Monday 16 September 2019

How I Create Electronic Music - the Tee-shirt!

I have too many tee-shirts. Many years attending various hi-tech music events, plus more than 25 years of anime conventions, has left me with a huge choice - and a full wardrobe! But there's always room for another tee-shirt, especially when I don't have one that carries the 'statement' that I want to make...


When I first started going to concerts back in the 1970s (Camel, then Tangerine Dream at the Liverpool Empire), it was easy. You had already bought the vinyl album, so you bought the tour programme and the tee-shirt at the concert. Nowadays merchandising is more sophisticated, and available all the time, online:

In these days of pirating and grey market, finding a source of 'non-fake' merchandise is important, because otherwise your money isn't going to the band, so choose your source with care!

Many concerts, and hence I have lots of tee-shirts from touring bands of the last 50 years...


Then you move to brands, and once again there are now ways to get branded tee-shirts online:

Yep, I have one or two 'branded' tee-shirts from synthesizer manufacturers (plus a tour jacket from Opcode) and various other hi-tech music companies... As before, you can buy 'generic' tee-shorts with all sorts of brand names printed on them, but buying direct from the brand itself ensures that you are supporting them, and not someone else with no connection...


Then I decided that I wanted to make a 'statement', and so I started getting tee-shirts that 'said
something interesting and different':

This combines neat graphics with a relevant message, and I always like to support cottage industries. Genki Gear turn up at lots of anime conventions, and have a lot of very nice tee-shirts - thoroughly recommended! And this time, you are going straight to the designers!


Sometimes the message is part of a viral community. Adam Neely is a YouTube vlogger who covers lots of current music topics from a very informed viewpoint, and is just generally an interesting musician. Not unexpectedly, he has an on-line store that sells: a tee-shirt:

Now this is a message that gets closer to what I'm looking for, and of course I bought one from Adma's store on Having a classic jazz ornamentation on display says a lot, and it only really means something to people who can 'read' it, understand what it means, understand who it is a reference to, understand who you watch on YouTube, and it kind of makes you part of a viral community of people who watch Adam Neely's videos on YouTube. 'Do-be-do-be doo be dooooo...', as it says. For everyone else, it just says: 'Music', which is okay too. But two messages in one tee-shirt is just uber-cool!

My Tee-shirt!

And finally, we get to what I was looking for all this time, but never found, and so I made it myself. A tee-shirt that sends the message that I make electronic musisc, and says how I do it. I did consider using a screen-shot of a DAW, or a plug-in (one that I've written, for example!), but in the end, these were just branding for someone else, and not me and what I do. So the end result is direct and to the point:

If you are reading this blog, then you probably make electronic music, and you may well have been searching for something that 'says what you do'. Well, you can now get a tee-shirt that says what you do, for everyone to see!

Following from the online selling theme that underlies this whole post, then there's an online store for Synthesizerwriter as well:

There's one hopefully unusual aspect to this tee-shirt online selling page, which isn't immediately obvious. Notice that there are two colour options for the tee-shirt material itself: black and white, but I only produced one graphic for the printing, and that is in white. So if you select the white tee-shirt, then what you get is a white tee-shirt with white printing on it. This leaves you free to colour the tee-shirt material in any way that you like (dye it, tie-dye it, just let it get very grimy or dirty...) and the message will gradually appear... The preview that you get on the web-site kind of warns you that you don't get a white tee-shirt with black printing, of course!

Getting the 'This is how I create...' tee-shirt

Just visit this web-site. No obligation. Enjoy!

Modular Equivalents

For the first time in a long while, there isn't any easy way to implement this in a modular synth, so this gets my first 'infinite' score: this will require Infinite ME.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Frequency-to-Colour display in MaxForLive for Ableton Live

It all started with an enquiry on Facebook. Kovacic Matej asked about how to display 'human chakras, colors and their frequencies' in Ableton Live. After some discussion about spectrum analyser plug-ins, a link to a web-site was given and the thread went quiet...

As part of my occasional 'fix a random query on an Ableton forum' series, I have created a MaxForLive plug-in for Ableton Live called AUDcolours that allows the generic mapping of frequency to colour. To make the specific example in the thread easier, plus for musical use, there are two presets: one is the 'human chairs' that was given in the Facebook thread; the other is the musical notes  for one octave - CDEFGABC. There are seven (of course!) additional preset memories for your own mappings.


There are quite a lot of controls to enable generic mapping of frequency to colour. Each of the eight vertical bars on the left side of the AUDcolours plug-in has a frequency control, Q or resonance control, an audio thru/mute switch (X) and a colour swatch. Each vertical bar can be tuned to any frequency from 10 Hz to 10 kHz, and the width can be set using the Q (resonance) control - low values give wide responses, whilst high values give narrow responses. A medium setting is probably best for initial testing. In the screenshot above, the meter is showing that a frequency of about 261 Hz is being input, and the bar's background has lit up with Red (as set by the swatch UI object). The audio thru/mute switch allows you to listen to one or more specific bars when the X is lit up with bright purple. The swatch is a user interface device that lets you set the colour of the vertical bar.

On the right hand side of AUDcolours are common controls. The vertical group of squares are the usual MaxForLive preset memory slots. Red means empty, White is the current selected preset memory, and Grey means that there are values stored inside the preset memory slot. Underneath the memory slots are the two fixed presets: Chakras and CDEFGABC. On the far right hand side there is a Wet/Dry mix control for the audio, then the Threshold rotary control that determines how loud the input needs to be to lit the vertical bar up with colour (Start high and reduce until you get the triggering just working. Too low will trigger more than one bar!). There are also common controls that can show or hide the rotary controls, the audio level meters, or the colour swatches. Finally, in the lower right hand corner, there is a common control for the audio thru/mute toggle controls (X) - this turns all the Xs on or off at once. If you set Wet/Dry to fully clockwise (100%) then you will hear only the bars which have an X lit up.

Getting AUDcolours

You can get AUDcolours on

Here are the instructions for what to do with the .amxd file that you download from

(In Live 10, you can also just double-click on the .amxd file, but this puts the device in the same folder as all of the factory devices...)

Oh, yes, and sometimes last-minute fixes do get added, which is why sometimes the blog post is behind the version number of

Modular Equivalents

In terms of basic modular equivalents, then AUDcolours 0v01 would probably require eight band-pass filters, with eight Utility/Logic modules to do the threshold detection, and eight colour panels to give the colour outputs to give the same sort of functionality, plus a voltage source panel to give the common control over threshold, giving a total of about 25 ME.

And here's a link to click on if you find my writing informative: