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October 2016 / CM234



The Producer’s Guide to

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Chords & Scales

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welcome The computer is now just as much a musical instrument as a guitar or piano, but I’m always surprised at how many producers fail to grasp the language of music. Yet with a firm grasp of music theory basics, your tune-making skills are guaranteed to skyrocket. Who doesn’t want to craft better chord progressions and jam out pitch-perfect riffs? So, to get you off the blocks and give you a solid grounding in the most fundamental aspects of music theory, we’ve put together the definitive guide to chords and scales from the computer musician’s perspective – 100% piano roll, no notation, no frills. You’ll be riffin’ and jammin’ away in no time! And we’ve even included an exclusive MIDI ‘construction kit’ packed full of chord and scale templates, designed to fast-track your theory skills – start getting better now from p24. Once you’ve absorbed our harmonious cover feature, the logical next step is to fire up the first of this issue’s two fantastic plugin freebies: Monoplugs’ B-Step CM. Punch in inspired riffs and chords on the fly, safe in the knowledge that your notes stay locked within your choice of chord or scale. And be sure to check out Tone2’s multitalented Warmverb – usually sold for a cool £50 – and get inspired with 1GB of jaw-dropping Loopmasters samples. With all this great stuff lined up this month, I’ll leave you to….

“100% piano roll, no notation, no frills”

Enjoy the issue

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Joe Rossitter Editor

reviews  <

The latest computer music gear tested and rated! Our promise We bring you honest, unbiased appraisals of the latest computer music products. Our experts apply the same stringent testing methods to all gear, no matter how much hype or expectation surrounds it.

What the ratings mean

94 iZotope VocalSynth

1-4 A seriously flawed product that should be avoided


This product’s problems outweigh its merits


A decent product that’s only held back by a few flaws

92 PropellErhead REASON 9

Rack up the latest version of the legendary DAW, and see what’s new


Solid. Well worth considering

8 Very good. A well-conceived

96 Positive Grid Pro Series Studio EQ

and executed product

9 Excellent. First-rate and among the best you can buy

10 Exceptional. It just doesn’t get any better than this! See and hear the latest software in action in our 2 ‘2 Minutes With…’ videos! Wherever you see the icon, head straight to your DVD, the Vault download area, or our YouTube channel for a rapid-fire showcase of that product’s essential features and sonic capabilities. VIDEO


98 Output Movement

99 Acustica Audio Pink

100 Audiority Polaris

101 Native Instruments Replika XT

102 Kush Audio Omega Transformers

103 PSP Audioware PSP B-Scanner

Awarded to products that challenge existing ideas and do something entirely new

A product has to really impress us with its functionality and features to win this one

105 Mini Reviews

If the product exceeds expectations for its price, it will receive this gong

In the opinion of the Editor, the best product reviewed in the magazine this month

October 2016  /  Computer Music  /  91

Issue 234 OCTOBER 2016


Cover feature

Producer masterclass

The Producer’s Guide to

Chords & Scales


See how he puts together his brand of tech-house in this interview and in-studio video

Free plugin

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Straightforward music theory for all, p24

Download this ace multieffect from plugin gurus Tone2


A step sequencer with attitude, waiting to join your plugins folder

Your guides for the ever-expanding world of production are here every month to show you the way


cm collection



GEEK TECHNIQUE: perfect low end


Build a track with this issue’s huge 1GB sample giveaway

 asy guide: e altered chords

 r beat: d brushes


Our video guide to signal-

squashing sound design




84 oli  ver heldens We chat to the Dutch DJ about his epic rise to fame

Relive the legends with our guide to software recreations




propellerhead reason 9




izotope vocalsynth


what’s on your drive


output movement


burning question


acustica audio pink



100 audiority polaris


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PLUS 20 MORE products reviewed


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October 2016  /  Computer Music  /  5

the producer’s guide to chords and scales  /  make music now  <

Major scales (or flat) notes, and it coincides exactly with the on any note and selecting notes using a pattern A scale is a set of notes picked from the full 12, white keys on the keyboard. This is because of semitone (1 note) and tone (2 note) intervals: and the most basic, the chromatic scale, music theory and keyboards have been 2-2-1-2-2-2-1. Check out Fig 2 to see what we contains all 12 notes. The note you start the designed around the C major scale. mean – the notes we’ve ‘selected’ for the scale scale on – called the ‘root’ – gives the scale its The important thing to remember is that are in red, and the ones we haven’t are in white. name. Fig 1 shows all the notes of the C it’s the 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 pattern that creates a major Fig 3 shows our complete C major scale, chromatic scale stacked together on a piano scale, so concentrate on that first – you can C D E F G A B C. The C major scale has no sharp roll, so you can visualise the set of notes learn the notes as you go. (you’d never normally play all the notes Fig 1 Fig 2 Fig 3 Every scale has its own sound and like this). The final octave note is feeling, and the major scale is upbeat included for completeness – there aren’t and “happy” in character. There are lots actually two Cs in the scale. more scales to use, of course, and that’s Making music with the chromatic when things can start to get confusing. scale can sound rather, er… To make your life easier, we’ve prepared experimental. What we really want is a the CM MIDI Construction Kit within this smaller set of notes that ‘play nice’ issue’s Tutorial Files. It’s packed with together, and the most fundamental MIDI scales and chords to guide you scale for this is the major scale – like – let’s try it now and see what the major most ‘normal’ scales, it contains seven scale can do! different notes. We build it by starting Every major scale uses the same pattern of interval jumps: 2-2-1-2-2-2-1

> Step by step 2. Instant music-making with the CM MIDI Construction Kit


Let’s write an upbeat 80s pop loop with the C major scale. Load Beat.wav in a 126bpm project, loop it, then create MIDI tracks named Bass and Melody. Load them with Bazille CM and Dune CM, with presets 02 Basses - Ark Sawker Punch and 110: Synth Stabs RH. Put Reverberate CM on the Melody track, set the Bass and Melody track levels to -14dB and -18dB, and put D16 Frontier on the master bus.


Now create four-bar MIDI clips on the Bass and Melody tracks, and import MIDI Construction Kit » C » Major Template.mid alongside those clips. Don’t play it, though – it’s for use as a visual guideline only. It features sustained notes on only the notes of the C major scale. We’ve included tons of scales in this format, and we’ll use them throughout our tutorials.


How you use these clips as a guideline depends on your DAW software, but here’s a method for Ableton Live: Select all the notes, copy them, then paste them into the Bass MIDI clip starting at bar 5 – this is outside of the clip’s loop points, so we’ll never hear the notes. With the small blue headphones icon (just upper-left of the piano roll) enabled, click each note from C3-C4 to hear the C major scale.


>Major insights


In Ableton Live, you can click the Fold button to hide all notes that don’t have a MIDI note already, so now we’ll see only the notes in C major – perfect! To provide a foolproof backing for our melody, program a bassline using only the root note, C2 – a repeating pattern of one eighth-note then two 16th-notes will work.


Repeat steps 3-4 to set up the C major template on the Melody track and draw in your own melody. When you’re done trying it out, program our pattern above – we’ve turned off the Fold function here in case you’re using a different DAW. This melody uses all seven notes of the C major scale, so you can hear the scale’s full range of tonality, and how it sounds against the root note, C, in the bass.

Switch off the Fold function in Live – if you’re using it – and check out the intervals between the notes C-E, C-F and C-G – these form three of the four ‘core’ intervals we showed you in the previous tutorials: 4 semitones (major third), 5 semitones (perfect fourth) and 7 semitones (perfect fifth). You can see how they got the numerical part of their names now too, as they are the third, fourth and fifth notes of the major scale! Now move the notes on the Bass track so bars 1-4 are based on C, E, F then G, for a common yet satisfying sequence. We even based the sustained ‘main’ notes of our melody on these!

October 2016  /  Computer Music  /  27

>  make music now  /  the producer’s guide to chords and scales

Six more chord tricks Mastered major, minor and diminished chords? Tackle this lot next!

6. Smoother sequences with inverted chords A normal C major chord is C-E-G, but you can easily change it to E-G-C, called the ‘first inversion’, or G-C-E, the ‘second inversion’ – the bass note has changed, but it’s still the same chord, with the same root note, C. This can be used to create much smoother chord sequences. To try an example, create a 100BPM project and load Beat.wav; then use Chords.mid to trigger Bazille CM’s Computer Music » Joe Rossitter » Richmond Keys preset. This C minor progression uses basic noninverted triads. Select the lower two notes of all chords in bar 1 and 3, then transpose them up one octave – most DAWs have a shortcut key for this, such as Shift-Up. Now hear how much smoother the progression is, since there’s less movement from chord to chord. In the final bar, select all notes above (and including) D4, and drop those one octave for a cool descending chord progression. You may start to hear melodies in the chords’ movement – there’s one going on in ours, so duplicate the top note of each chord and place them one octave up, for an instant melody.

7. Borrowed chords The occasional chord from a different scale – or key – can give your progressions an element of surprise. Borrowed chords are an easy way to achieve this, and they are simply chords taken from the parallel minor or major key. So if your sequence is in A minor, you would borrow chords from A major; if you’re in D major, you’ll take them from D minor, and so on. See our video for a practical example!

8. Transitions with suspended chords Take a normal major or minor triad – it doesn’t matter which – then move its third up to play a perfect fourth, and you have a suspended 4 chord, or sus4 – the formula in semitones is root-5-7. Because it lacks a third, the chord sounds neither major nor minor, with a spacey, ambiguous feel. It’s often followed by the regular major or minor chord, creating a satisfying resolution. To go full classical, ‘prepare’ the suspension by preceding it with a chord that contains the suspended note. In our A minor example, we play Am (A-C-E), Esus4 (E-A-B), Em (E-G-B). A is the prepared note, shared by Am and Esus4, resolving to the G in Em. Now, until you actually resolve the chord, nobody knows whether it’s going to be major or minor, and you can add a surprise twist by resolving to a minor chord instead of a major, making it a borrowed chord. You can do it the other way around, of course, resolving to major where a minor is expected.

32  /  Computer Music  /  October 2016

>  free software / tone2 warmverb


> Free software

Get the plugin and the video tutorial on your PC/Mac at


The full version of Tone2’s versatile multieffect, worth £50, is completely free with this issue!

When designing sounds, composing or mixing, there’s nothing that kills your creative flow as quickly as having to trawl through a disorganised list of plugins in search for a particular effect – so it’s vital that you have a wide range of high-quality tools to hand. With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with revered software developer Tone2 to bring you a huge collection of processors packed into a single power-plugin: Warmverb is here to supercharge your effects collection! Scoring 8/10 in our 136 review, Warmverb (PC VST, 32- and 64-bit, Mac VST/AU 32-bit) is a multitalented multieffect stuffed with 31 powerful processors, including reverb, delay,

distortion, pitch-based effects and more, making it an incredibly powerful sound design and mixing weapon for both beginners and professionals alike. Load up to four effects at once via the four ‘slots’, flick through different effects on the fly to generate inspiring combinations, dial in screaming feedback, shape your signal with the global three-band EQ, and even blend each layer (or the main output) in parallel for ultimate mix control. And this is no cut-down version of Warmverb, either – this is the full thing, as sold for £50! Be sure to see and hear it in action in our walkthroughs, Tutorial Files and video, and check out Tone2’s website for more pro instruments and effects.

PRESETS Navigate, save and load presets and banks, plus randomise, reset and initialise the current preset

EQUALISER A three-band EQ – low and high shelves plus a mid boost

Serving up 31 effects, including: Reverb Large, Small, Ultra, Reflect \, Reflect /, Reflect - Delay PingPong, PingPong Filter, Delay Distortion Tube Amp, Transistor, Presence, Hard Clip, Bitcrush, Waveshape, Aliaser Modulation Chorus, Ensemble, Flanger, Phaser, Rotary, Superstrings, Tremolo Stereo Surround Enc, Autopan, Stereo Enhance, Stereoizer Transformation/Pitch Vocoder, Talkbox, Pitchshifter, Ringmod

MIX SECTION Set the global Volume and dry/ wet Mix, and toggle the plugin on and off with the Bypass switch

EFFECTS SLOTS Four slots for loading effects, with selector, Mix, bypass and up to four parameters

FEEDBACK Feed the signal back into another module, and keep the Clip light on for safety 50  /  Computer Music  /  October 2016

ROUTING Switch between two routing topologies, as shown in this section’s signal flow diagram

>  free software / monoplugs b-step cm


> Free software

Get the plugin and the video tutorial on your PC/Mac at

B-Step CM

Step up your game with Monoplugs’ inspirational melody, beat and chord designer

We wouldn’t give up our piano rolls and MIDI keyboards for anything, but each has its cons: one is a fairly uninspiring tool for entering specific patterns; the other is a musical instrument that you have to play with some proficiency to get the best results. If you’re after a tool that combines the spontaneity of performing with the precision of programming, though, the step sequencer is where it’s at, and – wouldn’t you know it? – one is yours for free with this month’s .

B-Step CM is based on Monoplugs’ full B-Step sequencer, and it comes in both standalone and plugin versions for Windows (VST), Mac OS X (VST/AU) and Linux (VST). You can use it to jam out everything from basslines and riffs to chord progressions, arpeggios, and even drum beats, in the studio or on stage. You get all the immediacy of a ‘punch and play’ 16-step sequencer, but with a whopping seven pages of controls to dial in, inspiration is only ever a knob-twiddle or button-push away! Because

RUNLIGHT Lights up the currently playing step

GLOBAL TUNING Transpose the entire output TOOLS & OPTIONS Save/load presets, reset B-Step CM, options, MIDI learn, built-in manual and more

OCTAVE SHIFTS Shows the note for each row, with dials to transpose up/down by octaves LAYERS Additional pages of controls – enable them all with the ‘five stars’ button BAR MANIPULATIONS Set the octave, chord, and number of repeats for each of the 16 patterns

each 16-step pattern is locked to a chord progression, your tunes always stay in key, and you can change chords as you like. We’re about take you on a tour of B-Step CM’s main performance controls, but there’s plenty more for you to discover – deep MIDI Learn, touchscreen-ready control, four pattern clipboards, preset save/load, drum mode, and more. With the super-handy built-in manual, it’ll take you no time at all to suss them out. The full version of B-Step allows you to use multiple instances in a project (B-Step CM is restricted to just one); has unrestricted MIDI in/out capability, with options like multichannel output and parameter feedback for use with hardware controllers; and allows automatic loading of colour themes, as well as creation of your own. What’s more, B-Step CM users can get it for $39 instead of the usual $49 – just click the ‘i’ icon on B-Step CM, then the logo.

CHORD SET Select from five defined Chord Sets, and edit them by clicking the Pencil tool

STEP CONTROLS Set properties such as sustain length and MIDI velocity on a per-step basis

54  /  Computer Music  /  October 2016

STEP PROGRAMMER Punch these buttons on and off to program notes and chords

SHUFFLE Delay the timing and adjust velocity and duration of off-beat notes

>  make music now  /  creative compression

Five free creative compressors

> Step by step 4. Enhancing sub bass harmonics with limiting

Audio Damage Rough Rider

This scrumptious plugin has been around for a few years, but it’s still one of the best freeware compressors for aggressive drum bus pumping and “atom-bomb squish”. There’s no dry/wet mix parameter per se, but you can automate the Active (bypass) switch to blend it in.

1 Vladg/Sound Molot

This vibe-laden dynamics device combines M/S compression, saturation, mid-scooping EQ, sidechaining and peak limiting, providing coloured compression and warmth. It’s not the most intuitive or easy-to-use compressor out there, so be prepared to read the manual.

Start by loading the Tutorial Files named “Trap…” on new audio tracks in a new 140bpm project. The low end in this track comes from two sources: the kick in Trap Drum Loop.wav provides the initial kick transient and ‘punch’, while Trap Sub Tail.wav mirrors the kick’s notes, ducking up after each note to create the kick’s sustain, filling out the low end of the mix. Let’s use excessive limiting to enhance this clean sub tail.


Duplicate Trap Sub Tail.wav’s channel, giving us an identical parallel copy of the sub signal, then rename this copied channel “Sub Harmonics” or similar. Next, crush the signal’s dynamics with heavy limiting: insert Toneboosters’ Barricade CM limiter on this new channel before setting Out ceiling to -20dB, In gain to +20dB, Attack to 0s and Release to 0s.


>Crushing 808s

Klanghelm DC1A

This free, cut-down version of the developer’s commercial DC8C compressor is a must-have tool for assertive levelling and creative squashing. There are only two knobs (Input and Output), but you can dial in program-dependent compression and saturation in a flash, and choose from four compression styles.

If you’re a fan of dance genres such as trap, hip-hop and EDM, then you’ll be familiar with the sound of the famous TR-808 kick. It’s the perfect sound source for booming, relentless subs, but clean ‘808s’ straight out of the drum machine often lack harmonics and character. Counteract this by grouping your 808 bass with a sample of some low-level noise or hiss before heavily compressing the two signals together; this will add dirt and character as the noise floor is pulled up around the hits, and you can mix this flattened signal alongside the dry bass to set up the perfect balance of cleanliness and crunch.


As in our other tutorials, our heavy dynamics processing is causing distortion and adding plenty of overdriven vibe as well as flattening the signal’s dynamics. The distortion caused by the 0ms Release time sounds a little bloated, so insert Philta CM after the limiter then set 195Hz Lowpass and 120Hz Highpass to isolate the low-mid harmonics with precise filtering.

MeldaProduction MCompressor

Designed to cover all of your compression needs, MCompressor is one of the many stars of their MFreeEffectsBundle. This all-rounder also gives you customisable gain reduction curves, razor-sharp visualisation, sidechain high- and low-pass filtering, intelligent gain compensation, output limiting and more.

Klanghelm MJUC jr

Based on classic ‘variable-mu’ compressors, this cost-free squasher eschews complexity in favour of analogue vibe and charm. There’s only basic Compress and Make-Up controls to tweak, and three preset attack/release settings (Slow, Fast and Auto), so you’ll be slamming vocals and pumping drum busses in no time. 64  /  Computer Music  /  October 2016


Raising Philta CM’s Output to +6dB pushes up the level of these ‘pocketed’, band-passed harmonics, filling out the low mids of the mix to give the impression of extra bass weight, thickness and power without actually adding any extra mixswamping subsonic frequencies. This method of enhancement works especially well, as the core kick ‘punch’ layer within the loop isn’t being distorted at all.


However, our assertive limiting has completely flattened the parallel signal’s dynamics, making the layer sound dynamically ‘disjointed’ when layered over the original sub tail. To fix this, we render our Bass Harmonics channel to a new audio file before chopping out each note and applying volume fades to carefully match the midrange notes’ lengths and dynamics with the sub.

>  make music now  /  virtual moog session

Minimoog Model D It is, without doubt, the single most famous synthesiser ever created. Initially issued in 1970 and manufactured until 1981, the Minimoog’s influence can be felt on nearly every synthesiser that came after it. Its near-perfect combination of three voltagecontrolled oscillators (one of which can be used as an LFO), 24dB low-pass resonant

The synth that shaped the future of synthesisers: the original Minimoog Model D

> Step by step

filter, dual envelope generators, and lefthand pitch and modulation wheels allowed gigging musicians to learn and use the basics of analogue synthesis on an instrument that was (and is) a joy to play. Cobbled together from Moog’s modules and a sawed-off keyboard by engineer Bill Hemsath on his lunch breaks, the Minimoog was initially meant to be a personal, portable one-off. Yet it was perfect for musicians for whom a massive modular synthesiser was impractical. It was small, (relatively) light, and didn’t require patch cables. More importantly, it sounded huge. This was an instrument that could cut through the din of a hard rock band playing at full tilt. The Minimoog was mercilessly copied by the competition, but reigned supreme thanks to an undeniable sonic signature.

Nothing else sounded quite like it. In fact, no two Minimoogs sound alike. This makes emulating the instrument something of a fool’s errand, as no copy can possibly sound like every Minimoog. Even Robert Moog’s own successor to the throne, the Minimoog Voyager, failed to convert some die-hard Minimoog players. That hasn’t stopped manufacturers and developers from trying, though, and there have been some remarkably close copies, three of which we’ll use to explore the Mini’s architecture in our step-by-step tutorials. As we write this, the Minimoog story has now come full circle with Moog themselves announcing a new Minimoog Model D that closely follows the design of the original, albeit with a few popular modifications thrown in for good measure.

1. Classic Minimoog lead with Minimonsta





The original Minimoog made its name in the hands of progressive rockers like Rick Wakeman and the late, great Keith Emerson, both of whom exploited the Mini’s wicked glide function to create swooping lead lines that were not previously available to keyboardists. Let’s create a lead of our own using GForce’s Minimonsta. We’ll start by loading up the CMInit patch (found in the Tutorial Files) as a jumping-off point.

Our sound has now all but disappeared, so let’s get the filter envelope (here called ‘Contour’) in on the action. Set the Amount of Contour knob to around 85. Now let’s play with the filter envelope’s shape. Kick the Attack time up to roughly 600. The Decay should be full and the Sustain set to around 6. Set Loudness Contour’s Attack at min, Decay to 5 and Sustain to 6.

70  /  Computer Music  /  October 2016


Select Rect W as the Waveform for Oscillator 1. This is the second-most selection from the fully clockwise position of the Waveform rotary switch. Now, go to the Mixer section and click the blue On switch to bring Oscillator 2 into the mix. Set Oscillator 2’s Range to 2 . Give Oscillator 2’s Frequency knob a nudge to the right – to about +0.03. This detuning gives us a thicker sound.



Note the three orange rocker switches to the left of the Filter section. The bottom two dictate how much keyboard modulation is applied to the filter. Higher notes open the filter up more than lower notes. Make sure both are activated. Have a play – our envelopes cause the sound to kick in immediately, then die down after a bit, with the filter opening and then closing.


Next, activate Oscillator 3 in the Mixer section. Set its Waveform to Square and its Range to 4 . Next, set its Frequency to -0.03. You might need to dial down each oscillator’s Volume knob in the Mixer a bit. We now have all three oscillators in play. Let’s turn to the Filter section, where we’ll Push the Cutoff Freq knob way down to -2.

Now for that swooping portamento so beloved by prog rockers. Before Moog, keyboardists played pianos and organs, neither of which offered a means to bend pitch. The Moog offered a pitch wheel and Glide. Turn that Glide knob up to around 12 o’clock. The combination of envelope and glide action offers a lot of expressive potential. Brilliant! We’ll leave you to fetch your cape and rock out.

> interview / oliver heldens

84 / Computer Music / October 2016

oliver heldens / interview <

Oliver Heldens The humble Dutch wonderkid takes time out of his jam-packed schedule to talk touring, studio simplicity and his phenomenal success

Creamfields always seems to attract the best and biggest names that dance music has to offer, and this year is no exception. The 2016 line-up reads like a funky, knobtwiddling Who’s Who with likes of Fatboy Slim, Tiesto and Calvin Harris jostling for position with Avicii (his last ever UK performance), Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Knife Party. Back for the third year running, and laying waste to the South Stage on Sunday, is the ridiculously talented 21-year-old Rotterdam-based DJ and producer Oliver Heldens. And it sounds like he’s looking forward to it. “I do maybe 200 shows a year, and you start to understand how the different crowds work all around the world. America is a crazy crowd, but Canada has a bit more knowledge. Holland has a lot of history and the underground crowd always feels very passionate. The UK has history, too, of course,

and I’ve realised there’s a big difference between crowds in the north and south. The south is strong, but the northern crowds are just completely crazy! “Somebody told me that Creamfields is in the north. Is that correct? [A few might quibble about its credentials, but Cheshire is certainly above Watford Gap!] That would explain a lot because the crowd are just… the maddest ever. The energy hits you as soon as you walk on stage; it’s like a human kick drum!” Computer Music: The Oliver Heldens ‘sound’ has always been fairly difficult to define… deep house, electro, progressive, elements of disco. Do festival dates like Creamfields give you a chance to get a bit more experimental with your setlist? Oliver Heldens: “No matter where I’m playing, I don’t like the idea that I can only play one kind of music. If the music’s good, who cares about

October 2016 / Computer Music / 85

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Computer Music 234 (Sampler)  

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Computer Music 234 (Sampler)  

You can subscribe to this magazine @