Twenty Thousand Hertz Podcast: UI Sound Design

A recent issue of the 20k podcast revolves around UI sound design and how these sounds interact with us in our everyday life. Guests are Will Littlejohn, Facebook’s Director of Sound Design and Conor O’Sullivan, Sound Design Lead at Google. You can listen to the episode here. [Image Source] Source:

Titus Andronicus: December 14, 2017 Market Hotel

Thursday night at Market Hotel was a night for survivors. Both the artist and the venue are inextricably intertwined as crucial parts of last decade’s Brooklyn DIY scene, but both have reshaped and reformatted themselves for the future. Titus Andronicus survived the meat grinder of the music industry and a myriad of personnel changes, and now find themselves having landed peacefully into the arms of the excellent Merge Records. The most recent Titus record, 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy was perhaps the band’s most ambitious and fully realized record. The Market Hotel meanwhile has itself survived a laundry list of issues but Market v3.0 began again in November and the limited calendar will soon give way to a full-on slate of shows in the New Year.

This year saw Titus Andronicus in retooling mode, and this Market Hotel show was the only headlining Titus gig of the entire 2017 calendar year. But Patrick Stickles seems to be in a very good place personally, as his positivity on this night was palpable. When the doors opened, the band members were seated at the merch table to greet the fans, and Patrick spend the better part of the first hour of the night meeting and greeting and catching up with old friends. The fan friendly theme bled directly into the performance itself, as Titus delivered a nearly two-hour set — representing the longest set ever played at this venue. The setlist contained a panoply of Titus material, from their very first single all the way through a good chunk of the recent albums. Throughout the show, Patrick noted members of the audience, thanked the people who have helped the band throughout the years, and played his heart out. The crowd for their part were fully engaged — there were no chatterers, just people singing along with the anthemic lyrics from the front to the back of the venue. By the time the set ended with a fantastic punk-tinged cover of Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, the crowd, the band, and the venue had proved that its all about survival and fighting through life’s conflicts to emerge on the other side stronger than ever. We expect that 2018 will be a very good year for both Titus Andronicus and The Market Hotel, and this show gave us great hope for the future of both.

I recorded this set with the installed microphones along with an excellent feed from house FOH Eric. Other than one point near the end of “Perfect Union” when a drum mic shorted out, this recording is quite excellent. Enjoy!

Download the Complete Show [MP3] / [FLAC]

Stream the Complete Show:

Titus Andronicus
Market Hotel
Brooklyn NY

Digital Master Recording
Soundboard + Upfront Audience

Soundboard [Engineer: Eric Lemke] + Audio Technica 4051 > Sound Devices 744t > 2 x 24bit 48kHz wav files > Soundforge (level adjustments, mixdown, set fades) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > TLH > flac (320 MP3 and tagging via Foobar)

Recorded and Produced
by nyctaper

[Total Time 1:45:17]
01 [intro remarks]
02 Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus
03 Fatal Flaw
04 Upon Viewing Brueghel’s Landscape With the Fall of Icarus
05 In a Small Body
06 I Am The Electric Man
07 Lonely Boy
08 [banter – Market Hotel]
09 Titus Andronicus
10 My Time Outside the Womb
11 Mr E Mann
12 Fired Up
13 Dimed Out
14 [banter – sensitive subtext]
15 No Future
16 No Future Part Three Escape From No Future
17 No Future Part V In Endless Dreaming
18 Stable Boy
19 Four Score and Seven
20 A More Perfect Union
21 [banter – thanks]
22 Glory Days [Springsteen]

SUPPORT Titus Andronicus: Website | Merge Records Page | Bandcamp


ChordFlow 2.1 brings Melody Tracks and much more

ChordFlow gets a really big update adding a host of new features for users. There’s a lot to show, so here are all the details:

Each ChordFlow song section can now have up to 4 melody tracks in addition to 4 arpeggio tracks. You can now create complete song ideas with chord progressions, arpeggios, and melodies. The new melodies are edited in the separate (from arpeggio) grid. You can specify scale of the melody grid and configure the length and the rate parameters. The chords that you configured in the chord progression editor will be shown in the melody grid view below the note grid. And also for more convenience, chord notes will be highlighted with grey rounded bars allowing you to see which notes of the melody matches the corresponding chord.

There is now a track control panel in the main view, at the bottom, where you can specify destination of each track and mute/solo individual tracks. This settings are now stored individually for each song.

You can now loop a region when you are in the arpeggio or melody editor. To add a loop region, tap on the timeline bar above the note grid. After that, the loop with the default length of 4 steps will be added. You can then move the loop region around dragging it by its center or you can stretch and squeeze it by dragging it by its ends. To remove the loop region just tap on it again. The loop region is only active while you are in the editor view. When you move back to the main view, the loop is automatically removed.


  • Remove(Trash) button in arpeggio and melody editors now removes only the selected track. And there is no moro annoying confirm. If you tap remove button accidentally, you can restore the deleted track with the undo button.
  • Line tool and delete tool behaviour changed a little. Before this update, when you started to draw a line or delete a region, you could only extend the already drown region. Now it behaves more expectedly. If you have drawn a line further than you needed you can no move back to make it smaller
  • Arpeggio grid max length increased to from 32 to 64 steps.
  • Color scheme changed. After introducing 4 new colors for melody tracks, I decided to switch to more neutral background colors, as it was not looking very good on the original blue schema.
  • Bug fixes

ChordFlow costs $9.99 on the app store now:

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Sunday Sound Thought #99: Abstraction

(click to view source)

Organization is difficult for some, and absolutely vital for others. But our brains are built for abstracting and organizing, so why not run with it?

In programming, abstraction describes the act of turning a complex object into a box with some inputs and outputs. If you’ve worked with Max, Pure Data, or Reaktor, you’ve seen abstraction in the form of the objects you patch together to make your system (or, in Max, patches that you include in other patches are actually called “abstractions”). Those boxes often have a lot going on in them–timers, data transformations, DSP, etc. But you don’t need to know about that. You only have to know what it does when you tell it to do its thing.

In computer science, the definition of abstraction goes something like this:

Abstraction is simply the removal of unnecessary detail. The idea is that to design a part of a complex system, you must identify what about that part others must know in order to design their parts, and what details you can hide. The part others must know is the abstraction.

In the general use, abstract is defined as:

The two go nicely together. And you might say that the general definition itself is an abstraction of the computer science definition. The CS definition includes additional detail that’s implied by the dictionary definition, which I suppose makes it a subclass of the dictionary definition. But enough about programming.

As a sound tech person, I spend a lot of time talking with people who aren’t sound tech people about sound tech for a thing they want to make. Somewhat often, they attempt to spec out the equipment they want–be it sensors, software, speakers, or microphones. And in almost all of those scenarios, I end up talking them into a completely different set of equipment to do the thing they want to do. I’m sure it has to do with trying to be helpful, or not realizing that it’s my job to translate their designs into tech specs, or something else having to do with not being used to the support. Whatever it is, it’s one of the trickier conversations I have to have day-to-day. It would be much easier for me for someone to come to me with a nebulous artistic idea, and then let me figure out how to make that happen. And most likely, the project would end up better for it. I wouldn’t be redoing their work, and the other person wouldn’t be censoring themselves based on their knowledge of sound tech.

One technique I’ve found useful in this is to abstract away the technology. I lead with these questions:

  • What does your thing sound like?
  • How does that sound change over time?
  • How does that sound change in response to a human, and what is the human doing when it changes?
  • Where is the sound coming from?
  • Are there multiple sounds?

Most of the time, the person will still try to specify some tech they know about or heard about. And sometimes that’s fine. But I still try to follow that with, “don’t worry about the tech. Let’s see if we can make your dream.” That usually does the trick, and then we’re on to talking about what they’d really envisioned for their project.

This kind of experience isn’t limited to just sound tech people. Sound designers love to tell stories about creative directors attempting to specify sound effects, rather than imparting a vision. Graphic designers have whole books and blogs dedicated to clients getting a little too hands on for their comfort.

How do you ensure your clients–whoever they might be–get what they’re really looking for?


Vermaledeite Pein, by Emil Klotzsch

This album was improvised completely on my modular synth and my looper. All Instruments had been played live by me. No computer was used, except for the last editing.
Released September 11, 2016 | Music: Emil Klotzsch



Getting Your Feet Wet: A Guest Contribution from Andy Bertolini

Andy Bertolini: The man who solves all your problems on time, on budget, and at the highest quality.

This is a guest contribution coming to us from Andy Bertolini. Having recently worked at Anki, and at Somatone before that, Andy is a fantastic Voice Over editor also deft in the arts of audio middleware. He has been the person who has solved our problems before we were aware they even existed, and we couldn’t have shipped our latest title without him.

A Newcomer’s Journey into Game Audio

I would like to imagine that many of us, if not almost all of us, have at some point asked ourselves: What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? And where do I want to work? That being said, they are not always the most easily answered questions. I personally had quite a bit of difficulty doing just that. Growing up, I was never the type of person that aspired to a specific “dream job.” There were two things that I knew I wanted to work with: Audio and Video Games. However, this introduced an entirely new layer of questions. Which discipline did I want to pursue and how should I approach getting into that field?

Our industry is an interesting one as it is comprised of many unique disciplines; recording, composing, programming, sound design, etc. As a relatively new audio professional, it was intimidating, overwhelming even, when contemplating what I wanted to specialize in. The Game Audio industry, like many others, has a wide spectrum of specialty subsets that I could focus on, but how could I decide? I’d like to talk about some of my personal experiences when trying to decide on a specialty and what factors came into play to mold my decisions.

As I said earlier, I’ve never had a particular affinity towards a specific discipline within the audio world; I only knew that I wanted to work in Game Audio. This made for a rather stressful period in my life filled with a large amount of soul searching and self-reflection. With such a large spectrum of potential disciplines, how could I feel comfortable specializing in just one? What if I chose poorly? What if I ultimately didn’t like the specialty?

So there I was, standing at a pivotal crossroads, attempting to make a decision that would ultimately shape the beginning of my professional career.

So there I was, standing at a pivotal crossroads, attempting to make a decision that would ultimately shape the beginning of my professional career.

It was then that I realized I needed information. I needed a starting point, and an avenue to ask questions.

The Hive Mind that is Subreddit

The beauty of the technological age we live in is that we have, at a moment’s notice, access to an infinite amount of information. In the hope of narrowing down such a large spectrum of potential careers, I started to focus on the individual bands that defined it: sound design, audio programming, and editing. My goal was to use the readily available information to explore each discipline while continuing to give myself the freedom to experiment.

I began by creating a Reddit account that would be dedicated to anything related to audio. As I scoured over endless amounts of content, I came across a handful of subreddits that offered a wealth of information:

  1. Game Audio:
  2. Audio Engineering:
  3. GameDev:
  4. Unity3D:
  5. Programming:
  6. SuperCollider:

Each of these subs acted as a unique hub that offered varied points of view, information, and levels of community involvement. Furthermore, I could tailor my experience to fit my current needs and interests through engaging in discussions with audio hobbyists, enthusiasts, and professionals from all over the world. Conversely, if I wanted to, I could silently lurk and assimilate information on my own terms.

YouTube: Everyone’s Classroom

Having available access to a massive network of like-minded audio professionals, their advice, their work, their successes, and their failures, was a tremendous step towards gaining a better understanding of what resonated with me. However, I started to find myself lacking content that could actually teach me new tools and concepts.  Luckily, many Reddit users did an excellent job of linking me to external sites. It was here that I began exploring the depths of YouTube tutorials and podcasts. A few notable series that I frequented were:

  1. SuperCollider:
  2. Reaper:
  3. Reaper Blog:

The beauty of the video tutorial is that even though it is linear by nature, you have dynamic transport controls. Did you miss what the YouTuber was saying because you were attempting to follow his instructions? Just hit rewind. Do you need to catch up to what they were talking about? Just press pause. With these tutorials, I was able to learn on my time and at my pace. And fortunately, with the vast expanse that is the internet, it was highly likely that there was a tutorial out there for just about anything I could imagine. That being said, there were instances where I wanted to take what I learned and expand upon it in real-world scenarios. It was here that I sought out mentors, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends.

Getting Personal

What better way to get a taste of what a specialty is like than by going straight to the source: a person that specializes in that discipline! Your colleagues, acquaintances, and friends are a massive pool of knowledge to draw from. The ability to have a conversation in real-time, to ask about a person’s workflow and technique, is one of the best learning opportunities you could hope for. Not only will they be able to explain what they did and how they did it, they can also give insight into the rationale behind why they did it.

Being new to the industry, I took advantage of every opportunity presented to me to ask as many questions as possible. These conversations allowed me to expand my understanding of their specialty while also deepening the relationship I had with them. If I could give any advice to new folks starting on their audio journey, I would say this: don’t be shy about asking questions outside your chosen specialty. Who knows, maybe those conversations will lead you to discover something you didn’t know before. But if the information isn’t the most relevant to you, don’t sweat it. You still are establishing a good perspective.

Some of the best advice I was given throughout my many years of academia was:

“Be unrelenting in your curiosity, insatiable in your thirst for knowledge, and above all else never stop asking questions. Curiosity is the path by which you expand your understanding of the world around you.”

“Be unrelenting in your curiosity, insatiable in your thirst for knowledge, and above all else never stop asking questions. Curiosity is the path by which you expand your understanding of the world around you.”

What started as a maelstrom of anxiety, stress, and impossible decisions transformed into an amazing opportunity to explore various avenues of learning. Being as inexperienced as I was in the professional audio world, I lacked the insight on how best to specialize when looking for work. This presented me with a unique opportunity as it forced me to explore and experiment with different specialties. I started by utilizing various web-based information hubs such as Reddit and YouTube to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of these disciplines. When those sources fell short, however, I turned to my colleagues with their decades of professional experience. They were a more personal and intimate source of information that allowed me to ask the plethora of questions I had rattling around my mind.

Looking back, now that I’m on the other side with a somewhat clearer idea of what I want to be, I’d like to say: Never stop asking questions, and never stop looking for the next thing you’re going to be great at. Just because you specialize in a certain discipline doesn’t mean you should stop looking forward. Our industry is a massive spectrum comprised of countless specialties; do not be afraid to wander. Never lose the curiosity, that initial spark of intrigue that originally got you into audio. Nurture it and feed it with as much information as humanly possible.




This free phaser from NI is a must, even if you don’t like phasers

Native Instruments has a free phaser plug-in called Phasis as a holiday special – and, wow, definitely don’t skip this one.

Here’s the deal: as NI do yearly, they’ve got a holiday special going. This year, there’s an e-voucher and a giveaway contest and blah blah — let’s skip to Phasis.

Phasis is a free plug-in (VST, AU, AAX) for Mac and Windows. You’ll need to sign up for the mailing list, then get a serial number to enter into Native Access, NI’s latest all-in-one software for managing licenses and updates. That tool works well, though one note on Windows: look for the phasis.dll file on your hard drive, as I had to manually copy it to the correct VST plug-in folder.

Phasers may call to mind cheesy guitar effects and overused pop sounds, but this one’s different. Here’s how NI describe it:

PHASIS is a brand new phaser. It offers timeless phasing sounds – adding movement, soul, and creative magic to any signal. PHASIS draws inspiration from classic phasers but adds powerful new features for never-heard-before results. The Spread control changes the spacing of the phaser’s notches, for vocal-style effects. Ultra mode pushes modulation to ultra high rates, producing unique FM-esque tones. Download the VST/AU/AAX plug-in for free now!

It’s the combination of the phaser with those notch filters and “ultra” extreme audio rate modulation that produces something genuinely novel. I apply it here to a bland 909 drum loop, and already you get some more radical results:

Holiday Deal or …

Phasis download page

Wow, Windows backwards compatibility has gotten way easier than the Mac… Mac users will need 10.11 or later (10.13 if you use Cubase); Windows runs back to Windows 7. Well, once we find the darned VST plug-in folder. I’ll put it on both my machines. I only wish we’d gotten a Reaktor ensemble here so we could play around with the innards.

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Elastic FX lets you route and morph 32 effects on iOS, for $7

It looks a bit like what would happen if an iPad, a KAOSS Pad, and a plug-in folder had a love child. It’s the new iOS app from the makers of Elastic Drums.

Elastic Drums already had won fans as the indie-developed drum synth / production app released by Mouse on Mars. And inside Elastic Drums, you had a powerful range of effects. So, at some point, lead developer Oliver Greschke had the idea of taking all those effects, and making a standalone multi-effects processor for the iPad.

The result you get, though, is a fully spec’ed-out sound processing powerhouse for iOS: Elastic FX. If you were already using Elastic Drums, you’ll like these effects, too – but now they’ve been reworked, and provide stereo processing (not just mono). You’ll find new effects, too, plus all-new routing options and feedback.

And if you haven’t used Elastic Drums before, Elastic FX promises straight out of the gate to be one of the leading options for processing effects on the iPad.

There are 32 available effects, including modulation, pitch, distortion, filter, delay, reverb, and more.

From those 32 effects, you can assign to one of four effect units.

It’s that four-effect unit that opens up more possibilities. Choose how to route between effects, add feedback, then adjust parameters all at once via X/Y pad (KAOSS-style). That X/Y pad also has phrase recording and automation, of 1-8 bars in length.

There’s additionally a master effects section (which adds 3-band EQ, compressor, and stutter).

From there, you’ve got a load of options to integrate this with your mobile studio:

  • Audiobus 3, Inter-App Audio for working with other apps’ audio (in/out)
  • A built-in audio player so you can quickly audition effects
  • Ableton Link support for jamming and sync, plus time-synced phrase playback and tempo-synced effects (like the delay)
  • Save, load, share user presets
  • MIDI, MIDI learn for parameter control
  • MIDI program change for changing presets

Intro price, iPad only: 7.99€ / US$6.99

Demo videos:

And check out this synced-up automation:

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Bastl’s tiny, patchable Kastle now more durable, sounds better

The tiny, 80 Euro, 8-bit Kastle synth from Bastl just got better. A 1.5 revision updates the case, sound, and features.

First off, in addition to batteries, you can now run on micro USB power.

The case is updated, too. It’s fiberglass instead of acrylic for added durability, and has a slick black matte finish, plus better patch points.

And then there’s sound. Bastl Instruments say they’ve done a total rework on the sound engine, improving smoothness, ranges, and anti-aliasing performance.

Two sound engines running in parallel deliver three new modes: formant synthesis, noise mode, and tonal mode. Plus there are the existing phase modulation, phase distortion, and track & hold modulation, each with new improvements.

Formants: Inspired by the 1865 Helmholz synthesizer, you get combinations of harmonics / vowel sounds.

Noise: This glitchy mode comes from granular playback of a piece of code that’s run from the sound chip – basically an edgy ultra-digital glitched-out wavetable/granular source.

Demo here:


I’ll be in Brno, CZ Friday and Saturday this week and catching up with team Bastl, if you’ve got questions for them.

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