marbles, terrifying grinding car guitar thing, strange tiny bass guitar, a circuit bent Buddha Machine, a beautiful-looking touchpad-based homemade synth and this bonkers disc reverb box. There's a lot more - leave links to goodness in the comments. (Thanks, Gareth)

Uwe Steger presents the strangest accordion video you will see today

How I sneered at the Roland V-Accordion when it was first launched. Now I've seen this video of long-haired accordion maestro Uwe Steger promoting MIDI accordion accessories created by some guy. Accordion + vocoder + pitch shift = a winning combination. (Thanks, Moonie)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Less-Lethal: Album as non-lethal weapon

Less-Lethal Vol 1 is a compilation of tracks inspired by the idea of using music (or sound, at least) as a form of torture... "Particularly the sheer lack of imagination on the part of military experts who resort to the use of pop music as a weapon, by playing it back for painfully long periods of time at very high volumes." Tragically, I can't find any sound clips online, so you'll just have to imagine what it sounds like. (Thanks AR)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Has the Behringer photocopier broken down?

Traditionally (2005, 2006,more 2006, 2007, more 2007) Behringer use NAMM to announce a vast array of familiar-looking new products. This year, there was nothing. I wonder why.
Mind you, NAMM seems to have been distinctly low-key this year. I only laughed about 12 times while reading Barry Wood's NAMM oddities, which is well below par.

The many wonders of the Canford Audio catalogue

My copy of the 1296-page Canford Audio Catalogue arrived this morning, and it is a delight. Canford sell pro audio gear, particularly broadcast and PA bits, rather than recording studio magic boxes. Their catalogue is the audio equivalent of the McMaster-Carr yellow book. A few of my favourites...

1. Noise Activated Warning Sign Big light-up sign which comes on when sound levels go above a pre-set point. Also comes in a steel waterproof version for festivals. £317.

2. Big Ears Parabolic Reflector It's a huge plastic dish which reflects sound onto a microphone. They were developed for recording on-pitch sound at football games, but are now used by police and emergency services. Comes in a variety of lurid colours. £1,240

3. Five different types of Gaffa Tape [PDF link] The detail is incredible: "Type B: A shiny surface tape, medium density rayon fabric weave... In practice, this tape is virtually identical to type A, but from a different manufacturer. In the early 1990’s, this was the BBC’s standard type issued by their Central Stores." £6-£14.

4. Hardcore cable porn The catalogue has 65 pages of different types of cable (just the cable itself, not leads or sockets or plugs or drums or ties), each with a line-drawn illustration and often a cross-section. Up to £58/metre.

5. Sound Pillow Not sure how this counts as pro audio, but it's a soft pillow with stereo speakers embedded in it. Put it inside your pillow case. Recommended for "actors learning lines, insomniacs, tinnitus sufferers." £25

6. Mole Underground Loudspeaker OK, it's not really underground, but it's a completely weatherproof speaker which can be buried to within 10cm of it's height. £85

7. Level Limited Headphones I really should buy these. A standard pair of Sony 9506 headphones (they have loads of other models available) rewired and hand-calibrated with a special BBC-designed module which limits the sound output to 88dB. £219 (Canford will do it to any pair of headphones for around £80-£140)

8. Patchcord Hanger Don't hang your cables on the coathook on the back of your door! Buy this large wooden knob and hang them on that. "Also suitable as a door knob for very large doors." £38. They also have a very elegant wooden patchcord rack for £79.

9. Time Calculator It's just an ordinary-looking pocket calculator, but it can work in hours, minutes and seconds. Genius! £58

10 Rackmount wine rack Mount four bottles of wine in a 3U 19-inch rack space. £39. (Yes, I've done this one before, but it still makes me smile)

11. Paladin Powerplay A multitool/penknife specifically designed for audio (and data) engineers. Includes a 'spudger'. £82.