I recently finished a major overhaul of the studio, improving it not only for my mastering business, but also making things a little better for me as a musician as well. You can read the full details of the build process here if you’re curious:
The New Studio Desk
As I was working on rearranging things, I started thinking about all the different pieces of musical equipment I’ve used over the years. Interesting to see how they shaped the path my life has taken, so I thought I’d list them from the beginning:
– Used White Crappy Electric Guitar & Tiny Crappy Amp. Got this at a pawn shop for my 16th birthday for $120, and the owner threw in a tiny POS 4″ amp for me. He tuned it to pitch pipes, and that was the last time it was tuned in the year I owned it. I had no idea what I was doing with this thing, but I did it every day. I don’t even think it was a full scale guitar now that I think of it.
– Black Dean 88 Guitar, Jackson Preamp, Racked Spring Reverb. After a year of the white guitar, I knew I was hooked and wanted to upgrade to something nicer. Got the Dean and they threw in a tuner, suddenly it was a LOT easier to learn to play songs. Amazing what a nice guitar can do I thought (not to mention being in tune!). The Jackson Preamp I bought from a friend, and despite a bunch of knobs, it basically had two sounds: Clean with hiss, or full on shred with hiss and mains noise. The reverb was meant to be for my guitar, but you couldn’t look at it without the spring starting to move, so I more or less always had reverb and couldn’t turn it off.
– ADA MP2 and Foot Pedal & Digitech TSR24s. I knew that I’d never get to appreciate a full on guitar amp, so I jumped on the modeling bandwagon early on. This was my first preamp, and also my introduction to MIDI. The MP2 was one of the first midi controlled preamps, so getting that, the foot switch, and the Digitech I bought for effects to work together was a huge learning curve for me. Helped me a lot later on though.
– Fender Bassman Amp. This was one of those things I regret selling quite a bit, even though I was young and had no idea. A guy I worked with was in need of cash for some reason, and was selling his sizable guitar and bass collection for pennies. I got a mint Fender Bassman head and cabinet for $200. I think I sold it for $800?
– Ibanez S540FMTT. Saw this while shopping with a friend and instantly fell in love. Took a loan from my boss at the time, and owned this guitar for almost 20 years. Only now is the Parker DF724 I replaced it with starting to feel like “my guitar”. The Ibanez was amazing though, stayed in tune forever for a floyd style trem.
– Custom Guitar Cabinets. A guy I worked with at another job also worked nights at the Washburn factory, and offered to make me some custom guitar cabinets. Much easier to travel with than the Bassman was, and more suited to the guitar sound I was after at the time. Unfortunately they were just one of those things I always held on to, but never really used that much. After moving with them 3 times and not playing them once, I recently sold them to a very happy buyer who will use them much more than I did.
– Korg X2. Eventually I got into industrial music, and failing to make my guitar make the noises I wanted I purchased my first keyboard. It happened to be a workstation too, so for the first time I was able to learn sequencing and how to arrange a song. All my industrial tunes ended up sounding like dancier club tracks people told me though, so I started getting more into rave and club music. Life changer.
– Roland MC505 & SP808. Eventually my friends started to get into DJing, but as a musician I wanted to make my own songs live, not play other people’s. Preordered the very first MC505 in the USA, and happily used that for a couple year. Taught me everything about playing live electronic music, and got me exposed to it super early in my “career”. Added the SP808 and learned sampling, this was my main live rig for years.
– Yamaha CS2x. Eventually I started feeling the X2 was too polished for the rougher dance music I wanted to make, so I traded it in for the CS2x. Instantly regretted it, the Yamaha was just too basic and I hated the way they organized their patches with the XG standard. The X2 was so much more flexible in hindsight, I just didn’t know what I was doing with it.
– Akai S3000XL. By this time I was reading Sound On Sound and Future Music a lot, and according to them you HAD to have a real sampler to be a legitimate electronic musician. This was one of those things I spent a lot of money on, then kept upgrading it thinking it would make me like it more. Interesting way of working, but so tedious. I sadly never really used it that much, but luckily sold it before the prices really dropped on hardware samplers a couple years later.
– Korg ER-1. My roommate got a new DJ mixer which had me jones for new gear. This was all I could afford at the time, so it’s what I bought. Fun little beat box, nice and jammable, if a little limiting in scope. I keep meaning to get the iOS version….
– Computer!!! Due to a car accident, I had to sell most of my gear to make sure I could still get to work and school at the time. Once I got my settlement money, I figured it was time to jump into computer thing. So I built my own and started working with Cubase and Reason. I’ll save my software progression for another blog post, suffice to say this was the gateway into audio engineering for me.
(My custom painted XL-7)
– Emu XL-7. Computers are fun, but I missed the hands on aspect of playing live. These had just come out, so I was one of the first to get one again. In many ways this was one of the best pieces of gear I’ve owned, I just wished it had better sounds internally. Very tedious programming your own patches.
– Access Virus KC. The first of many Virii I would own over the years. I still love the evil red and black look of this one the best. Also one of the best key beds I’ve ever played on a synth, the standard to which I hold others.
– Xone62 & Line6 Pod XT. Around this time I was DJing more at home, so I wanted the best mixer I could get at the time. Then it was the Xone62, and it’s been my main hardware DJ mixer ever since. I know that thing so well it’s like an instrument to me. Also got my first Line6 Pod modeler to replace the ADA stuff. Big fan of Line6 gear, great variety of tones, and so easy to program even a drummer could do it.
– Emu PX-7. Despite getting sick of the sound of my XL-7 and selling it only a year before, one day I got the urge to try working with one again and bought the newer PX-7. It was fun for a little while, but ultimately my music making was happening more and more in the computer, and I wasn’t working on many live sets then.
– Elektron Machinedrum. After lusting after one of these for years, I finally had the funds to take the plunge and boy was I glad I did. To date, still my favorite bit of kit of all time. Easy to use, sounded amazing, and designed with live performance in mind too. I love Elektron gear, it just “clicks” with me in a way nothing else has.
– Virus TI & Roland TB303. Shortly after getting the Virus KC I became part of the Virus beta team and was given a TI-K about a year before they actually came out. Was an interesting time having a cutting edge keyboard and not being able to talk about it! Also briefly owned the mighty TB303 around this time. It was neat having a chance to play with a piece of history, but after a few months it felt like a one trick pony and had to go. Crazy, I know.
– DSI Evolver Desktop. One of the few pieces of gear I regret selling, and one I hope to replace sooner rather than later. Really interesting and flexible synth, capable of mad little sequences. Only had mine a few months before I sold it, but it left a really good impression on me.
– Ovation Celebrity Deluxe Acoustic Guitar. For years I wanted an acoustic guitar, something I could play without electricity, anywhere I wanted. Getting one was a great moment, though I quickly learned that I still preferred playing my electrics. I still play the Ovation every once in awhile though, so it’s nice to have around. Every time I start having a bad week in the studio, I think about selling all my gear and just getting a really nice acoustic guitar to focus on the rest of my life. 🙂
– Line6 Pod X3. Upgraded from the XT, nothing major.
– MIDI Controller phase. I’ve owned so many MIDI controllers that it’s hard trying to remember them all. In rough order, I believe this is most of them: M-Audio Oxygen 8, Edirol PCR-m1, Korg MicroKontrol, M-Audio Trigger Finger, Behringer BCR-2000, M-Audio Keystation88, Kenton Killamix Mini, Novation SL37, NI Traktor X1 and S4 (twice), Akai APC40 and MPK25, and finally the KMI QuNexus.
– Elektron Machinedrum MKII Anniversary Edition #49. Sometimes we make really DUMB decisions. One of my all time classics was deciding to sell my first Machinedrum, I regretted it the second I left the UPS store when I shipped it out. Only a couple months later I decided to buy another, and as luck would have it they were still selling the anniversary edition. This is my baby, this is the very last piece of music gear I would sell, my desert island choice if you will.
– Korg EMX-1. This is a box that always intrigued me, and finally I had enough people tell me it was deeper than you’d expect that I had to try it myself. In many ways it’s probably one of the best all in one grooveboxes ever made. Unfortunately, once again I was on a bit of a live bent at the time, and for performing I just didn’t find it intuitive enough. I still get the urge to get another one every so often though…
– Traktor S4. After years of DJing with Ableton Live I needed a break and made the jump to Traktor. The S4 has been a perfect fit, one to one mapping with the software, and it feels pretty robust for being made of plastic. Very happy with this combo for now.
– Virus Polar TI2. Don’t ask me why I bought this, but despite owning and selling two previously, I just had to have another. It really is the best all around hardware synth IMO, especially considering how awesome the build quality is. You feel like you get your money’s worth and then some. But after almost a year of work on an album, a known bug in the OS caused me to lose all my patches on the day I was going to record it. And it had corrupted all the previous daily backups I had been making. I was mad. I sold it.
– Line6 Pod HD500. Upgraded the X3 in order to get the new HD models. Huge difference, makes the guitar sound much more dynamic.
– Monomachine. An interesting synth that was MUCH more capable than I expected it to be. I was shocked at the range of sounds on offer in fact. But, as is a common theme by now, it just didn’t gel with me for playing live, so I ended up getting rid of it. One of those things I’d like to keep around if I had more money, but at the moment it’s value was better put towards something new.
– Parker Dragonfly. After almost 20 years, I decided I wanted a new axe. I loved the Ibanez dearly, but it’s tone just didn’t have the bite I was looking for. I’ve always lusted after a Parker Fly, I love the mix of new and old tech that they stand for. I ran into a killer deal on a one of a kind Dragonfly that was JUST in my price range at the right time, so I jumped on it. Amazing guitar in the hands, it just feels like a lot of workmanship went into it. Craftsman quality, just beautiful.
– Maschine. Everyone has Maschine and loves it, so I had to as well. I liked a lot of aspects of it, and could see it’s appeal for a lot of people. For me it was still just a bit too computer centric for me to get into though. Though I’m lucky in that I’ve owned a lot of really nice grooveboxes over the years, so I have a lot to compare and hold it up against. Neat idea, just not something I’d really use much for the way I write music.
– Octatrack. Now this, is a true black box in every way. Deeper than you can imagine, approachable in numerous ways, and designed with a performer in mind too. Quirky, capable, professional feeling, and totally unique. After two years of using and gigging with this, I still feel like there’s SO much I don’t really have the best grasp of. Rare I can say that these days! 🙂
– Line6 Pod HD. Decided the floor-based HD500 was getting annoying to program, and I was playing less guitar as a result. Traded down for the desktop based Pod HD, which I use a lot more of now.
Whew, I always thought I was a bit of a minimalist when it came to gear, but that’s still quite a list! Stay tuned for a software one coming soon!