Reverse Engineering Vince Noir’s ‘Cars’ Monophonic Ringtone

I’m a big fan of the Mighty Boosh. It stands out on the sea of British comedy like a ship’s captain with a mullet. Followers of the show will have noticed that Noel and Julian are big fans of Gary Numan, who is referenced several times and appears, frowning, in a cupboard in the third series. In the episode ‘Tundra’ from series 1, Vince’s ancient (by today’s standards) Nokia interrupts at a key moment with a classic monophonic rendition of ‘Cars’. After watching the episode recently, I decided that it would be a laugh to have the same thing as my ringtone. Yes, I am aware it’s 2016 and yes I am ‘that guy’.

However, after extensive research (typed it into google), I wasn’t able to find a suitable recording anywhere. I did manage to locate one which someone has made with a surprising level of detail, but there is a slight glitch in the recording that I just couldn’t live with. So the only logical thing to do was to give up.

Not a chance.

  1. I started by loading up the episode and taking a grab of the audio to compare. Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 15.46.03.png
  2. Next up was to find the correct sound. I did a fair amount of searching around to see if I could find any information about what the components of the sound of those old Nokia ringtones were, but to no avail. After a few minutes of playing around with some of the synthesiser plugins and ‘musical typing’ in Garageband, I found that anything in that very high pitch range already starts to sound fairly convincing.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 15.55.23.png
  3. After discovering this, I reasoned that finding the right sound was probably a case of playing around with different waveforms until I found something close to the original. None of Garageband’s standard synths are very powerful and certainly none of them have enough features to allow you to change the waveform or have very much control over the sound. I searched around google and chanced upon an AU plugin called u-he TyrellN6. It was dead easy to install and allows a lot of control over the sound as well as a built in sequencer, which I haven’t had time to fiddle with yet.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 16.06.52.png
  4. TyrellN6 has a waveshaper that goes from triangle to square and getting the right tone was a case of selecting the most convincing position.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 16.02.50.png
    (Right there, if you were wondering)

    Every other parameter is essentially not in use. Nothing fancy needed to create that classic (annoying?) ringtone sound.
  5. Next, I input the melody in MIDI using the basic ‘musical typing’ input. Garageband has no tap tempo that I could seem to find (it probably does if you’re willing to search), but I reasoned the original ringtone would be a fairly standard tempo anyway. It turns I was right: 120BPM.
    Again, no need for anything fancy in the MIDI input since an old ringtone like this would be all one velocity. I did pay special attention to the length of the notes on the other hand, as I wanted to get it as close as possible.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 16.07.23.png
  6. I cleaned the MIDI input up with the quantiser, set to move notes to the nearest quaver (8th note) and fiddled around with any notes that didn’t sit quite right.
    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 16.12.02.png
  7. I dragged the pattern out so it will repeat four times on my phone when it rings, exported it as a MP3… And we’re done. I hope you all enjoyed this bizarrely niche photoessay.

    I actually used bluetooth to send the file to my phone and then was able to hear the ringtone in use when 2003 called.

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Review of the Groovesizer RED- Synthesizer and Sequencer

And now for something completely different.

One of my hobbies is building DIY electronics, particularly synthesizers and noise makers. I find soldering, generally speaking, very relaxing, save for the few times I’ve spent hours testing joints with the multimeter, building up to near ‘toys-out-of-the-pram’ levels of frustration, only to find that the problem was a flat battery all along.

The Groovesizer RED is a little synth/sequencer kit designed and sold by MoShang and shipped out, as far as I can tell, from his one-man operation based in Taiwan. The instrument itself is an Arduino (ATMEGA32) based lo-fi granular synth and 16 step sequencer. In layman terms, that means it can produce a 16 step repeating melody with a gritty synth sound. It’s also capable of sending and receiving MIDI messages. Splendid.

The Kit
I consider myself to be a somewhat confident builder these days. I’ve built many things from kits and designed some circuit layouts myself on perfboard. Most of them worked! The Groovesizer was a relaxing build due to the low parts count and no need for offboard wiring. I wouldn’t say it’s the ideal build for a completely novice hobbyist on the other hand, as the 16 LEDs are extremely fiddly to solder. They’re very close to some other components and it makes it difficult to get the iron in there. I find that soldering one pad on each then reheating it while pushing the LED into place is the most effective method. Even using this technique some of my diodes remain ever so slightly wonky.
Moshang provides a very informative step by step guide to building the kit on the Groovesizer site, including some handy practical tips and notes on which part of the circuitry each component is involved with.
The cost was around £55GBP, including delivery although you’ll likely need to pay an additional customs fee for your country to import it. That was around another £13 for me. I’d say that’s a reasonable price for what the unit offers in terms of the pleasure you’d get out of building it as well as the usability it offers.

Look and Feel
Wow, this thing is stylish. A lot of thought has gone in to making the circuit board part of the aesthetic, with the components visible through clear acrylic plates. The knobs, which boast neat red markers and the bright red switch covers, both included with the kit, add to the visual appeal.

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Tenuously related picture of my shoes. What? They’re red!

The design is only really let down by the feel of board mounted pots and switches, which aren’t nearly as solid as I would like. They’re far from being flimsy, but something slightly weightier would just finish it off for me.

Groovisizer - 1 (1)
The one downside of transparent perspex: it produces more shadows than Cliff Richard.

The Synthesizer
Ok, the payoff of that last joke was pretty weak, but fortunately that can’t be said for the Groovesizer RED’s synth section. It has five main sound parameter controls. Grain Pitch 1 and 2 act a lot like the cutoff control on a filter while grain decay 1 and 2 behave like the resonance. Combining these results in a smorgasbord of different sounds from subtle to extreme including wild tweeting or throaty sounds with the grain decays set to max. The final control sets the decay of each note. Subtly changing this also has a noticeable effect on the way the filters react. There is also the option to automate grain pitch 1 over the course of a sequence to imitate the sweep of a voltage controlled filter.

Function
After playing around with the Groovesizer for the best part of a week, I’ve discovered that perseverance is the key to getting the most out of it. Having so many options in an instrument that doesn’t have an LCD comes at the expense of ease of use. Inputting sequences is not particularly intuitive and getting to grips with adding slides and accents is even more confusing, as you have remember to add them before releasing the note input button. With that said, learning the controls thoroughly is extremely rewarding and with a little practice, it can become second nature.


There certainly is a deceptively large amount of options hidden in the instrument. Pattern mode is one of my favourites. There are a number of preset scales saved in the memory. Selecting one automatically brings up an ascending pattern based on that scale. Load up a minor arpeggio in UP and DOWN mode, knock it down an octave and you have an instant Muse-circa-2003 bassline.
Other functions that are crammed into the synth include transposing a pattern via MIDI, storing and recalling patterns and tap tempo. If you’re curious, visit the Groovesizer website where you can read about all of the RED’s many functions.

Naturally, the more creative you are, the better the results you’ll get when programming sequences. A quick look at any of MoShang’s Youtube videos on the Groovesizer show the breadth of what can be achieved and I’ve mostly only tried to imitate famous patterns so far.


Verdict
Fun. Lots of fun! The RED has fiddle value. Even with a basic sequence programmed in, it’ll keep you occupied for hours noodling around with the tempo, swing and sound. Would I use it as a legitimate instrument in the studio? I’m not sure. The sound is certainly convincing enough to base a tune on; perhaps not varied enough to use all the time. What I would certainly do is keep it on display in the studio so I could say to people ‘I made that!’ at which point they’d exclaim ‘You made it? Wow, it looks great’. Because it does. It looks really cool.

Visit http://groovesizer.com to read more about the Groovesizer RED and MoShang’s other DIY projects which all look equally good.

 

Lip Care Line Up for Brass Players

I have bad skin. Any change in temperature causes me to dry out like a prune. Too much central heating causes me to desecrate like a coconut. Lips are no exception and I spend the majority of my year plastering them with various products to keep them from flaking off. I’ve tried a lot of different things in the past so I’ve made this handy list showing which ones, in my opinion at the least, are the best and why.
I’ve rated each product out of 10 and given the price in pounds sterling along with an approximate conversion to USD, since most people who view this blog use those currencies. Apologies if you live outside UK or USA. Hopefully the value for money rating will give you a reasonable idea.

1. Vaseline
Rating: 6/10
Price paid: £1 ($1.50) each, although most places sell for around £1.40 ($2)
Value for money: 6/10
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Vaseline is a pretty good all round lip product. It forms a coating that protects the lips so it’s particularly useful for cold weather, but some people feel that this dries their lips out. It is very good for lubricating trumpet slides though.

2. Blistex Relief Cream
Rating: 5/10 You have to use it in moderation
Price paid: £2.50 (Approx. $3.55)
Value for money: 8/10 (Expensive to begin with but you use very little per application)

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One of the active ingredients in Blistex is phenol. This is actually a mild skin irritant and is designed to remove dry skin from very chapped lips. Continuous use can dry the lips out further, meaning you are compelled to use more of the product and this can lead to a cycle in which you’re using the cream constantly. I’ve found Blistex to be the most useful thing for treating lip infections which I’m particularly prone to. I presume this is due to the Campher and Menthol which produce that cooling feeling on the skin. However, I usually have to stop playing for a couple of days at the least while I recover from lip infections so using the cream frequently is less of a problem. I tend to use Blistex if my lips are very dry and sore as well but limit the application to once or twice a day.

3. ‘Lipsore’ 5% Cream
Rating: 6/10 It’s an essential if you get cold sores, but sadly even using a product like this does speed up recovery that much
Price paid: Unknown. Different brands vary widely and I buy the cheapest each time. They all have the same active ingredient.
Value for money: N/A
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This is for treating cold sores. It contains the active ingredient, ‘Aciclovir’ which is found in a lot of cold sore treatments including the expensive branded ones. It soothes the stinging and helps cold sores to clear up slightly faster. However, as you’ll know if you get them, there’s a minimum time of about five days that they take to clear up and no amount of treatment will ever make that much faster. Catching them early with the cream does seem to stop them from fully developing however, which makes it easier to live (and play) with them.

4. Chap Stick Original
Rating: 4/10
Price paid: £1.29 ($1.85)
Value for money: 6/10
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I tend to avoid these given the frequency at which I get cold sores. You run the risk of transferring the virus onto the stick which can then cause another outburst if you continue to use it once the current sore has cleared up. This particular one contains many of the same ingredients as vaseline (and I’d be willing to bet a lot of other brands are the same), so I prefer to just use a little tub. The medicated version contains some similar ingredients to the Blistex cream.

5. Simple Derma
Rating: 7/10
Price paid: £2.99 for 400ml ($4.25)
Value for money: 8/10
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This product seems to have been discontinued. Other moisturisers will work as well, although this one is my all time favourite. I’ll post an update if I find something that’s as good.

While this isn’t strictly speaking intended for lips, it works a treat. It’s designed for very sensitive skin so it’s very gentle. It also soaks in quickly so if your lips are just a bit dry it’s the perfect thing. It doesn’t protect your lips from drying out when you’re outside like vaseline type products do but it also doesn’t sit there for a long time making it an ideal moisturiser for playing. Simple Derma is my favourite but I except any similar moisturiser designed for sensitive skin would do the same thing. It lasts for ages too.

6. Chop Saver
Rating: 9.5/10
Price paid: £7.99 ($11.30) for two (one with SPF 15)
Value for money: 7/10
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I thought these weren’t available in the UK at all until recently. I found them in a music shop called PJS music in Barnsley of all places. According to the Chopsaver website, most lip balms are based on petroleum and this is bad. They reckon that any petroleum or alcohol based lip balms will dry the lips out. Therefore, they use all natural ingredients in their balms including but not limited to shea butter, mango butter, arnica, vitamin E and comfrey. I didn’t know what to except, but I’ve used Chop Saver for about two weeks now and I’ve found it’s excellent at keeping the lips feeling ‘right’. It seems to be able to return them to normal quickly after a heavy gig, perhaps owing to the arnica (an anti bruising agent) in it. It also seemed to help heal splits in my lips very quickly. To sum up, I think they’re on to something. I’m even willing to ignore the fact that Chop Saver is in a tube rather than a tin because it’s so useful.

Jazz Trumpet Transcription: Love for Sale, Roy Hargrove

Here’s a transcription of Roy Hargrove’s solo on Love for Sale live at Smalls with Cyrille Aimée and Joel Frahm. This recording is really great. All of the solos stand out and I defy anyone not to tap their feet to the bouncy rhythm section groove.

There’s nothing in Roy’s solo that’s particularly difficult to get down notes wise. What is difficult to capture is the feel. He plays the quavers very smoothly and lightly in the swung sections while picking out more rhythmic and accented phrases in the 2 feel sections.

It’s worth noting that the alternative changes are used in the A section (i.e dominant chords instead of major 7 and minor 7)

As usual the video will play from Roy’s solo for convenience, but I’d recommend listening from the beginning. 

Download PDFs:
Click here to download the C/Concert Pitch Version (Piano, Bass, Flute etc.)
Click here to download the Eb version (Alto Sax, Baritone Sax etc.)
Click here to download the Bb version (Trumpet, Tenor Sax etc.)

Want to see more high quality jazz trumpet transcriptions? Visit my Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.

Love for Sale Transcription_0001Love for Sale Transcription_0002

 

An Interview with British Jazz Trumpet Player Steve Fishwick

Steve Fishwick is a busy man, but I managed to catch him for a chat between tour dates to ask him about his life as a trumpet player and playing jazz for a living.

Steve began his trumpet career at age 8 but he didn’t develop his passion for jazz until a few years later. At the time, jazz was enjoying a resurgence with figures like Wynton Marsalis and Courtney Pine appearing regularly on the television and jazz groups enjoying a much broader media coverage than they do now. At this time, Steve had received no formal training in jazz. He began to buy records and play along with Aebersold backing tracks. After meeting Steve Waterman, who showed him how to make transcriptions of solos, he began to improve quickly and his jazz career was off to a promising start.

Today, Steve is at the forefront of jazz in the UK, running many of his own projects as a leader and sideman as well as acquiring some impressive credentials including Sir John Dankworth, the BBC Big Band, Stan Tracey, Peter King and Mike Carr. He also teaches on the faculties at Leeds College of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and London City University.

The style of Steve’s playing has been influenced by Kenny Dorham, who was the first trumpet player he got heavily into, feeling he had a natural affinity for the sound and time feel. Steve has also cited Lee Morgan, Art Farmer and Freddie Hubbard as influences and experimented extensively with inventing his own licks and patterns, giving him his distinctive sound.

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Steve has performed numerous times in America and has released two albums with Welsh saxophonist Osian Roberts which were recorded in NYC. There are some differences in the attitudes of musicians in the UK and USA, Steve says. In the UK, jazz is often seen as something to be done for fun, for the players’ own satisfaction, or art for art’s sake that the musicians must fund themselves while playing other gigs to make a living. Many American musicians take a more serious point of view towards making a living off jazz alone. Their outlook is ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to play jazz. I’m going to seriously focus on it’, says Steve. Some things are more difficult for European musicians, such as getting European festival slots, and the same opportunities simply don’t exist here as in America. Jazz doesn’t get nearly as much press in Europe for example and there are still big record labels in the USA signing jazz musicians. That isn’t to say that it’s easy to make it as a jazz musician in New York, however. ‘There are a lot of things [there] that make it extremely difficult that are easier over here. It’s tit for tat really’, Steve comments. Nevertheless, a lot of promising young jazz musicians are coming out of college seeking commercial gigs: shows, weddings, pop bands etc. to make a living, leaving their jazz playing to fall by the wayside. ‘You see promising young players coming out of college and you think “wow these guys can really play! I wonder what they’ll sound like in ten years” but in ten years time they sound the same’.

Steve is currently preparing new music to record in New York with the Steve Fishwick/Osian Roberts/Frank Basile Sextet. He is also working on setting up a new quartet project with sax player Alex Garnett. Meanwhile, Steve has an intensive daily trumpet routine. His practice involves technique work in the morning, including lip flexibilities, multiple tonguing exercises and long tones out of the Laurie Frink/Chicowitz school of playing, followed by classical etudes from the Goldman and Charlier books. Steve believes the discipline of classical etudes is good for improving technique and sound. ‘If you have something on a page that has to be played in a specific way, in a certain style and with a particular sound, you have to play the trumpet technically well to do it. With jazz you can get a away with a lot more’ Steve explains. His jazz work comes later on in the day. This practice varies greatly, but at the moment usually includes transcriptions of Woody Shaw, patterns in various keys and voice leading and chord arpeggios through standards.

Steve’s advice to young musicians wishing to pursue careers in jazz is to stay focussed. ‘I think a lot of young musicians lose sight of their passion and get sucked into a world of work’, he says. It’s important to understand that if you want to play jazz, you have to take the initiative yourself. Steve’s opinion is that a lot of young guys are waiting for someone to offer them a gig. The reality is that this doesn’t really happen and you have to do it off your own back, find some guys you like to play with and keep plugging away, even if the rewards aren’t obvious to begin with. Patience is also key. ‘Don’t expect to be playing the main set at Ronnie Scott’s after two years, even three, five or ten years. You’ll get there, but it takes time.’

http://www.stevefishwickjazz.com

All images and videos courtesy of Steve Fishwick. Used with permission. 

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Jazz Trumpet Transcriptions Update

Hurrah! All of my previous jazz trumpet transcriptions have been brought up to date with Bb, C and Eb versions so you can view them all in the key of your instrument. The full list is below. More coming soon!

Transcription: Love for Sale, Roy Hargrove
Lee Morgan Month: Transcription- Lover Man
Lee Morgan Month: Transcription- Along Came Betty
Lee Morgan Month: Transcription- I’m Old Fashioned
Transcription- Oscar Said, Till Brönner
Transcription- Tangerine, Chet Baker
Transcription- There Will Never Be Another You, Chet Baker
Transcription- White Blues, Chet Baker

 

News: Eclipse Trumpets Competition

Eclipse Trumpets have just opened a competition on their website to win one of their new hand made ‘Celeste’ trumpets. The model was released earlier this year and features a fixed lead pipe configuration. Here’s the exact trumpet that will be the prize for the competition, along with some other Eclipse goodies:

Winning isn’t as simple as just entering into a prize draw however. As usual, Eclipse have come up with something far more entertaining. Entrants must complete three tasks and the winner will be the most funny, entertaining or thoughtful in all of the categories.

The requirements this time are to take a picture of your current instrument in the most unusual place or situation, write a slogan for the Eclipse company which could be a poem and can be serious or not and finally write 100 words about why you should win the competition. Having fun is a requirement. Seriously, it’s written in the terms and conditions!

The competition is open until 15th May 2016. You can view the full competition page here. I happen to own an Eclipse Flugelhorn and it’s a beautiful instrument, so I’d recommend getting your thinking hat on and coming up with a good entry!

All images courtesy of Eclipse Trumpets. Used with permission. Cheers guys!

http://www.eclipsetrumpets.com