randy's Recent Posts

  • wider range: OK, easy.

  • cc control: I try not to add features that are probably covered elsewhere, and it seems like every host has a way of doing MIDI learn. No?

  • gate / waveguide: again trying to keep it simple, this seemed like the best order for the two. Aalto 2 might have options.

  • finetune: yes, some help is needed here

  • velocity: added to aalto 2 list...

Do you see the "factory" scales? The Aalto installer should make a folder /Library/Audio/Presets/Madrona Labs/Scales. This is where the defaults are. You can add your own folders here inside Scales.

Here's a little something for your Monday morning, three short demos designed to show off the wide range of sounds you can make with Aalto...

The first two were put together by me and my friends tea and cough syrup last week. No compositional brilliance here, just a collection of sounds leaning heavily on the presets. All sounds by Aalto. (really.)

The third one is by noise and synth fiend Surachai, a mix of his presets that come from a different and more aggressive perspective that some people will find extra-musical, and others will find right up their alley. Check out Surachai's new noise/synth/metal work Plague Diagram on glorious vinyl and convenient digital.

All these files are downloadable as WAV audio if you want to check the sound quality out for reals. My demos were mixed in Logic Audio with no effects, compression or EQ. So you won't hear the "punch" you are used to in a finished mix, but you will hear just what Aalto sounds like, which I like to think of as solid and unhyped.

What do I mean by unhyped? Aalto is designed to be approachable, but also to be a solid tool for sound makers at any level of expertise. So it always does what it tells you it's doing, without adding any processing to the result that might make it immediately more appealing but less flexible over time. Experienced producers have their own favorite tricks and machines for glossing up a sound or shaping its dynamics, so Aalto doesn't EQ or compress its output--- that's up to you. Instead, I put the effort in on making the raw waveforms and the audio-rate modulations sound as good as possible.

pads and textures:

beats and percussion:

noise and terror:

That LFO level control is clearly needed and will appear soon.

Hi there from Madrona HQ. It's been a while since I posted an update. There's been no shortage of activity here, but it's the kind involved in porting software, a hundred little chores each of which are totally uninteresting to talk about unless we have come to that wonderful time when they are all done. So the train moves forward. Chooooo. In the middle of all this scut work I love to get a note like this out of the blue:

Hey Randy, I don't want to sound too fanboish, but aalto saved my this week. Was working on the first single from our upcoming EP for months now, and that song was a real bugger, because I wasn't satisfied with the direction it took. Bought the aalto thursday evening, played around with it, and voilá, all the pads and squeeks and sequences I was missing came in a rush. Haven't had such an inspirational rush since I bought the MS 20 several years ago. I'm actually planning to use your little beast as our signature sound source on the album.

Just wanted to share that story. Have a listen:

Thanks for bringing up such a good sounding writer's-block-breaker.

Cheers from germany

marco / hearhere

I just tried saving and reloading my preset from GarageBand and it worked here. I'm hoping your preset file got corrupted somehow. If this keeps happening, let me know and I'll look into it ASAP.

Open protocol and open source config software. I think open source is the best way to guarantee that the controller will be supported for a long time.

I'm thinking along the lines of a fairly simple app that lets you define areas on the Soundplane and set what OSC or MIDI messages they send.

Yes, wouldn't that be great? I can't wait to use a monome + soundplane setup.

nice! I used plastic cups for making this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foZ0k_kJfJI

There are a bunch of software environments in which you can make instruments. Max/MSP, Kyma, AudioMulch, Reaktor, Vaz Modular, Tassman, Plogue Bidule ... and that's just the graphical ones I can think of, leaving out SuperCollider, ChucK and so on. How many times have you read that with tool X you are "limited only by your own imagination?" But not everyone has the ability, or the time, to think up a new instrument and then spend a year working out the details. For players and composers, limitations are essential. So where are the instruments themselves?

With computer audio, there are so many possibilities available that I think the idea of an instrument is getting neglected. A traditional musical instrument usually has a small number of controls that lead to many possibilities, because you can physically interact with it in different and subtle ways. Take a single string and stretch it over a box with a hole in it. You just made an instrument that you could spend years practicing and getting better at. There aren't many parts, but the variety of physical interactions they offer gives you lots of sonic possibilities.

Contrast that with a computer, which has billions of parts that can go into more states than the universe has particles, most of which make no sounds at all. It's hard to configure these systems to make sound dependably---recall only ten years or so ago, when just a handful of brave musicians were willing to rely on computers for live performance, and crashes were pretty common.

Once you do make sound with a computer, you have entered an exciting world where it's arguably possible to make any sound we are capable of hearing. Where to begin? It's natural that the environments people have built for harnessing all this power look like the technology they are based on: component-based systems where simple building blocks are connected to make larger components, and so on. This kind of approach has been used by every music synthesis language or environment that has ever been made, as far as I am aware. It makes sense when you don't have much computing power, or you do want to express musical ideas in terms of algorithms.

But physical instruments are not algorithms. We don't send commands to them, we play them, using vibrating surfaces to exchange information with them more subtly than symbols can. With the amount of computing power available today, it's possible to make fantastic new computer instruments that are more like physical objects than programs, expressive enough to be worth learning.

This has been a Madrona Labs mini-essay. Thanks to M-Goldie on Gearslutz.com for asking the question.


Think of Aalto's synthesizer and its UI as two different things. They are actually two completely separate pieces of code---when you have Logic's generic view running, for example, you are not running the Aalto interface at all.

The values you see in the XML are the ones stored in the synthesizer, that Aalto is really using. The values you see in the interface are rounded so you can manipulate them easily. But Aalto saves the internal values.

This may get confusing because of floating-point vs. decimal inaccuracies. Most decimal values do not have an exact floating-point representation. 1.01 for example is 1.009999... in floating point.

There shouldn't be a lot of rules to set up-- every parameter has a minimum and a maximum value, just make a random value somewhere in between and you should be fine. Again they are all floating-point internally, it's just that the display is different to make the UI most useful for each parameter.

The LFO has no sync. but the SEQUENCER does. so, you can draw any wave you want with any number of steps and use that as LFO. each step is one 16th note. So, you can draw your quarters, halfs, etc. and more complex shapes.

Thanks for the sad ducks. very complex changes in this patch!

Well that's a super cool idea!

Since you just want to make a text file as your output, I wouldn't necessarily go with Apple's XCode tools unless you really want to learn them or improve your C++. You can use an interpreted language that will be easier to work with. Javascript, Python and Ruby are all good examples. And you could turn any of these into a web app really easily.

You could also use Aalto inside of Max/MSP using the audiounit~ object. Some other folks are doing this, and I hear it works, within reason. This way you could make a Max patch that did the randomizing.

I hope other people will have more ideas, there are a lot of ways to do this.

The patch connections format is just as simple as it looks. No surprises.

Hey Seth, these are sick. I mean sick not as in "sick, brah", but in the sense of being deranged or unwell. Perhaps they might find use in a Pigeon Funk composition?

It might be cool to be able to patch any signal to Aalto's output. This is something to think about, maybe for Aalto 2.

Aaaargh. OK, this may be related to other audio stoppage bugs people are seeing. Must fix this as soon as I am done with the current problem, I'll be in touch.

Thanks for keeping in touch. I'm doing some overhauling related to the Windows work now-- will look at this issue soon.

The stream of continuously modulated data you refer to is a signal inside the plugin, generated by adding the osc_pitch value to the LFO signal. How would you propose to get access to it outside of the plugin?

If I made a fully modular environment, I could see using Jack or something to transmit these signals to other applications. But I can't imagine many people wanting to do this with Aalto.

That's definitely possible - it might go away though!

coarse / fine knobs implemented for the next release BTW.

I'll announce the Win beta here first. I will definitely make another video when I need a break from developing!

Hi David,

I've been wrapped up in Windows work here but I think I know what this problem is. If I'm right I'll post an update in a day or so.

Hi, right now February is my best guess. It could take longer but I hope not.

OK, let me see about making a debugging version that will help. Please stay tuned.

With Aalto 1.1, you can copy and paste patches as text. this makes it really easy to share your creations via email, or any forums you like.

So, I made a thread in the software forum for sharing patches. Hopefully it will fill up with weird and wonderful sounds. I'll try to do my part.

To start off I added this dizi patch. The dizi is a Chinese flute with a membrane that gives a characteristic soulful buzzing sound.

(It's not possible yet to embed Soundcloud objects in the forum itself, but I'll work on that soon.)

Yup, it uses an instrument-appropriate Chinese scale. Would love to hear this patch with a wind controller...

Aalto has a different approach to avoiding aliasing than most softsynths. Oversampling is only one piece of the puzzle. I could make a kind of "draft mode" that did not do oversampling, but it would not sound as good. On the other hand there's lots of work I can do still to make it run faster with the sounds the way they are. So while there's room to improve there I'll focus on that.

So it's only the vertical sliders in the sequencer that are acting weird?

Hi downeyst,

First: be nice! This is not a place for namecalling, whether directed at me or anyone else.

Second, you have no idea what you are talking about. Think about it for a minute. Of course, if I could wave my magic wand and make the Windows version be done today, so I could ship it and make some money, I would do it. Unfortunately, it takes hard work. If you really want to know anything about the development process, ask me.

Sorry to hear about your trouble. I just checked out automation in Logic 9 and touch mode seems to be working.

I have my older laptop running 10.5. When I get a chance I will try the 10.5 / Logic 8 combination.