It Just Works!

It’s been a looong time since the last post but there is a good reason, recording has become so smooth with the release of Ardour 4 that I can’t stop recording!

Seriously, Ardour has not crashed or hickuped once since the install months ago. Close to 1,000 hours of tracking time so far. The built in audio connection manager is great, even though I admit to falling back to Jack Connections from muscle memory from time to time. Good news is no matter which way I made patch changes everything ran smooth and no xruns or issues of any kind. Nice work by Paul and crew!

Posting new tunes soon!


Group, Bus or Both!

Lets assume we have a total of 8 tracks setup for recording a drum kit. Once we have a piece of music recorded and have the basic mix levels achieved lets suppose we want to “group” all the cymbals in a group titled Cymbal Group, all of the toms in a group titled Tom Group and a final group for all 8 drum tracks and we’ll call it Drum Group.

The reason I like to do this is once a group has been defined you can right click on the specific group tab and select “Edit Group”. This gives us some options for this group. By selecting “Gain” and “Relative” options whenever once tracks gain is adjusted it will also adjust all other tracks in the group.

NOTE: If you wish to adjust an individual track previously assigned to a group it must first be removed from the group. The track can be added right back to the group once any individual track adjustments have been made.

A Bus allows the routing of multiple Tracks via Ardour or qjackctl to a single fader. You can then add plug-ins, adjust overall all level of “all” tracks routed to the Bus and much more.

Bus’ and Groups can be used separately or together depending what your needs are for a particular project. As with everything experiment and try different things different ways until you find what works and most of all Have Fun Making Some Music!


Part 2: Debian 7 + Focusrite Saffire Pro24 + ffado-mixer + qjackctl

In this post we’ll be discussing signal routing using ffado-mixer with the Focusrite Saffire Pro24 for Monitoring audio.


First lets do a quick run down of the Monitoring tab window. As in Part 1 we are only concerned with the Analog outputs 1-6 of the Pro24 which correlate to Ch. 0 through Ch. 5 in the Monitoring tab.

On the left of the screen are Mute, Dim and Volume. At the time of this blog the big Volume knob has not been incorporated so we can ignore the Volume row. Mute and Dim however do work and come in useful. Set each Ch’s Mute option to Global and Dim option to Enabled. now when you click the large Mute button at the bottom of the window ffado-mixer will Mute all 6 Analog outputs. As you would expect clicking the Dim button will cut the level of all 6 Analog outputs by the amount you set in the Dim Level settings box. I have mine set to -10 db.

In the middle of the Monitoring tab window are 4 option boxes for Ch 1, 2, 3 & 4. Ch 1 & 2 can be switched to Instrument level input gain. Ch 3 & 4 can be switched to High Level input gain. As always if in doubt leave them off until you duckduckgo more information on the difference Instrument and High Level connections.

The Big Volume knob will hopefully be fixed soon by the ffado-mixer maintainers to work properly with the Pro24. That is the only issue that is important to this musician at this time.

Part 3 will cover setting up for a recording session from powering up the DAW to hitting Record and the many things to do in between.


Part 1: Debian 7 + Focusrite Saffire Pro24 + ffado-mixer + qjackctl

Before I go any further it needs to be clear I am explaining this in my own way on the fly, I will make adjustments over time. This will be a multi part blog post.

Here is a bit of information on managing the Focusrite Saffire Pro24 via ffado-mixer & qjackctl on a Debian 7 Linux system. Make sure the power is switched ON for the Pro24 before you turn on your computer. After the system is up and running start qjackctl and ffado-mixer, I prefer to run them from the command line in a terminal window to monitor any possible message output. You should see a screen similar to this one when ffado-mixer launches.


Click the Crossbar Router tab

Now this section was difficult at first (still is sometimes) to wrap my head around. So for this little blog post I am just going to post a brief overview of how its setup and why for this tracking system.

Click on the Switch Peak Meters button to help test the Pro24’s inputs, usually best for first time setups until a working configuration is determined for both input and output connections.

The Pro24 has 6 inputs, Analog 1 & Analog 2 XLR or 1/4, Analog 3 & Analog 4 1/4, inputs 5 & 6 are SPDIF connections via a Startech SPDIF input converter.

Now lets get to the ffado-mixer’s Crossbar Router settings. In the first column is a list of the total possible 1394:0x firewire inputs available from ffada-mixer NOT the total number of inputs on a single Pro24 though. An expansion ADAT unit can be connected for an additional 8 inputs but that is for another blog post.

To keep it simple for this setup we only care about the first 6 inputs, 1394:01 through 1394:06. Think of these as inputs 1 through 6 on an analog console if you come from the great analog recording days. From the drop down menu in each of the 1394:0x inputs we can select a corresponding Analog or SPDIF input from the Pro24 and make a connection between them. In my mind I like to think of it as an Analog to Digital patchbay.

For some reason unknown to this blogger ffado-mixer recognizes Analog inputs 1/2 & 3/4 of the Pro24 backwards. So we will correct this by patching the inputs so they line up correctly with jack and other audio applications.

Crossbar Router: Column 1 Input connections
1394:01 <- Analog:03 = Pro24 Input 3
1394:02 <- Analog:04 = Pro24 Input 4
1394:03 <- Analog:01 = Pro24 Input 1
1394:04 <- Analog:02 = Pro24 Input 2
1394:05 <- SPDIF:01 Left
1394:06 <- SPDIF:02 Right

Now when we fire up qjackctl and open the connections window capture_1 through capture_6 correspond to the Pro24 analog inputs 1 through 4 and SPDIF left & right inputs respectively. So now all the inputs are patched and ready to pass a signal to either an audio application, system output or combination of both.

Pro24 Input 1 -> capture_1
Pro24 Input 2 -> capture_2
Pro24 Input 3 -> capture_3
Pro24 Input 4 -> capture_4
Pro24 SPDIF Left Input -> capture_5
Pro24 SPDIF Right Input -> capture_6

If your trying the setup explained here connect your audio applications and/or system capture_x Readable Clients in qjackctl’s Connection window  to playback_1 (left) and playback_2 (right) in the Writable Clients in the same Connections window. This effectively is the monitoring patch, you should be able to hear any source you connect to playback_1 & playback_2 coming from your studio speakers and/or headphones if you set your system up in this manner described, make sure to turn the volume dials up on the Pro24 slowly as needed also.

VLC application connected to playback_1 & playback_2.

At the time of this blog post the current setup has the Pro24 patched to be used as 6 inputs to Ardour and also stereo output signal patching for monitoring mixes from Ardour to the headphone jack, Analog 1 1/4 Out to Left Studio Monitor, Analog 2 1/4 Out to Right Studio Monitor, Analog 5 & Analog 6 1/4 Out’s to Studio Sub Monitor. Analog 3 & Analog 4 Out’s are used as Left and Right outputs to a separate monitoring console in another room or sometimes a analog tape unit when needed. The output signals of Analog 3 & Analog 4 are also the output signals going to the Headphone jack on the front of the Pro24.

Column 2 of the Crossbar Router corresponds to the analog outputs 1 through 6 and also headphone output of the Pro24.

Crossbar Router: Column 2 Output connections
Pro24 Output 1 = Analog:01 <- 1394:01 (Left)
Pro24 Output 2 = Analog:02 <- 1394:02 (Right)
Pro24 Output 3 = / (Headphone L)  Analog:03 <- 1394:01 (Left)
Pro24 Output 4 = / (Headphone R) Analog:04 <- 1394:02 (Right)
Pro24 Output 5 = Analog:05 <- 1394:01 (Left)
Pro24 Output 6 = Analog:06 <- 1394:02 (Right)

I set all other drop down menu selections in the Crossbar Router section to Mute just as a personal preference. That is has been a quick and dirty overview of my tracking setup using Debian Linux a Focusrite Saffire Pro24 and ffado-mixer, more detailed posts will come in the future for this and other setups.

ALWAYS make sure everything is turned all the way down before connecting or disconnecting items in the signal chain, better to be cautious than blow stuff up.

Part 2 will go over Monitoring in the next post.


Experimenting is good inspiration!

A couple days off for health reasons turned out to be a great thing for getting inspired. Limited in mobility, decided to experiment with guitar setups and sounds. Formed a horse-shoe fort with guitar amp, laptop on a diner tray, notebook and coffee on a 2nd diner tray blocking the world out.

Started with guitar > wah > amp at first. Around my 2nd or 10th trip to the kitchen to refill on coffee my old BlueTube preamp caught my eye and sparked a “signal strength” track of thought. An hour later after slowly moving things around to acquire said preamp I had it added into the signal chain as such, guitar > preamp ch1 > wah > amp.

The BlueTube I am using is the 2 channel or “Dual Path” model. I pulled the stock tube and replaced it with a Groove Tubes Gold Series 12AX7 tube. I don’t have any sound samples to do a before and after comparison but it made a big difference to the sound, at least it did to my ears.

NOTE: The tube drive level has a lot of affect on the tone so if you happen to try this setup I would suggest starting with the tube drive and gain levels at 0 and compare that sound to your guitar sound without the preamp. This will reveal to your ears if there is any coloring of your sound, with the BT levels at 0 it should sound like the tone you get without it in the signal chain. I’ve had 3 of these units in the past when my studio was still in full swing and did a comparison, 2 out of the 3 didn’t seem to color the sound at 0 but the 3rd did brighten the sound. Everything has its own characteristics especially if tubes are involved so don’t assume they are all identical. That goes for anything, pedals guitars amps, no 2 are identical.

Update Aug 17: After some tweaking the final setup for this gear and session will be guitar >> ch1 BT >> wah >> amp >> Direct Out to Pro24 ch1, Preamp Out to Pro24 ch3, SM57 Mic’d speaker cabinet to Pro24 ch2.




Hydrogen tips n tricks

While no drum software will ever be as good as a human drummer, with some time and effort you can get Hydrogen drum tracks to sound pretty damn close. Here are some things to do to help get your tracks feeling a bit more human’ish….

The first thing I do when creating a new Hydrogen drum track after choosing the Drumkit is to open the Mixer window and adjust the Master channels Humanize, Velocity & Swing knobs. As a starting place I usually adjust all 3 knobs to just above the “0” setting, roughly the 8’oclock position.


Next we’ll close the Mixer and go back to the main Hydrogen window. On the right side under the Instrument tab the bottom knob labeled “Random Pitch” is how to adjust each individual instrument in the Drumkit. A setting of 0.10 is usually what I will add to each instrument in the kit as a starting point.


At the bottom left of the screen there is a drop down menu of settings to make further adjustments to help humanize the tracks. The “Velocity” setting lets you adjust each hit’s loudness. By clicking the down arrow next to Velocity you can access the setting for “Lead and Lag” also. Adjusting this setting is probably in my opinion the most important one in getting the right “feel” out of the hit by adjusting whether the hit is slightly before or after the strict beat point. By adding just a bit either way you can really give some huge character to your drum tracks.

These are just some of the things you can do to help get more feeling from your Hydrogen drum tracks. Now go make some music!


When the inspiration is takin the day off….

Here are some other random tracks in the works…..

Land of the Free

Untitled demo 007

There’s over 100 idea tracks to pick from which I will post a couple every couple of days depending on which ones are sparking my interest to work on at the time. Feel like demo 007 is calling for a bass line idea from me today… and absolutely a better Hydrogen drum track for LotF. Yikes!

Update: here is a new demo for demo 007 with a working title…

Paid My Dues demo 007

Got the first draft of lyrics and the title is Paid My Dues.


Side Note: This just shows how a day that started with no inspirational direction could turn 180 degrees and actually be very productive! The Power of Music!!!