Windows 7, episode 5

And now, the exciting conclusion of my Windows 7 upgrade adventure…

I found the Windows 7 beta drivers for the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 here:

I uninstalled the old Vista drivers and gave these a try. So far so good – I’m able to go into standby and I’m not hearing any pops or clicks in the audio.

Update: spoke too soon, still getting pops and clicks, but at least I can go into standby. Really looking forward to non-beta Windows 7 drivers!

I also picked up a video card with DirectX 10 support and all the Aero stuff is working now. The moral of the story here is to run the upgrade advisor if you can! Unfortunately in my case I couldn’t, since I couldn’t boot my previous Windows installation.

In the end, the only real issue that I have yet to explain is the blank screen that I encountered at the start of the installation process. I may try booting from the Windows 7 disc with my new video card and see if the results are any different. If so I will post my findings.

Overall I would say my Windows 7 upgrade experience went relatively smoothly, all things considered. If you’re running XP and things are stable for you then I’d suggest waiting until you want/need to do a fresh install, as it’s the only way to upgrade from XP. If on the other hand you are running Vista, I’d say go for it!

Windows 7, episode 4

Hit another snag in my Windows 7 adventure:

None of the drivers I’ve been able to find for my video card seem to be “fully” compatible with Windows 7. Either that, or my card (NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TurboCache) is not supported by Windows 7. Either way, the end result is that I’m not able to use any of the Aero effects, nor can I play back any video in Windows Media player.

Windows Media player error:

Aero troubleshooting results:

(the service is in fact running)

So another recap of issues I’ve hit so far:

  • Vista audio driver compatibility (power management issues, occasional pops & clicks)
  • black screen at start of install process
  • video card or drivers not supported or compatible (update: my card was not DirectX 10 compatible. I picked up one that is and things are working well now. Check episode 5 for more info)

On another note, I’ve started familiarizing myself with the new features in Windows 7. Some of them are pretty obvious – like task bar pinning and jump lists – others less so. For example, snap (some of you may know it as “docking”) is a quick way to view two windows side by side.

I’m still getting used the “combined” task bar. Basically, if you’ve got something pinned, any instances of that app will show up under its task bar icon. It means more real-estate on the task bar, but it’s less obvious what windows you have open since you need to hover or click on the pinned icon to see.

Windows 7, episode 3

As I mentioned in episode 2, the Vista drivers for my M-Audio Audiophile 2496 are not 100% compatible with Windows 7 – they prevent me from shutting down or going into standby (without first disabling the device).

Little did I realize that the default power management settings in Windows 7 are to put the computer into standby after 30 minutes. So of course, I was arriving at my computer every so often only to find it completely off, and upon restarting I was greeted with the “Windows has recovered from an unexpected error” message.

Only after looking at the mini dump did I start to clue in:

A driver is causing an inconsistent power state.
Arg1: 00000003, A device object has been blocking an Irp for too long a time
Arg2: 85a57640, Physical Device Object of the stack
Arg3: 82942ae0, Functional Device Object of the stack
Arg4: 85718518, The blocked IRP


So I’ve adjusted the power settings so that it will never go into standby. Hopefully that will take care of this until M-Audio releases Windows 7 drivers, or I breakdown and buy a new audio card (update: I found the Windows 7 beta drivers, check episode 5 for more info)

Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly reinstalling everything. I reinstalled most of my VSTs today and also copied over my contacts and Outlook data. I haven’t hit any software compatibility issues at all.

So to recap, the only two issues I’ve encountered so far with Windows 7:

  • Vista audio driver compatibility (power management issues, occasional pops & clicks)
  • black screen at start of install process

Windows 7, episode 2

So I started installing Windows 7 last night. Here’s what I was greeted with upon booting from the disc:

Yup. Absolutely nothing. I could hear the drive doing something, but that’s it. Thinking maybe it was an issue with my DVD drive, I tried a different one. No difference. I then put the disc in my laptop to see if maybe there was an issue with the disc itself. I received a “Loading files” progress bar almost immediately. Hmm.

Browsed the net a bit and found a few different suggestions – use a different output on the video card, don’t connect any USB devices, try flashing the BIOS. I tried the first couple options to no avail. Didn’t really see a point in flashing the BIOS since it’s a fairly new board.

Frustrated, I just left it setting at the blank screen and walked away. When I came back about 20 minutes later, low and behold:

Go figure!

So now the fun task of reinstalling everything. I started off with:

  • AVG
  • Windows updates
  • FireFox
  • Windows Live
  • FL Studio 9

No issues so far. Now, time to install an audio driver.

I downloaded the Vista SP3 drivers for my audio card (M-Audio Audiophile 2496). Upon running the first time I received a “Your OS is not compatible” message. Here’s where Windows 7 driver compatibility kicks in – I get a little pop-up asking me if I want to run it again with compatibility. Second time, works like a charm… until I go to shutdown, and it just hangs at the shutdown screen!

More Googling and I find threads about others experiencing the same problem. Here’s a fix but it’s not elegant – a logoff (or shutdown) script to stop the audio service. Note that this issue also affects the ability to go into standby, and the script does not correct this. As for the actual performance of the drivers in compatibility mode, I did notice some audible clicks but they were subtle (update: I found the Windows 7 beta drivers, check episode 5 for more info)

Next, I install my motherboard drivers. I grabbed the Windows 2003 drivers and they seemed to work just fine – I wasn’t even prompted to run in compatibility mode. I also installed my on-board audio driver and set it as the primary audio device. I was hoping that doing so would stop the shutdown and standby issues imposed by the M-Audio drivers, but no, they’re still present.

Windows 7, episode 1

So I lost my computer to a virus. Don’t ask how. I have no idea. It’s the first time something like this has ever happened in my 20 or so years of computing! I spent a couple evenings trying to save it before finally pulling the plug.

I didn’t cry, but I did swear a lot, especially since I was in the middle of working on a CD. This will set me back at least a week! Anyways, I’ve decided I’m going to try the whole Windows 7 thing. A bit risky, of course, since I use a lot of very specific software for music production. Nevertheless, since I’m starting fresh, I figure I might as well give Microsoft’s current offering a try.

Here’s my plan:

  • install Windows 7 on a fresh drive
  • install all my audio drivers and primary audio software first
  • run some sanity tests
  • if everything checks out I’ll install all the other stuff I use day to day and start migrating my settings and data from the old drive
  • if things go horribly wrong I’ll either wipe and go back to XP, or install XP on a third drive and keep the Windows 7 one for a rainy day

No matter how things go down, I’m going to document my findings here (esp. with regards to software and driver compatibility) in the hopes that they may help somebody else (or keep them from making a huge mistake!)

God speed, little doodle.

Indexing MP3 CDs for DJing

So my fiancรฉ and I DJed at her grandparent’s 50th anniversary party last night. I decided to rent CDJs instead of doing the whole turntables + Final Scratch thing, mainly because my needles are not well suited to dance floors (I found this out the hard way at the last party I DJed).

I wanted to print out a spreadsheet with all the tracks, indexed by their number on the CD, so we could easily find them. Here’s a quick way I came up with to build a numbered track list from a directory of MP3s.

You will need:

  • Notepad
  • Excel
  • Your MP3s named in the format of “Artist – Track name”


  1. Open a command prompt
  2. Go to the directory containing your MP3s (cddirectorywithmps)
  3. Type: dir /b > list.txt
  4. Open list.txt in notepad
  5. Search/replace “.mp3 ” with nothing
  6. Search/replace ” – ” with “,”
  7. Rename list.txt to list.csv
  8. Double-click it (it should open in Excel)
  9. Insert a column
  10. Type “=row()” in first row
  11. Click the bottom right of the cell and drag all the way to the last row. Screenshot of this:

(An alternative to steps 10 & 11 would be to turn on “Row & Column headings” under File -> Page Setup -> Sheet tab)

Voila! You should now have a spreadsheet with track number in column A, artist in column B, and track name in column C. Technically the first 7 or so steps could be built into a batch file if you needed to do this on a regular basis.

Note: if any of the track names had commas in them then will need to clean them up. Alternatively, you could replace ” – ” with a different delimiter in step 6, though then the process to load the data in Excel would change slightly.

Also note: be sure to do this after you’ve burned the CDs. Some CD burning software (i.e. Nero) has a different idea of “sort by name” than Windows! (apparently upper case M comes way before lower case M, 10 comes before 2, etc.)

New website is up!

I’ve built a new website to try to “sell my services” and promote myself a little more. My goal is to start taking on more music projects and perhaps eventually start working my day job a little less (don’t tell my boss ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve also updated my bio in the process so if you are interested in my history, my music, or want to know more about my services, check it out:

Drum recording with electronic drums

Sometimes you need to record a drum track but it’s just not feasible (bad acoustics, bad neighbours). Or sometimes you just want the flexibility to be able to play around with the drums after they’ve been recorded (quantize them, try a different snare, etc.). Enter the world of electronic drums.

What you’ll need:

  • electronic drums (surprise!)
  • computer equipped with a sound card and MIDI interface
  • software sequencer
  • drum VST instrument (optional but highly recommended)
  • a drummer ๐Ÿ™‚

Step 1: choose your e-drums

What to look for:

  • Multiple trigger zones per pad: you’ll probably want at least two (the rim and the head)
  • Mesh pads: these feel much more natural than rubber pads. Try to get at least a mesh snare.
  • MIDI: this should be fairly standard
  • Playability!

If you don’t have $1k+ to drop on a decent kit you may be able to rent a kit at your local music store (I rented a Roland TD-6 kit for about $100/month)

Step 2: choose your plug-in (optional)

I have yet to hear a set of e-drums that sound believable. The sample sets are usually pretty small and you’ll get only a few highly-processed multi-samples per drum. Of course as you spend more, this becomes less of an issue, but I’ve found the best bang for your buck is to use a VST plug-in. With VST plug-ins you just use the e-drum kit as a controller to trigger the plug-in via MIDI.

There are a number of options out there: Addictive Drums, EZ Drummer, BFD, etc. I’d recommend Addictive Drums – they offer a freely available demo (one kick, snare, hihat and crash) with no time limitations. Even the demo alone is enough to lay down some basic tracks.

Step 3: Setting everything up

Connect the MIDI out on the e-drums to the MIDI in on your MIDI interface and fire up your sequencer.

If you’re using a VST plug-in, you’ll now need to map the e-drums to your sequencer. You may need the manuals for this ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Create a new preset on your e-drums
  • For each trigger zone, decide what exactly you want to trigger. You’ll probably want the snare head to trigger a straight snare hit, the rim to trigger either a cross stick or a rim shot, etc.
  • Map the MIDI note for the pad/zone to the corresponding note on your VST plug-in, i.e. if the straight snare hit is C3, configure the snare head trigger zone to send MIDI note C3. This part can get a bit tedious.
  • Save your preset!

Note you may also be able to do the exact opposite of what I’ve said above: instead of mapping your e-drums to your plug-in, you may be able to map your plug-in to your e-drums. It depends on the plug-in.

Keep in mind that most plug-ins have many different types of hit per drum (i.e different locations on the drums). You’ll probably have way more hits in your plug-in than trigger zones on your e-drums. For this reason you may want to create multiple presets, or map multiple pads to one type of drum (i.e. pad 1 triggers straight snare and cross stick, pad 2 trigger rim shot)

Step 4: Recording

Now it’s time to record:

  • create a new MIDI track in your sequencer and map it to whatever channel the e-drums are sending to
  • adjust the tempo
  • turn on the click track
  • record!

If you’re not using a drum plug-in you’ll need to connect the MIDI out of your interface to the MIDI in on your e-drums so you can actually hear what you recorded. You’ll also need to connect the audio output on your e-drums to an audio interface when you actually want to record a “final mix” of the drums.

In closing…

The major downside to recording drums this way is that you lose some of the subtleties and nuances of recording an acoustic set. For some styles or techniques this just won’t work at all – brushes for example. Otherwise, if the e-drums can capture it, then go for it. I think you’ll be happy with the results.

We actually regret not having done this for The Wax EP, and are contemplating taking an afternoon to re-record with a e-kit!