All posts in Music

Notes on Jam Sessions DS

One of the things I did today was post a preview of a new "game" called Jam Sessions DS.

Jam Sessions isn't really a game… it's more of a tool… and this isn't my review. What I'm going to write here is really more of an extended section of notes that I couldn't really include in the preview (mostly because I hadn't thought of it and it would've been too in-depth for something like a game preview; this blog entry mainly deals with possibilities for Ubisoft's Jam Sessions that I don't think Ubisoft have thought about).

First of all, it's an interesting idea. When I wrote my first draft of the preview on Tuesday — my first day of working for CBN — I looked at Jam Sessions as if it were a game… which really wasn't the right way to look at it.

It's not a game. It's a tool. No different really to those "learn English games" that have been released for the DS or even the "sort-of GPS games" that have been released for the PSP. They're NOT games and neither is this. From what I can see, it's a tool.

With that in mind, I found I couldn't get to sleep last night. I could sort of. I slept from 10pm till 1am when I awoke with dehydration. I went and hydrated myself for the next hour and then went back to bed. I was sleepy but my brain wouldn't stop working. That's insomnia for me, by the way: my brain holds me hostage.

It was working away at two problems. I later found this out when around 3.30 am — not long before I'd have to "wake up" — my brain went "DING!" and spat out answers to why it was whirring away.

Anyway, it was working away at two problems: one had to do with finding a way to animate my musical and the other was another way of interpreting Jam Sessions. So I brought into work an extra 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable today and downloaded a demo of Guitar Rig. I told Charlie (my boss) the idea and he told me to try it.

This was my idea:

Since Jam Sessions is basically a stripped down beginner's guitar, it makes sense that it can be used to make real music. With that in mind, what if you were to patch the console through to a VST or another audio filtration plugin for something like Adobe Audition / Cool Edit Pro or Ableton Live (or Cubase or Wavelab or Soundforge or what-have-you)?

Would I be able to make real music with the basic feature set of this game?

The answer — after a bit of playing around with the onboard sound for my workstation at work — is yes.

In my preview, there's an mp3 you can listen to and download where you can hear Guitar Rig modifying the sound of the original line I was playing (which was me attempting Dishwalla's "Angels or Devils" very badly).

Now the important thing to remember with what we're doing here is that the type of sound coming from the DS isn't all that important. Granted, the sound is important in that there has to be notes, but since the Jam Session samples aren't pro-quality, all that really matters is that the notes are coming through. That said, the samples aren't bad, they just don't respond like a guitar and they're only one sample for each note so it can become pretty standard and automated even with the harshness control that lies within how hard you "strum" essentially.

So anyway, we've got these notes coming through to the computer that a plugin like say Guitar Rig can modify. That means that other plugins like strings or horns or organs can technically do the same thing.

So I got to thinking on the train home… could you take this one step further?

I made the connection in my preview that this software makes the DS into a sort of theramin in that it's one of those physical instruments. It's not really a guitar, but rather a digital music box.

But I think I got the comparison wrong. I now think that Jam Sessions DS could be more of a MIDI controller and that got me thinking. What if you could patch the DS into a MIDI controller on a high-end soundcard?

Technically, the DS doesn't have that sort of export ability. But two things came to mind:

  1. The Opera Memory Expansion: When Opera released their browser for the DS, it came with the software in a Slot 1 DS card and a memory expansion module that sits in the Slot 2 GBA slot. This is because the DS only has around 4mb of memory on board and you're obviously going to need a little bit more than that when surfing the web.

    So, what if you someone made a memory module that interfaced with Jam Sessions. It would have to be a redesigned version, granted, but what if the memory module served as a form of latency whereby the DS wrote high-quality data to the storage expansion and then transferred from that immediately via a MIDI cable to a computer.

    What I'm asking for is more or less a memory expansion with a MIDI cable sticking out of it… so, let me just cut the middleman out…

  2. The Homebrew GPS Connection: A few months ago, I saw an interesting effort from the DS homebrew community whereby someone had a made patch-card with a cable sticking out of it that allowed them to connect their DS to a GPS unit. They'd written software to work with downloaded Google maps and as such had a Nintendo DS wired GPS.

    So, since the DS can be modified to do things it wouldn't normally do by way of a patch cable coming from a part of the system for one thing, what are the chances it could be done for another?

This is one of those things Ubisoft or Plato (the developers) might actually want to sit up and take notice of since it holds some sense of logic in it. Think about how useful it would be to have a few friends over for a real jam session. Not one of the jam sessions Jam Sessions is suggesting you have whereby everyone plays the same instrument and you have a grand total of two minutes to record the song in.

You bring your DS over to my place. So does a mate of yours and even a mate of theirs. I patch all of them into a high-end soundcard and make Ableton translate each of them in a different way so that one person is actually playing drums, one person is playing guitar, another is playing horns and the final guy is playing keys. You could really really really create music with an application like Jam Sessions DS if the system were modified for the purpose.

I actually now like the look of this "game" and I'm really interested to see the changes made in the final product. While it won't be everyone's cup of tea, it will be a lot of fun to play around with and certainly people who have an interest in using synthetic instruments could easily lend an ear and run this. 

With this in mind, I might attempt to use the Japanese version (Hiite Utaeru DS Guitar M-06) over the weekend to see if I can get some orchestration out of it. It'd be cool if I could make some jazz on it.

There is no such thing as too much Rock Candy.

My new subscription to the service eMusic just found me an eleven-minute and fifty-second version of Jack McDuff’s “Rock Candy”.

Fucking brilliant. You can never have too much of some good solid jazz.

Now I just need a twenty-minute version of Adderley’s “The Work Song”…

I’m not dead. Or out of ideas.

I’ve just been too lazy to blog, which is bad, I know. I’ll make sure the next bitch that whips me dominates me ass. Yeah, baby. I’ll return to my regular overused blogging ability tonight or tomorrow.

Just a quick stop in to say that after having half the album stuck in my head all day, Timbaland’s Shock Value is easily one of the best discs released this year. It’s really is something.

I’ll return later with stuff, people. Stuff I tell you… Stuff!

I don’t wanna rock DJ (But you’re making me feel so nice)

I’m not actually sure if this classes as a “Random Night Out” and it’s certainly not of the regular ilk that I’d call a “Random Night Out”, but fuck it. May as well.

On Sundays I prepare a radio show for Dad for a 1 hour show on 2RDJ. Well, I had the jazz show prepared on Saturday and I was going to go with him anyway to help out on the show when earlier today (around 5.45pm on Sunday… which even though this is Monday at the moment, it’s still somewhat Sunday for me) we got a phone call asking if Dad could fill in for an extra hour before his 9-10 slot.

Dad said sure.

And volunteered me.

So I came up with a playlist in one hour consisting of stuff that was mostly not jazz.

[i]Click on the image to see a slightly bigger version of me looking like a lost Dennis Hopper on the radio…[/i]

Starting it off, I had a technical issue regarding their CD players being whorelike and refusing to do what I want even though I was paying them to work. Okay, so I wasn’t paying them, but since I don’t pay whores either, they were still whorelike. By that same logic, since I don’t pay photocopiers or toasters, the CD players were also very photocopier alike and very toasterlike. They were also probably very stale-piece-of-macaroni like.

Dad was teaching me the equipment as we went along, sitting near me just in case I made any fuck ups, and yeah, I made a few but they weren’t large ones so I didn’t exactly fuck myself. I’ll wait at least 10 minutes before I go to bed at which time I can promptly fuck myself.

Anyway, I got through my set with not so many dramas and I’ll be putting up the podcast in probably a Flash format soon as soon as we move the data across from the Mini-Disk.

And then we moved onto Dad’s show… which I program.

[i]Click on the image to see this somewhat romantic-y version of Dad at a DJ panel…[/i]

Seriously, it was a night — or at least a two-hour bout — for music programmed by Leigh. Chosen by Leigh. I’m about to have my body give up on life tonight and fall asleep… by Leigh.

[b]***Leigh crashes onto the floor***[/b]

[i]Several hours pass while Leigh tosses his bed with his sleepy head like the salad you contemplated getting for lunch. If I’ve just made you lose your lunch… good. Go get some cake. You deserve it.[/i]

[b]***Leigh wakes up around one day and seven hours later with a mission***[/b]

And that mission is… to finish this blog entry. Headquarters really don’t give me all that hard-of missions anymore… not since I kept on blowing up Headquarters. Imaginary Headquarters. You can never be too careless with imaginary explosives in imaginary buildings.

I’m getting severely off-topic. This is me waking up. This might explain why no girl has ever had their brain explode. They need to spend the night with me and then when I start doing one of these as I wake up, their mind will look at me and go [i]”Christ, is he on every fucking drug known to mankind?! Shit… fuck this.”[/i] and either cause the girl to have a shower and leave or just cause a hemorrhage in one part of her brain.

Yeah. Sucks to be me sometimes.

Anyway, the radio show.

[i]Click on the image to see the colour-reduction of the DJ panel get bigger![/i]

In the first week, Dad didn’t ask for a specific theme for which my jazz should adhere to. Now, I have to program the playlist for a sort of theme or idea throughout the night. Last week, it was female singer as Dad had a female singer come in that he interviewed. This time, it was “Unlikely Subjects” or as he called it “Unusual Subjects”. The idea was to grab songs that were typically rock, blues, and pop and find jazz versions of them. Now, this is near impossible for one requirement of 2RDJ’s policy with it being that 25% of the music you play MUST be Australian. This is a hell of a lot harder for jazz, seeing as most jazz in Australia is either really bad, Dixie, nothing special, acid-based, or then you might get something decent.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some really fucking good Australian jazz out there, but finding it is a real effort in obscurity as either these people don’t know how to market themselves or no one really wants to market them for them. As such, it means scouring places like [url=][/url] and the hell hole that is [url=]MySpace[/url]. Even throughout all of that, you’re lucky to find something you can get quickly. I’m really — in developing Dad’s webpage — going to have to set up a contact form so people can contact him and upload mp3’s or whatnot as a way of making it easier for him to play their stuff.

Actually, the whole effort to [i]find[/i] decent jazz that’s been recorded and is little more than a fleeting moment of a jam in this place that I call home is still the inspiration for that documentary on jazz I’ve had in planning for a while and that I still eventually make, provided I have some funds and some solid research done.

So since the theme was “Unlikely Subjects” and / or “Unusual Subjects”, I had ready some [url=]Casualties of Jazz[/url], Paul Anka, and Hans Theesink to name a few.

[i]Click on the image above to see Dad working on the radio in black & white a little bit bigger![/i]

It’s community radio so I guess we’ll be lucky to have 12 people listening, but that’s around 9 more people than who read my blog I guess so it’s going to be better than nothing.

Dad’s show is from 9-10 and then after that, one of the station heads’ takes over and does a classical show. It was Vivaldi’s birthday so when I got home, I told Vivaldi “Happy Birthday” and fed him. I hadn’t seen him in a few days.

I’m getting ahead of myself, mind you.

We had to first [i]get[/i] home. And there was a storm brewing.


I tell ya, I tried getting shots of the sheet lightning from the car on the way back, but it’s damn near impossible. Hell, it’s damn near impossible when the sky is lighting up around you, you’re not in a car, the lightning is more frequent, and you’re hand-holding the camera and not using a tripod.

So on the way home, I got some blurry shots of cars on the street ahead of me and not-so-blurry ones too. But no sheet lightning.

I did get some of the water — as there was some light rain — glistening on the windshield against the out-of-focus glow of the streetlights, as per seen above, which has a nice… i-don’t-quite-know-what to it.

And then we got home. I asked to get out a bit early before Dad went into the home so I could walk up and shake my keys enough to get Vivaldi’s attention. Lately, he thinks he’s the toast of the town and not only acts like a spoiled 17 year old child by NOT coming home for dinner every day, but now whenever he sees me, walks with me to the front door, walks into the lobby with me, and then walks into our home.

Yes, Vivaldi is one cat with class. Very smart, but oh so spoiled.

Still cute though. Even brings a smile to Dad’s face.

Not being content with the boredom of not turning my computer on and not wanting to turn to Izuna which I’m still playing before I review it (on my Nintendo DS), I took the trash out to determine if I should go out and take some pictures, or at least attempt the photography.

I would’ve taken the trash out eventually… sure… but this gave me extra motivation. When I was in Dallas, I loved wandering out in the storms. So much fun. I wanted to join [url=]Project Vortex[/url] when I was younger and living in Dallas. That was the then-meteorological side of me. It’s never really faded, mind you… it just went walkabout.


It wasn’t raining hard at all and mostly seemed like a lot of hot-air as far as the storm was concerned for what it was going to do. So I grabbed the 50mm 1.4 and went outside. Vivaldi decided to follow me… which was probably not the best idea since cats aren’t known to be fans of any form of water other than the stuff they drink, and large booming noises might scare the cat-Jesus out of all of them.

But Vivaldi was cool. As cool as they fucking come.

And I took my shots hand-held. Tried to get some fork shots. Most of the time they came out blank & too-dark for me to see anything else. At one point, I started feeling like I’d have more chance for the sheet lightning with a building in view, as otherwise, sheet lightning just looks like a highlighted sky. So I positioned the frame with a building, made is compositionally nice, and fired almost every time there was a flash of sheet lightning above and / or around the building.

Eventually, I got this:


That was barely the space of a second. Probably around half a second to a second, and probably still not even that long. The building gets lit up from all sides by the sheer power of the lightning looking like it’s just been electrocuted by a hundred thousand volts and then all of a sudden, it just becomes another complacent object set in the dark world just like everything else is.

Really shows you the sheer power and amount of light that this stuff puts out against the clouds.

And then it started to rain and even I conceded defeat, knowing I had at least two hand-held shots I was comfy with. By this time, Vivaldi had run under a parked car for shelter. I put my gear away, jingled the keys a little to get him out, and when he did grabbed him and carried him to the door where he did his spoiled 17 year old brat action of walking in with ease.

Later on, while Dad was asleep, the neighbours cat Gigi dropped by, as she normally does.

For the past week, Gigi has been sitting, perching, sleeping, and lightly resting on the box for Lindy’s new printer that Dad had picked up for her. It was sitting in our home near the door to my bathroom and now that Dad had taken the box away (because he’d given the printer to Lindy), there was no place quite like it for Gigi to go.

So she assumed the vacuum cleaner by Dad’s room could do the same thing.


And it really is cute trying to see a cat struggle with the curves and shape of a vacuum cleaner to straddle it the same way she would something large… and firm… and what’s more important, stable and rectangular. Like a box.