Review: Propellerhead Reason 6

Propellerhead’s baby feels like it’s been around forever – that said, I remember opening up the beta of Reason 1.0 for the first time like it was yesterday. In the more than 12 year lifespan of Reason, it’s undergone a few major upgrades, but a quick ‘what’s new’ just isn’t good enough for us… Continue Reading

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Boonie Mayfield: Boon Documented

After independently releasing one of our favourite LPs of last year, Black Koolaid, Boonie Mayfield is back with another project – this time on film. Doing things independently has gone way past just music in the past couple of years, with independent video makers utilising platforms like YouTube and Vimeo to create their own video shows, series, and even banding together for independent online video networks. Boon Documented is reality TV without the wannabes, and gives viewers an insight into Boonie’s life and musical path. In this first episode Boonie makes the dream of many a soul producer a reality and buys his own Fender Rhodes, and we get to go on the journey to find, collect, and install it with him. Boonie and friends’ talent and enthusiasm is portrayed superbly  throughout the show, and we’re really excited about having an interesting, independent video series to watch over the coming months. Watch it below, and subscribe to Boonie’s YouTube channel to get new episodes delivered to your YouTube homepage as they become available! (You’re subscribed to the Oh Drat YouTube channel too, right?!) You can also read our interview with the man himself here when you’re done…


Bitwig Studio Beta Looms

You’ll be forgiven for being thus far oblivious to Bitwig. They’ve been quietly beavering away at developing their flagship product, Bitwig Studio, since their inception in 2009, and only just approaching beta. With a team comprising some notable ex-Ableton brains, it’s no surprise that Bitwig Studio has more than a couple of things in common with Ableton Live. Here’s the video:

Bitwig Studio though has a number of features that Live users have been wishing for either en masse or in niche for some time – here are a few of the most interesting features we’ve picked out of the information we’ve had thus far:

  • Full cross platform support: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • ‘on note’ automation editing that looks similar to Cubase 6′s VST note expression (we’re waiting for confirmation on the exact functionality of this, but it’s confirmed that it can control per note panning, timbre, and volume of included instruments)
  • Onion skinned automation lanes showing multiple parameters simultaneously
  • Split pane workflow of clip/groove based sequencing and linear sequencing
  • Clip based effects automation sequencing
  • Block style pattern sequencing, ala MPC, FL Studio, Maschine etc
  • Non exclusive mixer tracks that will play audio and software instruments on a single channel
  • Multiple document editing, allowing copy and paste between documents
  • Multiple window support

The future for Bitwig Studio is a spinning coin of opportunities and threats: It’s very similar in many aspects to Ableton Live, and thus is likely to get someone’s back up somewhere. If Live can essentially integrate what Bitwig are doing close enough to the release of Bitwig studio, especially now the cat is somewhat out of the bag, it could see Bitwig Studio struggling to gather steam. That said, with Ableton Live’s next big update presumably being Live 9, the iterative nature of Ableton’s product development seems to have hampered its once unshakeable stability and if Bitwig Studio’s ground up design means it’s rock solid yet still fully featured, it could reap the rewards of a defection or two.

We’re certainly excited to see and hear the extent of the included instruments and effects, and there’s even plans to include a Reaktor/Max like instrument editor after launch. We’re thinking ahead here, but if Bitwig Studio can be installed on an ultra-low footprint Linux install and manages to sound as great as it looks without relying on third party plugins… well, let’s just leave it at ‘we’re excited’.

More information as we have it – which will be soon. Let us know what you think – are you thinking about it as an Ableton Live beater, or is it unnecessary to draw that close a comparison?

Steinberg HALion 4

Review: Steinberg HALion 4

It’s been some time coming, but Steinberg have finally released the fourth major update to their HALion sampler. We delved into the new features to see what was what…


Windows (XP/Vista 7), P4 2.4GHz or Core Duo/Athlon64 min / OSX (10.5+) Core Duo. 2GB RAM.

  • Articulation options for natural sounding compositions
  • Integral synth with 3 oscs + sub osc
  • Totally customisable interface layout
  • VST 3.5 support
  • Sample library smaller than competition
  • A couple of UI gripes
Price at Review: £292 HALion 4 is a big update to Steinberg’s flagship, with a lot going for it. We love the synth, and if you’re a Cubase user its value skyrockets due to the VST3.5 implementation.[like action=like]

Rather than cramming all of its features into a standard window or forcing you to memorise different page locations, HALion 4’s modular design allows you to create the sampler you’ve always wanted; the interface splits wherever and however you desire, and you can fill each pane of the main window with the elements of the software that make most sense to your workflow. Editing your samples? Why not a huge sample editing window running along the top of the software? Want an easy HUD for live use? Just arrange macro controls, quick select pads and the instrument rack into prime locations and get rid of the technical gubbins. It was great to be able to make full use of large screen, and saving different screen sets allows for all your use cases to be catered for.

Its inoffensive design, based around muted clay and blue colours, is easy to work with if a little utilitarian. Due to its simplicity we went scouting around the options to see whether we could change the dominant colour (or even colour code certain elements), but alas, no dice.

the modular approach that Steinberg have taken with HALion 4 has really paid off

There are some UI gripes, like a lack of tooltips, non alphabetical sorting of modules, and the inability to resize the main window by simply dragging its edges – as well as the aforementioned single colour scheme – but in general the modular approach that Steinberg have taken with HALion 4 has really paid off, making it potentially one of the easiest to use pro samplers available – providing you can settle on setups long enough to get used to them!

HALion 4’s synth is one of the most powerful additions to the software, and also one of the things that sets it apart the most from other samplers. Three oscillators, a dedicated sub osc, plus ring modulation and a noise generator add up to some very thick sound design capabilities, and rather than adding crazy wave table oscillators – which are often not much use – the traditional saw/square/sine pulse waves are on offer in standard, synced, PWM, CM and XOR variants, allowing pulse width/phase modulations to create unique sounds. It’s a shame there’s no dedicated drum synth controls, but maybe that would be asking too much.

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Music Production and Gaming: When Two Worlds Collide

Gaming and music are two almost universally liked forms of art and entertainment. Throw them together, and the two worlds collide in various inventive ways. The roots of computer based electronic music production were laid down by eager experimenters with Commodore 64s, Amigas and Ataris, excited by the prospects their beige wonder machines promised beyond Centipede and Manic Miner – but how they did that is a piece for another time. Today we’re going to look at how music production and composition has been approached in the context of gaming in three different ways – and nominate our favourites in the categories!

1: Rhythm Games

Our Favourite: Parappa The Rapper


Rhythm games represent actual musicianship to varying degrees; some games require nothing more than mechanical duplication whilst other more interesting fare rewards ‘freestyle’ – and our all time favourite of these more appealing (at least to our sensibilities) versions is Parappa The Rapper. In your quest to impress your beau as the venerable rapping dog, the only way you could get the best ratings was to ride the beats with some style and initiative. The sequel Um Jammer Lammy traded in bars for guitars and the style and wackiness, in our humble opinion, knocks the scripted drudgery of Guitar/DJ Hero into a cocked hat.

Interesting Mention: Numark Scratch: The Ultimate DJ


Numark’s Scratch the Ultimate DJ was announced way before DJ Hero, but the release of DJ Hero (along with some seedy legal battles involving Activision’s purchase of the developer of Scratch which publisher Numark asserts was specifically to delay release so that DJ Hero would hit shores first) means it’s entirely possible that it’ll never see the light of day, despite having by far the most interesting hardware… shame.

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Interview: Mike-L

Mike L is a talented UK based producer and DMC finalist turntablist whose recent album On a Columbo Tip was released to universal praise, and his background in live performance has enabled him to take a live version of his album to stage. Oh Drat caught up with the man himself to talk about his set up, how he makes the switch from studio to stage, and tips he has for aspiring artists…

Oh Drat: What are you up to at the moment?

Mike L: Today I’ve been setting up my equipment again, I was working quite heavily on one particular track for a video and now I’m rearranging things to get more done.

OD: So, is your live set all tracks from your recent album?

ML: So far it is, yeah…

My live stuff isn’t like a routine where I try and show how quick I can do stuff or whatever

OD: Okay, and what’s your process for taking things from studio to stage?

ML: Erm… good question! My live stuff isn’t like a routine where I try and show how quick I can do stuff or whatever, so the songs are kinda made bit by bit, layer by layer and I just have to try and work out how I’m going to do that in a live format. The first thing I do is reimport all the sampled elements back into the MPC – as I’m putting a track together I’ll start off with hundreds of sounds in the MPC and as I go on some of the sounds will get discarded so I prune all that stuff out and make sure that everything’s EQ’d and compressed nicely so that the song sounds ‘together’…

OD: So you mention that you think about things slightly differently to when you’re doing your turntablism routines, is there any crossover?

ML: I suppose there’s a crossover in the sense that… well I think with a lot of live MPC stuff you sort of get the impression that it’s about the skills and not the song, and what I’m keen to do is keep the integrity of the songs there, not just using some of the sounds and then going crazy for the sake of it. I have to spend a lot of time scratching my head figuring out how to make four or five things happen at the same time as opposed to layering.

OD: Do you have a defacto preset for where you place the sounds on your pads?

ML: There’s definitely common features in most of my programs when it comes to playing live, when I’m making the track the sounds can be anywhere, just where ever the next free pad is! When it comes to playing live I’ll usually have kicks and snares on the right side of the middle, hats on the left, and other sounds get sort of pieced around them.

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Video: Feeltune Rhizome

First of the post Musikmesse videos is this interesting new workstation from FeelTune. Rhizome is an integrated hardware and software solution, that runs on a customised OS and host but loads in standard VST plugins.

Rhizome is an integrated hardware and software solution

Designed as an elegant solution to a setup that has a computer, keyboard, pad controlller, mixer, and so on, Rhizome is not only attractive but also seems, on first look, to be a very efficient and hands on way to make music. More information and videos when I get a unit in for review – here’s Julian going over some of the cool, and new to Musikmesse 2011, features…

Musikmesse 2011

Musikmesse 2011!

It’s been a little less busy on the site the past few days because it’s been a lot more busy behind the scenes.

Over the next few days expect a glut of fresh audio and video

As I write I am in Frankfurt for Musikmesse, Europe’s largest music equipment industry event. Over the next few days expect a glut of fresh audio and video of the latest and greatest in the production world – speak soon!

FL Studio 10

Imageline release FL Studio 10

FL Studio is one of the most enduring softwares in the music production market – from humble beginnings as Fruity Loops, a simple step editor, its continual updates over the years have seen it become one of the most powerful studio box solutions on the market.

FL Studio is one of the most enduring softwares in the music production market

FL Studio 10 has just been released along with workflow improvements, full 64 bit support, and two new modules: Newtone and Pitcher. Both pitch and time correction tools, their addition is presumably to bring FL Studio’s feature set back into punch for punch contention with Propellerhead’s Reason and Record duo. 64 bit support brings large sample libraries, automatic Plugin Delay Compensation is written into the audio engine, and vertical zoom in the piano roll uncovers properties in a way not dissimilar to Cubase 6′s new VST3 views, all working toward making FL Studio 10 a genuine all in one competitive alternative to large ‘traditional’ DAWs – as long as you’re on PC, of course… Watch out for a review soon.


Review: Native Instruments Maschine 1.6

Maschine’s greatest achievement has been dragging staunch hardware users away from their MPCs and towards computer based production. It’s been a real investment for early adopters, as two major updates since the original release have seen Maschine grow from a great idea with slightly flawed implementation into a tour de force of production potential – and all for free. 1.6 continues this tradition, and brings some radical additions to Maschine’s workflow, perhaps most notably audio plugin support and full 64 bit support. Have Native Instruments succeeded in giving Maschine all the tools it needs to compete with a DAW, or are they over egging the pudding and taking the focus off its core features?

the 1.6 update finally implements both instrument and effects plugins in VST/AU format

A long requested feature by Maschine users is plugin support, and the 1.6 update finally implements both instrument and effects plugins in VST/AU format. Rather than simply shoehorning the capability in, however, there are a variety of workflow tweaks and additions to maximise both the advantages that plugin support brings and the ease of use of plugins within a project.

In 1.6, rather than each pad having a source select and two effects slots each pad is comprised of four modules, one of which one can be an input source and the other three effects – or all four effects, should you wish. You can route groups and sounds to each other through the module chain, too; you could dedicate a group to being an effects bus and load in effects chains into each of the 16 pads, then send sounds or groups to the chains in those groups via an aux channel. This is a very powerful but at the same time very simple system, made even more powerful now that Maschine’s outputs have been doubled to 16.

handling of plugins is implemented really effectively

Actual handling of plugins is implemented really effectively. Maschine will attempt to map plugin parameters in a sensible way, but if, by the plugin’s design, automatic mapping doesn’t do such a great job, learning is built into Maschine and is as simple as switching learn mode on, fiddling with the control in Maschine and then the plugin. These mappings can be saved, so you can create different presets to load for different uses, and your favourite can be saved as the default that will load whenever you load that plugin – a godsend when a plugin developer has assigned their plugin’s CC messages alphabetically, for instance.

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