Sunday, July 11, 2010

Getting ready for Austin

So, I'm here in Brooklyn riding out the heatwave in the basement (the only room(s) in the house with decent air conditioning!)

I've got my new setup, which I'm totally pumped to bring along to Austin for ICA. Here is a pic of the new "Tree" (the mic stand with all sorts of crap attached to it.) -- By the way, I'm really sorry the quality of the pix are so bad -- Katherine took the camera to Michigan and all I have is the camera on this computer!


Show and tell time:

From top to bottom, left to right, we've got:
• Rode NT3 microphone. My old standby -- feeds back a bit, but sounds so much better than any Shure I've used (and own) that I can't help but use it. I need that proximity effect when I'm beatboxing...

• A new 10.1" LCD monitor i got off ebay (showing sheet music when necessary, otherwise it's unused now -- this is a change from when I had a touch-screen monitor where everything happened on that monitor. Unfortunately it weighed a lot, so I'm glad I don't have to shlep it any more.

• My iPad running TouchOSC which controls the mac via WiFi. Totally wireless, two-way communication between the pad and the mac, so, if I make a change on the mac in Max, it shows up within 200ms on the pad. Sweet!

• Korg's Kaossilator. When I bought this thing I figured it'd be a fun toy that I'd never use in concert, much less a recording. Um, I used it more than the $2,800 Access Virus TI synth for my last record Spin Cycle. Yeah, it's plastic, and it's yellow (though you can now get it in pink), but it sounds AMAZING for what it is.

Okay, so below those I've got a rack shelf holding my harmonicas and across from that is...

• an Akai EWI, which I use more as a vocoder carrier than as a synth.

The other little monitor to the left of the tree isn't used, I just didn't move it for the pic.

I'll get a better pic of the iPad when Katherine gets back, and possibly a video of how it works as a demo. It's really cool... I'm nervous about it a bit because I haven't used it in concert yet, and I have not performed with it on an ad-hoc network (I'm using my Airport to link the two -- ad hoc networks for those who don't know are when you can make your computer as the hub of a WiFi network).

Anyway, this Austin gig is going to be really great, if short (I've got all of 30 minutes). I'm planning to do a few new tunes (My Mouth, Bam Pip and Trip) and a few of my other faves (Ariel's Hands, Sha and Summertime). Hoping I can get all of them in...I'd like to do Abbey as a final tune. We'll see.

Anyway, there you go. If you're in Austin please come by and say hi. I'll be there for nearly the whole conference.


Monday, July 05, 2010


From the mailbag:

I was wondering if you could advise me briefly on how complicated it is to compose music on garageband. I don't mean the musical side of it, but the technical side. I'm asking on behalf of my 82-year-old father who composes piano music for pleasure in his retirement, writes it painstakingly the old-fashioned way, and records it to an archaic cassette deck left over from the 70s or 80s. I've seen the process demonstrated at an Apple store and it looks amazing, but I wondered how difficult it would be for my father to master. We are both Mac users; I am reasonably adept, but no genius (and no composer!), and he is amazingly adept for a recent convert. I'd just love to see him be able to print his sheet music easily and make MP3s of his recordings to send to friends and family. Do you think it's realistic to encourage him to invest in a decent electronic keyboard and try this?

Thanks very much for your time,


Hey there Heidi,

Thanks for your email. So, I think you should indeed encourage your dad to use Garageband - it is very intuitive, has built-in instrument sounds (that actually sound very good), and is free(!). Garageband itself is simple for most users, but it is geared mostly for loop-based popular music. You can used it very easily for more traditional music composition, and I think your dad might find it much more easy to get his ideas down than when using pen-and-paper and cassette tapes, but it will take some getting used to.

A portable USB-powered keyboard is fairly inexpensive (i would recommend this one for its price-to-feature ratio:, $170, 61 keys; fewer-key models cost less), and very portable. Since they are powered by the computer, they are very convenient, but they make no sound on their own. Given what you describe his interests to be, I think they are a good bet.

Of course, I'd always consider the possibility that he LIKES to compose the old-fashioned way :)

Hope this helps.