I'm trying to set up a music studio and it's slow and frustrating as hell. There's a reason I use simple-minded programs in my visual work--I want the tech to be fast and uncomplicated, and then I compensate by doing something ridiculously labor-intensive on the physical end. So far I've had a similar approach to music, somewhat in reverse: using entry level programs and the computer's sound card but mousing in the entire composition note by note on an old fashioned staff. One of my family members said, "Yeah, but it's the same four notes over and over!" I tried to explain that there are timbral variations that make the work similar to my sphere paintings, which this person likes, and exciting octave jumps, and subtle things with syncopation, and...well.

The problem is I'm tired of the textures of the low end music programs and want the sound to get richer. I love the Sidstation synthesizer I bought recently and think it deserves better accompaniment than the sound card synths in the shareware program I downloaded. I'm tired of buzz and hum in the recording. I want better bass and drum sounds. I want a real sequencer.

Before Christmas I bought a sampler from craigslist: an E-mu E6400 Classic. I've been playing with it tonight and it's been fun learning how a 9 year old sampler works but, actually, I'm not sure it does work. I managed to record a 1-second sample but couldn't save it. This machine has no internal hard drive, so my options are to hook a scuzzy (SCSI) cable up to a zip drive or CD ROM, neither of which I have, get an adapter card and enter "Scuzzy Hell" trying to get my PC to read it, or use the floppy drive to store small bits of data. Watching this thing slo-o-owly format a floppy was discouraging, and then I couldn't save to it. After 3 tries I successfully named a "bank," but then the sample wouldn't go in it. Eventually I turned off the machine and lost the sample.

- tom moody 12-30-2004 9:50 am

man, yeah, studio setup stuff can drive you nuts. Took me a long time to get mine manageable. That's awesome you got an Emu sampler. I've been using an EMAX II forever. From what I've heard of your music, I can definitely see you getting into sampling using a hardware sampler like that. I eventually want to get back to focusing on sample based work.

If you don't have the manual, Emu probably can sell you one.Those zip drives are pretty cheap, but if it's like mine, you can also use any old Mac+ external hard drive. I finally mounted one inside my Emax. Might talk to Cory and see if he's got one laying around...

do you have a MIDI keyboard controller? That will speed up composition a lot on the computer. I just play almost everything these days. (often without quantizing)

but a lot of times I have to just get all my crap away from the studio. I grab a mixer, recorder (I now use a portable mp3 recorder, used to use a tape deck), and a synths, drum machine, kalimba, or whatever I can find and hook it up in my living room (or someone else's) and just play and record. Sometimes it's crap, but it's so nice to be in a different environment and not have to worry about the tech or structure and just focus on hammering out new melodies and sounds. And when something comes out nice, you can clean up later on your computer and turn into a really good song. Many of my best musical and sonic ideas have come from sessions like this.

- paul (guest) 12-30-2004 8:35 pm

for very simplistic sampling and sequencing I use a Dr. Sample sp-303 from Boss and bought an extra flash memory chip. I like this unit due to it's ease of use and I just hose it into the mac via iMic by griffin. I also got an xmas gift for me by getting Logic Express and a cheessy keyboard. but the learning curve is too much for now. good luck! AE04.
- atomicelroy 12-31-2004 3:52 am

Reason, Reason Reason!!!! by Propellerhead
- Abraham Kalashnikov (guest) 12-31-2004 11:12 am

Big rumors out there about a sub $600 1.25 Mhz imac coming in early 05. I'm just sayin'. I know you want to avoid the cult of the mac and everything but, dude ... . Plus a new Grage band with a bunch of new loops. Drums sounds up the %&*%.
- joester 1-02-2005 5:42 am

Thanks--I'm going to stay with Windows and some sequencer I can use with that. A musician I respect a lot just switched to a PC because he says Apple has been neglecting its laptops due to the iPod craze, and also because it's more compatible (for various reasons) with great programs such as the Fruity Loops sequencer, Ableton Live, and Reaktor. I've been reading about these and they all sound like something I'd like to work with eventually.

Also, I spent some time over Christmas with a family member's G4s and I'm very happy to get back to XP. Shoot me for saying it, but I like my PC.

I'm kind of getting ahead of myself, anyway, I think. I should just spend the next year playing the SidStation with my notation software before adding instruments I don't know how to use. I'm just powerfully curious about samplers, though, intellectually as much as any other way, and am drawn to gear where I can punch buttons even though the future probably belongs to soft synths and soft samplers.

Thanks to Chris, who's going to send me a zip drive he was about to throw out, and for the suggestions and advice. (I do have a manual for the E-mu, just not an external drive or a clue.)

- tom moody 1-02-2005 6:23 am

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