Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Vibraphone part 1

Hi all!

Vibraphone (a.k.a. vibraharp) is nowadays quite rare instrument - quite few people can actually name it. I admit I am a vibraphone enthusiast:  I love to play and practise it and love to listen its players. I have three vibraphones at home. My wife saids it's too much. Here's my story how did I end up to this strange situation.

Not everybody knows that I have a history as a percussion player before I moved to play and teach piano and keyboards. On 90’s when I also studied in conservatory I owned an acoustic Musser vibraphone. On my 20s when I started my career as a gigging keyboard player I sold it which I have regretted every now and then. My ”Season 2” as a vibraphone player started on 2015 when I bought Musser again, after 15 years of complete silence with that rare and unique instrument.

80's Musser M75 (bought 2015)

1980’s Musser M75 is big and heavy vintage instrument with warm sound which is considered to be better than same brands current models. There are so few vibraphone players and instruments in Finland that I like to see this purchase as a once-in-a-lifetime investment, at least in my country.

Gigging and recording in mind on 2018 I went to buy my second vibraphone: brand new Malletech Omega with red bars. With new innovations on frame (light weighted, very adjustable and portable), tunable resonators and pedal it was nicely modern compared to M75. I like to say that if Musser M75 is Jaguar then Malletech Omega is Tesla.

Malletech Omega in my cellar studio (bought 2018)

Ok, let’s face it... Even modern Malletech Omega is big and heavy and can be pain to carry on gigs. At least if I compare it to my Nord Stage which I carry in my soft bag. So gig needs to be a REAL vibraphone gig to justify all this effort of putting it to pieces at home, putting these pieces together at gig and same backwards. Then again, let’s face it... There aren’t that many vibraphone gigs, at least on my level of playing. This being a reality I went to buy my third vibraphone or should I say electronic MIDI mallet controller to be more precise: Wernick Xylosynth with custom colored "Nordish" red wooden bars. With Xylosynth idea was to have a portable solution for many gigs on which I could use vibraphone as an extra flawor alongside my Nord and Elektron. It was also a nice comeback to my favorite soft synth Pianoteq (from French company Modartt) which also emulates nicely not only vibraphone but also marimba, xylophone, hand pan, steel pan etc.

Wernick Xylosynth (bought 2020) with other electronic instruments

Xylosynth is relatively new in my electronic arsenal and yet I am still testing and developing its use with Mac-Nord-Elektron setup. It looks very promising and inspiring but there are also obstacles on the way. So time will tell how does it go... So please wait for part 2 of this story! 😏

Until then please check my newest recordings with Malletech Omega (first 8 songs on this playlist):

Monday, April 13, 2020

Teaching music under pandemic

Hi everyone!

What comes to corona virus and its consequences in Finland everything happened so fast. In early March we still thought we are far from epidemic and mostly it was about washing hands more often and more carefully. But around mid-March everything changed and our goverment acted fast and quite strongly: all bigger happenings like concerts were banned, social distancing was highly recommended, schools closed, people were adviced to work remotely if possible etc. Personally I believe this was a wise strategy from our government: so far the epidemic has evolved quite slowly and our country has had time to prepare for a stronger disease peak.

For music teachers like myself we had SO little to time prepare to start teaching remotely. It was practically one weekend. Still on Friday (13th!) I had absolutely Zero experience on remote teaching and right next week I had to serve all my students. To my luck I already had quite a lot gear which was perfect for that. To me it almost seemed that I have strangely prepared myself to this condition without knowing it. Suddenly many of those purchases, which I earlier thought as unfortunate mistake, were lifesaver to me. This included Zoom-camera, Led-light, condenser mics and many kind of stands and holders. Also many years of study of digital tools and skills like Finale notation, PDF-tools, audio/video recording and editing had suddenly a great value.

My teaching studio under corona quarantine
What comes to actual remote teaching I had to quickly choose and learn my main platform. Fortunately our teacher collective worked effectively together and soon there was a strong consensus to use Zoom video conferencing platform. It was simple to use, it could easily be used in all main devices (Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Android) and most importantly, it had some obvious benefits for music teaching: in Zoom you can disable many audio processing features which may ruin for example piano sound. This means using "original sound" on. At first this feature was only in laptop applications but to my delight this week zoom introduced this feature to mobile devices as well. It seems evident that zoom corporation has been noticing its use for music teaching and reacted fast.

Audio Settings: enabling "Original Sound" and disabling audio processing for better audio quality

In zoom you can also use your audio interface as a "microphone" source and this takes in sum of all inputs. In my MOTU-setup this was good news because this way I could easily mix my e-piano straight from stereo line inputs and take my voice with mic. I also put a second camera, Zoom Q2n-4k, above my keys. (Btw I believe this Zoom has nothing to do with zoom web conferencing. Correct me if I am wrong.)

Zoom Audio Settings: choosing my MOTU-audio interface as my input ("mic") and output  ("speaker")

Mic and second camera, Zoom Q2n-4k

Piano teaching setup with Mac, Nord Grand and Genelec speakers

To sum it, in my own case transition to remote teaching went surprisingly smoothly in general. Now after 4 weeks of teaching it feels already natural and I have managed to make kind of a system how to do it. This system means using all these tools but also way of delivering and receiving information - digital sheets, instructions, small videos and audio files etc. - and keeping diary. Alongside with zoom I decided to use WhatsApp for communication and materials, which seems to be very good for that and is also widely used among young and older generations.

Besides the most obvious downside - lacking normal teacher-student (close) contact, the main problem is still with immediate data transfer (meaning decent live audio & video). Most of the time it's quite ok but every now and then there are problems. Audio quality isn't always good from students' phones mics which makes it occasionally difficult to give precise feedback to their playing. Therefore I have advised them to record their playing as much as possible and send this better quality recording to me before next session. It's not a bad thing if students start to record their playing more often and learn to critically listen to themselves as well!

In general all this has been a major "digital leap" as they say. When the time comes to finally close this quarantine and go back to normal teaching mode, there are still so many good things keep doing this way!

Greetings from Turku and keep safe!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Wind Chimes (for piano and vibraphone)

This song is inspired by Archipelago of Turku and especially a lighthouse island called Isokari. It was originally composed to a sailing video representing this beautiful place. New arrangement has all my favourite instruments involved: Malletech Omege Vibraphone, Nord Grand piano and those Elektron machines (Analog Four, Analog Rytm and Digitone).

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Archipelago Suite - Spring (for vibraphone and piano)

Hi! A lot of water has been flowing in river Aura since my last post. As this video might show, my music has taken quite different path. Few years ago I re-found an instrument of my youth: vibraphone. It's also my first recording with brand new Nord Grand.

Few tech specs:
Vibraphone is Malletech Omega, piano is Nord Grand from swedish Clavia with "White Grand" sound. Song is Recorded with Neumann KM184 mic and two Motu Ultralite mk3 audio interfaces.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

New stuff!


And greetings from our belowed home country Finland which celebrates its 100 years of independence! Here's a new video from my brother (http://www.sydolphindance.com) which he edited from years of shooting material, mainly from his sailing trips. I was lucky to get my music to it, "Archipelago part 2- Isokari".

And here's a small snippet from my new version of an old song of mine "Solar Wind". December 2017 I added there a track of e-piano to make it little more "human". Otherwise this song is rather minimalistic, pure electronic music.

Both songs can be listened completely via SoundCloud:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Quick review of Nord Stage 3

Hi all!

I am very lucky to have received my brand new Nord Stage 3 HP76 while so many people are still waiting for their instruments. Now it's been few weeks with my new baby and here's what I feel about it:

Quick pros and Cons:
+ 76-model is suprisingly good keyboard for its very light weight, it's just 12,5 kg (27.5 lb)! It has enough key weight and precision for a piano player and it's also mechanically very quiet. 
+ Those extra GigaBytes of piano and sample memory really make things different. Nord Piano and Sample libraries are great collection allready and continuously developing. Now you can have so many of your favorite pianos (sampled with XL-size) inside your Stage. 
+ Two bright OLED-displays make things much more usable (compared to older Nords).
+ new synth has lot of power and high quality sound
+ nice little extras here and there (new filter effects and new morphing capabilities for example)

- Firmware bugs. Users have found quite a lot of problems and anomalies (some of them are minor, some more critical). Just read this sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... edit#gid=0
- Sample Library incompatibility and lack of (fully functional) Sound Manager or Sample Editor. New Stage 3 is using a new format for samples and (on 30th August) we're still waiting for editor and conversion software. At the moment NS3 cannot use neither sample library sound nor user's own samples. This frustrates me most.
- Synth. NS3 synth was advertised as having Lead A1 engine. As a A1 owner this seems little overstatement. NS3 feels little limited compared to A1. (On the other hand there are some features you cannot get from A1: Sample playback obviously but also Superwaves).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New video from Lapland with my music

Please check a new video from our winter holiday in Lapland. Video was filmed and edited by my brother Antti, music is a song of mine called "Day One at Celestial Backyard". (You can listen to this song in its original form in My Music)