Sunday, March 22, 2020

HSS Podcast Episode 047 - The McGurk Effect


New music is no longer a thing, thanks to a pair of lawyers who created an algorithm to write every single musical melody that can possibly exist. Rather than claiming all music as their personal property, however, the duo have released their entire catalog of tunes into the public domain, in the hope that this will bring an end to copyright lawsuits.

Lawyer, musician, and programmer Damien Riehl came up with the idea after realizing that all singer-songwriters are essentially walking on a “melodic minefield”, because there are only a finite number of melodies that can exist. As such, with each new song that gets written, the chances of creating something genuinely unique decreases, and the possibility of writing a melody that has already been recorded by someone else increases.

In a recent Tedx Talk, Riehl explains that this wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the ridiculous nature of copyright laws, which state that a piece of music becomes copyrighted the moment it is recorded. Even worse, it is possible to be sued for “subconscious infringement”, whereby an artist may have to pay a settlement to another artist even if they claim to have never heard the song that they are accused of copying.
Riehl sites numerous such cases, revealing how George Harrison was found guilty of subconscious infringement after the chorus to his song My Sweet Lord was deemed to be too similar to a track called He’s So Fine by The Chiffons. In another example, Radiohead were forced to name a group called The Hollies as co-writers of their song Creep, which apparently included a melody that also appears in one of the latter band’s songs.

To try and bring an end to such cases, Riehl teamed up with Noah Rubin to create an algorithm that could produce every 12-note melody that has ever been written or can ever be written, using one octave of musical notes. The algorithm uses the same ‘brute force’ technique that hackers use when attempting to steal passwords, by essentially generating every possible combination of characters. A total of 68 billion melodies were generated, which are now all available at

The pair argue that their algorithm highlights how musical melodies are essentially just numbers arranged in a particular order, and that since numbers can’t be copyrighted, music should also not be constrained by infringement laws. "No song is new. Noah and I have exhausted the data set," explains Riehl. "Noah and I have made all the music to be able to allow future songwriters to make all of their music."

It’s becoming clear that the Covid-19 coronavirus is going to have a significant impact on all of our lives for the foreseeable future and, sadly, it’s likely that the music-making industry is going to suffer. 

Of course, there are still plenty of ways that you can indulge your passion - a period of self-isolation might actually help you to finish that album you’re been working on or even master a new instrument - but in the world of live events, the picture looks a little less rosy.
Around the world gigs, trade shows and other music-focused gatherings are being cancelled on a daily basis and, unfortunately, this is a trend that’s set to continue. 
To help you keep abreast of developments, and to make you aware if you need to change your plans in any way, I've included a link in the description of this podcast to an ongoing list that Music Radar has put together for live show updates. This guide shows the current impact that the coronavirus is having, and they're committed to keep it updated as news comes in. This might be a webpage you need to bookmark for future reference.
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  • Xfer Records Dimension ExpanderIf you're looking to add unique and insane space and stereo width to your sound, Xfer Records Dimension Expander is a must. The four-voice chorus with extended delay times takes advantage of phasing to further enhance the "out of the speaker" width. Two of the chorus voices are out of phase from the other two, which tickles your brain and confuses it in enjoyable ways, creating an unbeatable stereo effect. It sounds great on pretty much anything but shines a bit extra on vocals and cleaner guitars. Try it and find out which other instruments love this plugin.

  • Thrillseeker XTCSometimes you need to bring a sound back to life - you hear it has potential, but you know it can be so much more. Bringing back the mojo of a sound (or several) is what the exciter Thrillseeker XTC is all about. In the stylish analog interface, you have ultimate control over the low, mid, and high end with full respective EQ bands to dial it down even further. One of the more exciting features of the Thrillseeker XTC is the "mojo" knob. The Cambridge Dictionary defines mojo as "a quality that attracts people to you and makes you successful and full of energy." Switch out the "you" to "your track," there's your explanation to what the Thrillseeker XTC is all about. I really can't explain it better. It does magic on your track and makes it sound loads better.

  • Krush Who doesn't love an excellent, free bit crusher? Look no further than Krush. Krush is all about down-sampling, crushing, and driving your sound to insane levels – if you want. Hidden in this gem is a reliable filter and an LFO to manage all controls in the plugin fully. And with the separate dry and wet dial, you can add some exciting flavors to your drum loops, for example. Just a little bit can go a long way to liven up a dull 4/4 beat. It sounds like a bit crusher should and does everything you want, with a bit more to keep things interesting. If you want a free bit crusher, I recommend you check this one out right now. 


The McGurk Effect

Have you ever tweaked a knob on a compressor or an EQ plugin while looking at it on screen and hear an audible difference, only to find that it was in fact bypassed the whole time?

Well, if you’ve been mixing for very long, I’m sure at one point in time (knowingly or unknowingly) you’ve done this. 

This audio/visual phenomenon is not only real, but it is scientifically proven. In fact it's got a rather Scottish name, it's called "The McGurk Effect" . 

In 1976, Chief psychologist McGurk and his partner MacDonald, reported a powerful multisensory illusion occurring with audiovisual speech. They recorded a voice articulating a consonant and dubbed it with a face articulating another consonant. Even though the acoustic speech signal was well recognized alone, it was heard as another consonant after dubbing with incongruent visual speech. The illusion has been termed the McGurk effect. It has been replicated many times, and it has sparked an abundance of research. The reason for the great impact is because it is a striking demonstration of multisensory integration. It shows that auditory and visual information is merged into a unified, integrated percept.

The McGurk effect, in laymen terms, is a perceptual phenomenon that demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in auditory perception. The illusion occurs when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound. (See it for yourself here)

So, what can we learn from this? Well, it demonstrates our brains ability to marry the audio world to the visual and also shows us that we can be easily tricked into hearing things that are not there. Arguably, this is why some say that analog mixing is better musically speaking. Because, tactile knobs and low visibility to the specific ranges found on the mixing board or outboard gear, forces an engineer to use their ears more than their eyes to makes subtle adjustments. 

Because of this, some plug in companies have actually went as far as to create a sort of clean slate approach to audio alteration. For instance, one company (Audio Thing) released a FREE (yes FREE plugin), that you can download and try for yourself.  it's called the Blindfold EQ.
The Blindfold EQ is a freeware EQ plugin inspired by a quote from Matt Wallace, found in the book Recording Unhinged by Sylvia Massy. 
Matt states, “If I were King of the Universe, consoles would have no indication of frequency near the EQ knobs, because when you show the frequency, then most people EQ by eye. […]
But seriously, you should have no idea of what frequency you are boosting or cutting. It doesn’t matter what number is. It matters how it sounds and how it feels. That’s it!”
Matt Wallace

Ans so, the Blindfold EQ is created. The Blindfold EQ has 4 bands (LowShelf, LowMid, HighMid, HighShelf), but each knob is blind. Meaning, there are no indicators or numbers to show frequency values, gain values or Q values.
You have to use your ears, and in turn you nullify the need for specific values when making adjustments.

Now, although this doesn't completely eliminate the McGurk effect (due to the fact that one could still make changes in bypass and hear audible differences) it does at least minimize the need to have values for everything and quantify music into a little box. 

There you have it, a scientific explanation for the embarrassing moment when (Lord forbid) a client sees you adjust an EQ that is bypassed. But then, would they even notice it? Perhaps we could even utilize this as a means of not fiddling with the sound of something that we have painstakingly beat into submission at the artists request. Just simply duplicate the plugin, and then bypass the duplicate. Now show them your making a change and let the McGurk effect work for you instead of against you! 

Sources/Links:  - 2 - 3 - 4

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Complete Pedal Board for $238!

Now, I am not a big "grit" kinda guy. I like a little dirt on my tone, but only when I really dig in to my playing. This pedal just sounds... well good. It has all the makings of a legendary boost/drive pedal, and I fear it will someday become as expensive as the name brand alternatives.

The "High" mode with just a little turn of the knobs has become my go to crunchy sound!

I never really saw the usefulness of having an EQ pedal on my board until I used this thing! Wow! For the first time I was able to get my tone to sound like what I am hearing in my head! Scooping out the lows and taking out some of the 1k honk that the Strat gives made my amp sound like a million bucks!

What's really cool is that you can use this on keyboard, mics, as outboard gear, etc.

The fact that this has a Level slider makes it very versatile as well! You can use it as a boost after your drive or an extra added boost into your drive for more grit. However you decide to use it, you're going to love it!

This pedal rivals that of the boutique pedals on the market and is exceptional at adding depth to your tone. The fact that every setting can be altered with tempo tapping, and tails can be extended (even after being disengaged) make this pedal a workhorse of tonal options.

I don't even like chorus normally, yet this pedal has some great sounding chorus!

You can get anything from springy attacks on the reverb to a near infinite wash of ambient goodness! All, in all... I love it!

Loopers are awesome at making your timing better and improving your ability to layer parts properly. When you have 10 minutes of looping time (like this pedal offers) the possibilities are limitless. With unlimited overdubs and a plaback level setting, it is a one man band kinda guys dream pedal. You could literally record an entire EP on this pedal and play it back to jam over top of!

There are really only a few things that you need out of a good guitar patch cable. It needs to sound good (not have bad connections or allow for EMI) and it needs to be crazy durable. These cables not only meet those needs but exceeded my expectations given their affordability!

I was able to put together this little pedal board and still had some left over with just one pack!

Don't give in to the "snake oil" and the audiophile hype about boutique cables! All cables are intended to carry an electrical signal, and a small one at that. Although varying materials will cause small amounts of coloration to the sound it is not so noticeable that you should rush out and throw your life savings at putting a pedalboard together!

In short... these cables are perfect for the practical musician!

Much like the Motherboard to the PC, the power supply is "heart" of your pedalboard. Without a good clean power supply all your efforts will be in vain. You could throw a thousand dollar pedaboard together with all the best boutique pedals and it would flop without a good power supply.

I am confident that this particular power supply would be able to handle that task! Not only does it have a ton of very useful features but it is whisper quiet! I built the small board pictured and still have a ton of expansion options.

For the price, you can afford more pedals and spend less on the power supply in this instance, and still get good clean power to all of your pedals!