Learning Granular Synthesis pt 2

A very short post today, to say that it’s been a slow process trying to get my head round Max over the last couple of months, but I finally have a fairly useable patch that I’ve been playing around with quite a lot.

Really this is more of a glorified sample player than a true granular synthesis patch, in as much as it has no options for multiple grains, grain density and so on. Still, I’m pretty happy with it as a complete novice to both granular synthesis and programming in general.

In presentation mode it even looks (reasonably) presentable:

Out of presentation mode, not so much:

I’m working on some new music using prepared guitar samples processed through this patch, I’ll update this post with some of it when I’m ready to share. In the mean time if you’d like to share Max patches with me please get in touch, I need all the help I can get…

Learning Granular Synthesis Pt 1

In the last couple of weeks on my MA course, we’ve been learning about editing audio using phase vocoder based technologies, and granular synthesis. This is frankly, all a bit technical and mind bending for me, but I think i’m starting to get my head around it and I’ve been playing around with editing some of my field recordings to create ambient/drone pieces.

On the 2nd of November I was out and about around the Harbourside in Bristol making some field recordings.


Field Recording on the pontoon beneath Prince’s Street Bridge

I borrowed some kit from the universities asset store (Sound Devices 552, Rode NT4) and made some basic stereo recordings from various points around the Harbourside.

Here’s one of those recordings, after normalisation and trimming in Audacity.

As you can hear in the above clip, theres some pretty prominent violin playing from a guy to my right at the start (he was pretty good!)

I decided that it might be fun to try and use some spectral editing to remove some of the partials that were not his violin, with the aim of making his playing more prominent and hopefully without completely trashing the original sound in the process.

I used SPEAR to do this, which is pretty fun to play around with and free! Here’s the result.

As you can hear I (somewhat) succeeded in making the violin more prominent, however I kind of turned the rest of the recording into a strange, banshee like sine wave fest. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but since SPEAR actually re-synthesises the sound, it’s kind of impossible to avoid this if you remove lots of the quieter partials. At least for me it is, more practice and time with it will help i’m sure.

Anyway, I then took this file and fed it into MacPOD (another cool piece of free software) and did some granular synthesis mostly just using snippets from the first 10 seconds or so where the violin is playing. Here’s the result of that.

I’m pretty happy with this as both something substantially more listenable (to my ears at least) than the original re-synthesis, and significantly far removed from the original field recording.

I’m currently playing around with Max, building a very basic granular synth patch, in part 2 I’ll talk about that, share the patch and hopefully some interesting sounds I’ve made with it!

Fun with Hydrophones

This month I have begun my MA program and so far it seems like it’s going to be loads of fun.

The other folks on my course all seem very nice and they have a diverse range of interests in all kinds of things sound related, from the super high tech, to the very low tech.

So far, aside from the obvious beginning of essay writing, I have mostly been focusing on making some underwater recordings.

I hired out some Jez Riley French hydrophones from the uni’s asset store and have been making lots of recordings with them. Mostly this involves trying to get them to stay underwater by sticking them in slightly awkward places like this:

Results have been varied to say the least but I’ve got some recordings that I’m pretty happy with and the process itself really encourages you to listen and experiment with placement a lot, which has been very fun.

I’ll update this post with some of the recordings I’ve made in the next week or so.

Update: Here’s a recording I made at Bristol Harbourside from the end of a pontoon. I dropped the hydrophone about 4 metres down into the water and came across this terrifying scraping sound. Ten nerd points for anyone who can identify it. My best guess is some kind of sluice/valve thing or some part of a boat (although there were no obviously moving or loud boats around at the time)

DIY Parabolic Mic!

After some months of faffing around and one botched attempt I have finally finished building a rudimentary DIY parabolic mic to use for field recordings. In total, the project probably cost me around £15 and I’m pretty happy with the result.

 

 

The materials I used are as follows:
1x Large Plastic Bin Lid
1x Jam Jar Lid
2x Jubilee Clips
1x Wooden Dowel
1x Metal Pipe
1x Lavalier (around £8 from amazon)
Gaffer’s Tape
Cable Ties

The only tools I used were a hacksaw, hot glue gun, drill, ruler, pen and a pair of scissors. The basic idea for my design came from this article and it was pretty simple to construct. I modified their design slightly after calculating (very roughly using the formula found here) where the focal point of my parabola was. Seeing as the bin lid I used as a dish is not a true parabolic curve, it doesn’t reflect quite as well as it would if it was, but i’m happy with it anyhow for the time being.

There are lots of folks out there who have made substantially better parabolic reflectors than me and some who have  constructed their own mics for the purpose. Check out examples here and here for starters.

Field recordings to follow shortly!

Update: Here’s a field recording made with the mic.

 

Update: I’ve now retired this mic as it was a bit unwieldy, fragile and not that effective. Still a good learning experience for me though! I took the lav mic and repurposed it into a DIY stethoscope mic which you can read more about here.

First Transmission

Over the coming months I will be using this blog to keep a diary of my work.

I hope to be able to keep track of my projects here, whilst also sharing my thoughts and feelings about the various things I’m working on with the aim of improving my writing skills and creating an ongoing document of my work.

I’m currently in the process of building a DIY hydrophone and a parabolic reflector to use for field recordings.

I will be sharing my progress and any subsequent recordings I make with them here over the next few months.
img_20180228_141820_888~21825124847..jpg