MIDI 2.0™?

MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is one of the biggest advances in music technology of the past several decades. It’s approaching 40 years old!

As a standard, it’s held up surprisingly well over those (almost) four decades.

But about a decade ago, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (or MMA as they are called by us nerds) started thinking about how to update the standard for the modern musical and media landscape.

They named the concept ‘HD MIDI’. Yes, the ‘HD’ is exactly what you think it is, and yes, it’s a stupid name.

I railed against the idea at the time, and was even surprised to find its creator Dave Smith (of Sequential) was also not so thrilled about it. 

His reasoning was the same as mine – if it still works, why fix it?

Today, just in time for HotNAMM®, the MMA has announced MIDI 2.0™. Yes, it’s now a Trademark too.

You can read the preliminary here.

So do I feel the same way about it 10 years later?

No.

MIDI needs updating.

DAW’s as well as Music Hardware and Software have exploded in functionality and power along with computational technology, and I’m not sure that continuing to put ‘Band-Aids®’ on the original spec is going to cut it anymore. Some of the new tech like MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) needs more than just an 8-bit Data stream, and faster communication and new control capabilities will most certainly lead to more innovation – which we sorely need in the Industry.

And the MIDI 2.0™ spec calls for total backwards compatibility, which ‘HD MIDI’ was not really certain about…

So hopefully these ‘tests’ go well and we’ll be incorporating the results into better bloops and bleeps very soon.

Now, what I do find very interesting is that Roland (who worked with Dave Smith to create MIDI) is on this upcoming ‘Prototyping Team’.

Sequential is not.

Maybe Dave still feels the same after all these years… 🙂

Life’s What You Make It

A long time ago I read a quote on the Talk Talk song Life’s What You Make It. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like ‘I love a song that makes me feel invincible

I had always adored the song (and it’s still one of my all-time favorites), but after reading that line I appreciated it even more.

So here we are at the daybreak of a brand new year. You may have already broken a good portion of your New Year’s Resolutions. You might be filled with the relief of purging a bad 2018, hoping for the best but expecting the worst (another song lyric) that 2019 will not be as bad. You might not really have any feelings except remembering to put ‘2019’ instead of ‘2018’ after any date for the next few weeks until it’s committed to memory.

But while I was perusing the Tweet Machine this morning I was struck with just how many are glad to see the past 365 days done and dusted.

I’m not.

I’m very proud of what I accomplished last year.

And I will do more and better this annum.

—–

Want to change the world?

Make every year, month, day, hour, and second count for yourself and those around you.

Because Life’s What You Make It.

Simply the most bestest Holidaze® gifts for the Musically Inclined (2018 Edition)

In what’s looking like a yearly thang, and with the Holidaze® squarely on top of us, APITE has again scoured the pages of Amazon looking for the oddities and just plain wackiness of the Musical Gift Genre to provide you with a bit of end of the year humor and perhaps even an idea or three for that person or persons who are impossible to shop for – the Star Wars fan.

Wait – Star Wars fans are easy to shop for. Musicians are not. Hopefully you’re not shopping for a Star Wars Music fan…

So are you ready for the madness? Are you sure about that answer? 😀

51 V25s+1mL

Last year we started off with a frog so why not lead off with other frog of sorts this year?

Probably Carcinogenic Smokey Juice. And not just any bog-standard fog machine fluid but Oil Based Haze Fluid, whatever the $#@! that is. And not just a teensy-tiny gallon mind you, but 55 flipping gallons of gear-destroying, stage-soaking, crowd-saturating, respiratory system-choking ‘haze fluid’ that is most likely banned in reasonably civilized countries for violating reams of UN Sanctions. But hey, if you really, really need a metric fuckton of stage smoke to obscure the fact that the band is incompetent, even-more-than-usual fugly, or still using backing tracks and just miming, then rest assured that at least you’ll get free shipping for that $1300 you’re dropping on this (ahem) mess. I can only imagine the residue left on everything in the vicinity of the venue after churning through this petroleum infestation, and the repair costs incurred on even the smallest of tours. Since it has zero reviews and no rating whatsoever, you know this stuff is just amazing. Now if only I could figure out why I feel like I need a shower after writing this…

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Mmmmmkay… That’s a pretty vague statement there kids. Let’s think about all the things that bacon is:

– Salty.

– Greasy.

– Fried.

– Cholesterol inflating.

– Potentially heart-attack inducing.

– Offensive to certain religions and/or vegetarians.

– Best dried out on paper towels.

– Makes an ungodly mess that takes ages to clean up.

– Delicious.

 None of these points are addressed in the description or comments. 

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Of course all of you know exactly what this is – it’s the Leelvis Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Nut Shape with Super Bass Stereo Sound 8 Hours Music Playing Time for iPhone Android Smartphone.

And we all know that since Bluetooth speakers come in every possible size, shape, color, wattage, battery life, brand, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species, the modern music listener needs something that not only stands out from the hoi polloi, but also shows off their passions and interests as well. And if it also  doubles as a self-defense weapon, well that’s just a bonus. This one is made from wood-grain plastic, and not actual dead tree carcass, so we’ll forget about that last feature, okay?

And since there are several others exactly like this in the Compare with similar items section I can only assume that somewhere in our diverse world, Nut-shaped Bluetooth speakers are the must-have gift this Season. So you can rest assured that that certain special someone in your life who needs an acorn-shaped mini-boombox will just be tickled faux wood-grain that they are on the cutting edge.

Personally, I  want to buy one of these as well as an adult squirrel costume (you can get that too), hang out at the local playground continuously blaring S.I.M.P. (Squirrels In My Pants) from the Phineas and Ferb Soundtrack. Official video of that song here. Official video of me doing it will never be seen by human eyes.

41GWnp KnDL

I guarantee that someone in your life has been pestering you about wanting a guitar. They won’t stop yammering that they want to be just like St. Vincent or Slash or Lil Wayne. This exchange occurs so you’ll be so annoyed that you will ultimately succumb to their whim, even though you both know they will spend 20 minutes with it, realize that it takes time and practice, and give up because they will only be Lil Wayne – not even remotely close to St. Vincent or Slash.

And guitars and accessories and alarmingly expensive, so the question always arises on how do you appease them and yet still retain your sanity (and bank account)?

Easy-peasy. Simply affix the slightly overpriced decal shown above to their wall and then happily them that you got them a guitar and matching amplifier. When they ask where it is, tell them to look in their room. They will then race to said room only to look around eagerly seeing nothing but the mere illusion of a Strat and mini-Crate taunting them. At this point they will sobbingly return to you saying how cruel and mean you are. Return to the room muttering to yourself (that last part is important) about how you really got them a guitar and amp and you have no idea what they’re talking about. Walk in, look around, and stare at the picture on the wall for a few minutes before declaring that the instruments must have self-immolated rather than be used by your friend or relative, leaving only the cold, dead, shadowy remains. Then hand them the Leelvis Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Nut Shape with Super Bass Stereo Sound 8 Hours Music Playing Time for iPhone Android Smartphone shown above as a consolation present.

Is it mean? Unbelievably.

Will you lose a family member or friend? Pretty much guaranteed.

Is it worth it to get rid of the Leelvis Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Nut Shape with Super Bass Stereo Sound 8 Hours Music Playing Time for iPhone Android Smartphone you bought because you saw it here? Hells yes.

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There are some great drummer jokes out there, and this is a pretty good one too. I like the attention to detail such as ‘1000% talent’, ‘300% Creativity’, and lack of being Off-Key. For the record I know exactly four drummers who can accurately pitch a softball, let alone anything musical.

I was a drummer before I became a Programmer, so I understand deeply the plight of the modern percussionist in this confusing, heavily-quantized digital age, but I would change a few things for accuracy here. I would suggest the ‘Caffeine’ part be replaced with ‘Wild Turkey’ or ‘Heineken’ or “Cat Tranquilizers’. The ‘Not a Significant Source of Quiet’’ is cute, but I’m deeply saddened the fine print includes absolutely zero mention of ‘100% Chance of being Time-aligned in Pro Tools by an ex-drummer Programmer’.

While we’re on coffee cups:

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Yep, the obvious Music Teacher trope blended with a dash of Social Media snobbery. So I’ll just call it an Octothorpe. Don’t you feel all smug and self-satisfied now?

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Imagine walking into the bathroom at a friends’ abode and confronting this.

Much like the Tuba shirt listed above, one wonders the message trying to be expressed here, but my guess is somewhere between ‘indeed, my intestinal fortitude has the same tone and resonance of a bass clarinet’ and ‘yeah, I used to play one but I found out it works better as a plunger.’

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For when you like your Cosplay mixed with a dash of sub-par audio. I know I’m old, but man you kids are just fucked up these days… I get Cosplay. I get Fandom. I even get that 99.9% of everyone on the freakin’ planet doesn’t really care what their audio quality sounds like as long as they can sing along with the latest Ariana Grande pop fodder. But combining these elements together is just heresy.

All I can say is that I hope they’re noise cancelling so you won’t hear the groans and snickering of passerby.

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This is the Simple Music Player.

In truth this is a potentially smart idea – a music playback device for anyone with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive issues. Good idea, right?

Unfortunately all is not happiness and sunshine in Simple Music Playerland. Do you see the bar on top that says ‘Lift to play music’? One could safely assumes that lifting that tab or bar would start playing music.

Uh, no. Once you lift the bar there is a black, recessed button underneath that you have to push as well. This button is not labelled or marked in any way, so I could easily see someone who just wants to listen to some Iron Butterfly or Frank Sinatra (or that sweet Iron Butterfly/Frank Sinatra mashup floating around the Tube of Yous) to brighten up their day continually fumbling and futzing with this thing more that any other music player that’s already out there just to play a song.

What’s even more confusing is that there are no volume controls on the thing other than two up/down buttons on the bottom that require a stylus or other pointed object to adjust. Yes, I can understand this as a ‘safety’ feature (and just how safe is a pointed stylus?), but what you have here is not only potentially confusing for the person you give it to (remember – this was designed for people with disabilities) but now you have to have the instructions handy to not only remind you how it works, but for any caregivers as well.

The reviews also talk about difficulty loading songs from a computer (no USB connection, uses a proprietary cable) and general quality issues, so I would venture to guess that even the most inexpensive of mp3 payers might be a better choice.

So instead, think of this is the perfect gift for someone you know who likes music but has such eclectic taste that you just want to mess with them. Load it up with a bunch of Chopped and Screwed tracks, turn the volume all the way up, throw away the special cable and manual, and gift away. 🙂

Oh, if you gift it put it in one of these:

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It’s The Little Guy (big love, Minneapolis!) as a rubber duck. Nothing more to see here…

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Shure SM-58’s (and SM57’s) have a reputation for excellent sound and military-grade construction. I have personally driven a nail into a stage with a 58 in a pinch, and I can attest for their robustness – the mic was unscathed except for a few minor scratches and it worked perfectly for years afterwards. This $76 pack of 16 replacement wind grills for your aging, spit-rattled SM58 is probably meant for retail or for updating a bunch of well-used road or studio mics, but there’s a better reason to buy these.

During your next recording (or live) session use an SM58 as the vocal mic. Keep telling the talent that their tone isn’t quite right and walk out to the booth or stage, unscrew the grill, and replace it with a new one from this box. Do this at least 8-9 times until you exclaim ‘that’s perfect!’

Now the vocalist will be forever scarred believing that these screens will make it ’sound better’, and will ask for them to be replaced in the future when something ‘isn’t right’.

Hilarity ensues.

(Warning – may ruin your career as well)

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And the piece de resistance:

Remember the Acoustic Revive CD Demagnetizer from last year?

This year, I invite you to behold the amazing Furutech LP, Disc, and Cable Demagnetizer

For the measly sum of $3000 (and only $4.50 for shipping), you can free your precious vinyl from the bonds of magnetic infestation causing the space-time continuum to rip to shreds, forever ruining the never-played magnificence of your beloved obsolete musique art d’object…

Yes, it will happily Demagnetize Compact Discs (and probably those old 2” Master reels of Ampex 456) as well.

But most importantly, it has the mind-bending capability to remove any traces of magnetic residue from your cabling!

(Whatever you say there Furutech. Did someone unload 55 gallons of Froggy’s in here? Its getting a bit thick…)

Just imagine the thrill of your ‘Audiophile’ Uncle Vince opening this on Christmas morning, scrambling to the interwebz® to tell all of his two buddies on The ‘Gram that his sound system is now way better than theirs because he’s going to methodically go through the house and demagnetize every single cable, interconnect, and AC power cord in the joint. He might even get up in the attic tomorrow and rip out all of the Romex so it can be demagnetized too. Top that you jackwagons!

Meanwhile your Aunt Martha is talking to your mother in the kitchen about how it was really expensive but that’s what he wanted, and Uncle Vinny is like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, dreaming on about all of the things this miracle of modern technology will make all better again.

Internet’s down again? Put the coax cable on the Furutech! 

Toaster Oven on the fritz? Demagnetize the wall socket!

The dog has heart worm? No need to go to the vet – he’s probably just magnetized!

The power bill went up 100 bucks after we got the thing? Well that’s cheap for all the things we’ve been fixing around here…

I want to thank everyone for popping by A Poke In The Ear in 2018 – you’ve made our transition over to WordPress a great one, and I hope we gave you a chortle or two, gave you some some insight into the current musical culture, and hopefully ignited a critical thought or two to take with you.

Thanks again for stopping by and you know there’s plenty of great things and even more insanity coming in 2019. The Happiest of Holidaze® to all of you and we’ll see you in the New Year!

Project Studio Tea Break

It’s the Cold, Flu, and Holidaze® Season. That time of year when everything goes BatS#*! Crazy

Here in APITEland, EduCorp® goes clinically insane trying to squeeze everything in before the end of the year, Holiday Decor in every store months before you want to think about it, Holiday Music everywhere months before the actual season, Black Friday/Cyber Flargsday sales on anything and everything (yeah, I gave in too – more in a second), and the ritual coordinating family and friends for holiday plans whilst trying to keep at least one one eyebrow above water. And December has just started…

One of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself sane over the season is indulging in Audiocasts. I did a bit of pruning over the summer, trying to whittle down what I really enjoyed verses what I was growing tired of, which of course leaves me more ‘room’ for new ones. (like somehow I magically have more time after doing that…)

Saint Ian and Jon Tidey over at The Mastering Show did an episode of their favorite shows, and one of the ones they mentioned that I hadn’t heard of was Project Studio Tea Break (title tie-in!). It’s become a highlight of my listening regimen. 🙂

PSTB, as it’s colloquially called, is Mike Senior and Jon Whitten. Mike should be well-known from Sound On Sound fame (you do read SOS, right?) and as an Audio Engineer, Author, and all-round Font of Knowledge in the Audio Kingdom. Jon is a composer firmly rooted in the theatre and dance community, and brings his unique perspective to the ‘Professional Audio Chitty-Chat Internwebz® Delivery System’ norm. For a ‘Professional Audio Audiocast’ PSTB is light on technical prowess and snobbery, aiming for (ahem) a good poke in the ear towards recording technology, techniques, and the interpersonal relationships everyone in the industry has dealt with.

The odd tip or trick sneaks in every once in a while, but this is not what you’re looking for here. PSTB is as the name implies – a time to take a break and have a cuppa and talk about dumb stuff before the clock starts ticking again. It’s an hour of clearing the fuzz out of your mind – not worrying about why you can’t figure out how to make the snare drum ring disappear or why the backing vocals sound strangely out of tune even though you’ve triple-checked them on every piece of technology you can get your hands on and they all tell you they’re fine. It’s the couple of pints at the pub after a long day nursemaiding a computer, recording, mixing, and hoping the session backs up so you can fix all the mistakes with fresh ears tomorrow. It’s reading about the latest shiny Company X announced that everyone is talking about but you know is complete and utter bullshit and won’t change games or move anything forward except the company’s bank account. It’s the relief of stepping outside after applying a bunch of studio foam with that spray adhesive, or the glorious smell of brand-new silicone-jacketed cabling. It’s a peek inside what your engineer, producer, or musical director is really thinking.

So you can see how this is right in the wheelhouse. But don’t just trust me –  click the link above and get caught up (there’s only eight episodes as of this writing) or subscribe in your favorite player. If you’ve spent any time in the musical landscape (and if you’re reading this you have) then you’ll enjoy every moment and look forward to the next monthly fix.

—–

In other news I bought one of the new iPad Pros – the 11” model this time. I know, I know… I kinda trash-talked them a few posts back, but after getting my hands on one I decided it was time to move my 1st-gen on to my brother (who’d better not be reading this since it’s his Christmas present) and get something smaller and…well, better.

Why?

USB-C.

From the moment I connected a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adaptor (stupidly long name here kids) to it and connected the HDMI port to a monitor I could see the future. Having the iPad display big and crisp on an external display is an absolute joy, but instinctively reaching for a mouse or trackpad instead of the screen is just antediluvian IMO. I’m also betting this has to drive the Mothership® Engineers bananas as well, so there’s some Skunkworks iOS version update allowing this just waiting for Phil Schiller to give the okay. And since Apple is still gung-ho about the ‘It’s a computer! It’s a dessert topping!, It’s a floor wax!” moniker (Hat tip to Charles over at Space Javelin for reminding me of this) they have to be looking into this – just having an external display for the GraphicsHeads doesn’t make sense for having this usable by the entire ‘Pro’ market. I guess we’ll see if I’m correct next spring.

I also like the smaller size – it’s easier to hold in my sausage paws and doesn’t feel like I’m doing a workout after 10 minutes. The True Tone display is gorgeous, and it can do true ‘split screen’ apps (unlike the previous smaller versions of the iPads Pro).  I’m spoiled by Face ID on the iPhone, so having it here is great (although my sausage thumb always seems to be covering the sensors which it smugly tells me), and the new Pencil is just stupid clever and I like the fact that it rides on the top instead of being lost in the bottom of my bag somewhere.

Oh, and the new NanoStudio 2 has been piquing my interest and looks pretty impressive, so I’m looking forward to trying a true DAW-like experience with in on a mobile device (bleeding edge, yada yada, what about Auria? I get it…) 

Lastly, I’ve been compiling the ideas for the ‘Musical Gifts for the 2018 Holidaze® Season’ post (last year’s post here) and that should be out within the next week or so, hopefully leaving me some actual time to spend with the fam over the (actual) Holiday Season. 

Until then, stay sane out there!

VOTE! and Pizza to the Polls!

As it approaches Dinnertime here on the East Coast there will probably be folks stuck in lines with grumbling stomachs…

If that sounds like you or someone you know, go here:

Pizza to the Polls

They coordinate with local shops and have pizza delivered to long voting lines to help bring some good will and local pie.

I voted early, but donated a pizza. Maybe you should too. 🙂

Now get out and Vote!

 

New Mothership® Shiny-Shiny (the Update)

So Charles and Mike over at Space Javelin did a nice little addendum Audiocast talking about all the Apple products from yesterday. They (mostly) echo my impressions and it’s a great little listen if you want some more info.

In the flurry of news, banter, and vitriol post-presentation I found out that the new Mac Mini’s SSD cannot be replaced. It’s still a great update, so if you’re thinking of grabbing one, I would recommend getting the fastest processor and biggest SSD you can afford and go the 3rd Party route for memory. Other World Computing (MacSales) and Crucial have both announced memory upgrades for the Mini much cheaper that what Apple charges.

And there’s one more thing I wanted to mention about the new iPad Pro. Apple showed external display capability over USB-C, but there is (still) no capability for any kind of external input device other than a keyboard or the Pencil. They continually touted this as a ‘computer’ (which it obviously is, and they tried enforcing this naming convention a few years back as well), but having external display functionality with no external input other than a keyboard, finger, or Pencil is a bit odd to me. 

It could still be coming in the next iteration of iOS or just another hotly contested possible feature bandied about Jonny Ives’ lab, but if you can use an on-screen Spacebar as a Trackpad (of sorts) it’s not heresy to ask for a physical one too.

This is yet another reason that I’ll wait a bit before upgrading…

 

New Mothership® Shiny-Shiny

As predicted by the Punditry, Apple bowed a bevy of new toys today. (and when did I suddenly start writing like Pro Sound News?)

I won’t dazzle you with pictures or descriptions – head right on over to Apple Insider for the all the goodies.

But I will talk about the Great, the Good, and the Meh.

Great: new Mac Mini. My 2012 Quad-core has been juiced up to it’s max of 16 gig of RAM and has one and a half Terabytes of SSD’s internally. And after 6 long years, it’s still an awesome little machine. Runs just about everything I need and rarely breaks a sweat doing it. The new one isn’t going to replace it any time soon, but it’s nice to know I will be able to add RAM as I need to. My only question is can the SSD be replaced as well, because Apple’s site isn’t very clear about it.

Am I getting one? No, but if you love the form factor this is a great update.

Good: the new iPad Pro. My original 12.9 from about 3 years ago is still an amazing machine and I was looking forward to updating to the new one. More RAM, crazy-blazing fast A12X chipset, Face ID, Liquid Retina display, new Apple Pencil, and USB-C makes for a compelling upgrade, but I’m going to wait.

Why you ask? Because I need to see what is going to be made for this new ‘Desktop-Class’ processor.

As a Musician and an Engineer, I need someone to step up and make a Pro-class DAW for the iPad Pro.

If Apple steps up soon and drops Logic Pro for it, I’m buying one 10 seconds after they do.

If Avid makes a version of Pro Tools that works on it then I might wait a minute or so, but I’ll take the plunge.

Adobe has promised Photoshop for the Graphic Designers – I (and many others like me) want a ‘Desktop-Class’ Digital Audio Workstation for the Audio Pros. Auria is nice. BeatMaker3 is damned cool, and Steinberg’s Cubasis is the one that comes the closest, but there are three big DAW’s out there – Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Ableton Live. I have to have pretty seamless interoperability with those – easy File Import and Export, same available Plugins, and a familiar Feature Set and workflow.

Yeah, I know that GarageBand is technically Logic Pro, but navigating it is a different animal altogether. And Auria again is nice, but I just don’t have time to learn another workflow. Cubasis is probably the most DAW-like of the litter, but I haven’t used Cubase on a desktop for about two decades…

To be honest I’d go so far as to totally make the switch to Reaper if they made a version for iOS that worked like the desktop version, but c’mon Apple or Avid – I know you can do this…

Okay with rant over let’s move to the Meh: the new MacBook Air. Yeah, the ‘Executive Class’ will love it. Bloggers and current ‘MacBook Adorable’ owners will happily fork over their life savings to be the first ones to plop one down on a coffeeshop table to show their cred to the rest of the Bourgeoisie, but it’s expensive and too underpowered for ‘pro’ work. Cough up a few shekels more and get a proper MacBook Pro.

As usual, your mileage may vary here. Remember that I’m coming at this from the Audio Professional side, so your needs are very likely completely different.

Apple as usual delights and amazes us with great design and forward-thinking (if sometimes a bit late on the delivery), and today’s announcements are certainly worth perusing if you’re looking for (or desperately need to replace) a computer or tablet. Just take a moment to consider what you truly need as well as what that need is worth before you go bonkers and spend a bunch of cash because it’s the new Shiny-Shiny.

Until next time…