A smart guy named Helmut Haas discovered a bunch of cool things about the way our human brains decode the sounds we hear to determine the direction of where those sounds originate.
Back in 1949, Mr. Haas found that early reflections of sounds help our brains decipher where the sounds came from. We can tell a noise came from the left not simply because we hear it in our left ear, but also because the sound bounces off a wall to our right and hits our right ear a very short time after it hit our left ear. Almost instantaneously, the brain detects the short time between the two signals and tells us, “Hey, that sound you just heard came from your left. Better turn your head to see what it was!” This happens so quickly that we don’t really even think about it. We just “know” it came from the left.
Haas also recognized that early reflections are basically copies of the initial sound that are delayed slightly. He started messing with people’s heads. He pointed speakers at them and firing sounds with very short delay differences. Then he asked the test subjects which direction the sound seemed to come from.
His conclusion: Not only is it fun to play with sounds, but also 40 ms (milliseconds) is some kind of magic point for our brains. If an echo is more than 40 ms after the initial sound, then we hear the sounds as separate instances. But if the delays happen within 40 ms or less of each other, then we perceive them together as merely directionality cues of a single sound.
For example, if a sound hits our right ear and the same sound hits our left ear 0.3 ms later, we don’t hear two sounds, we only hear one sound coming from approximately our 1 o’clock position.
Engineers have implemented the Haas effect as an alternative to panning. Most of the time panning works just fine, but it does have limits.
Sometimes panning leaves the location of the audio feeling indeterminate, smeared, mono, or one dimensional. This is why a lot of engineers skip the pan knob altogether and mix LCR.
To effectively localize a track in a stereo field using the Haas effect, engineers have to do a couple things. They duplicate the track, pan the two tracks hard left and right, and then apply a delay to only one of the sides. The delay is applied to the side opposite of the side from which the sound is intended to perceived as originating.
Typical delay times for this technique are increments of 0.1 ms from 0.1 to 0.7 ms. This yields linear movement across the stereo field. You can think of it like this chart shows.
Example: Want the sound to come from 9 o’clock on the left? Delay the right side by about 0.4 or 0.5 ms.
After researching the Haas Effect, I decided I wanted to try it out in a mix. Since the settings must be very exact, setting it up correctly can be a bit confusing. Presets to the rescue!
I made these presets for the stock Digidesign Mod Delay II plug-in. These presets only work for this specific plug-in and Pro Tools. If there’s interest, maybe I’ll make more presets for other DAWs in the future.
Download this ZIP file, unzip it, and drop the folder and included presets in the Mod Delay II folder in the Plug-in Settings folder. On a Mac it’s probably located at Library / Application Support / Digidesign / Plug-In Settings / Mod Delay II, but may be in a different location on your system.
Setting up the tracks
Insert an instance of the Mod Delay II (mono/stereo) plug-in on the mono track you want to Haas-ify. Select the preset you want. No need to duplicate tracks. Bingo.
Understanding how to use the Haas effect properly means you need to understand and pay attention to things like stereo-to-mono compatibility and comb filtering, as well as other stereo field mixing techniques. As with all effects, have fun but be careful not to over do it. Experiment and do your homework. Then let me know if you find learn or discover anything cool. Here’s a cool video that got me thinking about the Haas effect.
Ever get this error? Can’t open your session, right? Not only is it a major workflow stopper, but the double punctuation typo at the end is annoying as well.
Luckily, the solution is quite simple.
This is the quick fix that works for me and my particular setup of hardware/software. Your mileage may vary.
Quit Pro Tools
Restart Pro Tools
Open the session that wouldn’t open before
Get back to work
The IT mantra “Have you tried turning if off and on again?” waves the problem away like a magic wand, but why is this problem happening in the first place?
The last time this error occurred for me, I noticed that it was after I had ejected my audio hard drive, removed my iLok, and left Pro Tools open, but put my machine to sleep before Pro Tools could issue the panic message: “Hey! Where’s your iLok, buddy?! That’s it! We’re shutting this whole thing down.” Then when I went to reopen the last session I was working on, boom, the error in question occured.
I’m guessing that between the time I ejected everything and the time I plugged it all back in and tried to fire it up again, Pro Tools had switched its default sample rate from whatever my Mbox 2 Pro says it was to whatever my MacBook Pro thinks it should be. Then when I try to open a session with a particular sample rate that doesn’t jive with what the current rate is, Pro Tools freaks out because it thought it knew what was right, but doesn’t even know anymore, man.
Disclaimer: I don’t actually know how or why the error is occurring. These are just my slightly educated stabs in the dark. If you know anything more about this error, why it happens, and, most importantly, why there’s a typo in it, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Sound is basically waves of pressure changes. The exact definition is more complicated, but essentially we perceive sound because our ears decode the frequencies of oscillating movement of particles in gases, liquids, and solids. There are many ways to generate sound waves, such as plucking guitar strings so they vibrate, or hitting a membrane like a drum head.
A long time ago, people discovered that sound could also be made by blowing air through a pipe with a opening on the side, thus inventing the whistle. They also found that a range of tones could be produced by assembling a group of whistles with varying lengths and diameters. Then they attached a controller (called a keyboard or manual) so that one person could “play” this collection of pipes. Their invention is what we now know as the pipe organ.
At the start, pipe organs had only one timbre – a basic whistle sound, but over the next several hundred years, smart inventors and musicians made improvements in the technology. They found ways to emulate lots of other instruments, like brass, woodwinds, percussion, and even human voices. Their hope was to fully replicate those real life instruments.
As features were added, pipe organs evolved into enormous, elaborate, and expensive installations, increasingly more complicated to play and maintain. While these pipe organs were truly amazing inventions, capable of creating complex and beautiful music, they were actually quite poor emulations of the real life instruments they were intended to replace.
Still, we humans are adaptable and we fell in love with the sound of pipe organs, learning to appreciate the instrument for what it was, not what it wasn’t.
Eventually, we discovered electricity and began to harness its power to create electromechanical instruments. Creative minds developed things like vacuum tubes, tone wheels, and transistors. Companies like Hammond and Wurlitzer implemented tone wheels to generate sounds approximating a pipe organ.
However, similar to the pipe organ, this new technology was a brilliant invention that poorly emulated its predecessor. These new organs were affordable alternatives to pipe organs, so in spite of being a bad imitation they became popular with smaller houses of worship. Traveling musicians took advantage of the portability of these smaller organs too, making their sound common in popular jazz, blues, and rock music.
Once again, our ears grew accustomed to the sound of the imitation, developing an affinity for the quirks of its particular aesthetic.
As the march of progress continued, electronics became smaller and more powerful. Engineers found ways to replace the delicate mechanical parts in electric organs, which were subject to wear and tear, with completely electronic sound generators. Lightweight, all electronic keyboard synthesizers used a variety of methods in attempts to replicate the sounds of their heavier electromechanical ancestors.
But just like before, history would repeat itself. The new emulators were incredible technological achievements that fell short of their goal of replacing the old technology. Though they lacked the ability to fully replicate the previous generation, they possessed attributes that eventually found an audience of connoisseurs that valued them not just in spite of their glitches, but because of their unique properties.
Today, we synthesize the sounds of the old technologies with computers and keyboard MIDI controllers. While initially computers could only crudely imitate the old masters, DSP technology is progressing rapidly. CPU speed and available RAM are no longer the main limitation factors. As the computational power ceiling continues to rise higher and higher, software programmers are able to provide increasingly nuanced emulators that can easily fool the listener into believing that the software is actually the real thing.
At this point, if you’re still reading, then you probably can see how this history correlates to the plot of the film Inception. Each new technological breakthrough has been like a deeper dream state, where the simulation moves further and further away from reality.
→ Pipe organs
→ → Electric organs
→ → → Keyboards
→ → → → Software
However, just like in the film, while each level becomes more strange and abstract, the deepest level — Limbo — actually approaches something most like the real thing or maybe even better. Today’s emulators delve into such detail and are able to control even the most minute aspects of the sound, that it won’t be long before they easily eclipse the believability of the old technology. In fact, we may already be there.
A few years ago (when the emulators weren’t half as good as they are now), a friend of mine (who has very good ears) dropped by the studio to hear a song I was working on. When the B3 organ kicked in during the chorus, he declared, “That organ sounds great. There’s nothing like the real thing!” Muwhahaha! The smoke and mirrors of software emulation had worked.
Inspiration for This Article
This idea of how keyboard technology relates to Inception came about through a discussion with my friend Hoss. Over the weekend we were working on the keyboard parts for our band Rudisill’s next album Take To Flight. In between takes of an organ part we marveled at the realization that the software he was using was an emulation of an emulation of an emulation — a truly strange scenario.
Follow Rudisill to hear about the new album when it is released later this year (2012).
In that article, I gave 50 technical questions as “homework” for the musician that wants to get better at being a musician. The broad list covers a lot of little things that musicians really ought to know, but think they don’t need to know.
While we could easily get sidetracked judging ourselves based on whether we can answer those specific questions or not, the real issue I’m hoping to address is our attitudes about learning.
Learning is tough. Really tough. It takes dedication, willingness, and humility to learn new things. It’s not surprising that we make a lot of excuses to avoid it.
Excuses, excuses, excuses
Over the years, I have cited lots of reasons for why I wasn’t progressing as a musician, but they were simply excuses. Here are a few of my mental blocks.
1. My fingers are too fat.
Back in high school I picked up the guitar because I wanted to write songs. After a year or two of trying to learn how to play, I told Nathan Hamlin, my trusted friend and songwriting partner, that my fingers were too fat to play guitar well. His response?
Scott, my dad Vance has huge sausage fingers and he can play guitar better than I can. You have no excuse.
Nathan was right. I stopped making excuses and learned how to play guitar. Now people ask me to play guitar for them.
Still want to make excuses? Phil Keaggy has only 9 digits, Chad James has only one hand, and Mark Goffeney has no hands, but it hasn’t stopped any of them from playing guitar.
2. I need a better guitar.
For years I was convinced that if I just had a more expensive guitar, I too could play like a pro. Wrong.
In college I met Ben Albright, a guy who was known for his guitar prowess. Time and time again, I watched as he would pick up the same crappy instrument I had just laid down and play something inspiring. Clearly the guitar was not the problem.
The roadblock was in my mind. There was a reason I couldn’t make a guitar sing like Ben could. Besides not putting in the many hours of practice that he had, I had already decided that I couldn’t make great music without great instruments.
In a previous post called “How to Get Perfect Guitar Tone,” I included a video clip from It Might Get Loud of Jack White building and then playing a makeshift guitar on his front porch. The improvised “guitar” he makes proves his point that great music is possible even if the instrument is not very good.
I can’t blame my guitar.
3. I need better recording equipment.
We live in such a wonderful time. Recording has never been more accessible, affordable, or high quality.
My soon-to-be released album All Is Sideways was recorded in locations all over the U.S. over the past 3 years. Some of the songs have more than 50 layered tracks. I was privileged to be able to record with talented players on great instruments with really nice microphones and preamps into a sweet computer.
The funny thing I have to remind myself is that some of the greatest albums of all time have been made with much less. The Beatles recorded their highly complex Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with a pair of 4-track tape machines.
Compared to the tools we have available to us today, musicians and engineers of the past worked with sticks and stones. Men have flown to outer space and back in rocket ships with computers on board that pale in comparison to the iPods in our pockets. Yet somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that to make an album like Led Zeppelin’s IV today, we need million dollar systems with all the latest technology.
Sorry, kids. Your gear can’t be the scapegoat here. Garageband is more than adequate.
Who’s left to blame?
Excuses don’t make me a better player. Better gear doesn’t make me a better player. Only my determination to learn, practice, and actively become a better player makes me a better player.
In my signal chain, sadly, I am the weakest link.
I want to fix that and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there.
A funny thing happened today. I received some text messages from a number I didn’t recognize. Here is the transcript of our SMS exchange.
Text from a Stranger
Stranger: Quick! What was the wintergreen root beer you bought at Wegman’s called? Stranger: We found it! Virgil’s root beer. Delish! Me: Who is this? Stranger: Um. Who is THIS? Me: You texted me. You first. Stranger: I texted you? Sorry. Must be a mistake. Your number comes up unknown on my phone. what did I txt? Me: You asked me about root beer. Lucky guess, I suppose, since Virgil's is my favorite. Stranger: Isn't this scott? Me: Yep. Who are you? Stranger: Stevan! Stranger: What number comes up from me? Your number texting me now is [XXX-XXX-XXXX] ?? Stranger: I originally txted your [XXX] number... (Stevan Sheets in case you know other Stevans)
Getting a text like this isn’t all that rare. Occasionally a friend will change phone numbers and send me a text before I have put their new number into my address book. After some initial confusion it usually becomes clear who the mystery messager is. As usual, the stranger in question wasn’t a stranger, but my good friend Stevan Sheets.
Grocery Stores & Root Beer
First things first. Wegman’s is probably the best chain of grocery stores ever and part of my list of mandatory stops when I’m in the Northeast. And although I’m not much of a soda drinker, Virgil’s Root Beer (and the many Ginger Brews also made by Reed’s Inc.) are the finest sodas I’ve ever tasted. But I digress…
What really happened
Despite all of my persuasive arguments, Stevan still has not become an Apple guy. He seems to love the dark side. He spends lots of his time trying to use an Android phone, tweeting about how awful iPhones are, and expressing his love for Google products. Naturally, when he moved across state a few years ago, he kept his old cell number and signed up for a local number via Google Voice. He ported this new number to his phone, where it has been operating somewhat natively within the Android OS ever since. The funny part is that my good-buddy-ol’-pal, Stevan, has been using this number as his primary for over 2 years, yet I didn’t know it. We regularly communicate with each other using various web tools (Twitter, Facebook, Skype, email, etc.), but for whatever reason we rarely use the phone or text. I still had his old number in my phone. So after our back-and-forth on SMS, I called Stevan to try to figure what happened. We talked through it and think we worked out the problem. This is where it gets funky, so I’ll try to break it down to make it easy to understand.
A Glitch in The Matrix
This evening, Stevan sends a text to my cell number from his phone via his Google Voice number.
Google Voice intercepts the text from Stevan, recognizes that my cell number is linked to a Google Voice number, and sends the text to my Google Voice number instead.
Since my Google Voice number is set to forward texts to my cell number, I receive Stevan’s text on my phone like normal at my cell number.
I don’t have Stevan’s Google Voice number in my address book, so I don’t recognize the sender and reply from my cell number, “Who is this?”
Google Voice then intercepts my text, recognizes that it’s from my cell number, which is linked to a Google Voice account, and sends the text to Stevan as though it came from my Google Voice number.
Stevan receives my reply, but it appears in a new message thread from a number he doesn’t recognize, so he replies, “Um. Who is THIS?”
I scratch my head and wonder who would text me about my love for Virgil’s root beer, but wouldn’t know who am I, while Stevan wonders why his friend Scott won’t write him back and why some stranger is texting him.
How This Is Dangerous
What we figured out tonight is that Google Voice is doing some questionable handling of text messages behind the scenes that could lead to some quite unfortunate outcomes. All kinds of problems could happen if SMS messages can’t be sent and received with reliable confidence about what number the message is being sent to or from. You might think it doesn’t matter for you as long as you are not texting from Google Voice, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Imagine This Scenario
Tim meets a Sara. Sparks fly. Tim, being a modern guy, asks if Sara if he could text her. Wanting to be safe, Sara gives him her Google Voice number instead of her mobile number. The next day Tim texts Sara from his mobile. Unfortunately, Tim works at Widget Inc., a small company that uses Google Voice for official company business and Tim’s phone is one of the phones it forwards to. Google Voice sends Tim’s text as though it’s coming from the Widget Inc. Google Voice number instead of his mobile number. When Sara replies to Tim, she’s actually replying back to Widget Inc. thinking that is Tim’s personal number. Now any employee at Widget Inc. that has access to the company’s Google Voice account or receives forwarded texts on their mobile can see Sara’s text to Tim. Good thing Sara only said, “Fri is good. Pick me up 7ish? <333” and not something more embarrassing.
Until Google Voice decides to stop commandeering numbers, we recommended not using Google Voice for text messages. Don’t send SMS messages to or from a Google Voice number and disable the receipt of forwarded text messages to cell phones. If you receive a text from a number you don’t recognize, do not reply to it, or only send a reply with information that you don’t mind being made public. For now, here’s how to disable text forwarding on your phone, which is better than doing nothing.
Disable Text Forwarding
Log in to your Google Voice account.
Click on the little Options cog in the upper right corner.
Choose ‘Voice Settings’ from the list of options in the drop down menu.
Under the default ‘Phone’ tab make sure the “Receive text messages on this phone” box is unchecked.
Our best efforts to judge objectively are often ruined by our subjectivity when rating works of art. iTunes gives us the ability to assign stars to every song in our libraries, but, man, is it hard to know how to use them well. There is great irony in the fact that recorded audio files are simply zeroes and ones, yet it is very difficult to rate those songs on a simple scale of zero to five stars.
Below is a breakdown of how I rate the songs in my iTunes Library. I’m approaching this from the viewpoint of a songwriter and producer, so I’m interested to hear how you rate your library.
Songs in my iTunes Library that have zero stars are tunes I have yet to rate. Unless I’m focusing on the task, I find it easy to get lost in the music and forget to click on those little stars. Sadly, a large percentage of my library is still unrated. I’ll get to it… someday.
A one star song merely proves that it is possible to record audio, but beyond that I find almost no redeeming quality. If I rate a song with one star, it has very little value to me. I hate these songs. Why do I keep them in my library? Different reasons, I guess. If a song is part of album, I don’t get rid of it because I hate incomplete sets. Sometimes I keep terrible songs around as a reminder of what not to do.
Songs I don’t like but that still have some redeeming value to them get two stars. It might be the crappiest song ever, but was recorded well. Or it might be a great song that was recorded terribly. Maybe it is an entirely mediocre song, but I can’t honestly say that I hate it. Whatever reason, I rarely listen to 2-star songs.
Three-stars are good songs that meet all my requirements for acceptable music. These are listenable and usually enjoyable, but they are not the first songs I run to when I need to listen to music. These are songs by artists I appreciate, but don’t consider my favorites. They might also be the rare less-likable songs of my favorite artists.
Four-star songs are great. They are above average and I consider them more enjoyable than most songs. However, I wouldn’t die for them. If the house is burning and I can take only the best with me, these songs would sadly be left behind. I’d miss them too. If you are an artist that makes a lot of 4-star songs and the occasional 5-star keeper, then you’re probably one of my favorite artists.
These five-star beauties make up my “deserted island” playlist. These are the rare audio gems that I could listen to over and over and never get tired of them. They are songs that define me. To get five stars a song has to score well in nearly all of these areas: songwriting, musicianship, philosophy, story, timelessness, inspiration, intellectualism, and enjoyability.
Some Examples of 5-star Songs in My iTunes Library
“Oh King” – Mark Mathis
“When It Don’t Come Easy” – Patty Griffin
“Since I’ve Been Loving You (Live)” – Led Zeppelin
“Hurt” – Johnny Cash
“God Willin’ And The Creek Don’t Rise” – Ray LaMontagne
“None Of Us Are Free” – Solomon Burke
“Nude” – Radiohead
“Only A Man” – Jonny Lang
“Come All You Weary” – Thrice
“Been Here Before” – Jeremy Enigk
“The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us” – Sufjan Stevens
It’s an interesting concept. The wars between analog and digital rage on because they are systems separated by technologies that both have pros and cons. As technology progresses, what new pros and cons will we have to debate against older systems? Initially I answered with the following:
Realizing there’s much more to this debate than just a tweet, I thought I’d talk more about it here.
We Need Better Words to Describe How We’ll Make Music in the Future
In my original tweet, I used the phrase “Cerebral vs. Digital” to describe the future debate I imagine will happen. Maybe my choice of opposites wasn’t perfect. Better words can probably be found. This concept of diametrics I have in mind could be expressed in a variety of ways.
Cerebral vs. Physical
Solitary vs. Collaborative
Internal vs. External
Each of those word combinations is describing the same contrast of ideas. But how to best describe it?
The New System of Mind Music
In the (maybe not so distant) future, musicians will have the ability to directly output music from their heads. Technology will be developed that will allow artists to simply think/imagine/hear the music in his/her head and output this as audio and/or notation. This cerebrally generated “audio feed” could be routed (maybe even wirelessly) to a recording device to be documented, distributed, and sold. Theoretically, this process could happen as a live performance. The signal could be routed to a sound system for a concert, to an internet connection for worldwide streaming, or even directly injected (almost telepathically) into the head of a “listener” outfitted with the proper “receiver” device.
The possibilities are fantastic. Composers could direct an entire imaginary orchestra as they hear it in their minds. Dancers could dance to their own music in real time. Musicians could play exactly what they intend to play. Singers could sing in whatever voices they can imagine. Handicapped artists suddenly would be unrestricted by their handicaps.
This technological breakthrough in music will follow a path familiar to video games. With the Wii, Nintendo brought wireless motion-sensing accelerometer action to everyday people. The developers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band banked a lot of cash by making it really easy to “play” popular music without having to learn an instrument. Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox removed the need for a controller, allowing the person to become the controller. I don’t know who will create the first mind-controlled music technology, but somebody’s going to do it.
Cool meant something totally different back then. Don’t judge.
As with any change, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, music will experience yet another Regrettable Period in which we have to learn how to use this new technology properly. I predict some gross and unsavory abuse of the technology, much like the ubiquity of terrible synthesizers in the 1980s or prevalence of auto-tuned vocals since Cher started believing in life after love. But some lucky artist is going to enjoy the honor of being known as the one that mastered this wonderful new system, thus becoming the “Grand Master Flash of whatever-this-thing-may-become-known-as.” Someone will figure out how to use it right, but it might take some time. In the meantime, wear earplugs.
Why We’ll Argue About This
At first, this newfangled gadgetry will be heralded as the end of “real” music and musicianship. The critics will say it’s too easy and not authentic music. Traditional composers and invested players will complain that no one has to learn how to write or play anymore. And much in the same way that digital was derided as a poor substitute for analog, purists will say that this cerebral form loses something in the process. Those arguments all might be right, but there may be a bigger issue lurking.
Trapped “In The Box”
When the process of making music becomes entirely internalized it will be really great because of it’s purity and singularity of thought, but will it simultaneously suffer from lack of external influences? When digital recording became popular, the question was often asked by one artist or engineer to another: “Was this all done ‘in the box?’” – meaning: was the audio signal created, mixed, and mastered on the same computer? Early on, music created entirely in this fashion lacked the beneficial effects that analog systems inherently imparted upon the audio signal. Today, the line has been blurred by better technology, so it’s harder to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. Only engineers with “golden ears” can hear the difference (even then I suspect shenanigans). At any rate, the question still remains: What benefits will be lost due to the signal remaining “in the box” of your head?
Potential Musical Influences
People – The comradery, inspiration, ideas, criticism, differing views, and friction found when people work together often makes for better music. Being alone can lead to dead ends and boring or bad music. Collaboration can make beautiful things.
Hardware – Though they are inanimate objects, the instruments and devices used to make music come with their own inspirations, challenges, rewards, frustrations to overcome, and occasional good glitches. Sometimes a piece of gear has to be conquered and relinquishes its magic upon defeat.
Criticism – The critic is the archenemy of the artist, but every good story needs a villain. Without judgement, no work is ever as best as it can be. Words are often revealed for their folly only after they’ve left the head.
Movement – Music and movement are very strongly related. When making music, movement is both part of the instigation of sound, but also a reaction to the sound being created. Performance and dance are like cousins. So if movement is not necessary for the creation of music, what effect will that have on the final product?
Good Things Will Happen
A lot of things can go wrong in this new system, but a lot of things can go right too. Eventually we’ll work out the kinks. We’ll figure out the typical pitfalls. We’ll master this medium like we have with all the others. One day amazing music will be generated using nothing but musicians’ brains. I’m hedging a bet it will be the direct output of some ridiculously young Mozart’s mind that will blow us all away. Perhaps this new interface will teach us something about how our brains work. Maybe it will allow us to communicate more precisely on ever deeper levels. What if it develops into a new universal language? Hmm.
The audio device buffer underflowed. If this occurs frequently, try decreasing the “H/W Buffer Size” in the Playback Engine panel or remove other devices from the audio firewire bus. (-6085)
Occasionally this error pops up in Pro Tools, usually after I return from a meal in the middle of a long recording or mixing session. The session file will only playback audio for 1 second or less and then the error message pops up. Apparently, Pro Tools 9 is a workaholic and doesn’t like taking lunch breaks, at least when running on the particular combination of MacBook Pro, Mbox 2 Pro, and Western Digitalhard drive that I’m using.
Following the directions to decrease the “H/W Buffer Size” in the Playback Engine panel doesn’t seem to help. In fact, not only does decreasing the buffer size seems contrary to the suggested way to solve a buffer underrun, but it then sometimes throws this error message:
A CPU overload occured. If this happens often, try increasing the “H/W Buffer Size” in the Playback Engine Dialog, or removing some plug-ins. (-6101)
I’ve tried a lot of things and the problem seems to be related to the hard drive and firewire ports. Here’s how I fix it.
Save and Close the session.
Quit Pro Tools.
Eject the hard drive used for recording audio.
Unplug the audio hard drive and Mbox 2 Pro (or the audio interface you’re using).
Wait 10 seconds.
Reconnect the audio hard drive and audio interface.
Restart Pro Tools.
Reopen the session and press Play.
If the session plays back without stopping, then it worked. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you, which reminds me of a “Deep Thought” by Jack Handey.
If you ever crawl inside an old hollow log and go to sleep, and while you’re in there some guys come and seal up both ends and then put it on a truck and take it to another city, boy, I don’t know what to tell you.
Hopefully this solution worked for you. Let me know if you’ve had the same problem, what hardware you are running and if this solved the problem.
This is cool. My inner nerd had to come out and dance for bit. This is video by Kyle Jones, a designer, animator and illustrator from Nashville. Check out his website here and follow him on Twitter. He decided to record himself playing guitar using his iPhone from inside the guitar. Genius. Rejoice with me, [...]
This is cool. My inner nerd had to come out and dance for bit. This is video by Kyle Jones, a designer, animator and illustrator from Nashville. Check out his website here and follow him on Twitter. He decided to record himself playing guitar using his iPhone from inside the guitar. Genius. Rejoice with me, all you audio and science loving geeks.
When’s the last time you logged into MySpace? When’s the last time you referenced that dying social network without making it the butt of some joke? When’s the last time you had a meaningful interaction through the site? I’m guessing it has been awhile. I logged into my account tonight just to see if anything [...]
When’s the last time you logged into MySpace? When’s the last time you referenced that dying social network without making it the butt of some joke? When’s the last time you had a meaningful interaction through the site?
I’m guessing it has been awhile.
I logged into my account tonight just to see if anything had happened in the last 6 months that I should know about. Finding nothing of any significance, I began pruning my profile. Now if you visit my page (which I don’t recommend you do), you’ll see that there’s nothing left but a photo, my tracks, and a notice that says:
MySpace is dead. For more about Scott Troyer visit: http://scotttroyer.com
Why haven’t I cancelled my account? Well, I maintain a MySpace profile simply because when booking shows some venues still ask for a MySpace link. At one time (approximately the fall of 1945) this made sense because there were very few places that bands could easily create a page and post their music for people to hear. Now, there are so many sites like Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, Twitter, BandCamp, CDbaby, NoiseTrade, Vimeo, Tumblr, WordPress, iTunes…the list goes on and on…that allow musicians to create profiles and stay in touch with fans in much better ways. While it is true that these new networks are not perfect, they’re far superior to the horrible experience that MySpace offers.
Plea To Venues
Please, stop asking for MySpace links. Let’s party like it’s 2099, not 1999. The entire Internet wants to move on. Even my Grandma has figured out Facebook. You should too. It doesn’t matter how big or cool MySpace once was, sometimes you just have to let things go.
Plea to Fans
Quit MySpace. Seriously. Don’t just leave your data lying around on the Internet. Do you want creepers or future employers finding the pictures, posts, and comments you and some of your MySpace “friends” made 4 years ago? Go here to cancel your account. Then follow your favorite artists on other networks.
Plea to Musicians
Ask venues and fans to quit MySpace. There is power in numbers. Let’s unite and make the world a better place. If not for yourself, do it for the children.
Download the Album Now My EP Somewhere Between Nicaragua & New York is now available on iTunes. Sweet. Click this little button. Rate the Album and Write a Review Below this list of tracks is a convenient little spot where you can give my album some stars and write a little bit about the songs. [...]
My EP Somewhere Between Nicaragua & New York is now available on iTunes. Sweet. Click this little button.
Rate the Album and Write a Review
Below this list of tracks is a convenient little spot where you can give my album some stars and write a little bit about the songs. If you have a little time, please give the album 5 stars and leave your kindest words. Thanks!
Down of the left hand side of the page, there’s a little link that says “Alert Me.” Click that and iTunes will notify you of any new tracks I upload as soon as they become available on iTunes.
Pro Tools hardware is either not installed or used by another program. If you thought that having Pro Tools 9 installed meant no more “Hey, Mr. Engineer Genius, where’s your fancy hardware?” errors, then this nagging error probably came as a surprise. It did for me. Since installing Pro Tools 9, my workflow has allowed [...]
Pro Tools hardware is either not installed or used by another program.
If you thought that having Pro Tools 9 installed meant no more “Hey, Mr. Engineer Genius, where’s your fancy hardware?” errors, then this nagging error probably came as a surprise. It did for me. Since installing Pro Tools 9, my workflow has allowed me to jump around from my Mbox 2 Pro, Mbox 2 Micro, and MacBook Pro’s built-in sound card. This has been really handy while trying to finish up my album on the road. But, apparently, all that hardware hopping can cause the playback engine to get stuck in some funky states that don’t so work –if at all. See my previous post “FIX: Pro Tools could not set sample rate to specified value” for a similar issue.
Obviously, the problem has something to do with the playback engine. Since the error dialog only offers an ‘OK’ button, which closes Pro Tools, there doesn’t seem to be a way to work around the problem. There is not even a way to know what hardware Pro Tools is expecting.
I found a simple solution via this Sweetwater forum. The answer given there details how to get Pro Tools running on a PC, but I found that it worked for Macs too and without having to install any drivers. The fix is kind of like booting Pro Tools in safe mode. Simply hold the ‘N’ key while starting up Pro Tools. This will bypass the normal start up sequence and open up the Playback Engine window. Now you can select the correct playback engine and continue using Pro Tools.
In my situation, Pro Tools was looking for the last connected device (my Mbox 2 Pro), but since it wasn’t available it opted for the next available option: my MacBook Pro’s line input, which doesn’t make a very good playback engine.
Let me know if this fix worked for you.
This problem may have been fixed in the Pro Tools 9.0.2 update that came out yesterday, though I’ve not been able look through the 9.0.2 Readme file in detail or to test this out on the updated software. I’ll update this page when I find out more.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend David, a young and very talented musician/singer/songwriter, asked me the following question. Hi Scott! Hey, how many GB of hard drive space do you recommend for recording on a laptop? Thanks, David To which I responded: Hey David, The recommended practice for digital recording is to record to [...]
A couple of weeks ago, my friend David, a young and very talented musician/singer/songwriter, asked me the following question.
Hey, how many GB of hard drive space do you recommend for recording on a laptop?
To which I responded:
The recommended practice for digital recording is to record to an external hard drive instead of the internal drive. This is done for performance reasons. Recording to an external drive keeps your data separate from the rest of your computer data, allowing the computer to use the internal drive for the dedicated purpose of running the operating system. This also makes your recording data more portable for taking it to a studio and prevents trouble if you ever need to send your computer in for service (the recording data stays with you).
It is also recommended to use an additional external drive that serves as a backup so if anything goes wrong with a drive you won’t lose everything. So ideally, you would have two identical drives. They can be any size, but should be the same size. A typical song (2-5 min with 4-5 instruments with multiple takes for each instrument/voice) at 24 bit resolution and 48k sample rate will take up approximately 1-3 GB. If you’re lacking hard drive space, after the tracks are finalized the unused takes can be deleted, which reduces the file size of the song, thus giving you more room for additional songs. But as cheap as hard drives are these days, getting a decent sized drive shouldn’t be a problem.
The cost of external drives for computer-based recording is much cheaper than the cost of memory cards for hard disk recorders.
With all that in mind, I recommend buying 2 of the largest hard drives you can get within the budget you have. Remember, these drives should be the same size and used ONLY for your recordings.
Western Digital has good drives for reasonable prices.*
Modern recording takes lots of hard drive space. It’s easy to eat up several GB on a song of average length and track depth. I’ve filled a drive or two already with various recording sessions, Photoshop files, and media. Over the weekend I had to pick up another drive just so I can finish my [...]
Modern recording takes lots of hard drive space. It’s easy to eat up several GB on a song of average length and track depth. I’ve filled a drive or two already with various recording sessions, Photoshop files, and media. Over the weekend I had to pick up another drive just so I can finish my upcoming album. I went to the nearest big box electronics shop and picked up the the biggest drive with the best price. What I found was the Western Digital 2 TB My Book Studio LX. The size should be enough for the next year or so (let’s hope!) and the simple grey metal design suits my preference for the minimalist Mac aesthetic. Surprisingly, this is the first drive I’ve purchased that came preformatted for Mac OS. I know that some drives come advertised as such, but this was just a standard off-the-shelf one-kind-fits-all drive. Maybe this indicates a shift in the Apple/PC market share?
The only thing that bothers me about WD is their pre-installed SmartWare software. It’s a huge can of donkey sauce. This multi-function bloatware takes up over half a GB of space, is loaded into the drive firmware (so it cannot just be formatted away), appears as a separate VCD that pops up everytime you connect to the drive, and cannot be completely removed without voiding the warranty. The only option WD gives the user is to download two more software packages, one that updates the firmware so you can run the second package that allows you to hide the VCD. Blehhhh…
The whole point I want to make is this:
Dear Western Digital,
I like you and your drives. I like the design, reliability, and affordability of your drives. I can’t stand your SmartWare. Please stop making it. If you can’t do that, then please make it an opt-in thing. If you feel you really, truly, just absolutely must preinstall it (instead of offering it available as a free download), then at least make it easy to permanently remove with just one or two clicks. I do not want to download more software to remove software I already don’t want. Thank you.
A regular and loyal customer,
While removing the the VCD completely is possible and would be my preferred solution, doing so voids the warranty, which is extremely valuable should the drive ever fail. So in my opinion, doing something to void the warranty on the device that stores my invaluable data is a bad idea. Until WD decides that such action no longer voids the warranty, I cannot recommend this.
How to Hide SmartWare
WD doesn’t make it easy to hide the VCD. There are two major steps. You’ll need to download the firmware update for your particular drive and the VCD Manager. Visit the WD Product Updates page to find out how to hide the VCD for your specific device and OS.
Bad News First Perfect guitar tone does not exist. …at least not in a permanently defined state. It is always changing depending on context. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for guitar tone and the guy who is showing you exactly how to get “perfect” tone is either demonstrating his idea of a good sound for [...]
…at least not in a permanently defined state. It is always changing depending on context. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for guitar tone and the guy who is showing you exactly how to get “perfect” tone is either demonstrating his idea of a good sound for a very particular context or selling you something. Let the buyer beware!
I’ve seen a zildjillion YouTube videos and magazine articles in which an “expert” outlines in very fine detail the “preferred” gear or “professional” way to play/mic/mix. They have shown me how to dial in that Clapton tone, place ribbon mics like Eno, mix a hit song like the Lord-Alge brothers, mod my guitar and amp like SRV, and even dress like a rockstar. In each circumstance I think, “Yes, that might just work. I could sound like that, if I do everything else exactly the same way as Mr. Famous Rockstarpants.”
They have it right. It truly is the small stuff that matters. In fact, all these tiny details matter so much and there is such a vast quantity of them, that replicating such performances is nearly inconceivable. Every part of the signal chain plays a role – from player to instrument to amp to room to microphone to preamp and all the cables, power supplies, recording/storage media, surfaces, and recording/mixing/mastering engineers in between. Even weather, location, and moods can make a difference.
Needless to say, it’s nearly impossible to replicate that one sound by that one artist on that one record. So many factors are involved in the making of a sound, that in many cases the original artist that recorded it might not be able to make that precise sound again, even when given identical circumstances. (I’d like to point out that perhaps the very reason we enjoy certain sounds is because a beautiful moment was captured – something unique that will never happen again – and trying to recreate it verbatim would somehow make it less amazing. Frankenstein’s monster wasn’t very pretty, was he? I digress.)
“We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about, but try to be yourself while you’re doing so.” – quote attributed to B. B. King
And The Good News
Proper tone (the right tone at the right time) can be bought. You can pay for it with practice and critical listening. Good equipment is nice, but not necessary, as Jack White demonstrates so well in It Might Get Loud.
After upgrading to the newly released Pro Tools 9, I couldn’t open sessions or create new ones. I got this error: “Could not complete the Open Session… command because Pro Tools could not set sample rate to specified value..” I hunted around on the web and various forums, but couldn’t find a solution that fit. [...]
After upgrading to the newly released Pro Tools 9, I couldn’t open sessions or create new ones. I got this error: “Could not complete the Open Session… command because Pro Tools could not set sample rate to specified value..” I hunted around on the web and various forums, but couldn’t find a solution that fit. I found several items relating to Windows and Pro Tools 8, but nothing for a Mac running Pro Tools 9. After messing around a bit I figured out the problem was with my playback engine. Here’s how I solved it. Let me know if it works for you too.
Open the Playback Engine dialog under the Setup menu item.
From the menu bar select Setup > Playback Engine… to open the Playback Engine dialog window.
The fix is easy. Simply select the right playback engine. Your options may differ based on your setup.
In my case, I usually would edit with my Mbox 2 Micro, but since Pro Tools 9 gives us so many more options for hardware compatibility, I selected Built-in Output. I was able to edit some vocal takes using my Macbook Pro’s speakers instead of pulling out my headphones. Nice!
The Problem Today, I had a problem emptying the trash on my MacBook Pro. The trash would begin to empty, but would hang shortly after starting the deletion process. I made several attempts to empty the trash (all ending in a force quit of the Finder) before deciding to pull all the files out and [...]
Today, I had a problem emptying the trash on my MacBook Pro. The trash would begin to empty, but would hang shortly after starting the deletion process. I made several attempts to empty the trash (all ending in a force quit of the Finder) before deciding to pull all the files out and move them back into the trash one by one to delete them. After several rounds of trashing, I was able to eliminate all but the single offending file, a partial dmg from a failed download of Adobe’s CS5 Design Premium. Holding ‘Option’ while clicking Empty Trash didn’t work. Renaming the file and then deleting didn’t work either. No matter what I did, just I couldn’t trash the file. So I began an online search.
After scouring a bunch of forums with various non-helpful solutions and scary Terminal command line code that “might ruin everything if you’re not careful,” I finally found the safe and easy solution in a free trial download of Cocktail, a shareware maintenance utility for Mac OS 10.4 and above.
Cocktail is an award winning general purpose utility for Mac OS X. It is a smooth and powerful digital toolset with a variety of practical features that simplifies the use of advanced UNIX functions and helps Mac users around the world to get the most out of their computers. Cocktail is installed at more than 200,000 computers world wide. The largest part being private individuals, but Cocktail can also be found at large international companies (Puma, Sony), educational institutions (Harvard University, University of Texas) or newspapers (The New York Times, Business Week).
Cocktail can empty the trash!
Fixing the problem was as easy as clicking the ‘Empty’ button found under the ‘Misc’ subgroup in the ‘System’ tab. Trash empty. Computer nice and tidy again.
I found some MP3s of sine waves at various frequencies at www.freemosquitoringtone.org. As we age, we lose our ability to hear higher frequencies and so these MP3s are offered as discreet ringtones for teens. Try out these tones and let me know how high you can hear. Audio Frequency Test Tones Don’t worry if you [...]
I found some MP3s of sine waves at various frequencies at www.freemosquitoringtone.org. As we age, we lose our ability to hear higher frequencies and so these MP3s are offered as discreet ringtones for teens. Try out these tones and let me know how high you can hear.
Audio Frequency Test Tones
Don’t worry if you can’t hear some of the higher pitched test tones. The problem may not be your failing ears. It could be the inability of your speakers, headphones, or soundcard to reproduce the higher tones.
So it’s a ton of fun to mess around with Mac OS X’s picture taking application Photobooth, isn’t it? Probably one of the first things you did when you got your new MacBook or MacBook Pro, was to open up that little app and try out all the nifty features. Since then, you’ve snapped hundreds [...]
So it’s a ton of fun to mess around with Mac OS X’s picture taking application Photobooth, isn’t it? Probably one of the first things you did when you got your new MacBook or MacBook Pro, was to open up that little app and try out all the nifty features. Since then, you’ve snapped hundreds of photos of yourself, family, and friends using all the warping and color effects. And sometimes those pics have turned out funny or cool enough to upload as your Facebook profile. Everything is great, right? Well, no. At some point you realized that sometimes your photos look a lot better in the preview. Apple was kind enough to give us a simulated “flash” to help light those dim homes we live in, but the flash doesn’t always give us great looking photos. If you’ve tried adjusting your screen brightness all the way down to black, you’ve discovered it still doesn’t stop the flash. Today, you suffer no more. I present a solution. Simply hold ‘Shift’ while clicking the camera button. Photobooth will count down from 3 and make the usual beep, but your photo won’t be tainted by that garish blue cast of an Apple simulated flash. Before (with flash) After (without flash)
The Problem When I watch DVDs on my MacBook, I have noticed that the volume increases and decreases based on the loudness of the movie’s audio. This automatic feature is called “dynamic range compression” and is provided by our dear friends at Dolby Laboratories. Sometimes having this compression applied is nice; it can help to [...]
When I watch DVDs on my MacBook, I have noticed that the volume increases and decreases based on the loudness of the movie’s audio. This automatic feature is called “dynamic range compression” and is provided by our dear friends at Dolby Laboratories. Sometimes having this compression applied is nice; it can help to even out loud and soft sections. When working ideally, you shouldn’t hear the effect at all, the volume will just be more even.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that the built-in one-size-fits-all setting doesn’t always work the greatest for the many different audio tracks found in modern movies. Often, you can hear the audio “pumping” as the compression kicks in and out. Sometimes the volume will be nicely audible for onscreen dialogue, but suddenly gets squashed by a loud noise like a gunshot or explosion. If you’re like me, you want to shut this off. Why even watch an action flick if all the combustion is suppressed?
Disable automatic audio compression on the Mac DVD Player application.
Open the DVD Player (Applications > DVD Player) and open up the ‘Preferences’ panel (DVD Player > Preferences). If you have a DVD playing, you’ll have to stop playback (not just pause) before you can change output settings. In the ‘Preferences’ panel, click the ‘Disc Setup’ tab. Under ‘Audio’ make sure the ‘Disable Dolby dynamic range compression’ is checked. This will shut off the automatic volume changes and pass your audio program on through unaffected. Now you can enjoy those explosions in their full dynamic glory!
So your JBL’s are rattling when you pick them up, eh? Getting that uneasy feeling about that clunky noise when you move them? If it’s the same unsettling noise I heard, then I have an easy fix for you. 1. Disconnect the speaker from all power sources.* 2. Place the speaker face down and open [...]
So your JBL’s are rattling when you pick them up, eh? Getting that uneasy feeling about that clunky noise when you move them? If it’s the same unsettling noise I heard, then I have an easy fix for you. 1. Disconnect the speaker from all power sources.* 2. Place the speaker face down and open up the shell by unscrewing all the screws around the outside edge. There’s like a million of them, so use a power drill with a long #2 phillips driver bit. 3. Lift the shell off and set it aside. Be careful not to lose any of the screws. 4. Locate the magnet coil and tighten the bolt that runs through the center. 5. Replace the shell. 6. Tighten all screws. 7. Enjoy your clunkless speakers. NOTE: I am NOT a licensed repairman, electrician, or lawyer. I have no idea if fixing this problem will void your warranty, so don’t blame me if/when JBL won’t service your speakers. Nor will I assume responsibility for you doing something stupid while dinking around with dangerous electronics. Make sure you unplug the speaker first and don’t touch anything inside. If you kill the speaker or yourself, I am not liable.