My list of too much gear.

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Digital Larry
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My list of too much gear.

Postby Digital Larry » Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:15 pm

I've been doing computer based MIDI sequencing since around 1984 when I wrote my own sequencer program from scratch under DOS. Added audio recording some time back.

Here's my list of gear, and I do use most of it at some point in the year. I hope I can retire in order to spend more time at it!

The current center of my setup, since I play guitar and bass mostly, is the Avid Eleven Rack. It's a bit out of date and large and heavy and it is just great so far. Took me awhile to get some nice clean tones but I like the ease of use of the UI.

For MIDI controllers, I have an Arturia Beatstep Pro and Keystation 32. I'm not super into techno which these seem to lean towards (16 step patterns, forwards/backwards/pendulum mode playback, stutter, arpeggiator, etc.) but I've gotten some interesting results.

I'm using the McMillen Softstep with my Ubuntu Studio/SooperLooper/Hydrogen setup. I have a Behringer FCB-1010 with the Eureka ROM that works very well with the Eleven Rack, and a MIDI Buddy program change footswitch sort of sitting there wondering when someone will call on it. I also have this very small Samson MIDI controller with an octave's worth of trigger pads and some knobs. I took that on some vacations but the pads almost always double or triple trigger and many people report the same. So I've set that one aside. I took the Keystation on my last vacation.

I have a Behringer UMC-404 audio interface and also the XR-18 wireless mixer which is currently attached to my W-word machine. Previously I had owned a couple Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces, both of which worked quite well.

Guitars and basses. I sold quite a few last year so forget about those.
Yamaha AES-800
G&L S-500 Tribute
Squier Deluxe Jazzmaster
Squier Strat (the low one on the totem pole, although I do enjoy playing it)
Guild D-46NT dreadnought acoustic
Taylor 140 acoustic
Ibanez TMB-100 short scale bass
Carvin LB-20 fretless bass (just got that one yesterday)
Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic bass guitar "factory prototype" - totally rare, got it in 1984.
acoustic and electric mandolins
acoustic and electric tenor ukuleles

a bodhran
a djembe
potato, zucchini and tomato shakers (don't even remember where I got these)
DDRUM MIDI drum trigger grafted onto a cheapo Ion non MIDI drum kit, with some extra pads, actually works REALLY well, except I don't play drums so hot
a Korg 05 R/W half rack MIDI synth from the old days!

Then I have a 10U 84HP modular synth setup that I mostly got into because I did some consulting for a European modular synth company a few years back and they paid me in gear.

I've documented that at ModularGrid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/449755

I use a couple Tannoy monitors and just got a Headrush FRFR-108 for the guitar rig. I may get another for stereo.

I own a Gallien-Krueger 200 MB bass amp from my time working there in the late 80's/early 90's. Unfortunately it's developed something bad in the preamp. I have the schematics and could probably troubleshoot it, but it's not high on my list of things to do.

I would need several lifetimes to get the most out of all this. Believe it or not, I really try not to buy new things any more because by this time I've learned that most of them do not help. The reason I am not as prolific in recording things as I think I should be, has everything to do with me and a bit to do with the way most DAWs I've tried are more geared towards people assembling loops and making those into compositions by pitch shifting and time stretching. I'm more into playing things at the tempo they were intended and playing chord changes directly on the instrument (how quaint!).

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Michael Willis
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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Michael Willis » Sun Sep 22, 2019 6:23 pm

That's quite an assortment of gear you have there!

Digital Larry wrote:...most DAWs I've tried are more geared towards people assembling loops and making those into compositions by pitch shifting and time stretching. I'm more into playing things at the tempo they were intended and playing chord changes directly on the instrument (how quaint!).


Shrug... These days I mostly just hit the record button in Ardour and start playing, along with arranging midi tracks for instruments that I either have no way of recording, or that I'm using as placeholders until I can get another musician to do a proper recording of a real instrument.

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Digital Larry
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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Digital Larry » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:27 pm

Michael Willis wrote:That's quite an assortment of gear you have there!
Shrug... These days I mostly just hit the record button in Ardour and start playing, along with arranging midi tracks for instruments that I either have no way of recording, or that I'm using as placeholders until I can get another musician to do a proper recording of a real instrument.


I've done that as well - just using the DAW as a tape recorder and ignoring its tempo - that was liberating. I even played drums on it live - had to keep it really simple and wound up moving a number of the hits in time to make it sound better. That's all fine except for the part where other real musicians come over to my place and actually want to participate in the creation of these weird things. There's ONE GUY I can think of, we used to do all sorts of nutty things years ago.

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:56 pm

If I were you I'd try to find a (VST) drum plugin for your DAW of choice (Ardour?) and (with great reluctance) familiar yourself w/ programming it via the piano roll. That would get rid of Hydrogen in the equation. I know the interface of Hydrogen is really, really great, intuitive and inviting to program, play, re-program and re-play. But once you've created something great (w/ your looper of choice and Hydrogen) you want your fellow musicians to be able to add stuff to it.


--------------------------------------------
If I'm not mistaken then loopers became very popular w/ guitarists in the eighties to quickly put something down in a "private" jam. In the early nineties a friend of mine, a guitarist, bought a looper, a cheap drum machine and a Portastudio (makes a 4 track recorder out of an ordinary audio cassette tape). He could play in the rhythm of the drum machine and put down ideas real quickly. Then he would work it out w/ the band. That is: re-record and replay everything.

Nowadays w/ the aid of a laptop and an audio interface (e.g. your Behringer 404) one does not have to re-record everything anymore. That's the added value of a DAW. In my opinion a DAW is seen too much like something for dance music producers. The only problem you have to tackle, imho, is how to let your DAW loop a few tracks and then start to record another one w/ a foot pedal (like you do now w/ Super Looper).

I know: bummer that your beloved work flow might have to be adjusted... But I always say to myself that recording, producing and mixing music is something that even The Beatles couldn't do them selves. The greatest bands in the world used to learn how to play a song in the garage of a band member. Then they'd go to a studio and with the aid of an engineer (like Alan Parsons for Pink Floyd) and a producer (like Sir George Martin or Phil Spector for The Beatles) they'd record the stuff. That could take days and even months ('A Night At The Opera' by Queen).

You are among professionals in solving the problem of tempo so others can add stuff to your production. Pink Floyd used a click track for The Wall in 1979. They even had to work w/ two 24 track tapes to travel to various places to add recordings of the orchestra etc. Re-mixing that album in surround has not been done to date (also has to do w/ the tape glue letting loose).

Another example of how they used to tackle the tempo problem. I've got the "ultimate" collectors edition of 'War Of The Worlds' (1978) by Jeff Wayne. In the booklet and on extra audio tracks they tell how they handled the tempo for the various musicians that worked on the album. One of the 48 tracks contains an employee actually counting all the bars (!). In the middle of doing so you can hear him laugh sometimes when he's in the hundreds or so... The two 24 track tapes ad to be synchronized to practically form a 48 track tape. Sync between 'm was troublesome to say the least. Yet Jeff Wayne (a producer by trade) did manage to re-mix the whole thing into multi-channel years later for the SA-CD.

All I'm saying is that we are a bit spoiled nowadays. And we're led to believe that producing is very easy if you would just learn how to use a computer/DAW. It's not. I for instance make a "click track" (yes: an audio track!) by recording the audio signal from the "sync out" of one of my synths into a portastudio device (uses batteries so I have wireless freedom). I then pan said audio to the right-hand channel and feed that into a synth to keep it in synch w/ what I already recorded. Sometimes I have to feed said click track into the sync in of a synth and then use the Midi out of that synth to feed into a drumcomputer that only has Midi (and no sync via click). I can do the same via the Midi tempo of DAW via my laptop and the Behringer 404 audio interface. But then I get crazy from all the wires and devices. A portable battery operated portastudio does the trick too.

And then I import the multiple audio tracks into a DAW to edit and add (extra) effects like delay if I want to (could be Qtracktor, could be good ol' Audacity). So everybody struggles, ha ha. :wink:

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Digital Larry
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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Digital Larry » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:45 pm

Linuxmusician01 wrote:If I were you I'd try to find a (VST) drum plugin for your DAW of choice (Ardour?) and (with great reluctance) familiar yourself w/ programming it via the piano roll. That would get rid of Hydrogen in the equation. I know the interface of Hydrogen is really, really great, intuitive and inviting to program, play, re-program and re-play. But once you've created something great (w/ your looper of choice and Hydrogen) you want your fellow musicians to be able to add stuff to it.

I appreciate your thoughtful response. Actually I have done that for years, or tried to anyway. I have SONAR Pro with Addictive Drums which is a really great package, but it's mostly unused. "Fellow musicians" - now there's a concept I haven't explored lately. I do get together with one or two friends but it's rarely to record anything.

Linuxmusician01 wrote:I know: bummer that your beloved work flow might have to be adjusted... But I always say to myself that recording, producing and mixing music is something that even The Beatles couldn't do them selves.

If I thought I had anywhere near that level of talent I'd quit my job and hire someone for sure! I can appreciate your perspective but I'm really unlikely to follow this....

I have a certain amount of energy for my creative endeavors. I've discovered that the perspiration part of making a song (actually mixing it together and adjusting things which don't sound quite right) feels a lot like work to me and so yeah, it's difficult and as a result it doesn't happen as much as I'd like. Nobody's hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for my next song to come out.

When I was regularly purchasing updates to SONAR, I always went top of the line, for reasons I can't currently explain, because I don't think I used the large majority of those premium features.

What I'm trying to do here is just to see whether I can adjust the pieces and the way they work together to make that simpler. And of course the first steps in that direction head straight into the heart of the complexity beast. But that's just the weird way my mind works. About 7 years ago I started trying to write DSP code for this chip that's used in a lot of pedals, the Spin FV-1. I found this so difficult that I spent 3 years writing a graphical tool similar to Pure Data that lets you create DSP algorithms by connecting little functional boxes with lines. Yeah, all that time I spent writing that code, I was not playing the guitar or writing songs, but my mind was on fire with obsession to solve a problem and I was having a good time with it. A number of people have used the program to program their own pedal projects and a few created commercial products, and I got some consulting work out of it as well. After all that, I never want to write code for the FV-1 ever again. But I don't regret having spent the time on the project.
Last edited by Digital Larry on Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby milo » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:53 pm

Digital Larry wrote:Squier Strat (the low one on the totem pole, although I do enjoy playing it)


Squier Strats are good instruments for the money. They are almost too good for a beginner guitar, because they play so well that you don't feel the need to upgrade them. My cousin has been playing his Squier Strat for decades, using it on hundreds of recordings, and will probably never buy a "real" Strat.

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby ufug » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:15 pm

Fun gear list Digital Larry. I used to covet your Earthwood something fierce! That's a rare bird.

I think there are a few of us here who are old-school with approach. The modern grid obsession is not my cup of tea, with everything perfectly tuned and time-aligned. I like songs and organic sounds and some push-and-pull.

I really do struggle with drums, it's been my big frustration with home recording for decades. I hear them in my songwriting, but I'm not equipped to record them. I am using Hydrogen most of the time now (loops sometimes, but less often) and find that if you write an original part and play it on pads into Hydrogen and/or move some hits manually off of the grid to create a feel it can be rather convincing. Here's a (very) rough mix of a Bakersfield-style track I've been working on, I think the drum part has a relatively natural sounding bounce to it.

Other than that, I'm all about DAW=tape deck. I don't like losing my limited hobby project time to mixing either, but you can save a lot of time on mixing if you arrange before recording. Mixing really should be about adding a little nuance and polish, not an engineering problem (although if you watch some YouTube tutorials, you'll quickly start to think that mixing is all about computers, aligning to the grid, and a thousand plugins--I've certainly fallen into that trap before).

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby ufug » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:27 pm

Linuxmusician01 wrote:All I'm saying is that we are a bit spoiled nowadays. And we're led to believe that producing is very easy if you would just learn how to use a computer/DAW. It's not. I for instance make a "click track" (yes: an audio track!) by recording the audio signal from the "sync out" of one of my synths into a portastudio device (uses batteries so I have wireless freedom). I then pan said audio to the right-hand channel and feed that into a synth to keep it in synch w/ what I already recorded. Sometimes I have to feed said click track into the sync in of a synth and then use the Midi out of that synth to feed into a drumcomputer that only has Midi (and no sync via click). I can do the same via the Midi tempo of DAW via my laptop and the Behringer 404 audio interface. But then I get crazy from all the wires and devices. A portable battery operated portastudio does the trick too.


I just have to say this entire post is among the best I've ever read here. It puts what we are all trying to do into a much more realistic context. There's something about our expectations of being able to make music from inception to master in a bedroom studio (often isolated) that is just... off.

Not to mention, there is so much talk about technical process these days that we don't really talk about SONGS.

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby GMaq » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:25 pm

ufug wrote: Here's a (very) rough mix of a Bakersfield-style track I've been working on, I think the drum part has a relatively natural sounding bounce to it.


Wow!

Convincing Country style drums in a DAW are extremely difficult, VERY good work!! And holy sh*t the guitars and the steel sound gorgeous!!

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Digital Larry
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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Digital Larry » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:33 pm

GMaq wrote:
ufug wrote: Here's a (very) rough mix of a Bakersfield-style track I've been working on, I think the drum part has a relatively natural sounding bounce to it.


Wow!

Convincing Country style drums in a DAW are extremely difficult, VERY good work!! And holy sh*t the guitars and the steel sound gorgeous!!

I agree, the handclaps are a bit of a giveaway but I would not have called that drum part distracting. I'm not much into country music but I must say the guitar playing was very nice. :mrgreen:

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby ufug » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:47 pm

GMaq wrote:Convincing Country style drums in a DAW are extremely difficult, VERY good work!! And holy sh*t the guitars and the steel sound gorgeous!!


I don't want to derail but thanks guys. GMaq, that's your Black Pearl set ;) I've got a friend who's going to add a proper Tele solo in the middle, so there's more twang to come.

Thanks for the tip Larry. There's no hand claps, might be the side snare you're hearing. I'll definitely check that.

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Re: My list of too much gear.

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:27 am

ufug wrote:
Linuxmusician01 wrote:All I'm saying is that we are a bit spoiled nowadays. And we're led to believe that producing is very easy if you would just learn how to use a computer/DAW. It's not. I for instance make a "click track" (yes: an audio track!) by recording the audio signal from the "sync out" of one of my synths into a portastudio device (uses batteries so I have wireless freedom). I then pan said audio to the right-hand channel and feed that into a synth to keep it in synch w/ what I already recorded. Sometimes I have to feed said click track into the sync in of a synth and then use the Midi out of that synth to feed into a drumcomputer that only has Midi (and no sync via click). I can do the same via the Midi tempo of DAW via my laptop and the Behringer 404 audio interface. But then I get crazy from all the wires and devices. A portable battery operated portastudio does the trick too.


I just have to say this entire post is among the best I've ever read here. It puts what we are all trying to do into a much more realistic context. There's something about our expectations of being able to make music from inception to master in a bedroom studio (often isolated) that is just... off.

Not to mention, there is so much talk about technical process these days that we don't really talk about SONGS.

With a nice polite compliment like that I must give you thanks. Thanks! :) Others, however, might argue that using a click track is too seventies and that they did not invent Midi for nothing, ha ha. [on topic] Considering too much gear: some sell all their synths and use the VST's of them. Then they experience that only working in the computer ain't any fun and they set up all that gear again, cables and all. Gathering dust every day, pots going to crackle, etc. I watch Tom Holkenborg (aka Junky XL) his Youtube channel sometimes. He probably has more synths and gear than anybody on earth. And a complete wall of modular gear! When he makes a video about making music he's always behind his computer. He samples everything, and I mean everything, from his own gear and meddles with that in his DAW. I think it's a good thing that he earns his living with making music, because it certainly ain't no fun.

Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure) keeps his vast collection of drum machines and synths in a shed (see various YT video's) but I do not see a studio there. I suspect that he does a lot in the computer too...

So can you have too much gear? Imho: no. Should you/can you avoid using the computer? No. Is making music (only) on a computer any fun? For most people: yes (and it is cheap). Do we stick to the same production procedure all our lives? Most people: no, some people: yes.

[maybe off topic] Talking about songs, structure and drums, I found these tips very handy:



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