AKAI EWI3000m Analog Wind Controller – Thinking outside the box!

AKAI EWI3000 EWI3000m
AKAI EWI3000 EWI3000m

Today was a day of experimentation with the AKAI EWI3000m and EWI3000 Wind Controller. Previously I wrote about my adventures with a used EWI3020 that ultimately resulted in taking it back because it was clearly defective after spending several days bashing my head against the wall. I practically ripped my lungs out trying to get that thing to work and indeed it was broken. Almost a year later I decided to try it again with a used but beautiful conditioned AKai EWI3000/EWI3000m set and my first impression was “Now this is how it is supposed to be!!”

I must mention that I am COMPLETELY new at using a wind instrument. I have a fascination for the synth aspect and the idea of using my breath to control synths in a unique way. As the title here says, I like to think outside the box and have always been curious how someone with ZERO experience on a wind controller could do something fun with it. Today, I was pleased to find that I did’t have to be a Wind Controller expert to have fun with the Akai EWI3000 and make music.

I bought the Akai EWI3000 and module used this week along with manuals, cable, and adapter. Everything with this unit is rare to say the least. You can’t find a manual anywhere on the web that’s not Japanese. That’s not a problem for me, but it is for everyone else I know. The adapter is a 15 Volt which is also not very common. Plus the cable itself I’ve heard is rare or expensive if you break it. So I felt lucky that I could get everything in excellent condition. The Akai EWI3000 is often talked about, but for some reason there is no info to be found anywhere about it other than at pPtchman Music. Thank goodness for Patchman Music!

The EWI3000m is an Analog Synth. It sounds very impressive to me and I absolutely “Love” the sync and bass sounds this thing makes. Oh man, this really is a nice sounding analog machine. The battery was low so I had to replace it which required soldering in a battery holder. I then had to scour the web for the reset procedure which I finally found after reading a lengthy FAQ. Patchman needs to either condense or organize that thing a bit. No wonder people ask on the forums and don’t read the FAQ. With that said, I’m VERY grateful he had the procedure there because like the Roland Alpha Juno 2, when you replace the battery, the system is whacked until you reset the unit. Now the Akai EWI3000m oozes with Analog sweetness.

Having no experience with an AKAI EWI3000 or a Wind Controller I feel is a good thing. I’ve read that often Wind Players have to re-learn how to do things a bit when playing either the Akai or Yamaha wind controller. Since I’m completely new, that means I can just jump in and not worry too much about being confusing. This is why I can say that for me, the AKAI EWI3000 is not hard at all to learn. Sure, as a keyboardist and guitarist, I have to learn how to play scales on a Wind Controller and get my breathing down, but for simple stuff ( like a recorder ), it’s not that difficult to pick it up and play some notes…. provided the thing works to begin with!!

Once you get some basic notes down, you can then have fun bending notes with your left thumb under the EWI3000. With your right thumb which is on the rollers underneath, you can slide between octaves. If you have a cool synth bass sound it is easy to create an arpeggio or a wobble like bass sound. If you get two or three notes that you like, you can easily create a bass line and add expression with your breath, tongue, or pressure on the mouth piece. Trills are simple and by blowing hard or softly you can get some cool effects. I mean, you can really get some creative results using a Wind Controller like this. It’s addictive too and you have to be careful to take a break or else you’re thumbs will get stiff and your mouth will get sore…laugh. Geez, after I put my Wind Controller down I just about cramped out. I walked away like a zombie I was having so focused and having fun.

I am no Sax player nor will I probably ever be one simply because it takes years like everything else to master. ( I prefer the keys and guitar, not to mention I also sing. ) However, it doesn’t take much to learn a few notes and scales on a Wind Controller so you can have fun getting creative with such a device. If I find a used Akai EWI4000s, I’ll probably jump all over it. The EWI4000s can use batteries, has internal sounds, and connects to other synths via MIDI. It also has a headphone jack so you could literally take it on the plane with you. How neat would that be?

The AKAI EWI3000/EWI3000m combo is FANTASTIC!!! I absolutely love the sound and as a synth keyboardist, the presets are far from cheesy. I’m glad I didn’t buy the Patchman EWI3000 pathces because programming this synth is not that hard and it really does rock as is!! In no way does the EWI3000 clone a real sax, flute, or clarinet for example. This is a synthesizer and as a result you get nothing but excellent synth sounds. It’s fun now to be able to take out the AKai EWI3000 and create a bass line or a synth chord riff ( Yes it plays chords! ) and get creative results. You don’t have to be a pro wind instrumentalist much like you don’t have to be a pro keyboardist to create that catchy synth hook. You just need to “think outside the box” a little. EnjoY!

Redmatica Autosampler 2 for creating Multisamples

Redmatica Autosampler 2
Redmatica Autosampler 2

Not too long ago I discovered Redmatica Autosampler 2 for the Mac and I have to say it’s been the greatest piece of software I’ve ever used and still use now. Currently I’m running Redmatica Autosampler 2 on Mac OSX Lion with an FA-66 Edirol Firewire Device attached and it autosamples both hardware and software instruments with near perfection. Unfortunately the company Redmatica was bought out by Apple and the software is no longer available. Although there are rumors it may be integrated into a future release of Logic Pro. There is another fantastic program too in the Redmatica product line called Keymap Pro 2 which I don’t happen to have but I wish I did. My fingers are crossed that I can find it someday real soon.

Basically with Redmatica Autosampler 2, you can autosample sounds up 128 patches to be exact all while sitting back sipping on a cup of coffee. Of course you have to get your preset or template settings right, but once you’ve got that configured, you’re set. The patches are then exported to a variety of formats of which I primarily use ESX24. From there I use Chicken Systems Translator 6 for Mac to convert the ESX24 patches to Akai S5000. From there I can load these into my MPC4000, MV8000, etc for playing. There is no direct export to SF2 or Akai format, but with ESX24 and a number of converters out there, this is not an issue.

Redmatica Keymap Pro 2
Redmatica Keymap Pro 2

Right now I have Emulator X3 connected by midi/audio to the FA-66 Firewire Audio Capture Device which is connected to my MacBook Pro running Redmatica Autosampler 2. I then usually have to lower the volume a slight bit on the PC because Redmatica Autosampler 2 triggers samples at a pretty high velociy/volume which can slight distortion. This is completely removed if you lower the volume a tad bit. I also AutoSample using dry samples and then later do my tweaks on my MPC4000 or hardware of choice. Of course one can sample how they like, but I find dry sampling to get excellent results.

With Redmatica Autosampler 2 you can adjust sustain, autoloop, and auto name your Wav files. It’s simply fantastic at how well the software works. It took me about 15 minutes to AutoSample an entire 128 patch bank of an old E-MU Proteus Sample set which I then had running on my MPC4000 connected to my Roland A90EX controller. This was WAAAAAY faster and MUUUUUCH more accurate than using any converting software out there and building the patches manually. Redmatica Autosampler 2 is THE BEST option out there, but unfortunately again it is no longer an option at the moment due to the closing of Redmatica.

Are there alternatives? I’m not sure, but I’ll post an update if I find any that work as well as Redmatica Autosampler 2. If I can find an old copy of Redmatica Keymap Pro 2 to purchase, I’ll certainly post more info about that as well. I hear KMP Pro 2 ( Redmatica Keymap Pro 2 ) is very good too, although I don’t have any experience with it. Redmatica Autosampler 2 works well as is and does what I need to do for my sample projects, but it would be nice to checkout Keymap Pro 2 one of these days.

Here is a video of Redmatica AutoSampler 2 in action.

E-MU Emulator X2 with E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card

E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card
E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card

Yesterday I found a really cheap sound card at the used music shop here in Nagano-city, Japan. The sound card is an E-MU 0404 PCI Sound Card and it came with an E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler Software Disk. Everything installed flawlessy into my Windows 7 PC and I must say it’s a fantastic combo to work with. How I primarily use it right now is to create multi-samples for my Roland Fantom X7 Keyboard and then transfer those sounds to the Roland S-50 12bit sampler. I basically audition samples using the X2 software. When I find what I like I then fire up Extreme Sample Converter and record a multi-sample automatically using the VST/Hardware recording function. I set my key splits, velocity layers, release, etc. and Extreme Sample Converter does the rest.

I then take that mult-sample program and convert it instantly into Akai S5000 format which I then import into Nexoe’s YASE for the Fantom X and G series keyboards. After importing the Akai S5000 sample into the Fantom X7 I have a perfect multi-sample of what I played in the Emulator X2 software. From there I can load up the same multi-sample and play it on my Fantom XR rack which is then connected to my Roland S-50. The S-50 samples in the multi-sample kit and I can then get that 12bit lo-fi sound beautifully and almost instantly. It’s incredibly easy and fast. The possibilities are unlimited with sampling sounds into the Fantom X series keyboards as I find their import ability to be very simple, especially when using Nexoe YASE.

E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler
E-MU Emulator X2 Sampler

The Emulator X2 software and E-MU 0404 PCI sound card make it incredibly easy to audition and tweak sounds. Plus you can import your own sounds and create some sophisticated multi-sample programs which can then be converted using Extreme Sample Converter. I usually use ESC to record VST sample libraries to the Roland Fantom X and on over to the Roland S-series samplers. It’s just easier that way than doing all these S-Series sample conversions. In Japan, E-MU sound cards can be expensive and difficult to find. I lucked out in finding the 0404 PCI and it really works and sounds fantastic. Check them out if you can!

UPDATE #1: I just bought and downloaded these E-MU Emulator X2 video tutorials at http://www.emulatorxone.com/emulator_x_video_tutorial/emulator_x_video_tutorial.htm . They are really helpful and have helped me to understand the inner workings and programming of the Emulator X2 much faster. I highly recommend these video tutorials if the Emulator X is new to you. So far I’ve really enjoyed the Emulator X2 for creating multisamples for my hardware keyboards. It’s really great for that.

Korg Microkorg Synthesizer brings New Year fun!

Korg Microkorg Synthesizer
Korg Microkorg Synthesizer

This little synthesizer has been on my wish list for some time and on New Year’s Eve I finally found one sitting in a used Music Shop called “Hard Off” on the outskirts of Nagano-city. It was at a great price and as a bonus it came with a very nice original softcase which I hadn’t seen before. I turned it on and checked it out before I bought it and found it to be extremely fun to play with. Later when I brought it home, I found it complimented nicely with my other gear for playing cool lead sounds or melodies over progressions and movements.

I also have a Korg MS2000R rack version and I hear the Microkorg is similar to the MS2000R but haven’t really compared them yet. If they are, I can definitely say it will likely not matter because I’ll 100% be approaching these two machines differently. The Microkorg is so accessible and easy to add to a mix if using it for one or maybe two tracks. Programming it seems pretty easy and I really dig the arpeggiator on it. I did consider the Microkorg XL but ultimately settled on the Microkorg original version because it basically was all I needed. I really feel the Microkorg has the potential to become a classic one day with it’s design and decent functionality. It’s a very fun synth. The size of the keys are small of course but they actually aren’t all that difficult to play with. You really get used to it quickly. The Microkorg Synths are becoming more cheap these days and I highly recommend picking one up if you find one at a good price. It’s a great synth to get creative with.

Apple iBook iMac G3 G4 make great Music Sequencers

Apple iBook G4 1.33
Apple iBook G4

Over the past month I’ve been picking up old Apple iBook and iMac computer gear for surprisingly very cheap prices. I found three computers that all work perfectly with my external synthesizers for sequencing and programming patches. The Apple G4 series seems to work the best but I also found an old Apple G3 to work well too. Below I have tested several sequencing and drum machine oriented software. I have listed the ones that I found worked the best on either the Apple G3 or G4 with external synthesizers. It’s important to note that I have no need for any audio recording or sampling. I also don’t have any need for soft synths that cannot control midi external hardware. So any cpu taxing soft synths and/or audio software I have no need for. This in turn allows me to use the older iBooks and iMacs perfectly with external synths such as the Roland D-50, Yamaha DX-7, and Korg M-1 synthesizers to name a few.

With all the software listed below, I am using G3 and G4 iBooks or iMacs with between 650MB ram and 1.5GB ram. They also run anywhere between 800 to 1.33 in speed and all are using OSX 10.4.11. For Midi interfaces, I use mainly the Edirol UM-3EX which works flawlessly. The key important features I look for when in music software to control my external synth are as follows:

1. Step or Modular sequencing is a must.
2. MIDI OUT of all note and controller data is crucial.
3. Save to Midi file is a HUGE bonus!
4. Being able to assign and match software keys to the external synth is vital for drums especially.
5. Must work on a G3 or a G4 computer with OSX 10.4.11 installed.

Synth Librarian and Editor
1. Midi Quest XL 10.5 (G3/G4)

For Librarians I have found that Midi Quest works for almost every hardware synth I throw at it. Midi Quest also works on Macs with OSX 10.4.11 perfectly. I know there are specific librarians and editors around for different synths and many also like SoundDiver 3.x for Mac but good luck finding that. So I use Midi Quest which is still available and supported.

DAW Software
1. Ableton Live 5.2 (G3/G4)
2. Digital Performer 5.13 (G3/G4)
3. Logic Pro 8.02 (G4)

Ableton works great for VSTs while Digital Performer works very well for MIDI sequencing. All three applications above work very well on a G4 if you primarily use MIDI while the G3 can only handle DP and Ableton 5. I couldn’t get any later versions to install on a G3 and G4 was difficult as well for testing purposes. These versions are pretty light weight though and seem to work well on the old computers.

Step Sequencers and Step Drum Machines

AudioRealism ( Right behind the Klee and M185, I’d say these two AudioRealism products are superb. They now have MIDI OUTPUT that also allows you to save to Midi files. These are very good for working with external synths. The ADM Drum Machine has one minor problem though. You are stuck with pre-determined midi notes for the drums so you will have to change the drum sounds on the external synth. The is a big minus for ADM and why I prefer Numerology, Guru, or MicroTonic which allows you to change the note values ).
1. ABL Bassline 2.1.2 (G3) No Midi Out / 2.5.2 (G4)
2. ADM Drum Machine 1.2.1 (G4)

Sonic Charge ( This is pretty good with external synths as you can control the MIDI note assignments for the drums and even save patterns to MIDI files. The swing value also works great.)
1. MicroTonic Drum Machine 2.0.1 (G3/G4)

Sugar Bytes ( The 1.0.2 version works ok on a G3 but occasionally you get latency. On a G4, 1.5 works very well without issue when testing. Version 1.5 will not work on a G3.)
1. Thesys Step Sequencer 1.0.2 (G3) / 1.5 (G4)

Defective Records ( These are HANDS DOWN, the best step sequencers for use with external synthesizers. I registered these instantly when I found out how cool they were when running on old iBook/iMac G3 and G4 processors. These are very impressive and really add great functionality to the Roland D-50 and other synths without a sequencer.)
1. Klee Step Sequencer 2.1 (G3/G4)
2. M185 Step Sequencer 1.5 (G3/G4)

D16 Group ( All of these drum machines worked very well when tested on a G4, but they don’t work at all on a G3. MIDI OUTPUT works very well when controlling external synths. )
1. Nithonat Drum Machine TR-606 1.4.4 (G4)
2. Nepheton Drum Machine TR-808 1.4.4 (G4)
3. Drumazon Drum Machine TR-909 1.4.4 (G4)
4. Phoscyon Bassline TB-303 1.8 (G4)

FXpansion ( Guru is really awesome. It’s probably my most favorite step drum machine software. The new Geist just doesn’t work well for me on these older iBook computers.)
1. Guru 1.5.1 (G3/G4)

Audio Damage ( I couldn’t get any MIDI OUTPUT to work with Tattoo on either the G3 or G4 platform in VST format. It just doesn’t work. I added it here because I know many people use it and will recommend it, but for the G3 and G4 VSTs on a Mac, it didn’t output MIDI at all with my testing.)
1. Tattoo 1.0.3 (G3/G4)

Five12 ( I tested Numerology 2.3 on both the G3/G4 and it works flawlessly. I’ve heard 3.x doesn’t work though. I’m not sure why.)
1. Numerology 2.3 (G3/G4)

Again I must mention that I primarily use hardware synths. I only added the iBooks and iMac because they were cheap, reliable, and easy to hook up without any issues. I don’t use these computers for any audio recording, sampling, mixing, or for any cpu intensive purposes. I only use MIDI. I hope this info will give users with old computers some direction on what to choose for MIDI Sequencing and programming their external hardware.

The three computers I recently purchased in Japan used are as follows including the Ram and OS install disks:

1. Apple Mac iBook G3 800mhz 650MB Ram running OSX 10.4.11 ($35)
2. Apple Mac iBook G4 1.33 with 1.5GB Ram running OSX 10.4.11 ($60)
3. Apple iMac G4 900mhz with 1GB Ram running OSX 10.4.11 ($75)

A final point to make is that it’s very tricky if not impossible to get MIDI OUTPUT to work with Apple AU plugins. I had to use VST versions in every case from within Ableton to get MIDI OUT to work any of the above VST Mac plugin sequencers. Make sure when testing on old iBooks and iMacs that you find a suitable VST host and get the Mac VST versions. For me an old version of Ableton was the best and most stable. The AU versions suck big time I’m sorry to say when working with external synthesizers. There are some workarounds I’ve heard, but honestly I’d rather spend more time playing the synth than fiddling with a computer and AU plugins. VSTs are the best so far when it comes to MIDI and controlling external hardware. AU Plugins and MIDI OUTPUT do not work well together at all.

MIDI software sure has come along way since I remember way back in the early 90s. You can sure do some great stuff nowadays.