Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hydrogen pattern editor buttons

After finding out about some nifty 'new' features (not really new, i just didn't know they existed!) in Hydrogen i created some more mockups:

It still needs work, but it's getting better IMO !

And a previous version :

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PRO DSP1000P automation with Hydrogen PART 2

The original post can be found here, but to recap :

The goal : control a hardware FX unit with Hydrogen
Why : to be able to select a specific FX per song (or part of the song)
How : using Midi + minimal tools

After some googling and great help from the Linux Audio Developer mailing list (thanks Harry, Jeremy, Clemens, Frank, Olivier, Adrian) my FX unit now switches to a specific preset whenever i jump to the next/previous song in Hydrogen !

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Simple guitar A/B switch

A couple of weeks ago my brother, my cousin and I attended the annual Muzikanten dag (musicians day) event in the AB in Brussels.  On that day you can participate in numerous music workshops, demo's, training sessions ... you name it.
I really enjoyed the day and my cousin got inspired by the 'wall of sound' workshop by the Belgian band The sore losers.  They had some really good tips on how to create your guitar sound, and one of the key elements in their setup was a simple A/B switch.  They use the A/B switch to switch between 2 amps.  This is a very simple -but clever- way to get a punchy solo sound : hit a button, second amp switches on > instant boost.
The trick is to set the second amp relatively 'clean' so you don't loose the 'punch' of your sound.

A couple of days later my cousin asked me if i could build such a switch, and this is the result :

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hydrogen GUI update

I'm currently working on some updates for the Hydrogen manual, and i also made some mock-ups of the Hydrogen GUI.  More specifically the pattern editor control buttons (the part just above the pattern editor)
Currently this is a mix of buttons, 'LCD' displays and dropdowns.  This inconsistency has been bugging me for some time now and i decided to have a go at it.
First priority : replace the different elements with simple, intuitive buttons. Simple.

The buttons are all bitmaps so it is quite time consuming to get a good looking 'icon' on them.

Below is a first attempt (top=new, bottom=current) :

It's far from perfect, but it's a start !

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

rugged laptop : part II

I upgraded my rugged laptop with a 3.5mm stereo jack > 2x 6mm mono jack sockets 'assembly'.
This makes is a lot easier to connect the laptop to the mixing console since i can now use regular guitar leads + the fragile 3.5mm jack is tucked away safely  :-)

I also added a power strip.  You can never have too many power outlets !

Monday, November 7, 2011

PRO DSP1000P automation with Hydrogen ?

Up until now we have always rehearsed and gigged without any FX applied to the vocals.  In fact we use almost no FX on any of our instruments either.  I guess that mainly has to do with the no-nonsense in-your-face type of pop/rock we play.
However, after or last gig my niece said we should add a bit more reverb to the vocals.
When i told her that we have no FX unit (not even built into the mixer) she looked at me as if i was some sort of alien  ;-)

I dont like people looking at me as if i'm an alien, so today we bought a second hand FX unit

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Today i bought a pair of KRK VXT6 studio monitors  :-)

This is how it works : "take your favorite CD's with you, listen to the monitors, chose the one that sounds 'right' for you"

Some remarks if I may :

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

rugged laptop for live usage

About a week ago i got an old Compaq EVO N610c laptop from my brother to see if it was good enough to run Hydrogen for live usage. Specs : P4 2GHz, 512 Mb ram
I started by installing standard Ubuntu 11.04, applied all the usual audio tweaks and found out that i could get the Jack latency down to about 10ms without running into any X-runs. Not bad, not bad at all :-)
Next i copied all the Hydrogen songs and the playlist from my main laptop to the EVO, connected my midi keyboard (to simulate the midi drum that would normally be connected to this laptop to trigger sounds and patterns) and i was rockin' !

With all the software in place i wanted to go just one step further and see if i could 'ruggedize' the laptop to make it suitable for live usage. I also wanted to see if i could reduce the setup time (connecting cables) and make it as reliable as possible.

This is what i came up with :

Monday, September 19, 2011

Amsynth jacksession support

Beginning of the week i filed 2 bug reports for Amsynth.  Today one of them was fixed. And the other one, well, was no bug :-S BUT it did help the developer of Amsynth (Nick Dowell) to figure out how jack_session works in QjackCtl and fix an other minor bug :-)
It is always nice to get some feedback on a bug you file, and its even better if the bug actually gets fixed.
I love Amsynth

Startup manager

A couple of days ago i decided to cleanup the audio startup scripts i created so far and put them all together into 1 'master' startup script.
Since i have a number of different startup scripts for various configurations (internal sound card, firewire soundcard, network setup, softsynths ...) I wanted to make it flexible and easy to extend + avoid using the terminal to start it up. For this last bit i used zenity and this is the result :
I created a launcher on my desktop so i can easily access it, and although i'm not 100% happy with it yet it definitely helps me when i want to switch between different setups or when i want to try something new.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nice article : Jack and friends

i just stumbled upon this nice article about Jack and some of the most famous Jacked audio apps. Not too much detail, but it's still a nice article. Enjoy !

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jack_session first steps : it ROCKS !

I just did a first test with the jack_session session management and i gotta say i'm impressed !
The setup was simple : AlsaPlayer, Yoshimi and Qtracktor. To manage jack i upgraded QjackCtl to version V0.3.7 (from the KXStudio PPA) and after starting it up i saw a new 'Session' button on it:

Monday, August 22, 2011

session management confusion

Like i wrote before : there are LOTS of session management options to choose from in the linux world. They all more-or-less do the same thing, but they dont work for all apps, require different jack versions ...

Today i stumbled upon a forum thread on that illustrates this confusion very well.

Let me warn you : the chances are that you will be even more confused after reading this ;-)

quick & easy audio setup

I have been thinking about the easiest and quickest way to configure my current live setup (jack-hydrogen-alsaplayer) that i talked about in previous posts.  The goal is to startup the PC, click 1 shortcut and the setup is running.
You could see this as a 'mini' session, so LADISH could be an option.  However, i wanted to keep it really simple since the configuration of this setup doesn't change often and there are only 3 components in the setup.

I decided to write a small bash script :

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MP3 player with Jack output

When we're rehearsing a (new) cover-song with the band we sometimes need to listen to the song while rehearsing it (but only on the rear occasions -cough!- that one of us did not find the time to do his homework ;-)
We have our mixer and speakers set up, my laptop connected, so whats the problem ?  Just play the darn MP3 !  Well, no...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hydrogen finally gets a PPA

Great news for Ubuntu users : the KXStudio team has created a dedicated Hydrogen PPA !
This PPA contains the 0.9.5 release for all recent Ubuntu versions AND a svn snapshot for those of you that want to check out the latest (unstable !!) 0.9.6 version of Hydrogen.
Kudos to Filipe of the KXStudio team !
More info on the download page !

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PPA for Hydrogen (part2)

After some testing (and some problems on a system of one of the Hydrogen users) i discovered that the KXStudio PPA seems to install more than just Hydrogen 0.9.5 when you install it.
Apparently Filipe uses the latest-and-greatest packages to build Hydrogen (and all the other apps he has on his 'main' PPA) and this causes the automatic install of a number of recent lib's and even a more recent version of jackd.

After talking to Filipe about this it looks like Hydrogen is about to get it's very own PPA !

The only difference would be that in this PPA Hydrogen will be compiled using the official (but outdated) packages and as a consequence no other (more recent) packages will be auto-installed when you install Hydrogen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jack_session support for Hydrogen

Linux audio is a true adventure.  Just when you think you have seen it all some other app pops up and blows you away ...  at least sometimes.  In case it doesn't you just move on and continue your quest for something that does.

So many choices, soooo many different apps.  Pretty much like on Mac, only cheaper, right ?  Not really.
There are a few things that bug me in Linux audio and one of them is session management.
Session management is the ability to save/restore all your running audio apps at once, in other words your 'session'.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PPA for Hydrogen !

Today i mailed a couple of times with the owner of the KXStudio PPA, Filipe.
Since there are no Ubuntu installers available for Hydrogen 0.9.5 i wanted to see if i could link to his PPA instead.
He was actually very enthusiastic and told me that he would be more than happy to collaborate!

On his main PPA there are Hydrogen 0.9.5 versions for Ubuntu Lucid, Natty and Maverick and he even has a 'latest' PPA where he regularly uploads snapshot builds (alpha versions).  This is great news for anyone that wants to test the latest version of Hydrogen but doesn't know how to (or doesn't want to) build Hydrogen from source.  Now you can simply install it like any other application :-)
I hope this way we will get more testers and more feedback.

Thanks Filipe !

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Just 'tagged' the keys on my m-audio 49e.
Makes life a _lot_ easier!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mac and Linux

A couple of weeks ago i took a 3-session workshop on audio producing in 'het Entrepot' where i met a couple of nice guys that made me feel quite old ;-)
Since it was a hands-on workshop, we all had our laptops with us, so it was really cool to see everyone's workflow.

The workshop was lectured by Mattias (aka DJ Biaz) who got his audio engineering degree at SAE and works in Concertgebouw Brugge as chief audio engineer.  In his spare time he is a DJ and he creates his own music.  It's safe to say that he knows what he is talking about !
During the workshop we talked about audio producing and more specific about how making music on Linux differs from making music on a Mac (the industry standard).  At first he was surprised to see someone using Linux to make music and later on this changed to curiosity...

A week ago i contacted him again and asked him if he would be interested in 'an experiment'.  The idea is to make a comparison between the Mac and Linux apps.
Not a competition but an open minded look at both systems/apps.

I'm quite exited about this !
stay tuned ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


As you probably know softsynths come in all shapes and sizes : stand-alone apps, plugins (DSSI), soundfont players, modular synthesis, emulators ...

After a lot of testing and playing around i decided to use these in my setup :
- AMsynth : a simple but very high quality 'analogue' modular synth
- Qsynth : this is actually a GUI frontend to fluidsynth witch is a soundfont player (plays SF2 files)
- Phasex : a not-so-simple 'analogue' modular synth with virtually unlimited possibilities but a very un-sexy interface
- Bristol / Brighton : an engine + GUI with some great classic synth emulations (including the original synth look ! - very sexy)

There are some more synths that i sometimes use (like Yoshimi, Hexter ...) but for now i'll limit my setup to these and try to figure out what session management system works best for me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blogger on android

Just installed blogger on my android phone.
Nice simple app. Me like :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Hydrogen is an advanced drum machine for GNU/Linux ....
uh ?

let's break that down :
Hydrogen : is just a really cool name for a program
Advanced drum machine : it's a drum computer (no matter what they say ;-)
for GNU/Linux : well it's not just for Linux, there are Mac/Win ports

Last year i spent some time working on the manual and new site of Hydrogen.  I updated the manual and also wrote a case study about the hydrogen setup we use live-on-stage with our band Cocasse.
From time to time i dive into the code (and almost drown) but i mainly focus on the usability of Hydrogen.

not sure ...

if it's actually a good idea to start a blog ... lack of time would be the main reason for not doing it.
Still i feel like i should put down what i'm working on.  Not just so i wouldn't forget what i did ;-) but to be able to share it with whomever is interested in Audio, Linux and especially good quality and _usable_ linux audio.

Hope this will be of use to someone  :-)