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I ordered a Stylophone Beatbox immediately after viewing this video.

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Image from spillingcoffee.com, which offers these specially designed pads for sale.

You might remember my rant about how my iPod died the day before my 14 hour drive to Memphis, thus forcing me to listen to some pretty crappy local radio the whole way. Well after doing a little research on the internet I decided to give good ol’ kick mechanics a try (e.g. knocking it around a little). What did I have to lose? it was just a paper weight anyway. Actually my plan was to turn it into a super fly piece of bling by attaching it to a big gold chain.

I actually did find some supportive testimonials online saying that a good whack will cure an ailing iPod. And my good buddy Tony had done the same thing with good results. So with a couple whacks on the surface of my desk, I plugged the sucker in and lo and behold I could import music with no problem!

I can’t decide if I want to rename my resurrected iPod Lazarus, or Andy Kaufman.

Update: It seems the iPod is still a bit messed. It’s picky about uploading tracks now. I does work. But, only sometimes. So the miracle cure wasn’t as great as I thought. I’ll just have to find something more interesting to do with it. I wonder how much it would cost to shoot it out into space?

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It was just a few days ago that I discovered this organ next to the dumpsters of a church down the street from Acme Siren Headquarters. I was parked near by and already late for work. I decided to snatch the organ while I could. At first I tried to jam it into the back seat of the Buick figuring I’d leave it in the car while I was at work and bring it home with me when the day was done. After a few unsuccessful (although humorous) attempts I realized I wasn’t going to get it in the back seat. The trunk being full of other found goodies was also not an option. So I grabbed it in a bear hug and started back to Siren Headquarters.

My grandmother had an electric organ which I never heard her play. But as a child I was always impressed with the array of multicolored switches and dials. And the tempo beats! Samba! Rock! Cha Cha! What fun!. Many a time I would sit down with those over-sized earmuff style headphones and bang away. In more recent history my good friend Mr. Snead purchased an organ of the Craig’s list a couple summers ago (it had a really kickin’ bass sound). It the two of us an hour to haul it up to his thrid floor attic apartment. With this in mind I was surprised with how light my new organ was. Work would have to wait, I had to try this thing out.

I plugged it in as soon as I got home. It worked! That’s all I needed to hear and I rushed off to work.

It was a day or two later when I finally got around to really messing around with it. I wasn’t so enamored with the sound of the keyboard, but the chord box was amazing. What magic! To play a chord with the touch of a single button. And to have 18 of them! Hours of fun. It would have been if one of the reeds hadn’t gotten stuck open resulting in a continuous drone of B-flat. So I decided to open it up and try to fix it. I had never done anything like this before, and I have almost no knowledge of electronics. But If I broke it even more, so what, it was free. This is where the story gets interesting.

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The first thing I did was take the back masonite panel off. There wasn’t much back there. Actually there wasn’t ANYthing back there. Now, Silvertone instruments were sold at Sears and have been known to have been the bottom of the barrel in musical instruments. The instruments were made by various manufactures, and were often made of low grade materials. So I wasn’t very surprised to find nothing behind the back panel.

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With the back removed I was able to see that the keyboard and the rest of the important stuff was all one piece. And with the removal of a few screws I was able to pull it straight out from the rest of the cabinet.

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Next I set about removing the various panels from the housing trying to locate the stuck reed. I first removed the housing from underneath the electric motor. It was then that I realized that this thing was entirely mechanical. Not a single circut in the whole thing.

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Then I removed the cover from the keyboard reed assembly. The cavity was lined with foam to absorb the sound, just like how old speakers are made. Each individual reed looks to have been filed and/or weighted individually. I assume this is how they are tuned. The reed assembly itself is made of oak and is in great condition. But my problem didn’t lie in the keyboard it was in the chord box.

With a little poking around I figured out that the chord box was attached to the housing with only 3 screws. With their removal and a little jostling the whole thing popped right out. No wires, no strings, no nothing. The reeds sit insde a separate cavity from the rest of the reeds, but use the same air flow from the same fan. The engineering of it was pretty impressive. And this is an entry-level instrument, just step or two up from being a toy!

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There was another cover to remove after the chord box had been removed. Underneath it was the really impressive stuff. The guts of the chord box. A mass of levers which served to operate multiple reeds with the press of a button. It was easy to locate the stuck reed lever, and I gently pushed it back into place. I gave the buttons a once over to make sure they all worked properly (and just to see the levers move some more.).

Re-assembling all the pieces I counted a total of 16 screws. Only 16! I didn’t even have any pieces left over. I decided to ditch the cabinet and just keep the main keyboard component, that will save some room at Siren headquarters. I have also officially dubbed this organ The Acme Organ.

Who knows what will happen next with it. I’d like to replace all the springs with some that are little tighter. Just to tighten up the action on the keyboard and add some attack and release variability overall. I’ll keep you posted on any other developments and modifications.

To see the full photoset, plus videos, visit my flickr page.

This Thursday, Sept. 10, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider will attempt the first full circulation of a high-energy particle beam. “What is the Large Hadron Collider,” you ask? “What’s all this jive about high-energy protons you be spittin’?”

Well, let me expain in the form of a rap!

You know you want this fly hoodie with a breakdancing Empire State Building! That’s right New York! Let me know where you at!

Found these great cell phone concepts from Yamaha on NOTCOT.org today. (Click on the icons at the bottom and then the black box with the arrow to view the videos, or watch the videos here) Looks like some really cool stuff is being done with the form factor of the cell phone. The cube is especially surprising and delightful.

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Wow, it’s nice to see someone making amps and effects with no regard for the tone-obsessed dip-shits who spend all day at Guitar Center telling everyone how they spent thousands of dollars on an amp because Steve Vai used it on Firegarden. Assholes.

Metasonix makes tube-driven guitar amps and effects with tubes not meant for guitar amplification. With names like “G-1000 Fucking Fucker” and “TM-7 Scrotum Smasher” (my personal favorite) these puppies aren’t for the faint of heart, and Metasonix has no problem telling you that right to your fucking face!

“The TM-7 is for the DISCIPLINED, intelligent, non-risk-averse musician. It is NOT SUITABLE for whiny little d00dz who seek the Ultimate Tone. Suck it, Dimebag fans. And stop flossing your ragged green teeth with your crotch hair. You disgust me. Scrotum!”

I’m sold. I want one to run my turntable through!


Herbie Hancock jams with his Fairlight CMI


Jel sweetcreaminit live mix on his MPC

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Comic from the always funny Toothpaste For Dinner 

I usually don’t like to talk to people about records. And when I say ‘records’ I mean the black vinyl disks with music on them. I love talking about the music on the records. When I refer to the music on a particular black vinyl disk I use the word ‘album’. I also apply this term to CDs and music bought off the internet, kind of a catch-all phrase for a collection of songs by an artist (or artists) regardless of medium.

The worst record conversations are with people over the age of 40. And record collectors. Record collectors can really piss me off. And if someone is a record collector over 40 I really get nervous. I think of myself as an enthusiast, not a collector. The main difference in my mind is I buy and hold on to records for many many reasons. Because I like the music, the cover art is cool, the notion of the record is interesting, etc. Collectors buy and hold on to records because of a perceived monetary value. This is understandable since collectors need to draw an income, or a return on investment from what it is they are collecting. Now, I must confess I’ve made a little money selling records. Once. Because I got really lucky. I came across a bunch of picture disks and a couple sealed copies of some rather popular records from the eighties. I bought them for a dollar a piece at the Salvation Army, and tripled my money when I sold them at Cheapo. That was the only time. I don’t regret it and I’ll acknowledge it, but making making money and reselling records is not my motivation for buying them in the first place.

The reason I hate conversations about records with people over 40 is because it’s ALWAYS the same exact conversation. Here’s how it breaks down:

1.) 40 year-old discovers that I own some records.

2.) 40 year-old states that it’s unusual for someone my age to own records.

3.) 40 year-old tells of their record collection when they were younger.

4.) 40 year-old asks me what records I listen to. Most times they are totally unfamiliar with the records I buy, because I buy random records for the reasons listed above.

5.) 40 year-old tells of how their record collection either a.) was sold off/stolen/abandoned by family/friends/girlfriend/boyfriend; or b.) still resides in their basement/parents basement.

6.) 40 year-old expresses interest in acquiring said records and listening to them again.

7.) 40 year-old tells of the audible difference between records and CDs. This statement leads eventually to the fact that some records were never transfered to CD.

8.) And on, and on, and on …

I’ve left out most of my responses because usually I just smile and nod, having heard all the nostalgia a million times before. I also limit my responses for the simple fact that I don’t want to encourage this dreadful conversation.

Just this morning I was in the bathroom at work and the guy who comes in once a week to water the plants walks in and begins the ’40 year-old Record Conversation’ at step 4 (he had completed steps 1–3 at an earlier date). Now I’m not one for talking about ANYTHING in the mens room, (I think it’s something I picked up in the Boy Scouts) let alone records. So, this guy is at the urinal T.C.O.B. going on about records. I’ve already washed my hands and have my hand on the door waiting for an opportunity to make a quick escape. But this guy just keeps going. He finishes his business at the urinal and he just keeps talking (he’s at step 8 now). He washes his hand and he just keeps talking. We are both ready to leave the men’s room since we both have no further business to conduct in that setting, and he just keeps talking. We end up leaving the men’s room together, and the ‘conversation’ spills out into the atrium of the building. I’m nodding and interjecting with the required ‘yeah’ and ‘that’s interesting’ every now and again, all the while slowly backing up, inching my way closer to the door of my office and increasing the distance between us. He doesn’t even notice, just starts talking louder to compensate. And just when I think I’m going to have to call the office and tell them to notify everyone that I won’t be available for the rest of the day because of some stupid China-Syndrome record conversation he lays a doozy on me. Having found his way back to step 7 he compares a record to a camera in the sense that certain cultures believed the camera was capable of stealing souls, and that the audio quality and physical nature of vinyl was similar. That all the noise and all the pops and scratches and shit are an essential part of the ‘soul’ captured and imprisoned in the vinyl. And I thought, “That is really fucking interesting.” The comparison to photography alone was great. The idea that the physical inscription of the vinyl captures a representation of a time, a place, and an occurrence is very similar to that of film based photography. And when he dropped the soul stealing aspect on me, he really blew my mind. In a way, DJing and sampling, are ways of manipulating those trapped souls. A way to make them say something other than the original message. Anyone who disagrees can look to the controversy regarding sampling and usage rights. On some level I’m sure it’s about money but it’s also about letting the soul speak for itself rather than having a new message attached to it after the fact. But on the other hand using that music again gives it a new life, (I promise I won’t get too biblical).

Back in the early-mid nineties I thought music piracy and file sharing were, in a way, beneficial to the idea of music. It freed music from the confines of a physical medium, making it more ‘musical’ somehow. After all, the origin of music, literally and historically, is live performance, not a cassette tape or a CD. So why should it matter where or how you got that music? I felt that when I did buy a CD that my money was paying for the encasement of the music, and not the music itself. The music existed beyond the CD, it floated in the ether of the universe. Unlike books where the words are clearly visible in black and white, and you can see that they exist, music offers no such proof of existence. The fact that music is audible and not visual helped with this notion of ethereal existence.

So to bring it all back to the uncomfortable conversation I had in the men’s room, I am now thinking that the encasement of music is just as important as the music itself. The medium is as important as the message. The music may exist in some ethereal alternate music universe, but it’s the medium that allows it to live in ours. It’s the medium that lets us interact and manipulate that message (for better or for worse). It’s the medium that these 40 year-olds are nostalgic for. They still enjoy the message of the music in CD or mp3 format, but the fact remains it’s just not the same. I just wish they would quit talking to me about it.

Note: No 40 year-olds were harmed in the writing of this document.

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I was at Cheapo Records the other day and noticed something interesting. A lot of newly released vinyl albums are also including access codes for a one-time download of the same album, for free! What a great idea. There are a lot of albums that I download that I’m not willing to purchase on vinyl because of the added cost, and the fact that I could only listen to them at home. But, if I can get both by buying the vinyl first I’ll gladly do that.

Apparently adding a digital feature to vinyl record isn’t new. I found this link today (via Coudal) that tells all about albums from the 80s that contained analog sound data that would be recorded on to a cassette and then loaded on to a computer. The computer would read the analog sound data and convert it into pictures and games! This is something that really needs to revisited. I can see a band like !!! or AIR pulling it off really well. Aphex Twin did something similar in 2001 by “hiding”imagery in the sound spectrum of specific songs (you can watch the video here, skip to 5:27). These images utilize more sophisticated technology than is probably storable on a vinyl record, but with the technological advancements in the last 20 years, and the resurgent popularity of vinyl, something comparable has to be possible with records.