Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to use your Tascam US-1800 with OS X Mavericks

Tascam Support: just sayin' ...

The Tascam US-1800 does not have drivers for OS X Mavericks (10.9) nearly a month after Apple released the new OS. Here is the press release from Tascam support, should you be ... as I was ... in utter disbelief.

However, I have discovered a pretty easy work around, read on to get the deets my friends.

First, let me say that the US-1800 is really not a bad interface at all. In fact, if what you need is a boatload of pretty decent inputs and more than one stereo output, you really can't do a whole lot better for $250, which is about what thing will run you. For instance, say you wanna mic up a drum kit, and you'd like to take a DI off a bass and keys, and maybe mic up a guitar amp or two ... this will do the job pretty well.

However if you're asking yourself "why is this thing so cheap?", let me answer those questions for you:
  1. It is not class-compliant
    On OS X the thing needs an actual bonafide driver, and it is not coded very efficiently. The driver uses an insane amount of CPU for what it's doing. So, if you've got beef ... for instance on my 4-core xenon ... it's not really a problem. On my core-2 duo laptop ... you'll be bouncing software tracks down all day 'cause you're gonna hit that CPU wall quickly.

  2. there are actually only 4 outputs, not 6
    Output 1-2 is a hard-wired copy of the L-R monitor output. Output 3-4 is actually a separate output though. The manuals and marketing go to great extents to obfuscate this fact. boo.
Well anyhow, it's not bad, if you've got the beef to run it. Which I do, and I presume you do also, and so ... you want to know what the deal is, because you just installed Mavericks and now your OS either can't see your US-1800 or simply refuses to play sound through it ... here's the deal:

  1. If you already had the driver installed and upgraded your OS in place, skip this step, otherwise: Trick the driver installer into installing anyhow:

    1. download the 10.8 driver from tascam such as it is.
    2. unzip / mount the disk image (duh)
    3. the trickery, right click on the installer and select "show package contents"

    4.  install ./Contents/Resources/104/TASCAM_US1800_2.10.mpkg

  2. download SoundFlower and SoundFlowerBed
    Let's be honest ... if you don't have them installed already ... because they are pretty much the ubiquitous duct-tape of OS X audio. If SoundFlower is new to you, you're going to love it. What it does is set up two fake audio interfaces on your computer, one is a 2-in-2-out stereo interface, the second is a 16-in-16-out interface. You can use these fake interfaces to route audio internally between applications on your mac. In the case of the US-1800 we're lucky, because soundflower can see it, even though OS X Mavericks can't. Oh, and it's free.
    1. Get soundflower from Cycling 74 here
    2. Oh sweet. SoundFlowerBed is bundled with it now. Used to be a separate download. SoundFlowerBed, is status bar app that installs next to your wi-fi widget thing and the clock. It looks like a flower.

  3. set OS X's sound output to SoundFlower (2ch)

    Set OS X's output to Soundflower (2 ch)

    Pretty simple stuff. Open your system preferences -> Sound -> Output, and select "Soundflower (2ch) as shown above. OS X is now sending it's audio output to the Soundflower 2 channel pseudo-interface. Next step is to tell soundflower to route the 2 channel pseudo-interface out to your US-1800 ...

  4. use SoundFlowerBed to route audio out to US-1800 (1-2).

    As mentioned, SoundFlowerBed is a tiny app that runs in your status bar. You have to manually launch it. If like me, you find it to be very useful, you might want to set it to run on login (System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Current User -> Login Items):

    Set SoundFlowerBed to launch on login ... if you want to
    Now just tell SoundFlowerBed to route "Soundflower (2ch)" to your US-1800 on Output 1-2:

    That ought to do it
  5. Logic sees it too, so you're back in business on Mavericks:


    Gosh Darn it, Donchaknow ...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sunlight Video

I made a video for it.
think it turned out pretty good!

Friday, September 20, 2013


I am about to make one of the biggest changes of my life. That being said, I'm running out of options, and if I don't make this change now then I will most certainly have it made later on my behalf. I suppose the only difference between then and now is the illusion of control ...

This is leaving home. This is starting over.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mainstage 3 is the awesomest midi sound module you didn't know existed

This is the most amazingly awesome thing you probably didn't even know your mac could do. It takes a little explaining, but hang with me. This  is worth it.

First, let's talk about Mainstage 3. If you make music with a computer, you have surely heard that the first major release of Logic in like forever was released  last month and that this is called Logic X, and that finally the thing has "midi effects" (i.e. an Arpeggiator among other things), as well as a number of truly kickass new instruments. I am here to tell you that this is all completely true.

Mainstage 3 is amazing ... but probably the most amazing thing is that, pretty much Mainstage 3 is all the juicy good parts of Logic X, for $30.  Totes serious, bro. Even right down to getting all the new apple loops and samples.

Second, let's talk about motivation.

I have two mac computers. One is an aging 2008 Mac Pro (i.e. my "legit machine"), and one is a home-brewed Hackintosh (yes it's all legal 'cause I bought the software). The "hack pro" is a single-purpose machine which runs my home studio (which I built in an attic -- this is important later). Due to the unbelievably high pain factor of upgrading OS X on this particular set of hardware, the hack pro is permanently at 10.6.8, and will likely never see another OS upgrade.

Mainstage 3 requires 10.8, which is fine 'cause it runs on my laptop and that's what I've got running there. So ... I've got wicked new sounds on my laptop, all configurated for my live rig, but I want to make recordings on my studio computer which can never run 10.8. Also my live rig is heavier than a truckload of lead suitcases, and for reasons of the studio being attic-based, toting that mess up the stairs isn't a real popular option either.

Here is what you can do ... I've been doing it all day, and I cannot believe that it works so well:

you can set up a wireless midi connection between your mac pro and your laptop, and you can drive mainstage on your laptop right out of Logic on your mac pro.

Tempo sync works so you can run that arpeggiator like the second coming of Giorgio Morodor, latency is negligible and it takes like 2 minutes to set up, no joke. 

Here's how to do it:

make one and name it something
  1.  set up a private wireless network between the two machines. Latency is important here, you don't wanna be relaying packets across your wireless router. Select "Create Network ... ", choose a cute name and connect both machines to it (note: this has the added benefit of disconnecting your ass from facebook so you can get some music and/or work done).
  2. Open up Audio Midi Setup (/Applications/Utilities). Select Window->Show MIDI Window. Double click the "Network" Icon. You're gonna see something like this:

    do this on both machines: enable them, after a second
    they will see each other in the bottom left, click connect.

    you have now established a dern near latency free wireless midi connection between your computers.

  3. Set up Logic
    Plug the audio output of your laptop into an audio input on your mac pro, then set up logic to have a (stereo) audio input corresponding to that (just like you'd plug any other external sound source in) then set up an external midi instrument:

  4. Set up Mainstage 3
    Open up Mainstage 3 on your laptop. Go to the layout mode and select a keyboard or a knob or whatever, and set the midi input to your wireless session, as so:

BOOM, you're done. Play some keys on the Mac Pro, and marvel at the awesome sounds emanating from your laptop and coming right back into Logic on your Mac Pro.

And you didn't even have to haul your synthesizers up the stairs.

this man would be proud

Friday, August 2, 2013


Like all living things on this Earth, we are born, we grow, we thrive, we weaken, and we eventually die. Right down to the smallest bacteria, each of us a tiny spark amid this enormous interconnected ocean of life, looping through the endless iteration of the eons. Birth, growth, reproduction, death, repeat. Fragments of our DNA live on beneath the surface, an endlessly long trail forming the fabric of our reality, like ghostly echoes on an endless tape loop. In a very real scientific sense, part of us does live forever, and who we are is a unique sum of fragments of all those that have come before us.

This is real, and it is astounding, and it is beautiful.

Rest in peace, Irene Hicox. You will be missed, but your echoes will be felt for many generations to come.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Macho Nacho (version 1)

To get this, you need to imagine an stereotypically macho anthropomorphized tortilla chip.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vi Hart is my Hero

What an amazingly awesome and inspiring video!

By the way, Vi Hart has a whole channel of awesome videos. She and her father run the Museum of Math in New York City.

I swear ... this chick is basically the Carl Sagan of music theory. Love love love her work ... she needs her own PBS or science channel series like IMMEDIATELY!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You've probably never heard it before ...

Because I love both dogs with glasses, and high frequencies, LOL.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Stay Cosmic, Baby

  • step 1: finish this
  • step 2: ???
  • step 3: track in perpetual rotation on smooth jazz radio and airport terminals
  • step 4: PROFIT!
getting closer to completing step 1, but you know ... that next one might take some doing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Way Down (draft 1)

"According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, when reached for comment on this week, 93 percent of Americans responded “Okay, enough’s enough here, you have seriously got to be kidding me with this week,” with 84 percent saying “Is it Sunday yet? What? How in the hell are we only at Thursday? What the hell is going on?” - The Onion

Yeah, pretty much that.

I put this riff together on my first day of Christmas vacation back in December. I've been toying with it, flipping it around, trying to fit a song together around it ever since. So what's it about? If I could tell you that, then I'd have it finished by now.

It is uncharacteristically cheerful given the day on which it was born was, in addition to my first day of vacation, also the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. "Massacre" ... it occurs to me today, at the end of a week where we have been knee deep in death and misery and helpless anger, that maybe these times we're livin' in aren't really so unusual. I mean ... this crap has happened often enough for us to have a word for it ... in like every. single. language. Nonetheless ... we survive. On the whole, we somehow win more often than we lose, and collectively we carry on.

So ... I don't know ... this peaceful, cheery tune grew out of my subconscious in the midst of nonstop coverage of the most heartbreaking carnage imaginable, like a vine growing out of a garden of ashes.

I don't know what it means yet ... or maybe ever. But if I ever get a grip on some good lyrics for it, it's gonna be tiziiiiiiight.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dave Grohl Tells it Like it Is

Get yourself some coffee and spend the next 45 minutes watching this. then go write some music. you'll be in the mood. trust me on this.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gettin' Down With the Hitchhikers

Yours truly, doing my best Fogerty
That's a photo from my gig last night with The Thumbless Hitchhikers. I was singing lead on Born on The Bayou, which is why it looks like I'm screaming my guts out, LOL. I was :-) Thanks to Glenn Baeske for taking the best photo of me playing music ever!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

White Man Group

"In order to break the rules, you have to know the rules" - Dr. Jonathan Wacker

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away Dr. Wacker was my percussion instructor and music theory professor. The year was 1993, the place was Armstrong State College (they've since gotten an upgrade to "Armstrong Atlantic State University").

The thing about being 17, straight out of high school and wanting to go to college for music, is that it's a frustrating experience. Especially in that era, because there wasn't an internet and Savannah, GA was a backwater. I knew there was exciting new music out there in the world, and I wanted to be in it. I wanted to be playing it, I wanted to be writing it, and I had literally no idea there were actual colleges for that stuff that I could get into. So I was at a glorified community college, stuck in the "music education" curriculum,  and being that I didn't want to be a vocalist (at that time) or an elementary school music teacher, it didn't take me long to wash out.

I was in it for the art, man ... and my 17 year old eyes just couldn't see it happening there.

Dr. Wacker was a quotable dude. I don't know if he originated that turn of phrase or not, but in my mind I'll always remember him dropping that one on me in freshman music theory. I was all like "where's the cool shit? ... and why do I have to learn about writing 4 note chorales?"

Well here I am like 20 years later, and the irony, she is thick. Read on, and you'll find out why.

So the track you are listening to, is built entirely around a thing I encountered by accident, called boomwhackers. These are typically used as instructional aids for ... you guessed it ... elementary music education. It was late Thursday night, The Thumbless Hitchhikers had just finished packing up after an epic jam session and the hang was in full effect.

Bryan (our drummer) leaves for a minute and comes back to the shed with an armload of these colored tubes and hands everyone two of them. What happened next was actually pretty damn magical: a spontaneous poly-rhythmic eruption of jam, the likes of which were stylistically from another planet compared to what we usually play. The Hitchhikers are a blues jam band for chrissakes, but here we are sounding for all the world, like a tiny Blue Man Group, and with zero practice!

It just happened out of nowhere, the funk descended upon the shed, and as quickly as it started ... it was all over maybe a half hour later, but I was stoked. I encountered something that set my mind on fire: native creativity

I haven't felt that in a very long time, and what I mean by that is that I didn't have to think about it at all. There were no wrong notes to play, and if you could feel the rhythm, you didn't have to think about that too hard either. It created a sort of direct, unfiltered connection to the soul.

I think Bryan could tell my gears were turning, because he insisted that I borrow his boomwhackers and take them back to my studio. "My kids never play with them anyhow", he said. So in the morning, on my last remaining day of vacation, I sent the kids off to school, got a cup of coffee and headed up to my attic studio. This track literally started with plugging in some microphones hitting record and just seeing what sort of sounds came out. There's not a single part on this that I played more than once (though as you can tell there are plenty of track overdubs).

It really all comes back to the elegant simplicity of the boomwhackers. There are only 6 of them (a pentatonic scale plus an octave), and they are as intuitive as a hammer: you hit them on something and they make a noise.

Put a different way: reducing your options clears the way to creativity

This is an oft-touted cliche in the world of music production, but until now I never really had the understanding. These days, those of us who are into this sort of thing like to sit down in front of our computers, fire up our DAW of choice and start fiddling.

If someone had released a "boomwhackers" software synth, I'd have downloaded it, and then spent the morning dorking around with the parameters ... choosing the material, the resonance dampening, the scale, the octave, the shape, etc. As it was, there were 6 choices, and therefore I had a 1 in 6 chance of every decision being a keeper. Which is why I finished this entire track before lunch yesterday.

Props to Dr. Wacker for planting the seed of this knowledge in my brain 20 years ago. Cool insight, dude.