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Gear: what you use, how you use it, tips and tricks

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I keep going back and forth on softsynths. They are a lot of fun, but a lot of work at the same time. I figure just having a small controller and a computer can make a nice alternate way of working, but I'm always thinking of ways of fitting it in with everything else I do. I'm also still not comfortable with playing live with a computer, or jamming with it really. I've been playing with a couple of friends (rock dudes, but they like to branch out so they're using a guitar synth and electronic drums) and tried using softsynths once and it just didn't work. I've been looking for another small hardware synth (checking out the Korg R3), so we'll see where that goes.

I love soft synths, and I like them even more since I got my Akai49 controller.  Reaktor is probably my favorite.  There are some crazy synth designs that hardware manufacturers could not afford to make.  They're very useful in live performance, but I am  always worried my laptop will crash on me.  Strangely enough, the only equipt. failures I've had have been hardware. My laptop has been very reliable. . . so far.  I love jamming with soft synths because of the variety of sounds you can get.  If someone you're jamming with has a strong melody you can quickly come up with a soft synth that specializes in rhythm or atmospheres.  You can easily have several going at one time, and all this equipment can fit in the front seat of your car.  I think the key is having a dedicated controller for them.  My regular hardware synths could control many of the aspects of my soft synths, but they always seemed to do it in a compromising way. Pots always seemed to be ergonomically wrong, and there were never enough sliders (if any).

I'm starting to get into Ableton Live.  I think that is an amazing piece of software.\ and will become a big part of my live sound in the future.

I still really dig gear after all this time, but I found out a loooooooong time ago that I get more done with less gear. A couple synths, a couple guitars, some pedals, and few other accessories are all I really need/want. Ableton and the various plug-ins I use tend to keep my gear lust at bay most of the time. Hell, I've even used a regular old casette tape deck recently to bounce audio back and forth between software and hardware; this would be preferable to do on a second laptop, but that ain't gonna happen for a while.

Another thing I've been working on lately is what I call "controlled radomization". Mostly I work with things sync'd to midi, but pedals don't play fair in that game, so, despite the fact that my master tracks are usually in perfect sync, I try and find "outside the box" ways to make the non-sync'd audio fill a groove alongside everything else without sounding like it's just thrown in there and set to Continuous Loop.


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