Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SHG Radio Show, Episode 242

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 242) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been archived permanently on SoundCloud.

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_242.mp3


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:



Here are Track Listings for episode 242:

01. Pachanga Storm - Smiling Faces (Geyo Remix).
02. D Unity - Pressure (Original Mix).
03. Agustin Chandia - La Conga (Original Mix).
04. Kaiserdisco - Moving Bodies (Original Mix).
05. Riq & DJ Christopher - Sax Lesson (Original Mix).
06. Mattew Jay & Devid Dega - Swim Deep (Original Mix).
07. Smilk - Meditacion (Original Mix).
08. Djeep Rhythms - Princesa (Original Mix).
09. Guillermo Castillo - Massia (Original Mix).
10. Baly - Puff Puff Pass (Original Mix).
11. Jorge Montia & Vlada Asanin - El Hoyo (Original Mix).
12. Jay Lumen - Gotta Get It (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Pachanga Storm (Germany)
D Unity (Canada)
Kaiserdisco (Germany)
Riq (Hungary)
DJ Christopher (Moldova)
Mattew Jay (Italy)
Devid Dega (Italy)
Smilk (Colombia)
Djeep Rhythms (Spain)
Guillermo Castillo (Mexico)
Baly (Slovenia)
Jorge Montia (Spain)
Vlada Asanin (Spain)
Jay Lumen (Hungary)
Geyo (Britain)


Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia




Understanding how DI or Direct Boxes Work

When you’re a musician going to a performance, the stage/audio engineers may tell you that you need to route some of your audio feeds through a DI box.  Or they may call it a Direct Box.  Or a Direct Injection box.  Or a Direct Insertion box.  They all mean the same thing.  However, there are different types of Direct Boxes:  mono vs two-channel, active vs passive, etc.  Hopefully, this blog article (and accompanying video) can make all the distinctions clear. 

Let me start off by giving an overview of three general reasons why you’d use a DI box:
1.  Primarily intended to output a signal that can be carried over a cable with XLR ends, for longer distances than a traditional instrument’s patch cord.
2.  Another common reason for a DI is to eliminate hum from what’s called a ground loop.
3.  A less common reason for a DI is for impedance output matching from an instrument.

A Direct Box processes audio signals, so it obviously must have an input area and an output section.

On the input side, it is typical for DI boxes to accept cords that use ¼" plugs.  These are often called quarter inch patch cords, but that's maybe not the best way to name them.  Call them "a patch cord with a quarter inch plug" instead.  I'll get into this more later, but the type of plug on the end of a patch cable doesn't always indicate what kind of signal the cable itself is capable of carrying.

Quarter inch plugs usually carry a mono signal if they're on an instrument patch cord.  You can tell it's a mono plug because there is only one black line around the plug itself, very close to the tip.  Stereo quarter inch plugs also exist.  They have two black lines around the plug, spaced about a centimeter apart.  You typically won't see stereo ¼" plugs on patch cords, although you'll often see such a plug on the end of your headphones, if you have good studio headphones.  Many DI boxes will therefore have a single 1/4" receptacle, to accommodate a single mono audio signal from a mono instrument.  A mono ¼" plug is sometimes called a "two pin" connection, and a single stereo ¼" plug is sometimes called a "three pin" connection.

Although a little less common, the DI box may have two input receptacles for a pair of mono ¼" plugs.  This lets you process a stereo signal.  I don't think you'll ever see a DI box that accepts a single stereo ¼" plug.  It's always two mono plugs, one for the left channel and one for the right channel.  This is good if you happen to have an instrument that has stereo outputs, such as a stereo keyboard.

Moving to the output side, you'll see an XLR connector.  This is usually a three-pin connection, which can technically carry a stereo signal.  However, we don't usually bother.  The reason, which will make more sense later, it that if you're carrying a stereo signal over a single XLR cord, you turn it from a balanced line (good) to an unbalanced line (less good).  So normally, the XLR cord will just carry a mono signal that is balanced (good).  For stereo, use two of them, OR get a special type of XLR cord that has five-pins on the connectors.  But let's not get into that right now.  And also, when I say "XLR cord" I'm referring to "a cable with an XLR plug on the end."  Remember, the cable/cord itself can be wired in different ways.

Many instruments output their sound over ¼" cables.  The obvious choices are guitars, bass guitars, and keyboards.  For guitar and bass, if you're coming directly out of the instrument, you'll always have a mono signal.

For keyboards, you typically have stereo sound coming out.  This is accomplished by having two "tip sleeve" (TS) or two-pin ¼" plugs, one on each side for left and right, rather than a single "tip ring sleeve" (TRS) or three-pin ¼" plug.  However, for various reasons, sometimes you'll want to run a single mono output from a keyboard, perhaps because you have a limited number of channels on your mixing board, or because you're running out of connection cables.  In a case like this, the left output is usually (but not always) a mono signal.

What happens in this case is that instead of giving you JUST the left side of the signal, the keyboard detects that there is nothing plugged into the right side, and chooses to output a sum of the left and right signals into a single combined mono signal out of that left port.  I don't want to get into any complicated physics here, but it's also possible that you'll sometimes get a phase cancellation issue when your left and right are combined into a mono signal.  So if you don't like the sound, try routing a mono out of the right output.  This gives you just an original right side mono.  No phase issues, although this usually means that you lose a lot of volume in the lower frequencies since they usually have most of the left side signal coming from the left or lower end of the keyboard, and the right side signal coming from the treble end of the keyboard.

Anyway, the typical setup is that you can count on your bass and guitar being separate mono signals, and for a keyboard, you'll have a pair of mono signals coming out, which gives you the equivalent of a stereo signal once they're panned left and right on the mixer.

Most decent microphones use XLR cords and don't need to go through a DI box.  I'll want to talk more about XLR vs ¼" in a minute, but for now, just accept that.  First, let's talk about recording an acoustic guitar (or any other instrument) in stereo.

A single microphone is a "point source" of sound.  It can only record in mono!  To get a stereo audio signal via microphone, you need two mics, spread apart.  Most microphone setups will only give you a mono signal.  A vocalist's singing is recorded in mono.  A lav mic attached to an acoustic guitar is mono.  A condenser mic set up beside a guitar is mono.  A dynamic mic set up in front of a guitar or bass amp is mono.

As far as stereo goes, there ARE some examples of situation where two mics will be used to make a stereo recording.  With an acoustic guitar, one might set up two mics, one on either side of the guitarist.  Of course, you could also just record the guitarist in mono, then split the signal and pan the two halves left and right to roughly emulate stereo.  This isn't really stereo though, it's just two copies of mono in different speakers.  However, if you put some stereo processing on it, like delays or reverbs, and they have slightly different settings for the left and right processing, you can get a fairly nice sound.  There's no right or wrong in the debate about recording an acoustic guitar in mono vs stereo using mics.  There are pros and cons to each method, depending on your final goals for the song, and on things like whether the guitar is the dominant instrument or just one of many instruments.  Anyway, in either of these cases, since you're using microphones, you don't need DI boxes.

An acoustic piano (ie. an upright piano or a grand piano, without electronics) will often be recorded with two mics to give a stereo sound.  Usually, the left mic will be placed in the left side (lower/bass) of the piano, and the right mic will be on the treble/upper side.  You can vary the distance or strength of each of the two microphones to give all kinds of various perspectives.

With drums, each drum is usually given an individual dynamic microphone which of course gives a single mono signal for that drum.  However, this setup will often be augmented with two condenser mics set up overhead to the left and right of the kit to give a stereo "drum overhead" signal, which gives some extra ambiance when you're mixing.  Similarly, if someone is recording a full orchestra or choir, a pair of mics might be set up on either side of the stage to give a full stereo sound.

With microphones, you're not going to use a DI box to process the signal.  So enough talk of microphones, let's get back to DI boxes.  The main thing to remember is that microphone signals usually arrive at the mixer through XLR cords, and most signals coming out of instruments that aren't mic'd will come out on "patch cords" or unbalanced cables with 1/4'' plugs on the ends.  Now, I need you to make an assumption:  Let's assume that you'd prefer to have all of your signals on balanced XLR cords instead of some of them coming to you on unbalanced cables with ¼" plugs.

Why would you want this?  Well, there are some inherent advantages in balanced XLR.  These cables are called "low impedance," which is often written as low-Z.  Impedance is like resistance.  It's a measure of how much the cable resists the current.  A low impedance cable lets the electrical current flow a lot more smoothly.  The two big advantages of carrying a signal over a low impedence cable are:
1.  There is usually less noise or interference on the cable; and
2.  Related to that, you can run a clean signal a lot further without the quality of the signal being degraded.

With an unbalanced ¼" cord, ie. a guitar patch cord, I never want to use a cord longer than six meters (about 20 feet).  I'd prefer to use a shorter cable, say three meters long (10 feet).  Actually, as an audio engineer, I'd prefer an even shorter cable than that, but as a guitarist, I want some room to move around on stage.  Balanced cables are different though.  With a balanced, low impedence cable (ie. commonly called an "XLR cord") it isn't unheard of to have runs of a couple hundred meters (500+ feet) and still have an acceptable signal.  Another advantage of XLR cables is that you can daisy-chain them (hook several of them together in series) to turn them into one long cable.

I need to reiterate something which always frustrates some audio engineers.  You should always clarify the difference between cables and plugs.  XLR and ¼" TS and ¼" TRS are types of plugs, not types of cables.  A cable itself can be balanced or unbalanced.  Unbalanced cable has two wires (hot and ground) and balanced cable has three wires (positive, negative, ground).

People should realize that not all cables with ¼" plugs are the same.  Most are unbalanced, with mono plugs, but some are balanced, with stereo plugs (I mentioned this earlier).  It is also possible to have a cable with XLR ends that is unbalanced, although rare.  So a lot of people just say ¼" cord or "patch cord" or XLR cord, but technically speaking, it's nice to specific the plug type and cable type, just to make absolutely sure you understand what gear you're working with.  So with the cables that we commonly work with, this would usually mean saying ¼" unbalanced or XLR balanced.

So far, we've covered a lot of info about signals and microphones and cables.  It's good for you to understand all the details for this stuff, not just a rough overview.  But what is that rough overview so far?  It's that a DI box is used to convert a signal from an unbalanced ¼" cord, like a guitar patch cord, into a signal on a balanced low-impedence XLR cable.  If your sound board at a gig is 150 feet away from the stage, in the middle of the audience, your patch cord won't reach it.  But you can plug into a DI box and send your instrument's signal all the way out to the board with no appreciable signal loss.

Even in a studio, many engineers will want you to use the shortest guitar patch cord possible, and will then use a DI to get your signal into the console in the mixing booth.  In fact, some of the best high-end studio consoles ONLY have XLR inputs.

Let's take a close look at some DI boxes.  As I've said, most DI's have a ¼" inputs or inputs on one end, and an XLR output on the other end.  Most DI's, in my experience, are designed to process a mono signal, ie. from a guitar or bass, or from a keyboard that is only outputting a mono signal for whatever reason.  Not all DI's, however, are mono.  You can also have a "stereo" DI.  I don't like calling it a stereo DI though.  I prefer to call it a two-channel DI.  This type of DI isn't taking a stereo signal, it's just taking two separate mono signals at the same time, ie. the left and right mono signals from a keyboard.  The reason for this is that it's more convenient to process two signals through the same piece of equipment, especially if they're both coming from the same instrument.  Also, a two-channel DI usually doesn't cost twice as much as two separate mono DI's, so it's more cost-effective when you're buying gear.

I've said that a convenient use of a two-channel DI is when you're dealing with a keyboard that outputs a left and right channel.  However, you don't need to have both lines coming from the same instrument.  You could run a guitar and a bass through the two lines of a stereo DI.

A lot of DI's have attenuation switches, which can control how much the signal is cut or reduced (attenuated) as it passes through the DI.  Now why would you want to do that?  You should know that the signal coming from a microphone over a balanced XLR cable is a lot weaker than a line-out signal from an instrument.  So you may need to reduce that signal level so it isn't too hot going into your sound board.  This switch might be labeled "pad" on your DI.

Most DI's have a "thru" or "link" plug, which is another ¼" receptacle on the same side as the ¼" input for the signal coming from the instrument.  The reason for this is so that a copy of the signal coming into the DI box can be fed out somewhere else too, if you want.  For example, if you have an electric acoustic guitar during a performance, you might have the DI feeding to the soundboard (the XLR output side) so that signal can become part of the sound going to the audience, but you might also want to pass the signal through to an amplifier that is set up on stage right beside the guitarist, so the guitarist can hear their guitar more clearly.

By the way, you'll notice that the thru signal is another unbalanced ¼" cable.  Naturally, you'll want to keep this cable short, under six meters (20 feet).  Again, signal loss can be a problem with long unbalanced cables.

Some DI's have a ground/lift toggle switch, or a ground on/off switch.  It's possible that when your instrument is plugged in, you're getting some hum or noise through the system.  This is usually caused by an electrical issue.  If you try switching your ground/lift or your ground on/off switch to the opposite position, there's a good chance that you can eliminate the noise from the ground loop.  By the way, this ground hum is usually at a frequency of 50Hz or 60Hz, depending on the electricity supply where you live.

I should also point out that another way to eliminate ground hum, sometimes, is to remove the grounding prong from the power supply of one of the instruments connected to the console.  This is a terrible idea, and can be very dangerous.  Look up an old British band called Stone The Crows on Wikipedia, if you want an example of a musician who was killed on stage by improperly grounded equipment!  Use a DI box instead.

So far, we've covered the features that are found on most basic DI's.  However, there may be a few other features found on only a limited number of DI's, usually on DI's that cost a bit more.

Your DI might have a "rev" or "180" or "phase" switch.  This switch simply reverses the phase of the signal, to prevent phase cancelling.

Your DI might have a "low cut" switch.  This simply enables a low-cut filter, which removes some of the low end frequencies or rumble from your audio.

Your DI box might have an indicator light to show when phantom power is being supplied.  More on this in a few minutes.

(In the video, I demonstrate all of this stuff).

Finally, although I don't have one, there are some DI's that have an XLR on the INPUT side.  This isn't used commonly by musicians, but it could be useful to sound technicians in a case, for example, of routing the output of one mixer into another board, where impedance balancing is needed.  This is definitely not a common feature.

So now let's example the last major characteristic of DI boxes:  Active vs Passive boxes.  An active box has what's called an "active circuit" to do its thing.  An active circuit needs a source of power.  This can come from two main choices, either an internal battery, or phantom power.  Much less commonly, there are a few active DI's out there with a dedicated external power supply.  In contrast, a passive DI has something called a transformer in it, and doesn't need external power.  In general, I find that there are more passive DI's out there than active DI's, and passive DI's are generally slightly cheaper since they're less complicated (in terms of their circuitry).  However, there is a lot of variety among models of both types, so you can find a pretty large price range for either type.

So how do you tell if you have an active or passive DI?  Well, most of them say so on the unit itself.  If it doesn't, be aware that active DI's will usually have at least one of these three features:
1.  Battery compartment.
2.  Power on/off switch.
3.  LED lights.

To confuse things, an active DI doesn't necessarily have all three.  For instance, there may be no on/off switch, because the unit may only turn on when a cable end is plugged into the ¼" input receptacle.  Also, some DI's can only get power from phantom power and not from a battery.

So the big question now is:  when do you use an active box, and when do you use a passive box?  The technical answer is that an active circuit can be designed to deal with a much higher impedence than the transformer in a passive DI.  However, it is easier to distort the signal going through an active DI.  Therefore, a passive DI is better at handling high input signals from active (powered) instruments like guitars and keyboards.

This is really confusing, eh?  Let's try to put this into simpler terms.  Remember once again that an active DI or an active instrument means that it is a powered DI or instrument of some sort.  Battery power or phantom power, it doesn't matter.  Active is powered.  In contrast, passive DI's and passive instruments are not directly powered.  As long as you remember this, it gets easy.  You should try to only power ONE of your two things, either the DI or the instrument.  It doesn't matter which.  The best type of DI for an active instrument is a passive DI.  The best type of DI for a passive instrument is an active DI.  Think of it like they're magnets:  opposites attract.

(At this point in the video, I show you the difference between some active and passive instruments).

Be aware that if you have a passive guitar, ie. one that doesn't have an internal battery or battery-powered pickup, and you feed the signal into a battery-powered effect (such as a wah-wah pedal), it becomes powered.  It is therefore an active signal, and would be better off to be fed into a passive DI than an active DI.

Now, having said that, you CAN use a passive DI with a passive instrument signal feed.  And you can also use an active DI with an active signal.  It's just not quite as good.  I'll explain why.

First, let's look at the combination of an active DI with an active instrument.  You need to be careful when you set it up, because the signal level going to the mixer can be very strong!  Start with your gain or trim knob on the mixer turned all the way down, and carefully turn it up gradually so you're not sending a really distorted signal through your mixer.  A really strong signal can damage the components in some channel strips on certain mixers.

Now what about a passive DI with a passive instrument?  You'll just lose some sound quality.  In particular, your high frequencies will be especially weak.  You'll also have a much lower overall signal, so you may have to really turn up the gain, which of course can also introduce background noise.

It's possible to buy amps that have DI functions built into them.  For example, you'll run your guitar or bass into them, and you'll have a DI XLR out on the back of the amp.  I generally don't like these for a couple reasons.  First, the DI output is often after the volume in the signal chain, so if you're not careful, you can really send a hot signal to your mixer, and playing with the volume on your amp also affects the signal going to your main console.  Secondly, it's an amp, so it's not nearly as portable as a traditional small DI.  And finally, I've found that some DI's that are integrated into amps sound fairly bad compared to standalone DI's.  Admittedly though, there are advantages.  It's nice not to carry a separate DI sometimes, and it can also save you money if you don't have to purchase a separate DI.

So that's about it.  To give a sixty-second recap, here are the key take-away points:
1.  A direct box is usually used to convert an unbalanced ¼" signal to a balanced XLR that can travel over longer cables without significant signal degradation.
2.  It's also good for reducing hum from a ground loop.
3.  Make sure you know the difference between active and passive instruments and DI's.  Active equipment is always powered.
4.  Although any DI can work with either active or passive signals, your quality will be much better by matching active DI's with passive instruments, and passive DI's with active instruments.

If you want to look at a lot of different models of DI's to compare specs and prices, I recommend that you check out a website like www.sweetwater.com.

Thanks for reading!  If you want to see all of this information in a convenient video, here's a link:








 My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

www.djbolivia.ca/videos


Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter:  twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud:  soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube:  youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook:  facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site:  www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me:  about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog:  djbolivia.blogspot.ca









Friday, January 16, 2015

Information about Power Bank Portable Chargers

A lot of people have problems with keeping their mobile devices charged.  Tablets aren't too bad, unless they're playing a lot of video or streaming data.  Mobile phones can drain really quickly, especially if they're being used in remote regions or inside buildings, where mobile coverage is cutting in and out frequently.

The simple solution is to always keep a wired charger handy so you can plug into the nearest wall outlet.  But what if there are no outlets around?  This can happen frequently, for example:
- Hiking, or camping in remote areas.
- At sports event.
- In some bars or restaurants.
- At some airports or train stations.

Those are just a few examples.  The simple solution is to buy a "power bank."  A power bank is essentially a portable battery, which you can use to re-charge your mobile device.

A power bank will generally charge devices that can be charged over things like USB cables, but can't charge items that plug into a household outlet.  So for example, you can usually charge tablets, phones, mp3 players, and some GPS units.  You can also charge a small number of cameras, such as GoPro cameras.  Some tablets, most cameras, and laptops require a wall plug, so a power bank isn't going to be helpful for these pieces of equipment.

On that topic, let's look at some specs.  Most items that are 5 volt can be charged by a power bank, not specifically because of the voltage, but just because devices with 5v usually have the proper charging connections that can be taken advantage of.  Some tablets and many cameras range from 8 volt to 12 volt, and can't necessarily be charged.  Laptop computers generally accept between 12 volts and 24 volts.  The charger on the laptop is actually a step-down transformer to convert 110/120v or 220/240v into the proper voltage for the laptop.


Power Banks are essentially batteries.  You charge them, then they hold this charge until you drain it by moving it into another device.  In fact, you can say that a power bank IS a battery, technically speaking.  In fact, the innards of a power bank sometimes are one big battery, or a bunch of smaller batteries connected to each other.  There is a small portable battery called an 18650 that is commonly used in Asia to provide the storage capacity inside a power bank.  A couple or several 18650's are wired together inside the power bank, depending on the size and capacity of the power bank.  By the way, this isn't necessarily a good thing, as we'll find out in a minute.

The guts of a power bank are usually lithium ion or lithium polymer storage.  Lithium ion is a liquid electrolyte.  Lithium polymer is a solid polymer electrolyte.  What's the difference?  Lithium polymer, or LiPolymer, is generally better.  It can have a flexible size and dimension.  It producers less heat, which means that it's more efficient and safer.  It has a lower self-discharge rate.  The storage capacity decays more slowly.  The only real drawback about using LiPolymer instead of Lithium Ion is that LiPolymer is more expensive.  That's the reason Lithium Ion batteries (18650's) are less desirable.  You may find that some no-name power banks are just a bunch of old 18650's that have been recycled, not necessarily even fresh new batteries!


The health of your phone battery decays over time.  That's why a new phone can generally hold a charge longer than when the phone starts to get older.  You could say that if a phone's battery health is at 80%, its charge can only last 80% as long as it would have when the battery was new.

As you're moving energy around from item to item, some of it is lost either as heat or due to inefficiencies in the conversion process.  This is important when figuring out how much a power bank can help you.  We'll get into that in a minute.


Here are some of the specs that you should look for in a good power bank:

- What is the number of mAH?  This stands for milliamp hours.  Ideally it should be at a voltage of five volts.

- Can the power bank charge and discharge simultaneously? It could be frustrating to have a power bank that will not charge another device while it is itself charging.  Some power banks will both charge internally and charge an attached device if the power bank is itself plugged in and charging.  Other power banks won't charge the attached device until the power bank itself is unplugged from the wall.  And finally, some power banks, if plugged in and attached to a device that they are charging, will let the power from the outlet pass through and charge that remote device first, before the power bank itself starts to charge up.

- How many output ports are there?  Can two devices be charged simultaneously?

- What is the output current rating?  A higher number is generally better.
                                                                              

Your biggest question when looking for a power bank is probably something along the lines of, "How many times will it charge my phone?"  Is there a simple way to figure this out?  Well, sort of.  But the formula isn't perfectly simple.

Some power banks have very low capacities, with rated capacities listed as probably under 4000 mAH.  These are no good.  They probably have one or two 18650's inside them, and might barely provide a single charge for a typical phone.

Some power banks have very high listed capacities, like 40,000 mAH and higher.  It seems that a lot of these are actually scams.  There are some that are legitimate, but a power bank would generally have to be fairly large to have that capacity, not the sort of thing that would be the size of a deck of cards, and convenient to carry around.

Other power banks have capacities of perhaps 8,000 to 15,000 mAH.  In my limited experience, these tend to be the best ones.  They're probably a branded model, and the numbers are more likely to be accurate.  You best bet, however, is to double-check by doing a google search for reviews on the exact brand and model of the power bank you're looking at.  Luckily, a lot of people who have bad experiences with a particular purchase will post the info on the internet, which can prevent other people from being ripped off.

Some power banks have internet circuit protection.  This is important.  If you have something without circuit protection and it gets connected to the wrong thing, it's pretty easy to hurt the internal batteries so they die or become extremely weak.


Let's say that you have a phone that has a 3,000 mAH battery.  Let's also say that you have a Power Bank that stores 12,000 mAH.  You've probably already come up with a very good question … can you just divide these numbers to come up with the amount of times that your phone can be charged by the power bank?  In other words, can your power bank charge your phone exactly four times?

This is good logic.  It's also moderately correct.  The only problem is that you have to factor in the phone's battery heat, and the conversion rate.

Let's say that your phone is getting older and it's only about 80% healthy.  The problem is that there's no exact scientific way to measure this for the average consumer, so it's a guess.  You can probably figure it out roughly from experience after charging your device several times.

Also, let's say that 15% of the stored energy is lost in conversion.  That means that only 85% of the stored energy in the power bank will make it to the battery of the device being charged.

After considering these two adjustments, the correct formula for figuring out roughly how much your power bank will charge would be:

Storage of Power Bank * Conversion Rate * Phone Battery Health / Phone Battery Capacity

Or in this example:   12,000 * 0.85 * 0.80 / 3,000 = about 2.72 times.  Nearly three full charges.

As I said, this is a rough equation, but by guessing the approximate phone battery health and conversion rate to temper your expectations, you're going to get a more accurate assessment than by using impossible "perfect case" results.


A lot of the cheap no-name power banks made in Asia are sketchy.  Many are cheap and use old recycled batteries.  A new 18650 is supposed to have a charge cycle of 300 charges before it's essentially useless.  However, if an unscrupulous vendor builds a bunch of power banks with old used 18650's, you might not get very many charges out of it before it dies.  Also, there have been occasional cases of someone buying what feels like a hefty power bank that must have quite a bit of storage capacity, and it's only got one or two 18650's and a bag of sand to tricky people.  Try to look for something that appears to have a brand name, at the very least!  And look for detailed specs.  The specs may be a lie, but if they're detailed and look legitimate, there's maybe a slightly better chance that you're getting a product that isn't a sham.


I did a short video to show you a power bank that I purchased.  I got lucky, this one turned out well.  I don’t think it's in production anymore because it's been replaced by a 13,000 mAH model, but the exact specs of mine are as follows:

- IntoCircuit Power Castle Series
- Model PC11200
- 11,200 mAH, 5 volt
- Can charge two devices simultaneously
- Has internal protection for under/over current/voltage
- Does not come with a charger, must use the charger for your phone or other device
- Only cost about $30 Canadian plus shipping from Amazon

Like I said, it's worked decently for me.  I did some tests on recharging my Nexus 5, which has a 2300 mAH battery.  Starting with the power bank at 100% and the phone at 0%, it took 108 minutes to charge using the 2.1amp line, which drained the power bank to 63% of its charge.  Using the 1.0amp line, it took 137 minutes to charge the phone, but it only drained the power pack to 83%.  I'm optimistic that by using the lower amperage line, I could probably get at least four and maybe almost five full charges out of the power bank, if it hasn't been sitting around for too long (your power bank, like any battery, will slowly lose its residual charge if it sits for an extremely extended time period).

Here's the video about my own power bank:



One last important consideration is that most airlines do NOT allow you to have power banks or other significant amounts of batteries in checked baggage, unless they are actually in a device!  So a battery inside a camera inside your luggage is fine, but a spare battery is not.  Therefore, remember that you will be forced to carry your power bank as a carry-on item!  Also, many airlines have regulations on the number and capacity of batteries that you can carry.  This probably won't be an issue, because it's a pretty generous allowance.  For example, several airlines won't let you have batteries over 160 aH (160,000 mAH).  But this is the size of a truck battery.  Many airlines also have rules like "maximum of ten lithium batteries per person in your carry-on, and any lithium batteries in checked baggage must either be installed in a device, in the original packaging, or in a carrying device that insulates the battery terminals."  Check the rules in advance for your particular airline if you're going to fly somewhere!


I'll wrap this up with a list of the battery capacities for a number of phones that are commonly available today.  I'm sure this list will be quite out-of-date within 24 months, but at least it'll give you a general idea of typical battery capacities:

1810 mAH – iPhone 6
2915 mAH – iPhone 6 plus
3220 mAH – Samsung Galaxy Note 4
2800 mAH – Samsung Galaxy S5
3100 mAH – Sony Eperia Z3
3900 mAH – Motorola Droid Turbo
3000 mAH – LG G3
2600 mAH – HTC One M8
2420 mAH – Nokia Lumia Icon
2400 mAH – Amazon Fire Phone
2300 mAH – Google Nexus 5
2100 mAH – Blackberry Q10
1800 mAH – HTC Windows Phone 8X




 My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

www.djbolivia.ca/videos


Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.




Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter:  twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud:  soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube:  youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook:  facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site:  www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me:  about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog:  djbolivia.blogspot.ca




Review of ShuttlePro V2 Control Device

For users who do a lot of video or audio editing, especially with programs that take advantage of "scrubbing" within their editing capabilities, the ShuttlePro V2 can be a nice complement to your existing way of controlling your workflow.  It has a jog wheel, a shuttle control, and fifteen separate user-controllable buttons.  Designed to be used in conjunction with a mouse or similar device, this device will reduce your reliance on the keyboard and keyboard shortcuts.

Here's a review video about this device:



A couple of the key points that I love about this Control Device are:
- Appears to be built solidly.
- Doesn't slide around on desk.

One thing I didn't like about the ShuttlePro V2 was:
- I'm just not accustomed to working with a device like this!  But that's a personal shortcoming, not a problem with the control device itself.


ShuttlePro has presets in the control panel for the following long list of programs in a variety of styles:

Adobe Flash
Adobe Acrobat
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Audition
Adobe Encore
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Lightroom
Adobe PhotoShop
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Soundbooth
Avid Liquid
Avid MC Adrenaline
Avid Media Composer
Avid Pro Tools
Avid Xpress
Boris Keyframer
Boris Red
Cakewalk Guitar Tracks
Cakewalk Home Studio
Cakewalk Music Creator
Cakewalk Plasma
Cakewalk Projects
Cakewalk Sonar
Canopus DV Rex
Canopus Sonar
Canopus Edius
Discrete 3DS Max
Discrete Combustion
DPS Velocity
Easy Prompt
Finale
In-Sync Speed Razor
Magix Samplitude
Magix Sequoia
Media 100 iFinish
Media Studio Pro
MicroSoft Access
MicroSoft Excel
MicroSoft Outlook
MicroSoft PowerPoint
MicroSoft Word
Pinnacle Commotion
Pinnacle Edition
Pinnacle Studio
Sony Acid
Sony Cinescore
Sony Screen Blast
Sony Sound Forge
Sony Vegas
Steinberg Cubase
Steinberg Nuendo
Steinberg WaveLab
ULead Video Studio
and many others

And of course, the presets are just there for convenience.  You can program your own for any software package that you own.



My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

www.djbolivia.ca/videos


Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.
  



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter:  twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud:  soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube:  youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook:  facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site:  www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me:  about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog:  djbolivia.blogspot.ca




Review of a USB "Shortcut Hint" keyboard by Logickeyboard

For users who frequently jump back and forth between several complicated editing suite programs (audio, video, photo, etc.) it can be really hard to memorize all of the hundreds of short-cuts that can really speed up your workflow.  Logickeyboard makes "shortcut hint" keyboards that list all the shortcuts for a specific program right on your keyboard.

The type of keyboard that I got was a "Nero Slim Line" keyboard, US style, for Adobe Premiere Pro.  US style has the full-size shift key on the right.  European style only has a small shift key on the right.  Here's the video about this keyboard:



A couple of the key points that I love about this keyboard are:
- You can plug a USB light into it, to illuminate the keyboard.
- It has TWO each of the four main modifier keys:  Alt, Ctrl, Flying Windows, and full-size Shift.

One thing I didn't like about this keyboard was:
- The price.  This is designed and priced for professionals.  Mine was $135 base price, but with shipping and customs (from Britain) it cost me almost $200.  Too much.


Logickeyboard has keyboards for the following long list of programs in a variety of styles, for Mac and/or Windows depending on the program, various colours, various keyboard profiles, and so on:

Apple Final Cut
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro
Apple Color
Autodesk SMOKE
Avid Media Composer
Avid NewsCutter
DaVinci Resolve
Editshare Lightworks
Grass Valley Aurora
Grass Valley EDIUS
Pinnacle Liquid
Quantel
Sony Vegas Pro
Sony Sonaps XPRI NS
Ableton Live
Adobe Audition
Apple Logic Extended
Apple Logic Preset
Avid Pro Tools
Avid Sibelius
Cakewalk Sonar
MakeMusic Finale
MOTU Digital Performer
Steinberg Cubase & Nuendo
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Photoshop
Apple Aperture
Maxon Cinema 4D Studio
Apple Boot Camp
Apple Parallels
and other specialty keyboards




My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

www.djbolivia.ca/videos


Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.
  



Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter:  twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud:  soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube:  youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook:  facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site:  www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me:  about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog:  djbolivia.blogspot.ca




Thursday, January 15, 2015

SHG 241 - Weekly Tech-House Radio Show

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 241) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been archived permanently on SoundCloud.

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_241.mp3


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:



Here are Track Listings for episode 241:

01. David Abarca - Move & Shake It (Original Mix).
02. Kaiq & Adriano Costa - Awakening (Original Mix).
03. DJ Glic & Noel Perez - Level Up (Original Mix).
04. Adrian Oblanca - Mery Mery (Original Mix).
05. Jair Ydan - Ocean (Original Mix).
06. Claudia Tejeda - Like This (Original Mix).
07. Luiz Ramoz - Grooveman (Original Mix).
08. Charlie Spot & Yamil - Fusion (Original Mix).
09. Joshua Tm - New Man (Original Mix).
10. JJ Romero - Pajarito Drums (Original Dub Mix).
11. Audioleptika & HouseKeepers - Counter Attack (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



David Abarca (Spain)
Kaiq & Adriano Costa (Brazil)
DJ Glic (Spain)
Noel Perez (Spain)
Adrian Oblanca (Spain)
Jair Ydan (Mexico)
Claudia Tejeda (Spain)
Luiz Ramoz (Mexico)
Charlie Spot (Portugal)
Yamil (Colombia)
Joshua TM (Mexico)
JJ Romero (Venezuela)
Audioleptika (Germany)


Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia




Jamstix Software - Part 4 of 4 - Options, the Bar Editor, & Final Thoughts


Welcome to the fourth and final part of my Jamstix tutorial series.  In this video, I'm going to use Ableton Live as my host DAW (audio editor) for the Jamstix virtual instrument plug-in.

If you're looking for other blog posts in this series, here are the links.  Each one has it's own tutorial video:


In this tutorial, I'm going to cover the Bar Editor in detail.  I'm also going to talk about Restore Points, all of the items in the Options Menu, and VST Automation.  Again, if you don't understand how MIDI works, some of this info will be really confusing, but I still recommend that you watch it because it will help you learn a bit more about MIDI and its capabilities.

Before I go any further, I should point out two things that I should have covered in the last video.  First, I quickly went through a bunch of Brain controls.  Be aware that these controls will change depending on the style and drummer that you're using.  I don't just mean that the default values of the knobs and sliders may be different.  I mean that the actual controls (within boxes called "elements") may vary.

Elements that are titled in white are associated with the current style.  Elements in orange are associated with the current drummer.  Go into the drop-down menu in the upper left and try loading a different style.  Some of the white elements will probably change.  Now try loading a different player (drummer).  Some of the orange elements will probably change.

Also, I said that when you click on a label at the top of an element (either right-click or left-click), you get a menu that allows you to disable, freeze, or hide the element, and a bunch of other options.  But if you right-click on a specific control within the element itself, you get a completely different menu.  This separate menu is how you map the control to your external controller.  If you know the specific number of the control on your controller, you can pick it, but you'll probably find it easier to just move the physical control that you want it to be associated with, and Jamstix should figure it out and complete the assignment.

Before I get into a description of the advanced features, here's the video for this part of the tutorial series.  I have to apologize in advance, it's a bit blurry in a few places.  I didn't realize that the camera had been switched to auto-focus, and it sometimes went slightly blurry without me noticing the problem on the small screen.  But it usually takes four or five hours to do the filming on one of these tutorials (they're a lot more involved than they probably look) and I figured that it would make more sense for me to invest the time in a different tutorial than spend an evening re-shooting this video, just to fix a few minutes of slight blurriness:



Ok, so those are a couple things that I should have mentioned in part three.  And also, I mentioned that I'm using Ableton in the video this time around.  I'll cover a couple of Ableton-related setup items in the video.  At this point, let's get to work on the Bar Editor.


Bar Editor


So we've already touched briefly on the Bar Editor.  The resolution of the editor is 16th notes.  We have six vertical rows, and these represent the four limbs of the drummer, plus two hands of the percussionist underneath.

All of the notes generated by the Brain are shown in this grid, in one of the three layers.  Remember the layers:  Groove, Accent, and Fill.  Even though they are displayed separately, they play simultaneously.  If you want, you can program the kick and snare yourself (the Groove layer) and then let the Brain handle the accents and fills.

When the Brain merges the three layers, what happens if there are limb conflicts between the layers?  Well, the Brain knows that it needs to watch for this, and resolves them based on a priority system.

Looking at the notes and cells, if you double-click on an occupied cell, the note is removed. If you double-click on an unoccupied cell, a note is created.  The Brain will add the most common sound for that limb, or the last sound you selected for that limb in the current editing session.

If you want to edit a note, there are two things you can do.  If you do a left-click, you'll see a white line appear around the note.  You can then play with the four knobs in the upper right corner of the bar editor.  Unlike the knobs on the mixer, these knobs specifically control the one note that you've selected.  So if you change their settings and then select a different note, you'll notice that the controls probably change instantly, to reflect the settings for the new note selected.  Here's what each of the four knobs does:

- The VEL knob adjusts the velocity of the note, which is pretty straightforward.

- PRI is the priority of the note.  Although it initially seemed counter-intuitive to me, moving the knob left will increase the priority.  I'll talk about this more in a minute.  Anyway, the note with the highest priority beats out any others that are supposed to hit at the same time.

- The TIM knob moves the notes ahead of or behind the beat by intervals of up to 47ms.  This is the heart of groove processing within Jamstix as part of the drummer modeling. 

- The HAT knob sets the opening amount of the cymbals of the hi-hat.

A minute ago I mentioned that moving the PRI knob to the left in the current version of the software will increase the priority of a note.  This seems really odd, when 99% of knobs are at higher levels to the right.  You should think of this as maybe a micro position adjustment on the grid.  First of all, remember that the Brain is working in three layers.  It might find a certain position in the bar where a specific limb generates hits on more than one layer at the same time.  As an example, on beat three, maybe a snare hit is generated on the right hand in the groove layer, and a hi hat hit is also generated on the same beat with the same hand in the accent layer.  The Brain knows that by playing one of the two, it has to skip the other because of the limb rules, so it plays the one with the highest priority.  I believe that will probably always be the hit in the main layer (the groove), although I could be wrong and there could be some random chance assigned.  I'm still getting a feel for this.  Anyway, by changing the priority of the simultaneous notes, you can affect which one gets played and which gets skipped.  So going back to my comment about conceptualizing the PRI knob as a micro position adjustment, you can think of it this way:  rotating the knob slightly to the left will position the hit slightly to the left of (ahead of) the downbeat.  So it's like a race.  The hit that happens first, ahead of competing hits on the same downbeat, prevents the other [practically simultaneous] hit from being allowed to happen because of the limb movement rules.  The drummers arms can't move that fast, so the Brain disallows one of the "simultaneous" hits.  I'm not sure if this is the best way to explain it, but it seems like a great explanation in my own mind.


Ok, so all the stuff that I just described applies if you left-click on a note.  If you right-click, you'll see a context menu pop up.  However, you have to have the sound selected first before the proper context menu shows up!  Here, you can cut, copy, and delete, but you can also change the sound, the hit style, the timing mode, or the shuffle.

Changing the sound is pretty intuitive.  And the options make sense.  If you're trying to change a foot item, you're going to have options like a kick, or a hi hat close/splash.  Your foot obviously won't play a ride cymbal – even Rick "Thunder God" Allen doesn't do this (although you can accomplish that task elsewhere by using redirection).

The Hit Style is pretty basic too.  "Single" refers to a single hit.  "Double" refers to a double-stroke.  "Bounce" refers to three hits (a 32nd triplet) of decreasing power, like the natural bounce of a drumstick.

The Timing modes in the context menu are a musical time offset of  a 24th, 32nd, or 48th note.  This will make sense to a professional drummer or music student.

The Shuffle option also affects the ultimate timing of the note, by shuffling the timing on just that one note rather than that of the entire bar.


Outside of the context menu, you'll see a Learn toggle and a Locked toggle, each of which turns bright blue once they're turned on.

If you lock an individual note, it's the same concept as locking a bar, but it only applies to that one note.  Remember that the lock symbol icon on the right side of the bar editor is the one that locks the whole bar.  If you manually add a note in the bar editor, the default setting is that the particular note is automatically locked, under the assumption that if you took the effort to put it there, you want it there.  Of course, you can unlock it if you want.

If you see a red cross on a note, it means that the Brain attempted to generate it, but then suppressed it during the last play-through.  This was probably due to a limb conflict or the internal limb timing rules.  You can move the mouse over the note and look at the status line to find out why.  It might say something like, "Priority override by Crash 1."

If the Learn button is turned on, the Brain will listen to incoming MIDI performance data, interpret it, and enter it into the Bar Editor.  So if you're comfortable playing a MIDI keyboard or eDrum kit, this can be useful.  If you're doing this, Jamstix pays attention to "quantize import" setting and locked items.

If you look closely at notes on the editor, the icons can communicate a lot of info.  Unfortunately, this is tough to demonstrate in writing, so you might be better off to refer to the manual for this one.  But essentially:

- There is a vertical red line on the right side of the note. It represents velocity, and if it goes all the way to the top it means a full velocity of 127.

- There might be a small red dot on the lower right side (the current manual incorrectly says it's on the left side).  This indicates that the hit is a Double.

- There might be a pair of two vertical red dots on the lower right side (the current manual incorrectly says that they're on the left side).  This indicates that the hit is a Bounce.

- If there is a black triangle on the left side, it means that the hit is shuffled, either individually or because the whole Part is shuffled.

- If there's a red line across the top, it means that the event is locked.

- The hi hat icon gives you a visual representation of the openness level of the hat on that particular note.


I've already touched on the Bar Menu in a previous video, and it's really self-explanatory, so I'll skip that.

If you click on one of the limb labels on the left side of the bar editor (two capital letters), you'll see a small limb menu.  Again, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Along the top of the bar editor, you can do a normal left-click on any of the sixteen beat divisions, to see a small menu.  This lets you play with the groove weights.  You'll want to play with this to understand it more, because different styles put emphasis on different beats.  Controlling the groove weights can be especially useful if a song has an unusual time signature.  There are three choices for groove weights:  heavy, neutral, and syncopated. 

There are several more options to the right of the large Compose button:

- You can click "Compose" if you don't want to change any Brain settings but want to audit an alternative performance.

- If AUTO is turned on, changing Brain controls can lead to immediate recomposition.

- If BAR is highlighted, a recomposition only recomposes the current bar.  Otherwise, the entire Part is generated again.

- The disk icon saves a Restore Point of your song.  It's like the System Restore option in Windows.  If you want to recover to a saved restore point, go over to the song menu drop-down in the Song Sheet.

- The trash can clears the current aspect (layer) of the bar and marks it as composed.  When this happens, the Brain won't replace the deleted events unless a re-compose happens.


Style and Drummer Models


I've talked several times earlier about the style and drummer affecting the performance.  I also mentioned the priority system, whereby the Brain will block out certain notes if they are lower priority than conflicting notes.  You're probably wondering why the Brain has to do that.  I did.  Why even have the conflicts in the first place?

It's because the Brain doesn't really do all the composition as a unified whole.  It's split up into two separate models, then it reviews what happened and decides what gets played.  The two separate models, of course, are the Style model and the Drummer model. 

The style model goes first.  It focuses on the groove, and also contributes to the accent and fills.  The drummer goes next, and mostly focuses on the accents and fills.  This is how some overlapping hits can be created that conflict with the style model.

Some drummer models will add notes to the groove, but many do not.  After both models have finished composing, the Brain does its limb and priority checks, and creates a realistic performance.

If you have a saved MIDI file from any source, in GM format (the General MIDI standard), you can use it by going to "import style."  The Jamstix drummer will personalize it by adding accents, fills, power level, etc.

If you want to use the Jamstix bar editor to create a MIDI part, instead of doing it in your host DAW, you can.  Just use the Silent style and the Silent drummer, and go into the Bar Menu to "Lock Manually Created Events."  If you want, after you've made a hand-crafted groove, you could switch to a different drummer model to have that drummer interpret it.  You might want to export your performance or create a restore point first though, in case you don't like the new results.


Options


A number of these are very obvious, so I won't list them all, but a few are worth clarifying.

- The Debug Log should be left off.

- You can turn off Limb Controls if you want to have a drummer with more than four limbs.

- Auto Edit Sounds means that a drum will play when you mouse over it in the Bar Editor.

- Usually, for hi hats, if the pedal pressure MIDI controller value is 127, it triggers a closed hat, and 0 triggers a fully open hat.  If you activate Reverse High Hat Controller, it sets 127 to open and 0 to closed.

- Never Mix Down overrides the downmix switch in the mixer, which I mentioned earlier.

- Enable Song Looping is an option that allows you to keep a song from ending, by looping back to a specific part when it finishes the last part.  I find that this is useful when you're just practicing a song with a guitar or something, and don't want to keep moving back to the start and hitting play every time the song ends.

- The LoD, or Load On Demand system, reduces memory consumption of the drum kits.  I wouldn't disable this unless you're having technical problems with an underpowered system. 

- Voice Reduction is also related to the CPU loading, so look this up in the manual if you're having problems.

- This is the number of stereo audio outputs sent to the host.  The default is eight, and it ranges from one to seventeen, although Pro Tools is currently limited to one.  If you change this, you have to restart Jamstix and possibly your entire host.

- Bar Offset (Visual or Actual) options are useful if the Jamstix Transport bar and beat numbers are not matching the ones in your host.

- Auto Save is expressed in minutes.  You have the option to turn it off.  The default is to save on exit.


Miscellaneous


When it comes to VST automation, there are actually only three things that you can currently automate in Jamstix 3:  the Power Level, Reduction, and Global Timing Slider.  This is because of a limitation with the VST standard.  However, not to worry.  You've already seen that just about every control can be individually mapped to a controller, and most hosts allow complete automation this way, by automating the envelopes for the MIDI controls.  It's odd, but it's an effective workaround.

There are several status lights at the bottom right.  MIDI In and Out are obvious, and they flash when MIDI is being sent or received.  The Audio-In LED only lights up when data is coming into Jamstix from AudioM8.  And finally, if you ever start to hear clicking noises in the audio (I haven't), look to see if the LoD% is bright red.  If so, go into the Options and either increase Voice Reduction or increase the LoD pre-buffer.

If your song uses time signature changes, I said earlier that it wasn't a problem because you're slaved to the host.  But unfortunately, it's not that simple, so I need to clarify.  The VST standard isn't good with time signature changes, so you should set each part manually to be certain, if they aren't grey'd out.  First, go into Options and make sure Time Sig Changes is enabled.  That ensures that the controls aren't grey'd out.  Then, go into each individual part and select the time signature for that part.  If you have a time signature change in the middle of a part, you may need to get creative and call it two separate parts.  Where this gets to be odd is that when using Pro Tools, you're using AAX plug-ins rather than the VST standard, so I had assumed it would be different.  But apparently it's not.  You can change the time signature in all hosts (including Pro Tools) so that Jamstix is not following the same rhythm structure as the host.  Jamstix IS still forced to slave to the host's tempo, but you can have an inconsistency with the time signature if you aren't careful.

If you're trying to jam with audio, obviously you start by setting up Jamstix in a project as a VSTi, and click the Audio Jam button.  Make sure you add AudioM8 as an insert effect on the audio track being monitored.  You may have to enable "Input Monitoring" or "Input Echo," depending on your host.  You should now see the Audio-In LED flickering as you play.  The MIDI Jam works the same way.

Up to ten restore points are allowed.  After that, new restore points erase older points.  If Jamstix is auto-saving restore points because you've turned this on in the Options menu, Jamstix won't save a point while the host is playing, so you don't have to worry about it interfering with your ongoing work when a performance is happening, or when you're recording.

And finally, the rotary knob in the upper right controls the brightness of the Brain controls and Song Sheet.


Conclusions


Ok, that's it.  By this point, hopefully you're quite comfortable with most of the capabilities of the Jamstix software.  And by now, you should realize just how powerful it is, especially for beginning and intermediate producers, because it really can avoid the very tedious tasks of hand entering complex MIDI data on a timeline.  It avoids the static and boring feel that usually results from patterns that were hand-coded by non-experts.

So at this point, what should you do next?  Well, I'd recommend getting a couple books on drumming, even if you don't want to become a real drummer, to get you into the proper headspace of what drumming is all about.

Next, I'd experiment a lot by setting up drum tracks for various songs, so you get really comfortable with Jamstix.

Finally, I'd recommend that you study the art and science behind mixing a kit in a DAW.  Rather than just sending the output to a single stereo channel and playing with the volume, you can take things to a whole new level if you learn to split the pieces of the kit into their own separate tracks so you have a lot more flexibility over relative volumes within the kit.  You can then learn to process individual pieces of the kit separately in terms of EQ'ing, compression, reverb, and so on.  You'll truly be able to get some professional sounding results. 

In the near future, I'm going to put together a couple of full tracks, and document the entire process from start to finish.  I'll do a video or series of videos about each.  My current guess is that I'll do an indie folk/rock style track with Pro Tools, and a Deep House track with Ableton.  When I'm done, I'll put links under these videos and on my videos page on my website, and also directly down below within this blog post, and I'll also include all the session and project files as free downloads.  If you have Pro Tools or Ableton, you'll be able to open up my exact projects, play with the settings, remix the tracks, or whatever you want.

Thanks for watching, thanks for subscribing to me on YouTube or following me on Twitter or SoundCloud, and thanks especially for sharing these videos with your friends.  Good luck with your music making!




 BONUS PROJECTS COMING HERE SOON

(By the end of February 2015)






 My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

www.djbolivia.ca/videos


Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.




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