Sunday, December 27, 2009

loops, vocals and the live factor

Loop based performance feels right, makes the whole event FUN and different.

My material for the new set, is really only the beginnings. I use the patterns and melodies as templates which I evolve, thus I am not using too many of them. each pattern has controls such as speed (2x,1x,1/2x,1/4x) transpose (engaged/off, +/- semitones), gate, accent. then it has my Note group. These define the notes in my sequence. A few notes is all it takes (so I have a note offset per note in my note group), so I can easily have the notes for 2 or 3 tracks in front of me, which gets FUN. the concept is found and used in the Brussels sequencer in this post.

So in my set, big parts are unwritten and evolved only through tweaking of such controls.

Progressions are played live, certain step notes are dropped in out or transposed to evolve a part into a new area and the whole thing is looped, then a second layer at 1/2 speed of a different part here and there sprinkled throughout the groove and layered upon. then I go into other parts and vocals too (my own live vocal loops and singing too) to add to the live slant of the performance to get closer to the croud and to see where this takes me. now this gets fun

Vocals, live and what not.

In the middle of the holidays I recorded my favourite vocalist (whose angelic voice was my xmas gift this year! Wow what a gift, these vocals carry so much passion, they are fun, reusable quirky, and good feel for me.

Her voice in captured in many samples which will soon be played from my white synthesizer, the waldorf blofeld which can morph these samples into analog lushness soooo smoothly. +1 on the waldorf License SL option.

My looper lets me run 3 simultaneous stereo loops which is more than I need but nice to have. fading between loop different loops is where I can take a break and repeat. having said that, i can't store more than 3 stereo loops simultaneously. which means I have to record new stuff quite often. which makes it scary, fun, and always guaranteed to sound different (if the looper is employed). I did have an incident with my looper where stopped working but I managed to get it back -- good to know before you play live what kinds of things to expect from your gear,

cause Murphy is a b-tch, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at some time. Makes it really fun and satisfying to get it all back though :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

catch my new live set on NYE stream

My friends at are playing recording of my new set live on Dec 31, 2009 nye live stream. More info (time, link) will follow soon.


hey there, merry xmas!

i've been busy around the holidays but I've managed to find time to put into the new set. Just recently some changes happened, once again.

the major change is the re-introduction of my yamaha rs7000 h/w sequencer because of a few important features
1. the rock solid and unterrupted midi clock regardless of what any other piece of gear is doing
2. the ability to rewind/restart with the touch of a button
3. the ability to sequence and mute drum tracks (including fills)
5. and have another (3rd) row of blinky lights to edit my sequences simulanously (since my x0xb0x has them, as does the Nord G2)
6. the ability to launch clips in the blofeld which will soon include vocals.
7. the ability to sync up to a dj using tap temp

i have been practising the performance, mixing, cueing aspects of my gig and it's getting stronger. each time around it is different and fun. the way i like it. the only downside is that if you don't practise, you lose your chops, and the set sounds weaker until you've brushed up and warmed up again. and using the looper actively means more diversity and better chops, and more time to think and try different things.

with some newly recorded vocals from Theda Miller, the set is gaining momentum, with more depth and beauty. that was my xmas gift.

my rig at this point is:
1. Nord G2 (mixer. loop router, drum synth, sequencer, grooves)
2. x0xb0x with recently installed sokks OS (highly recommended 3rd party x0xb0x firmware)
3. blofeld (with Theda Miller vocal samples)
4. electroharmonix 2880 looper
5. yamaha rs7000 (midi only)
6. a microphone

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Big shifts in workflow

Wow, what a week it has been since I got the 2880 looper. It has been a profound and complete shift in work flow for me and what at a great alignment of my skills over time and layers it has been! Yikes, wow, blush, :P

The live looper has added so much in terms of control, definition and depth (and I have to MIDI automate it in my single Nord G2 yet, wow I wonder what kind of control will feel like) . I could talk about how it's impacted me, but I will save that for another post, all I'll say for now it has made me more giddy and amazed than I have been in a looong time. The results speak (or rather sing) for themselves ;)

Hence, I have now redefined my whole setup and it's structure (with over 50 days to go to the gig to boot, which is good). I am now using 1 less Nord. Here is what my setup looks like:

1. Nord G2 expanded (with a Peavy PC1600 for dedicated physical control over mixer and loop routing control)

1.a Master patch
1.a.i mixer for internal and external sound sources.
1.a.ii looper recording router for internal and external sound sources. the looper router lets me assign a particular source (internal G2 drum and other sounds, x0xb0x, Blofeld, and my voice) to the looper for recording purposes. I can pre-listen on my G2, and when I bring up the Loop Record Level (Dry out) on the looper I hear my sound which is awesome for cueing it up, and I can layer to my hearts content.
1.a.iii sequencer for internal and external sounds with midi looping x 2 built in.
1.a.iv an fx system with external routing of fx (so effects happen per song)
1.b Groove/song 1 patch
1.b.i a groove built upon internal sequencing and sound sources (Loop Record Level / Dry out)
1.b.ii sequencer for internal and external sounds with midi looping x 2
1.b.iii song specific fx for the vocal, x0x and blofeld sources (send defined in 1.a.iv)
1.c Another groove/song 2 patch
1.d Empty - but it will get another groove/song patch probably

2. x0xb0x
slaved by Nord G2 and played when one or more sequencer in the G2 is sending it music. played by hand sometimes

3. Blofeld
slaved by Nord G2 and played when one or more sequencer in the G2 is sending it music. patches determined by hand. and played by hand sometimes

4. My Voice
well, it is mixed, fx-ed and looped as needed.

5. My 2880 Looper (but other loopers might work for you)
5.a My mixer
5.b My performance recorder and player and "layerer" (is that a word?)
5.c My in-between song filler

I have been testing this configuration in the last few days and it is growing on me. Back to loop land :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Long Loops, Less Gear

So I thought I had my structure figured out (see previous post). I have been designing looping for midi sequence and for audio (although the Nord does not offer a lot of memory for looping -- read on), but for my new direction, looping (capturing) performances is key.


Looping is a funny thing, it makes tweaking easier. Looping means if I can perform a piece of my music and loop it, then add a layer or record another loop, so I can do other things and load new material up, play and see how a sound might work with the rest. Which I could do before, but I could not record my all my tweaks. The Nord G2 is simply not able to do such a thing since it does not record MIDI files, or Long Audio loops. So I decided to go elsewhere for that and give it a shot.


Funny thing, what a little box can bring. The little box is a Electroharmomix 2880 Looper which can record very long loops of audio and mix them and layer them.


I have spent a few hours with it and I am, ahem, quite happy with the results.

Essentially its giving me what I have been wanting to do with a Nord G2, but it's main limitation is only a single 2.7sec (or 5.4sec using memory from both the voice and fx areas) which amounts to 4 beats which is not long enough for evolving layering and tweak recording. So I talked to few people, and heard about the Electroharmonix 2880 Looper.

The little 2880 has up to 16 minutes per track and it has 6 tracks too (6 times that which I could barely struggle to use in 1 g2 looping up to 8 bars only.

So check it out. I have now no reason to have 2 g2's in my setup. I simply use 1 G2 (drums and grooves), a x0xb0x and a blofeld as sources of loops. Seriously. And the other cool things is, I can load new patches in my Nord G2 (1 Nord, expanded) without missing a beat (since the looper keeps playing what it has previously recorded. What could be simpler than that?

And I am finding that I can pull up any Nord patch and decide if it fits. Which means I could perform tracks only from my gear live, or capture bits and pieces meaning I have more control over tweaks over time.

These are some big changes for my workflow, mind you I will not drop my live midi sequence recording in the Nords or live looping voice lines, it will mean less gear to worry about (and a Nord G2 is a very good keyboard to keep safe from accidents during gigs), and a hell of a lot of fun.

One other nice surprise to using a looper, I don't have to run my gear at max capacity all the time, nor do I have to tweak all my gear all the time. Meaning I can build tracks with less equipment. And have more fun and less work.

This does not mean my loops will be prerecorded. I am a big believer in LIVE performance. Nope, all loops are generated live and tweaked as before, but now recorded and overdubbed and layered over long periods of time. So more of what I really like to do, and a little less work for me, but the depths of creativity and possibilities get multiplied.

Change is good

I am glad I am testing different performance concepts now, still far from my gig. If you're going to introduce new concepts into your rig, don't do it close to a gig.

Back to the looping. I will post more details of my progress later

Monday, November 16, 2009

components or structure?

I've given the next steps some thought. I now have a few components built:

1. mixer with muting and remote control for tracks.
2. fatness-enhancer for each external source (synthesizer)
2. live tweak recorder/looper (for song changes or tweaking of other synthesizers)
3. (pseudo) live sequence recorder/looper (which record)
4. a sample song track
5. example voice processing system (not finalized)
6. and a couple of grooves I created this weekend (song sources)

At this point my system looks like this:
Master System G2
- Master clock with restart
- blofeld and x0xb0x mixer
- tweak recorder/looper
- live sequence recorder/looper
- fx for blofeld and x0xb0x

Slave System G2
- a slave song track sequencer
- a song groove

Now, I could define the system given these parameters, but what is missing of my building blocks? a chord memorizer/arpeggio trigger, overall transposing, glitch sequencer, just to name a few.

As tempted as I am to assemble what I have, I will continue to work on the components and then given their (DSP/CPU) power requirements I will define the breakdown of the system.

The case for this is if I write a song with this structure, and then I find I need to alter the structure significantly, this means rewriting the song, and taking a step back at least for my upcoming live show.

So back to components work for me for a little while.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From protoype to a complete live system

Yesterday I played/practised the beginnings of my new set again. The current prototype is a skeleton of the larger system that is both
  • the system Master (aka G2 Master synthesizer) - the heartbeat, mixer, live performance captures, common sounds for any set, that can keep going regardless of anything else that can happen or go wrong during a performance (emergency loops and sounds)
  • the individual Slave (aka G2 Slave synthesizer)- a song which contain internal tracks/loops, external sequences, sample triggering, and voice processing. I use a few of these song subsystems during a live performance (typically 3 for 4 for a 45 minute set). These songs are self contained and unique and can be loaded at any time. The tracks can be performed and now captured (looped via midi) in the system Master.
A thing I have found during the construction of my past sets, is the desire to keep playing my new creation/prototype and improve it, instead of moving onto other parts of the work that need to be done. The current Odyssey skeleton is now sounding quite credible and I have played it for a few friends and have gotten some awesome feedback, which means it is time to move onto the rest of the work, despite how much fun it is to happily tweak what I have.


Before embarking on my next part, I am taking inventory and modifying my work/project plan of the next large system that needs to be developed as well as beginning to solidify the structure of the full system.

This is very much like the process in interaction design, where one moves from prototype to designing of a complete information architecture map. This is an iterative (agile) process which repeats itself as more details are designed and tested, and alterations are made.


So for me, the next work at this point means
  • refining the vision (the components and tracks and their elecments) of the entire system

  • designing/plugging more parts into both systems (the Master) and Slave (which will require multiple songs), not to mention programming of my external synthesizers (like the Waldorf Blofeld). Work needs to proceed in both Master and Slave subsystems simultaneously as one relies on the other. Once a set of Master and Slave systems are finalized, new Slave subsystems (songs) can be written.

That is where it's at.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The name of the set

When does one come up with a name for a set?

At the beginning when a new idea for a set is first seeded, in the middle of the work, or once everything is done (by marketing PR?)?

I have always tried come up with it early as it is how I name my files (and patches and performances). Changing names throughout a project means changing names in all sorts of different places (on my laptop, inside my different synthesizers, etc).

But now, it happens when I put a the intention out there. And just as with other ideas I have not fully figured out, I simply put out the "request for an idea" and somehow it always manages to happen.

So I am calling my new work, Odyssey.

2010 a new journey of looping and vocals for me, and new collaborations, and a new level of performance in supported through my Nord G2 based live performance system with my new performance (real time recorded and looped midi data) capturing capabilities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Practising performances

So, my work-flow typically means doing some design work to capture the desired functionality without any frills or secondary features. Just the basics, the basic performance feature and a key knob and button assignment and labelling, that captures my new (or improves on it) concept.

Then I go into performance testing of my new design and interface for a couple of hours.

After (and during) playing the design, I make notes on the improvements and changes as well as what types of additional parameters might improve the access, and presentation of my concept.

And the end of a practise session, I take an inventory of the idea. and it's creative impact on me as the observer or consumer of it. A survey of sorts.

Then I make improvements based on my test notes, I integrate my new concept into a whole system, or I move into a new concept.

Capturing performances

I have been busy designing a system to capture live performance and loop recording since so much of my live performance circles around tweaking. So, now I can capture some of my performance, repeat it, make layers of new performances, repeat it on top of the last one.

In addition, I am realizing that I can alter these captured performances as well. The joys of the freedom of a modular system like the Nord G2.

This new level of performance for me (and a next step in the evolution of my music) is what keeps it fun for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My next gig is January 23, 2010 at Sequential Circus 6, in Vancouver. Seems like far away, but I've already started preparing for the set.

The big part of it for me is what do I want to do and how do I want to interact with my music. I know I want to use this opportunity (a gig is a always a good motivator) for making some changes.

I've spent a couple of days rewiring everything (oh yeah, I'm old school and I don't use a laptop live which means more work to set up), before I commit to an approach/layout.

Funny enough, I'm realizing that the way I had things set up in the first place is still the right way to go. So I am back to using no mixer, just synthesizers (the Nord synthesizers act as my mixers and the brain of the whole performance system).

Now back to put it all together again. Lesson learned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Haagen Live

Welcome to Haagen Live. I'm Haagen, a Live PA (Live Act) electronic musician and performer in Vancouver, Canada. I'm a designer, inventor, and I design my own unique music instruments with my Nord Modular G2. I am also a Nord Keyboards sound designer, and have worked on the Nord G2 sound set. Welcome my blog.