Posts Tagged 'mikro'

A Classical Electronic Rivalry?

I’ll admit this up front: I do have a little bit of the music snob in me, there are certain things that I just can’t stand to listen to. That said, I think those songs are in the significant minority, and I wouldn’t say that there were any entire genres I look down upon. I’m not a big fan of a lot of modern chart pop or RnB, but, even then, I still think Kylie’s Koocachoo is an absolutely superb tune, be it bubblegum pop or not.

If you’re a downer on all popular music though, where do you stand on The Beatles? Or Motown? Will people in forty years be looking back at S Club 7 the way we look at Martha Reeves now? Actually, I’m not 100% on that… What I like to think though, is that, even if I don’t like to listen to the music, I can still appreciate the effort that’s gone into making it. Celine Dion for example, I would never voluntarily listen to one of her songs, but you can’t deny she’s got a good pair of lungs on her…

Before I bought my Maschine Mikro, I was checking out some of the demos on YouTube, and came across one by finger-drumming maestro Jeremy Ellis. This guy is good. When I checked out the comments, I found one from someone who was asking if this is what music had come to, with people thinking that pressing buttons quickly makes someone talented, before going on to say that cellists, pianists etc spend time mastering their instrument and that real music died some time ago. I think this is pretty unfair.

I think his thought seemed to be that hitting those buttons quickly didn’t require any practice or training. Perhaps the originator of this comment would like to pick up a sampler, make some hits and loops, program his groups and play something for us to show us how easy it is. These arguments are nothing new, the attitudes to jazz when it was breaking through had the same sort of ring to them, and some people still look down on anything other than ‘classical’, orchestral music.

Me, I think some classical music is incredible. Listen to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D minor and try not to be moved by it. However, I find a lot of classical music dull and uninteresting. I think you can perhaps make a good argument that the only real originality and experimentation in music comes from electronic music these days. Modern ‘classical’ composers seem to be trying to be more dissonant and avant-garde, but are they doing anything that hasn’t already been released on Warp?

This post first appeared as a news item on NowThenRecords.

The Maschine Mikro

Following the success of Native Instruments’ Maschine comes the Maschine Mikro, a stripped down piece of hardware for those with either more limited wallets, or those needing a bit more in the way of portability, but with exactly the same power of the Maschine software.

If you’ve not checked out the Maschine before it is, fundamentally, a groovebox: everything you need to make a complete tune (once you add a computer…), albeit with the advantage of a full-size screen, rather than squinting and menu scrolling on the grooveboxes you may have used before. Having myself previously struggled with a Yamaha RMX-1 and a Roland MC-303, I’m quite glad in the change of working method! However, as Maschine has no real synth engine of its own, it perhaps has more in common with Akai’s MPC range of sampling boxes, although Maschine does have the useful ability to host VST instruments and effects.

The take-home point is that the Maschine hardware is just a controller: it needs to be connected to your computer running the Maschine software to do anything. My main reason for buying a Maschine Mikro was that I was in the market for a new pad controller and percussion library anyway, so Maschine seemed like the perfect choice, with the alternative workflow of the Maschine software an added bonus. The pads have a great feel to them and have encouraged me to develop my finger drumming skills, and the smaller footprint fits in my studio setup more easily than the original Maschine.

The included sounds are very comprehensive: they range from world percussion, through 60’s acoustic kits and on to contemporary electronic kits. In addition to the drum and percussion sounds, there are also a number of synth and musical samples, ready to be mapped to the pads.

I’d almost forgotten how inspirational it was to just play some sounds in live, and add all those deep house conga fills in in real time. There are loops and grooves that I just don’t think I’d have come up with I’d been programming with the mouse. Also, as mentioned before, Maschine can host VST plugins. I’m imagining that I will be taking advantage of this in the near future, as I get to grips with Logic Pro, and may well end up using Maschine as a VST ‘wrapper’.

For me though, the most useful feature is one that allows Maschine to fit in with my workflow in Ableton Live. Before arranging, I work predominantly in the clip view. Maschine allows you to drag loops you’ve created in the Maschine sequencer plugin into an empty clip in Live as either audio or MIDI. This allows me to create a whole bunch of loops in Maschine, then work with them as audio in Live. That way, if you don’t want to mess around with learning the Maschine sequencer and its scenes and so on, you can use it solely as a loop creation tool and continue to work in your sequencer of choice. So far, I’ve had a couple of bugs with this, which hopefully NI will address in future updates, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by moving a couple of warp markers.

To summarise then, the Maschine software is fairly intuitive and deeply powerful, with a superb range of included sounds, which can be supplemented with additional -pay for- packs. The Maschine Mikro loses some of the real-time control that you get with the original, due to the cut down encoder complement, and you’ll spend more time looking at your computer as the Mikro loses a display. For the money though, I think it’s a pretty inspiring piece of kit. I’ve had mine for three months and feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

This article first appeared on NowThenRecords‘ website.


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