Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

25Oct/161

Three Things Every Believer Must Do

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? What does it mean, what does it require? I spent some time this weekend contemplating on what I needed to do, at the very least, to say I'm actively living out my faith.

What are the basic tenets of Christian Faith? What is non-negotiable? Your mind may be swimming with ideas of charity, piety, prayers, who knows.

The first place we should be looking for an example of living out the Christian Faith is Christ Himself.

I've narrowed down the most crucial responsibilities of the Believer to these three things:

  1. Prayer
  2. Scripture
  3. Worship

Now, we're supposed to act out our faith in deeds as well, but for building the foundation of our faith, these three are it. The "Building Blocks," as it were.

16Oct/161

New Job: Freelancer

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

In a few weeks, I'll be unemployed, and I will finally get the chance to go back to being self-employed. This is a big risk for me, of course, because there's always the possibility that I'll just not find enough work, and will have to go back working for a big company to pay the bills.

do not want to go back to work for someone else. This means I'm going to have to do my best to scrape up work on my own, for various things.

What kind of "Living Outside The Box" guy would I be if I didn't though, right?

I'm offering my services as a freelancer in several areas:

  • Book/general copy editing (Have edited/formatted my own book, and a few for others)
  • Article writing (I write here, and several other blogs on a regular basis)
  • Music lessons (I majored in theory, instrumental performance, etc. in college)
  • Background music for Youtube videos and podcasts (Have several satisfied customers already)
  • Computer tech work (20 years experience, and HP certified)

Plus I'm going to work on finishing more novels and music projects for my own income. I may even branch out into other areas as time permits. I'm flexible, and in about 3 weeks, I'll be able to start adding jobs to my schedule.

If you're interested in my work, let me know! Drop me an email here or use my new contact form.

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28Mar/160

Homemade MIDI Filter

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals I wanted to do with my guitar stage setup was to be able to control everything the Adrenalinn3 pedal does with two different MIDI foot controllers. This is interesting at least, challenging at best. You can't just combine the output of two pedals, because the Linn doesn't know which pedal the commands came from, and even if it did, it doesn't know what to do with them.

I looked into off-the-shelf pieces to do this, and there were a few that were close, but none of them could do what I needed without custom ROM hacking. I wasn't really interested in that (for time constraints) so I looked into something simpler, easier, and definitely cheaper.

Enter the humble Arduino. This amazing little piece of technology takes a cheap microprocessor and packages it into a board the size of a credit card, with a voltage regulator, and input/output pins. The tools to program them are free and (mostly) easy to use, and they even make DIY add-on kits that let you expand what the board is capable of.

10Mar/160

Wanted: Swiss Army MIDI Workstation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals of my guitar setup is to be able to use it in 3 different configurations:

  1. Hardware only
  2. Hardware/software
  3. Software only

Ideally I'd like to be able to exactly the same things with each, but hardware costs money! A lot of money. For instance: a hardware looper that syncs with MIDI clock starts around $400. That's more than what I paid for my whole laptop! It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that dollar for dollar, software is the way to go.

But I'll never completely eliminate hardware, and I don't think I should. It's not that I don't think software is reliable: my laptop runs effects for hours without a hiccup. But you still need hardware for interfacing things together. Controllers, pedals, mixers, etc.

So I guess the question is, what's an acceptable mix of hardware and software? If I say hardware only, I know exactly what I'd need to buy, and it wouldn't be cheap.

For effects, i.e. amplifier models, delays, etc. I've got it covered in hardware. That's easy, and I can control everything without a laptop. Everything syncs to the MIDI clock (delays, drum machine, etc.) and everything works. I'd still like to be able to use the Master Control to select drumbeats and the ART pedal to control effect presets... but because of the way the Linn handles that, it will require another piece of hardware to insert Bank Change signals so the MC will only switch drumbeats. Not ideal, but doable.

In order to control the Adrenalinn's drum and effect presets with two separate MIDI controllers, it requires injecting "bank change" messages into one of them to change the A3's preset mode. This isn't very complicated, except that there's currently no piece of hardware that will do that. However, for about $30, I can build a hardware MIDI filter out of an Arduino Uno board, and it looks something like this: (This is the actual MIDI board I will be using with my Arduino)

28Jun/142

Molten Voltage MIDI Pedal

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

My guitar pedalboard is finally finished! Got a Molten Voltage MIDI pedal to switch presets on my rack unit and also give me tap-tempo MIDI clock for my delay effects. Check it out.

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7Jun/140

New Music Project

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

For the last few months, I've been working on a new music project with my good friend Luke McNeely. It's mostly 8-bit "chiptune" music, made using old-school video game sounds and instruments. Don't laugh, it's a lot harder than it looks! But between the two of us, we've spent thousands of hours listening to really amazing music written by greats like Takashi Tateishi, played through Nintendo and Atari game consoles.

We decided to call our group "Not Entirely Unlike Chiptune" as an homage to Douglas Adams. So, if you like old video game music, were a child of the 80's and 90's, or just want to hear something different, check us out on Twitter and Soundcloud.

Our first official project is an 8-bit tribute album of one of our favorite bands, Five Iron Frenzy. We're releasing the songs as we go, rather than holding out till we're finished. Feel free to check it out!

8-Bit Frenzy

5Jun/140

MIDI Controllers: Not Just For Keyboards

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I've been working on my new guitar pedalboard, with the idea to have a 1U rack space and two rows of pedals. This should give me more possibilities in less space than a monster controller pedal, using stuff I already have. However, with a rack effect unit (and even some pedals now), you need some way to control it.

(This picture is a bit different than it will look when finished, but you can see the 1U rack unit. The MIDI pedal will go where the Roland interface is in this pic)

Pedalboard

Next to go on the board is some sort of MIDI pedal that is capable of sending Program Change signals to the rack unit. Ultimately, I'd like one that does Program Change, Continuous Controller, and a tap-tempo MIDI clock. As far as I know (and I've researched it endlessly) I can get two of those features in a pedal, but not all three. It just doesn't exist as far as I know, outside of custom $1000 setups.

Well, if I had to choose between two of those features, one would have to be Program Change. And as far as MIDI clock tap-tempo, I only know of a few pedals that can do that. The cheapest and most flexible would probably be the Molten Voltage "Tempode" pedal. I also discovered that Molten Voltage offers a pedal with the same functionality, plus simple up/down program changes called the Master Control. For the price of a Rocktron MIDI Xchange, I can get the same functionality with tap-tempo MIDI clock and start/stop.

So, how exactly does this MIDI stuff work, and what do PC, CC, and MIDI Clock messages do, exactly? And why do you need them? It depends on what you have on your board, and how you want to control it. Lots of new effect pedals can use MIDI too, including ones from Boss, Strymon, TC Electronics, Line6, Eventide, and so on.

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28May/140

Linux For Guitarists Episode 2

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

If you managed to make it through the first step of getting Linux installed on a computer, then we're ready to go to the next step, which is finding a decent audio interface to use for live guitar performance. This is Linux for Guitarists, Episode 2.

If you want to play guitar through your computer, you're going to need some way to plug it in. The best way to do it is with an audio interface. Specifically, you want to look for one that has a "Hi-Z" input. This makes the input jack have the correct impedance for your guitar to sound right. If you want a better explanation of why this is, check out this video on Impedance by Nick Jaffe.

I'll give you fair warning: most manufacturers are going to cheaper platforms, and putting most of their interface's features in software. I mean, they only have to write the driver software once, and it costs them nothing to duplicate it. Hardware costs money! So what that means for us is that a lot of these will only work in the most basic ways in Linux. If you know this going into it, you won't get as frustrated, but I'll tell you now, there's only a handful of interfaces that work 100%. One of them is what I have, a Roland UA-25EX. It has hardware switches for settings and a hardware compressor, hardware everything, and it's USB class-compliant, so it just works.

You may not be able to find one of these, so what you want to look for is something that specifically says "USB Class-Compliant." That means if you plug it into anything, it will at least work to get audio in and out. The advanced features probably won't work, but that's generally not a problem. If you want to see what interfaces are known to work, you can go to the Alsa home page and look through the list. Also, most Firewire interfaces will work, but again, you're gonna want to check and make sure. I have heard reports that the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 works perfectly in Linux, but I don't have one to test yet. It's still in production, so if you can't find a Roland UA-25EX give the Focusrite a try.

To install an interface in Linux, you just plug it in. The audio drivers are already built into the kernel, so if it works at all, it should just work. You can plug your guitar into the Hi-Z port, and see if you can get it to record something. If you can get it to work at all, you're set! It's all playing with software from here.

I'll also add, you'll probably want to find an interface that has MIDI in and out too, but if you can't, you can always get a simple USB to MIDI cable. They sell them on Amazon for like $19, and they'll work fine for what we're going to be doing with it.

Okay, that's about it! Next episode, we're going to talk about the two main software packages, Guitarix and Rakarrak. We'll be talking about how to get a decent guitar tone to start with, and then we'll get into effects later on.

Again, thanks for reading, and keep on rocking!

2Apr/140

Linux For Guitarists – Getting Started

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I've been messing around with Linux since about 2001, been playing guitar since about 1992. I've done lots of projects with Linux over the years, but the last couple of years I wanted to use Linux as a platform to make music with. I'm not a professional blogger, nor a video expert, but I know a lot about being a geek and being a musician, which is why you're here. I originally wanted to do Youtube videos, but I'm really better at writing. It would be a lot more informal, like hanging with your Geeky tech buddy. But in the end, I just didn't have time to make videos of the quality I'd like. So for now, I'm your Geeky tech pal who's a Linux Guru and just so happens to love playing guitar. Welcome to Linux for Guitarists, Episode 1.

There's been plenty of stuff written about Ardour, and a bunch of other open-source music tools, which is fantastic. But when I started to try to learn more about guitar-specific stuff, specifically performance-oriented software, I discovered there's actually very little out there.

Now, a lot of people are intimidated by Linux, and I understand, but it's not that bad. It gets a bad rap from people that haven't really used it that much. But I'm very comfortable with it, so I feel pretty good about helping you with it. I'm not gonna go into the reasoning behind it*, but let's just say, if you want to use something besides Windows or OSX, for whatever reason, you're in the right place.

21Feb/140

MIDI Effect Sequencing Software For Guitarists

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As many of you know, I'm working on a complete open-source solution to doing guitar amp and effects emulation in Linux. Because, you know, I'm a geek like that. So far, I've had great success with Guitarix and SooperLooper, and added a few other tools and utilities to make everything work smoothly. I have to say, considering what the equivalent software would cost, I've been pretty impressed with Guitarix. (Rakkarak might someday be a viable performance alternative... it just needs a complete UI redesign. Yes, it's really that bad.)

One of the guitar effects that I've been curious about is an effect sequencer. Some hardware equivalents would be something like the Electro Harmonix 8 Step Program, which lets you sequence a signal that goes to the external control pedal jack of another effect. (Demo video and good explanation of step sequencers (not mine) is here)