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Old 04-07-2018, 03:30 PM
Ravenscroft Ravenscroft is offline
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Default totally OT: free stuff for e-music wonks

If your machine runs Windows, there's some cool wares that can still be had. (I haven't tried them with W10 yet but they work well in my old XP laptop.)
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The first would be Gbloink!, which is difficult to describe & easy to use, a "sound toy" that looks somewhat like a pinball machine game. Three balls bounce around the screen at about 45-degree angle, running into various smallish rectangular obstables; when they contact a block or a wall, this triggers a MIDI note from the soundcard, pitch dependent on height in the frame.

download page
home page
revew page + pointers to other reviews & similar experiments

The user controls each ball's speed, volume, & which MIDI voice it uses. There are six choices as to the scale (including chromatic) from which the tones are chosen.

But the sounds evolve & change: when a ball contacts a block, a small "crumb" disappears from the edge... well, usually, anyway: once in a rare while, a ball can sort of burrow its way into a corner & get stuck. I discovered that changing its velocity has some tiny effect on bounce angle, & allows it to wriggle free. On the other side, the user can place blocks wherever desired, albeit of somewhat random size & dimension.

I originally found it because someone told me Brian Eno mentioned it in an interview. I now can't substantiate that, but I wouldn't be surprised: I'll sometimes leave it running as I browse on the PC or work around the house, & enjoy being surprised to hear shards of melody or even short riffs.

Originally released in 1997, the creator has made few upgrade attempts, finding that the desire to "improve" it only undermines its naive charm. One partial success would be Gbloink! ... in the browser! which requires no download & works (moderately well) with some of the more common browsers. Blocks can be placed or removed with a click. The control set is greatly reduced, & the only voice is piano. The blocks don't degrade when struck. Sometimes a ball will produce a lower note up high than mid-screen; a regular contact point might seem to produce a different note each time.

On the upside, there are now nine scales available. I have one set to "Debussy" & have done some tweaking of blocks; now it's producing a very interesting sort of Debussy/Satie, & I pause it but can't quite bring myself to close it. And for the purposes of this article, I launched a new one, & the random setup (in Major, yet) is surprisingly well-behaved, turning out something that has shades of upbeat Ravel meets Mussorgsky as Guaraldi looks for a melody.
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Old 04-07-2018, 04:10 PM
Ravenscroft Ravenscroft is offline
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One more note about Gbloink! -- if I let it run for too long (like an hour), it might start to load up my browser (presently Firefox) & require I kill & reload the browser. A garbage-collection problem, I guess.
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There's a small German company called d-lusion interactive media -- the name & its lack of capitalization suggests the founders have a severe self-image problem. Well, not to worry: they left all the "soft synth" nonsense behind, took other coding contracts, & in 2008 launched language-learning site Babbel.com.

From the goodness of their hearts, they have left some of their key projects available for download. Mostly, I won't rave after saying they're GREAT, & function very well on a small netbook PC that I got for cheap.
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DrumStation -- the evolution of the TR-xxx concept.

At very least, a great electronic drummer for practice sessions, with its easy-to-learn step sequencer (HINT: if you don't use a particular feature, just leave it alone & don't worry about it ), but readily capable of turning out some impressively crunchy beats.


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Rubberduck -- the Killer Synth App. Supposedly based on the TB-303, the RD (released 1996) features things like
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realtime digital resonant dynamic filters, frequency and volume envelope (DCA, DCF), 4 basic waveforms, dual oscillator sound generation (starting with version 2.0), a 224 note sequencer
but in brief is an amazing little synth with emphasis on cone-shredding basslines, & lots of realtime tweakability for any oldschool DJs still out there. A total joy to mess around with, in any case.


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MJ Studio -- deejay in a virtual box.

Want to play tunes at a party? Rather than scrolling through your smartphone, let the software do it. The inventors say it best --
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two decks where you could play back mp3s, pitch, scratch and mix them with automatic beat detection - a complete virtual dj solution, including a mixer with 3-band equalizer with pre-hearing. Further it had a comfortable playlist with ID3 support and an autoplay feature which could play back your mp3s seamlessly.

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DAS -- the quiet sibling.

Compared to the rest of the catalogue, DAS is kinda boring... but some might find it vital. It's designed to synch up to three clients & to tie to external MIDI clock signals. If you understand that, you probably need it.

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