Welcome to my recording studio! This page describes the equipment and software I use for doing my audio productions.
My Equipment: From Keyboards to Multitrackers
I play a variety of instruments, including a Fender Squier Bronco electric bass guitar, a 120-bass Titano accordion, and three Roland keyboards; the E-28, the EXR-3S, and more recently the BK-3 Backing Keyboard.
The E28 has 128 instruments, 64 rhythms, and two effects processors: one for reverb, and one for chorus. I used to use it for MIDI work on the computer, but now mostly use it for performing live.
The EXR-3S is an interactive arranger keyboard released in 2005. It features 510 instruments, 20 drum kits, 160 styles (84 are built in, and the rest are in Flash memory), and a pitch wheel, something which wasn’t available with the E28. Roland have done a good job improving the sounds in this keyboard. I demonstrated some of the features of this keyboard in Episode 4 of my podcast.
The BK-3 keyboard is an amazing arranger and studio keyboard. There are over 800 sounds and lots of drum kits. But what really impresses me about this instrument are the rhythms and how they’re played/controlled. Each has four variations, complete with intros and endings, and you can choose, as an example, which variation’s intro will play first. You can control the rhythm using the traditional method where the keys on the left will change the chord, or by using the Piano Mode. This mode gives you full access to the keyboard, and the chord will change if three or more notes are pressed. I’ve been enjoying using this keyboard since I bought it last year, and I look forward to performing with it at gigs.
For my mixer, I use a Behringer Xenyx 2222USB. I believe it’s a 12-channel board, and has various routing options for each channel, either through the main or subgroup outputs, or through headphones for soloing. The board has a built-in FX unit for adding effects like reverb, chorus, pitch shifting, etc., and can also be connected to the computer via USB, but I rarely use these features.
In 1997, I purchased a Fostex X26 Multitrack Tape Recorder, and used it until I started composing with MIDI two years later. I still have it, and it comes in handy if, for example, the computer dies for some reason and I need to work on a project while it’s being fixed. The recorder uses regular cassette tapes rather than reel-to-reels, and has some switches for changing the track you want to record on, a master volume control, and a pitch control, similar to those on a regular 4-track player like those from APH (the American Printing House for the Blind.) It also has a monitor so you can see the recording levels, but that’s not necessary.
In case you don’t know what a “multitrack recorder” is, it’s a special type of recorder that lets you record, in the case of the X26, up to four tracks of audio. As an example, track 1 could be used to record a bass part. Track 2 could be for drums, while track 3 could be used to record a piano, and so on. As you record on the individual tracks, you can hear what you’ve recorded on the others.
My Computer, Including Sequencers and Soft Synths
As far as my computer is concerned, I’m using a system running Windows 7 64-Bit Professional.
I currently use two audio editors. I started out with, and continue to use, Sound Forge 6.0E from Sony Media Software. If I were asked to describe this program, I’d say it’s a word processor for audio files, because it allows you to do things such as select a portion of a file, copy and paste sound, etc. It’s also usable without scripts, but there are some available for JFW, as well as set files for Window-Eyes.
Nowadays, however, I primarily use GoldWave for recording and editing. The editing process is a bit different than in Sound Forge, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great. It’s also very light on system resources.
I use a variety of MIDI sequencers. My primary one is Sonar 8.5 Producer Edition from Cakewalk. It works great when used with scripts for JFW, such as JSonar, or CakeTalking for Sonar from Dancing Dots. One thing I like about the program is the way you can edit MIDI data. You can remove a note that shouldn’t be there, change notes by pressing a key on the MIDI keyboard, adjust a note’s length, etc. The program can also be used to record audio tracks, and allows you to use Acidized audio loops and soft synths.
I also recommend James Bowden’s Quick Windows Sequencer. While it has no audio support, it’s perfect if you want to record and edit MIDI files, and very accessible with screen readers right out of the box. Oh, and it’s free!
For my sound card, I currently use an Audiophile 2496 from M-Audio. This, and other cards they produce, is highly recommended if you want to use sequencers like Sonar, since it has zero-latency support. This means that it cuts down on latency issues, so that if you’re using a soft synth, and press a key on your keyboard, a note will be played instantly, instead of a second or so later, which can happen when using consumer-level cards like those from Creative.
I also use a variety of soft synth plugins, mostly in the VSTi format. The majority of these plugins are based on analog synths, like those from the early ’80s, but there are also a few that emulate instruments like saxophones, guitars, etc., or that can be used as samplers to load in soundfonts and other formats. The advantage of using soundfonts and soft synths is that you can get more sounds without having to buy additional keyboards.
The following is a list of additional resources dealing with music production.
- Roland Canada
- Roland US
- KVRAudio.com, an excellent resource for plugins which you can use as software synthesizers or effects. This site features news, reviews, download links, and forums.
- PG Music produces the popular Band-In-A-Box accompaniment software.
- SuperWave P8 is an excellent free soft synth that reproduces classic pads, basses, effects, and leads. A lot of these sounds are based on sounds from various songs, such as the X-Files theme, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene, etc. There’s even a tempo-synced delay included with almost every preset. The above link is a direct link to the file itself. Highly recommended!
- Maxim Digital Audio produces some great free VST synths, including the JX10 synth, a realistic piano, and an electric piano.
- ReFX produces both commercial and free synths, including Vanguard, QuadraSID, Slayer2 (a guitar-modeling synth), and Claw, a free monophonic synth.