Project Clarification

Hey I just wanted to clarify something for everyone. For the work I am currently doing, I am utilizing the Caustic Android app on two platforms. I am currently using it on Android when I am out of the apartment, but when I am in I am using the ported version for Windows.

Why? Well for some reason the keyboard is not connecting properly to my Kindle Fire. I would love to do it all on my Kindle as the pure Android Caustic build is more stable, but for some reason the two devices just don’t agree. Generally I have to press 2 keys at the same time for the tablet to register any Midi signals. When it does register one key at a time, the notes won’t turn off.

I am hoping this issue will be solved when I get my new tablet, but in the meantime I can’t honestly say if cheap keyboards with cheap Midi adapters work on tablets. Researching the subject I found that Midi keyboards need to have “standard midi interface” meaning they don’t require additional drivers for windows.

I am going to try and make it to a local music shop to try out some “completely compliant” keyboards with my Kindle. Hopefully that will narrow down whether it’s my tablet or the keyboard.

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Get Midi

Wow… I have to say that the wait for converter cable has been totally worth it. I finally hooked the keyboard up to Caustic 2 today and even without the ability to record live, being able to test different keys out in real time is so nice. Even with the latency on most devices, having the ability to at least sound things out in real time streamlines the production process a LOT!

In other news, i’m going to try to make some presets for Caustic today out of samples from my Casio. Unfortunately there is an ungodly hissing sound coming out of the headphone jack, which is the only sound out. Going to try it anyway, the presets may only be good for super LoFi projects. We’ll see, I should have some up tomorrow.

Format Changes?

The more I research Midi controllers, PC DAW’s etc. the more I feel like I need to change the format of this blog. While waiting for my Midi converter to show up so I can start doing those online piano lessons, I have concluded that I have come to a bit of a road block regarding android music production.

Therefore I am beginning to realize that my blog should probably be less Android focused and more “Learning Music Production on the Cheap”

I have all sorts of articles I could start writing about pertaining to powerful free Virtual Instruments, links on how to use powerful, yet inexpensive PC/MAC DAWs like Reaper. I also believe that by doing this I could reach out to a larger audience.

We will see what happens, but I expect to start doing mixed articles on Inexpensive Android and PC production shortly.

For everyone following my blog and people that are just visiting, feel free to comment on what you think about me doing this. Thanks y’all.

Scratch that. Frank Malm from Musical Android made some very good points in the nice comment that he left. Expect this to remain an Android Based Production Blog.

The New (but really old) Casio

So I did it! I went out and got myself a keyboard and oh man is it nice to be able to sound things out without having click triggers in a step sequencer. I ended up getting the Casio CTK-700 model from 2005 that I used as an example in the previous post. It works well and I have a Midi to USB converter on the way.

I read online that it is a solid keyboard, but doesn’t have touch sensitive keys. What this means is that it always outputs the same volume no matter how far you press the keys. But what can I say, I got it for $20 and I’m loving it. I’ll have a pic of it up soon, with the super cheap setup I will be using for future non-android based work.
image

Jealous much?

Synthesizer vs Midi Controller

I apologize for the lack of updates. I had a job interview today which went well. I have also decided I will not be working on the blog/any projects during my wife’s days off.

I still wanted to throw something up today, so I decided I would talk about an alternative to purchasing expensive midi keyboard controllers.

Just in case you don’t know the difference (as I did not) between a midi controller and a synthesizer, here they are.

Midi Controllers

Midi controllers generally do not play their own sounds. They include a number of programmable sliders and nobs to streamline your DAW, and require you to utilize sound generating VST plugins (virtual instruments) in your DAW to generate sound. Many of them include USB to USB contacts so that you can plug the controller (keyboard) directly into your laptop. Controllers also tend to be more compact as they don’t need room for tone generators and internal speakers.

Synthesizers

On the other hand there are synthesizers. Synthesizers have the ability to generate their own sounds (not very nice sounding unless you drop some cash) and can have “analog” Midi ports adding Midi Controller functionality. These are going to be a LOT larger due to the tone generating components and speakers.

The Point

Now where am I going with this? Often times you can find large older Synthesizers with Midi Controlling capabilities that are FAR less expensive than buying a new (or used) slim line Midi Controller Keyboards. I have found older, decent, entry level synths with Midi controlling capabilities going second hand for about $50, that have 61 full sized keys. Second hand 25 micro key controllers can go for as little as $60 and 49 micro key controllers seem to go for as little as $100.

A lot of people have the opinion that older synth keybeds can feel nicer than modern controllers, but you lose the portability and sliders/nob functionality.

I know that I would like to learn music theory, which requires me to have more than 49 keys. I am also more concerned about price than having programmable nobs and sliders (especially since this is an android based blog and I plan on using TouchDAW anyway). I also have a bed frame tall enough to slide a large keyboard under when I am not using it. Therefore I think a cheap synth with midi control is the best option.

Finally, do remember if you decide to go with an old synthesizer, you need to purchase an Analog to USB midi converter and download appropriate drivers for your computer. The converters seem to run $20-$30 in stores, but you can get them for closer to $6 on ebay.

Here are some visuals on the difference between a controller and a synth.

ph_ctk700

This is an old Casio 61 key CTK-700 Synthesizer. Works as a Midi Controller and goes for about $50 second hand.

korg 25
This is Korg 25 Key Midi Controller. Notice it is more slim lines and has programmable buttons. Retails new around $75

Android Touch DAW Controller

I stumbled upon a cool app today on the Google App store called “Touch DAW.”

Ever see those bulky midi controller that a lot of professionals or more advanced producers use? Well this app takes the the same functionality as that hardware, but utilized your android device.

Unfortunately it needs a supported PC Digital Audio Work Station for it to work 100% as the controls have program specific presets. I managed to get it working with a program called “Reason” and it’s quite nifty not having to click all the nobs and slider in the actual program with a mouse. I tried to get it going with a couple of unsupported programs like the free “Linux Multi Media Studio” and Open Labs “Stagelight” but the functionality was too limited and in the end not worth it.

It also has a midi controlling Drum Pad with a Y/X modulator (no idea what the Y/X thing does yet) and a midi keyboard controller. Two hiccups I have found in Touch DAW is that sometimes the Drum Pads get stuck in the on position and my Kindle only supports 2 touches making it difficult to use the keyboard.

For around $6 it seems worth it if you are using one of the programs it natively supports. Reason seems to be the most reasonably priced out of all of them at only $60, but you need to provide your own instrument plug-ins and it also lacks a step sequencer like Caustic 2 has.

Here is a link to the developers site.

http://www.humatic.de/htools/touchdaw/

 

Making Progress

Been working on that track for a while today. Brought the subsynth up an octave and you can already hear it better. Honestly though, I’m getting a little bored with it. I would like to and probably will just put an ending on it and call it good.

In my next project I am going to try something a little different. Instead of starting from scratch I am going to use the app “Sonic Chop” from the google app store to chop up a song I like so I can try to do a remixish type deal. It sounds like just chopping tracks into samples is very time consuming, so this could take a while just to get rolling. I also need to add Sonic Chop to my app page, which I will get around to eventually.

In other news during my job hunt I have been researching small midi keyboards, besides the Akai MPK Mini. I am actually thinking about getting a Korg Microkey 37 key controller. I’ve found that with the constricted space in a studio apartment a smaller keyboard would be good and I am getting more interested in playing piano, so something bigger than a 25 key would be nice. Also if I ever work with a desktop DAW there is an Android app I can use as a midi drum pad, making that part of the Akai less necessary.

Here’s a link to the specific model I am talking about. I wish I still had access to amazon, being in Australia now. This sucker will end up running me $109 if I end up getting it.

http://www.amazon.com/Korg-MICROKEY37-37-Key-Midi-Controller/dp/B007VQIGPW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371884174&sr=8-1&keywords=korg+microkey