Asymmetrical clipping is clipping (truncation of a waveform), where the positive and negative amplitude peaks of a waveform are clipped to different values. This means we could clip the negative at -1, and the positive at -0.8 for example, and create some interesting harmonics.
This asymmetrical clipping is common in guitar effect pedals, since it’s relatively cheap to accomplish in electronics (with a few diodes). Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty easy to accomplish in Pd too, just using the [clip~] object. The fun part comes in deciding how we can use it musically.
A quick and easy Pure Data patch-from-scratch tutorial building a feedback loop with a delay and a ring modulator.
With just two sine waves, a delay, and some feedback, we can make some pretty complex and dynamic sounds! In this patch we take a sine wave, delay it, and then ring-modulate that delay before feeding it back on itself (feeding it back into the delay, that is).
There’s no talking on this one, just building the patch, and listening to it go.
Mid/Side is a different way of working with stereo, where, rather than one channel for the left, and one for the right, you have one channel for the “mid” information, and one channel for the “side”. This format allows for different approaches to stereo processing, playing with the stereo image in new and interesting ways.
I’ve seen a lot of videos about mid/side for mixing or mastering but I thought I’d talk a bit about the potential for this approach in sound design, and how it can help us think about 3D audio and ambisonics too.
Putting together a music (muzak?) generator in Pd inspired by Todd Barton’s self-generating patch on the Buchla Synthesizer.
In my regular journeys across the internet, I came across the concept of a “Krell Music” patch–a self-generating patch created by Todd Barton, inspired by Bebe and Louis Barron’s soundtrack to the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet.” The Barrons’ soundtrack to the film is amazing, and a bit beyond what I can get into here (see links below). Barton’s Buchla patch tries to capture some of the dynamic timbres of that score.
My oversimplification of the idea is this: a note has an amplitude envelope–attack and release–and when that amplitude envelope ends it triggers the next envelope. At the same time, that trigger selects a new (likely different) attack and decay time, as well as a new pitch and timbre for the next note. So we create a continuous series of musical tones, each distinct from the one before it.
Talking about binaural beats, claims about their ability to entrain brainwaves, and walking through how easy they are to make yourself in Pure Data.
In binaural beats, two pitches with slightly different frequencies are played, one in each ear, supposedly creating a vibration at the difference tone inside your head, which can be used to entrain your brainwaves to help you relax, get you high, or even affect your behavior. The science isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace binaural beats as a musical aesthetic, using Pd to make a fun, free “healing music generator.”
…just as long as we use our critical thinking and our ability to find credible resources.
Please TRUST YOUR DOCTOR (not the internet, including my videos) when making your medical decisions.
Pd running MIDI to an ArduinoBoy controlling a Game Boy running trash80’s mGB software to generate triumphant RPG music in real time.
This simple(-ish) Pure Data patch generates four channels of MIDI, corresponding with the four channels of the Game Boy’s sound: two pulse waves (channels 1&2), a triangle wave (channel 3), and noise (channel 4).
The arpeggio on pulse channel 2 is just a simple sequencer, with some “echos” created with [pipe] objects. The “drums” are created by a sequencer triggering random notes on a sequence too.
The remaining channels are slightly more sophisticated. First, we select a rhythm for each measure, then trigger notes on pulse channel 1 at that rhythm. There are only five notes (from a hemitonic pentatonic scale), and each note has two or three possible harmony notes, to be played by the triangle channel.
Over the last year, I’ve put together a collection of YouTube videos on Pure Data Vanilla for musicians with no previous programming experience required.
Originally, I was just making these videos for a class, but I quickly found there was an audience for Pd tutorials like this, and my videos expanded beyond the class materials to generative music patches, live databending glitch beats, and algorithmic 80s synthwave.
Make a Pure Data patch that generates synth Halloween music–“dissonant music in odd time signatures.”
Horror music offers a great deal of creative license, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to spooky music. In this video I go through a few examples, then talk about how we can make a simple generative music system that creates pulsed, dissonant, repetitive music like John Carpenter’s score to Halloween (1978) or Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (which became the theme to The Exorcist 1973). We start by making a simple sequencer, and then randomize and automate different aspects of it (tempo, roots, sequences).
A quick disclaimer, in retrospect, I realize I played a little fast and loose with the order of how things are processed here (looking especially at how I’m adding things), and I might have done some things in a different way, but everything works for our purposes, and I’ll plan to talk about that more next time.
Brian Eno coined the term “ambient music” to describe music that is “intended to induce calm and a space to think,” and “as ignorable as it is interesting.” We can make a simple patch in Pd that recreates one of Eno’s techniques, creating a system that endlessly generates ambient music for us with the notes that we choose.
Give it a try and make your own interesting and ignorable music.