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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Makeshift Musician's Studio

I apologize to my loyal readers for the lack of articles recently. Rest assured that I have a lot more content on the way for your enjoyment. Also, if there's anything you would like to see covered in this blog, please let me know.

A very astute reader may have already figured out my studio setup after reading all the articles so far. But for clarity, lets just go over everything in my own studio. What does a makeshift musician use? I was lucky enough to be blessed with a single car garage. In this garage I've cobbled together a fairly nice studio (if I do say so myself.) One of the problems with the garage is that it has a slightly sloped floor to keep water from getting in. This is a little annoying because it makes my chair swivel when it should stay still, but most of the time I don't notice. Here's a list of equipment:

2.5 Ghz
Apple iMac with 2 megs of RAM - the iMac with OS X on it is so reliable that it's practically invisible. I almost never even think about the computer itself. This is what a computer should be. George Sanger, AKA The Fat Man talks in his book about turning the usually unreliable computer into a solid appliance by first making sure it is working and in stable condition, then sealing it up with duct tape and then writing "NO UPGRADES EVER" on it in sharpie. This is a great idea. Once your studio computer works well, try not to add much software or hardware to it. iMacs are great because they're already stable, self contained machines that work more like appliances than computers.

Steinberg Cubase SE
- This is the software I use for recording and mixing. For the most part it is functionally identical to other software like Pro Tools and Cakewalk. The software's usefulness is really just a function of your own familiarity with it. Find a particular piece of software and stick with it. You'll get really good with it after a while.

M-Audio F
ireWire 1814 - This is how I hook up the keyboards, headphones, microphones and monitors (speakers) to the computer. When this thing works, it works perfectly. It is well built and solid. However, occasionally it will inexplicably lock up at random times, just like a computer crash. I have no idea what causes this, and it is always fixed simply by turning it off and on again, but it is incredibly annoying and is unacceptable for something so expensive. Next time I'll get something from a different manufacturer.

Behringer B2031P Studio Monitors
- ('monitor' is a pretentious word for speaker) These are relatively inexpensive and have great sound. Highly recommended. You need to get an amp for them though.

Yamaha Motif ES-6
- This is a high-end workstation keyboard. It's interface is cryptic and difficult to learn. I've only barely learned it's basic functionality, but it has some powerful ability to manipulate sound. It has a fantastic bank of crisp, loud patches covering almost every genre imaginable. It's wind and guitar instruments, in particular, sound incredible. This is where the majority of my sounds come from.

Korg ES-1 Drum Machine
- This thing is the oldest part of the Jupiterman studio. It's starting to show its age and has become much less relevant in recent years, but it it still reliable, tough-as-nails and embarrassingly easy to use. I say embarrassingly because the other devices that surround it are more advanced and more expensive and yet are still designed in a completely illogical way. If you've listened to music from, you'll likely hear a lot of glitchy, multilayered percussion, as in Rebuilding a City, the second half of Apathetic Macrocosm (after the lyrics end), or Continuous Welded Rail. That is all from this one drum machine.

Novation XioSynth
- A nice little synthesizer that replaced my old Korg Microkorg. It's a bit easier to use and has a more modern sound. I made a great recreation of a theremin with it. It's only problem is that it doesn't have MIDI input. Only an output, for some reason.

AKG Perception 200 Microphone
- This is a crisp, full-sounding microphone with some nice features. Plus it is relatively inexpensive.

What else is in there?
- a microphone stand,
- a couple of stools for whoever is playing an instrument,
- a large plastic container full of scrap metal, balloons and some other random junk for sound effects,
- a bean bag chair left over from the previous tenant,
- a few hippie-looking wall hangings and carpets on the walls and floor for sound dampening,
- a pair of bongos,
- books on audio engineering and chord progressions,
- manuals galore,
- illustrations from Stephen King's Dark Tower series on the wall (a major inspiration for me),
- and some christmas lights that I haven't gotten around to hooking up

Tell me your studio setup and maybe it will be featured in a later article!

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Hi Ben, I found your blog randomly. Very cool home studio, somewhat similar to mine but I play guitars and have no keyboards - except for keyboard sounds from different composition programs. Anyway, I'm glad I found you! I bookmarked your site so I can return and read more. Have a great week:)