Friday, December 30, 2011

The Soundcheck With Unexpected Results

I did a brief soundcheck to make sure all of my recording equipment was working with the new computer. It was, thankfully, and so I recorded this little snippet. I plugged the guitar direct in without an amp, so don't expect a fantastic-sounding recording. The precision on my guitar playing is not the greatest either:

Now this is pretty boring, I must say. I would have no desire to listen to this. So then I decided I would apply some strange effects using a program called Ardour. Ardour is what I use for recording and mixing. It has the same functionality of commercial programs such as Cubase, but it is free and open-source. There are a number of effects plugins that are created for Linux that can be used with Ardour, and they are collectively known as Linux Audio Developers Simple Plugin API, or "LADSPA." Both Ardour and the LADSPA plugins can be installed simply in Linux by searching for them in the software list.

Ardour is a more powerful program than other free recording programs, such as Audacity, because effects can be applied non-destructively. This means that the underlying file is always there as it was, not matter what is layered on top. If you apply, say, a reverb effect, and you decide you don't like it, you can remove it or adjust the settings without having to undo all the moves you made since you applied the reverb in the first place.

There are many LADSPA plugins, and they can do a wide range of things, including the standard effects of distortion, reverb, chorus, etc., but also more unconventional effects. For this example I decided to apply some weird ones to the sample you just heard. The "rhythm guitar" sound has an effect called Pointer Cast Distortion (using extreme parameters for maximum weirdness). The "lead guitar" sound has several effects, including Standard Reverb, Barry's Satan Maximizer (awesome name), Calf Rotary Speaker, and the Dyson Compressor.

The result is a file called "This Makes No Sense. (I got this title from an error message that Ardour gave me, saying that what I was trying to apply a plugin in a way that made no sense) Take a listen:

A little quirky, for sure. I then wondered what would happen if I edited the file using an obscure free program called Mammut (many thanks to Baljinder Sekhon for telling me about this one). Mammut describes itself as "Non-intuitive Sound Transformation." It can be downloaded here:

I was having trouble installing Mammut on Ubuntu, so I actually downloaded the Windows version and ran it through Linux's Windows Emulator, known more commonly as WINE.

Mammut has a very cool effect called the Stretch Effect. I took the file "This Makes No Sense," and using a stretch value of 1.3, made a new file that sounds quite severe. For lack of a better title, it is called "This Still Makes No Sense.":

For all you audio geeks out there, I hope you try out Mammut. You will be able to make sounds you didn't know existed. With all this technology , just remember to use your powers to make your music sound evil...

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