late last year i picked up a second hand copy of the playstation2 music software “MTV music generator 2”. i was surprised by a few of the quirks i discovered, most importantly it’s ability to sample with a singstar mic(!). couple this with it’s nifty little sample editor that lets you trim, reverse, filter etc. and it’s stepped up to play a significant role in the recording of my next album. so i thought i’d tell you, the intertron, all about it and it’s glorious quirkiness.
so apparently this game had a usb sampling dongle you could buy to plug in your diskman or walkman or horse or what ever we were using back then. it was basically a usb audio interface for your playstation, which is pretty cool, but you’re unlikely to have one just lying around. lucky for us, the software confuses the singstar mic dongle for the sampling kit which turns your ps2 into a sampler sequencer… and a pretty capable one.
from my experimenting, the guitar hero mic doesn’t allow you to sample. don’t take my word for it, it’s still worth a shot. according to this anything that uses the AK5370 chipset should work. also, it’s easy to jam a 3.5mm plug into the singstar mic input and sample from other sources. casios and playstations together at last! i had to strip the plug down a bit to make it fit. sony doesn’t seem to want you to plug anything but a singstar mic into their patented 3.5mm jack.
after a video intro presented by some ridiculous dj, you’re greeted with the sequencer window. that little video preview window down the bottom right really gets in the way. there are a couple of different skins which shift the interface around quite significantly and for this i’m using post apocalyptic.
the sequencer window’s pretty familiar. it’s a vertical scrolling tracker style deal made up of “riffs” which you select from the blocks on the left. it comes with a stack of preset samples and riffs and some are pretty decent but the fun’s in sampling and programming yourself.
if you select “edit riff” it takes you to the piano roll for that riff. again, vertical scrolling and pretty familiar. you select your sample on the left and program away. you can use multiple samples in each riff but samples and riffs are grouped into rhythm, bass, melody and vocals and you can’t use a vocal sample in a rhythm riff or a bass sample in a melody riff etc. you’ve got control over pan and volume envelopes for each note as well as some of the quirkier parameters which i’ll get to briefly. but first… see that lil’ usb icon up there? sampling!!!
this is where the real fun’s to be had. grab your singstar mic. jam it in front of your bass drum, toy piano or gob, hit record, make noise, hit stop. yay! the sample editors actually really good. it’s not super hifi but it does do a few things very well. you can easily trim your sample down and apply a small arsenal of effects to the entire sample or a selection of it. you can highpass, low pass and band pass with drawable envelopes, although i’m a bit suspect of the frequencies it says its cutting. what it calls 300 hz sounds more like 1khz to me so trial and error is your friend. you can set a loop point so the sample will repeat as long as it’s told to. one of the coolest things is you can crank the gain up endlessly and get some great compression and distortion. you can also time stretch which i haven’t played around with too much but i’m sure it’s awesomely crap. you’re limited to a certain ammount of disk space for samples per song, i’m not sure how much, but it seems ample for 16+ samples and you can get quite a bit out of very small samples.
for each note in the piano roll you can choose some of the more unusual note parameters. below the sample you have a series of triggers which, when clicked once go green and repeat the note. this is awesome for flams and rolls or getting the sample to play in subdivisions smaller than that of the piano roll. if you click the trigger a second time it then turns grey and the note now plays with reverb. it also has a check box for “back speakers” which i assume is for a 5.1 set up.
back in the sequencer window and alongside your riffs run blocks that represent tempo and fx. another cool quirk is tempo and fx automation. for tempo you can choose a start and end tempo and a ramp curve type. you can also just plant a new tempo block and jump to the new tempo. even reason didn’t have that until the latest version. fx are a similar deal. you can run one effect at a time, you’ve got a a selection of 6 or so reverbs and a few delays and their parameters are automatable in the same way – start value, end value.
there’s a separate jam mode which lets you trigger samples and riffs on the fly but you’ve only got access to the preset loops and it’s just not that great.
running along the right of your track are video riffs. they’re grouped into objects, lights, effects and cameras. the objects are basic 3d models like cubes, spheres and atoms, the lights are lights, the cameras are cameras and the effects include feedback, kaleidoscope etc. and you can link parameters to musical events which should be cool. it’s just the interface is so clumsy and getting to the parameter you want to is a pain. i think the video component in the original ‘music’ for ps1 might be better.
According to wikipedia here’s the lineage of music games and their various titles.
- 1998 Music: Music Creation for the PlayStation
- 1999 Music 2000 aka MTV Music Generator in North America (CD sampling)
Sony Playstation 2
- 2001 MTV Music Generator 2 (audio sampling)
- 2003 Music 3000 aka Funkmaster Flex’s Digital Hitz Factory in North America (audio sampling)
- 2004 MTV Music Generator 3: This Is The Remix (CD sampling)
music 3000 (aka funkmaster flex’s digital hitz factory in north america) also allows for audio sampling and looks like it might have some other pretty cool things going for it like being able to sing phrases into the piano roll. it’s on the way from ebay so i’ll report back. i hope you might have some use for these cool little tools. the ps2 is a fun platform to make music on – much easier to take places than a pc… mayble slighlty more difficult that a laptop.
Zeal – RingTailTiger.mp3 a ringtone sampled and sequenced inside a ps2 just for you.