The Instrument Village of Tokyo

The sprawling district of Shibuya in Tokyo is home to some of the most interesting vintage synthesizer stores in the country (if not the world) and a Mecca for music lovers and up and coming artists.

Walking around its streets and alleys on any given day at any time (even the wee small hours of the morning) I guarantee you wont have to go far before you stumble on a bar or club that invites you with music you’ve never heard before. Shibuya is known for being one of the most important testing grounds for new genres and artists in Japan.

IkebeGakkiMura14I’ve written before about some of the off-the-track stores in the area (here and here), but today I’m going to show you some pictures of the largest and perhaps most mainstream or commercial collection of instrument stores in this part of Tokyo.

If you are looking for a new Tuba or Trumpet, a built to order exclusive guitar, a gold-plated Moog or simple new strings for your Bass, this is where you’ll want to go, but make sure you bring a map or otherwise orient yourself before heading out, the area is a bit chaotic.

Exit the Shibuya train station on the western side towards the bus terminals and you’ll soon find yourself facing a large network of pedestrian overpasses (the purple / grey parts in the picture below). Cross over this overpass and you will soon arrive at the ‘entrance the the Ikebe Gakki Mura (イケベ楽器村). The ‘instrument village’ is really a collection of stores situated close to each other making up a complex neighborhood of specialty shops.

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Here’s a stylized map showing the locations of some of the major stores in the area.

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When you see these signs you are on the right way.

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Inside some of the shops in the ‘DJ’ tower (Power Rec is a great one).

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One of the keyboard / synthesizer specialty stores.

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Lots of Nord gear.

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A golden Moog (17/30 if I remember right).

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And a signed one.

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Yep I miss my Prophet 12…

IkebeGakkiMura13Check out these links to the official Ikebe page where you can find detailed information on the various stores, the opening hours and locations.

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/realshop/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/web-ikebe/shibuya-ikebe_gakkimura/

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Ableton Live 9 Workshop Notes

Today I attended the Ableton Live 9 workshop at the Supper Club in San Francisco.

Please see this post for the background on the workshop.

The event was relatively small, but thanks to the size it felt very intimate and informal. The crowd wasn’t huge, but I got the impression that it was reasonably representative of the active EDM producers / artists in San Francisco. The old Demo Party organizer in me immediately started thinking about different types of events that could be arranged with a dedicated group of people like this, but more on that later.

I won’t go too much into detail about the topics discussed, but below are some notes of the stuff that I found particularly interesting.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the workshop was based on a Beta version of Live 9, and any of the described features and content below could change before it actually ships.

Part 1 : Timo on Live 9 and workflow

Audio to MIDI

By now I think most people have heard of the amazing new Audio to MIDI function in Live 9, what I did not know was that it offers 3 different algorithms to choose from, Harmony for chord heavy sound, Melody for monophonic progressions and Drums for percussion and drums.

Upgrade to 9 compressor or continue to use 8 version is an option

As part of upgrading to Live 9, you will be presented with the option to continue to use the Live 8 standard compressor, or upgrade to the new one. This is not the new Glue compressor, which is a different plugin, but the standard compressor.

MIDI Note Invert

The Notes drawer in a MIDI clip now has an invert button that allows you to select a set of notes in the piano roll and instantly invert their relative pitch.

MIDI Note Stretch markers

In Live 9, when you select a range in the Note lane the selected range markers can be dragged to stretch (speed up, slow down, reverse) the selected notes.

Session Automation Record Arm and Record Buttons

As part of the new Session view automation record capability, the Transport bar at the top of the UI know contains an Automation Record arm button, and an Automation Record button. Both are used when you want to enable / disable recording any parameter changes you do while playing back scenes and clips. With version you add automation points by single clicking, and you can create curves for smoother transitions.

Back to arrangement on a track by track basis

The arrangement view in Live 9 contains buttons that allow you to do Back to Arrangement on individual tracks instead of the entire set.

Consolidate to scene 9

Starting with Live 9 you can select a range in the arrangement view, right click and select Consolidate to Scene. This will create a new scene in the session view that contains a clip for each track you selected, with just the selected range of sound. This includes automation and effects.

Part 2 : Liam on DJ’ing with Live

Set global BPM though scene name

If you name a scene ??? BPM, the global clock will be set to that BPM every time you launch that scene. Perfect for smooth transitions and seamless tempo changes between song parts or tracks in a DJ set.

Use routing to create effects channels

If you get creative, you can create advanced effects channels that allow you to get very expressive when playing back scenes and clips live. (This is really all about coming up with the templates that work for you.)

Summary

Don’t let the fact that the notes from Liam’s session are fewer trick you into thinking that his set was not interesting. Since I’m not a DJ I guess there was just more that related to me directly in Timo’s part. Liam really showed how far you can go using Live and the APC 40, if you really know how to work both the software and the hardware.

The event was incredibly inspiring and full of new learnings, especially for a relative beginner like my self.

At the end I also got a chance to speak to Timo directly about the possibility of arranging more workshops and gatherings for EDM people in San Francisco. He indicated that there are already plans to try to strengthen the community and provide more forums and social events for people to exchange ideas, learn and share perspectives and initiate collaborations. I really hope that materializes, and if it doesn’t I will try to make it happen myself.

Finally, a huge thanks to Timo and Liam for taking the time and sharing from their wells of wisdom.