dBs Recommends – our series leading you to new discoveries in the world of sound and music. From albums, podcasts and plugins to live streams, innovation and tech, we bring you new things to check out that come recommended by our community.
One of the biggest barriers to creativity for any music producer can be the dreaded 'writer's block', especially for those who are not classically trained musicians or sound designers. Even creators who do have a high level of musical training can find themselves feeling uninspired from time to time or stuck in a cycle of using the same processes or techniques by force of habit.
Fortunately, we live in an age where technology can come to the rescue, providing a plethora of amazing tools that can be easily used to kick start your creativity. The music production world is blessed with open source projects and communities of music tech creators harnessing the latest technology to produce new and innovative tools.
For this edition of dBs Recommends, we asked our community to suggest 5 game-changing plugins that will transform your music creation process. We were treated with unique, innovative and inspiring pieces of software, featuring a mix of open source collaborative projects, machine learning technology and examples of elegant workflow hacking tools.
We present to you - 5 game changing plugins that will transform your productions.
Factor Synth 2
Factor Synth 2 is a unique instrument and one of the first of its kind. It's creator JJ Burred developed a data analysis algorithm called 'Matrix Factorization' that decomposes audio and translates it into time based data (in the form of shapes) and spectral frequency data (also in the form of shapes). These shapes can be altered, overwritten, rearranged, transformed and totally manipulated.
This type of processing gives the user the ability to remove notes or motifs, create new ones, randomise melodies or timbres, change rhythmical patterns, remix loops in real time, create complex sound textures and more.
Magenta is a sub project run by members of the Google brain team. They are a research group dedicated to understanding how to use machine learning in the space of the arts.Their work is focussed on building machine learning tools that give musicians new ways to express themselves. They have created a range of different devices and all of their work, including the algorithms, are open source and available on Git Hub.
Magenta Studio is a MIDI plugin available for Ableton Live and as a standalone. It contains 5 tools: Continue, Groove, Generate, Drumify, and Interpolate. Each tool can perform a different function with an aim of enhancing the creative process.
Continue uses the predictive power of recurrent neural networks (RNN) to generate notes that are likely to follow your drum beat or melody. Generate is similar to Continue, but it generates a 4 bar musical phrase with no input necessary.
Interpolate takes two drum beats or two melodies as inputs. It then generates up to 16 clips which combine the qualities of these two clips. It's useful for merging musical ideas, or creating a smooth morphing between them.
Groove adjusts the timing and velocity of an input drum clip to produce the "feel" of a drummer's performance. This is similar to what a “humanize" plugin does, but achieved in a totally different way.
Drumify creates grooves based on the rhythm of any input. It can be used to generate a drum accompaniment to a bassline or melody, or to create a drum track from a tapped rhythm.
Those who are familiar with modular synthesis will have no doubt heard of Make Noise's 'Rene' sequencer, named after famous mathematician Rene Descartes. At the time of production 'Rene' was the world's first Cartesian Sequencer which generated sequences using the mathematics underpinning Rene Descartes' ground breaking cartesian geometry. MDD Snake is a Max for Live version that extends the functionality of Rene adding randomisation options at every point of the programming process. MDD Snake is capable of producing intricate and infinite patterns for both synths and percussion instruments.
Pure Magnetic - Pastfabric
Pastfabric sounds and behaves similar to a delay unit. It works by slicing and manipulating audio that is placed in a 10 second buffer. Pure Magnetic call it a micro-slicing machine and it's great for generating rhythmic or melodic ideas quickly. The fantastic thing about Pastfabric is the range of different sounds it can produce using your audio. It can sound digital, analogue, glitchy or ambient and produces inspiring results quickly.
Kinesotronic - Refractor
Refractor is collaboration between Electronic Music Production degree tutors Matt Ward & Chris Pratt. Chris and Matt are both avid producers who regularly perform live using modular synthesisers, hardware instruments and Ableton. With so many pieces of equipment to manage on stage the pair often talked about creating something that could use movement and gestures to control multiple destinations at once.
That dream has become a reality with the launch of their company Kinesotronic and their flagship device Refractor. Refractor is a precision macro device, allowing you to control complex interactions with a modular synthesiser, hardware or Ableton Live/Max MSP. This can be controlled through a specific sensor that you choose to implement to suit your particular area of expertise. Tested examples include using the device with crossfaders, breath controllers, touch-sensitive controllers, sound beam, pedals, light sensors and more.
"Refractor will alleviate needing 8 hands to perform complex actions by allowing fluent gestural control and a higher standard of virtuosity. By applying a simple method to perform and maximise potential and complexity, Refractor will take your performances to the next level." - Kinesotronic
FIND OUT MORE