Snark Clip-On Tuner

July 18th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear No Comments »

I just bought my first Snark Clip-On Tuner and I’m extremely impressed with how well it works. It seems like a real improvement over the Intelli tuners I have been using.

It picks up on the note I’m playing much quicker (and doesn’t jump to overtones) and it seems to pick up a wider range as well (picking up low and high notes better.)

Not only that but it’s got a nice extra feature where you can tap out the tempo of whatever you are listening to (and you could even use it as a visual metronome, although I don’t really like doing that.)

You can also flip it over from vibration to mic if you want to. Usually vibration is the way to go but sometimes I like to use mic to see if I can sing a note right on. The mic setting is also useful for tuning certain strange instruments I have that are hard to clip onto.

One more thing: It’s crazy cheap. You can buy it on Amazon for $12. And you can see there I’m not the only one raving about this tuner: It’s currently got a perfect 5 star average customer rating.

Snark Clip On Instrument Tuner

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Alesis USB Studio Drum Kit

March 2nd, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear No Comments »

For a long time I’ve been considering buying an electronic drum set and I’ve finally gone ahead done it. An Alesis USB Studio Drum Kit is set up in my studio now and I’m quite pleased with it so far.

First off let me explain why I didn’t buy a real acoustic drum set.

(1) I have very limited studio space. An electronic drum set takes up far less space.

(2) I have no experience with recording a real drum set and I’ve read that it’s among the more difficult things to record well. Also, as previously mentioned, my studio space is small which is not ideal for recording acoustic drums.

(3) I wanted to be able to switch between many different drum sounds (which is easy with a MIDI controller drum set.)

(4) With MIDI input it’s easy to correct performance mistakes (and I’m a beginning drummer so there are plenty of them.)

The Alesis USB Studio Drum Kit allows me to get great sounding drums without the hassle of setting it all up and of course it also allows me to have unlimited variety in my drum sounds. Well, more accurately it’s limited only by the software that I have on my computer.

Unlike most electronic drum sets on the market, this one has no on board sounds. Its only purpose is to be used as a MIDI controller. To me this was actually a plus because I have no interest in the on board sounds; I wanted an electronic drum set to control my VSTi drum samplers (I have EZDrummer and Battery 3.)

It ships with a “lite” version of EZDrummer which I can’t comment on because I haven’t used it (since I already had the full version.)

It also ships with a USB cable to connect to your computer but it does not come with a MIDI cable. My situation required that I get a MIDI cable so I had to buy that separately.

It doesn’t come with a kick drum beater either. You have to buy one separately.

It does come with drum sticks.

It took me about two hours to put the thing together but I’m not very good at that sort of thing and I didn’t have any significant problems doing it.

I have no complaints with this drum kit; it’s working exactly as I had hoped it would. If you’re in the market for a MIDI controller drum set; this is a good one.

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You Rock Guitar MIDI Controller

February 8th, 2011 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear, Instruments, MIDI 1 Comment »

If you’re looking for a MIDI Controller guitar you should definitely consider the “You Rock Guitar.” I love mine and at about $200 it seems like a really good deal considering all that it is capable of.

It may look look like a video game controller (and it can actually be used as one) but it really works quite well. If you’ve got some sweet VSTi synthesizers (and/or samplers – even drum machines!) then you can plug this thing up via USB and control them. I use mine with REAPER but I believe it works well with any software that has MIDI input.

I’ve been very impressed with how responsive it is so far. I wasn’t really expecting it to work as well as it does. Nice surprise. Yes I have had some dropped notes with finger style playing but I think that may just be a matter of adjusting the settings and how I play it (you have to be a bit more precise with a MIDI guitar than you do with a real guitar.)

On the other hand, this guitar is much easier to fret than a real guitar as there are no strings to hold down (the only strings are for the picking hand.)

It’s got all kinds of on board features and sounds but to be honest most of them seem really cheesy to me, I say skip all of that silliness and use it as a MIDI controller that’s where it’s true awesomeness lies.

I plan on sharing some samples of the kind of things you can do with the You Rock Guitar as a MIDI controller in the future, in fact I may just edit them into this post (after I put them up on YouTube.)

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Amazon Cyber Monday Deals

November 29th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear No Comments »

There aren’t a huge amount of musical instruments included among Amazon’s “Cyber Monday” deals but there are a few that you may find interesting (also there seems to be lower prices on Amazon.com in general this time of year.)

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Rock Band 3 MIDI Controllers

October 28th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear, MIDI 1 Comment »

Even if you don’t care much about playing the Rock Band video game there are some very interesting developments if you are interested in MIDI controller instruments.

Guitars

The “Fender Mustang” enters the market as the cheapest MIDI controller guitar available (and it’s also a game controller, of course.) It uses buttons for the left hand and real strings for strumming and picking for the right hand.

It seems like it would be quite interesting to play VSTi instruments with this thing and the price is nice ($150.)

I’m considering buying this myself but I’m also thinking about waiting for the “Squire Strat” version which will have strings over the frets too (thinking that may be more realistic feeling to play.) There’s no price point or release date on it yet, so who knows how long I’ll be waiting.

Keytar

This thing is just $80 and would be pretty cool for live performance in certain situations, but I don’t have much use for it myself (I’ve already got a great 88 key velocity sensitive weighted key keyboard for MIDI control – the Studiologic SL-990.)

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Correcting Echo Audiofire 4 Windows 7 Problem

October 25th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear 2 Comments »

I installed my new Echo Audiofire 4 firewire based audio interface last night on my Windows 7 desktop and at first I ran into some issues.

The big issue is that I couldn’t get any playback. My computer recognized the driver and apparently installed it correctly and when I opened REAPER it seemed to be “seeing” the input while recording – but there was no playback. From there it got worse and on repeat attempts to get it to work it would even say “error starting device.”

I spent about two hours pulling my hair out and trying to get it to work. I tried all of the different audio related settings I could find, reinstalled the driver a few times, tried a different firewire connection, restarted the Echo Audiofire 4 and my computer multiple times.

I was extremely frustrated at this point and close to giving up when I found this support FAQ on Echo’s website.

The very first one starts off saying: “For those having issues in Windows 7 with FireWire devices, try rolling back to the legacy FireWire drivers.”

I’m thinking: Well that’s me. Maybe this is what I need to do.

I followed these directions:

Open the Device Manager.

Expand “IEEE 1394 Bus host controllers”

Select your IEEE 1394 (FireWire) controller

Click on the icon “Update Driver Software” at the top.

Select “Browse my computer for driver software”

Select “Let me pick…”

Select “1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller (Legacy)”

Choose Next and it will install.

I think it worked right away. But I might have had to restart my computer first. I can’t remember as it was about 4 AM last night.

But the point is: This worked; playback (and everything else) appears to be working fine now. And if you are having a similar experience you should probably try this first before driving yourself crazy like I did last night.

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Echo Audiofire 4 Audio Interface

October 18th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear 2 Comments »

After doing a ton of research (reading lots of reviews mostly) I’ve decided on the firewire/1394 based Echo Audiofire 4 Audio Interface to replace my E-MU 1616M which I had for about a year and half.

The E-MU1616M started causing random glitches & pops and I couldn’t find anyway to stop them. During my search around the internet for a solution to this problem I found that it’s a common issue. So I would probably not recommend it to you, although I was reasonably happy with it before the problem began.

I went with the Echo Audiofire 4 because of the universally good reviews that I found for it. Everyone raves about it’s sound quality and its steady drivers. And it certainly didn’t hurt at all that I found it on Amazon for just $260.

Because I do not record live drums I don’t really need more than the 4 inputs this device has. But if you do want more than that you can go with the Echo Audiofire 12 (which as you may have sussed out has 12 inputs.)

In the end my final decision was between the RME Fireface 400 and the Echo. They both had similarly positive reviews, the big difference is that the Audiofire 4 is just $260 and the RME Fireface 400 is $1300. Considering that I even found some reviews saying that they actually prefer the Echo and that the general consensus seemed to be that they were at about the same level (although the RME probably had slightly more glowing reviews) it didn’t seem reasonable to spend another $1000+ on the RME.

With that saved $1000 I could buy all kinds of great gear. Perhaps a new compressor to replace my broken FMR RNLA (I recently discovered it does not work anymore.) Perhaps I could upgrade my monitors? Maybe I could buy another great mic. And eventually I’m going to have to replace my PC, maybe I can save the money for that?

Once I get the Echo Audiofire 4 delivered I’ll be updating the comments with my experiences with it. Hopefully it’s as great as the reviews make it out to be. At this price it seems like a real steal.

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The Importance of Monitors

September 27th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear, Mixing 2 Comments »

A lot of beginners in the world of recording music don’t really understand the importance of monitors. They may spend thousands of dollars on all kinds of gear and not even think about investing in some serious studio monitors. Or they may totally miss the point and spend a lot of money on something like this Bose system thinking that the idea with monitors is the same as with a stereo system you might buy for your living room.

It’s not. It’s a different concept entirely. It’s not about wanting what you’re mixing to sound “good,” it’s about wanting to accurately hear what you’re mixing.

A good example of what I mean is the way a fancy “hifi” stereo makes the bass boom. This may sound great to your ears, but if the system is making all of the bass boom regardless of what it actually sounds like then this means you don’t really know what’s going on in the low end of your mix. It may sound good but it is not an accurate representation.

And when your mix is played back on some other system it will sound completely different.

You don’t want this. You want to hear what’s happening in your mix as clearly as possible! This way you can make your mix sound as good as possible on any playback system. Whether it be those fancy Bose speakers or earbuds or tinny laptop speakers.

What about headphones? While good quality headphones (such as the Audio Technica M-50‘s I have and recommend) are a good investment and I do think it’s good to check your mixes on headphones (I personally love listening to music on headphones and many people listen to music that way these days) it’s not good to rely on them as your principle monitors.

Why not? Because they tend to exaggerate the actual sound. Something that may sound great on your headphones may actually sound not so hot when playing back on good quality monitors. Most obviously they exaggerate the effect of panning, but it’s more than just that. More importantly they also exaggerate fletcher-munson effects.

You must make it a priority to invest in some decent monitors. I use KRK5‘s which I’m happy with. They are $300 for a pair. But this post isn’t so much about recommending any particular set of monitors, it’s just to get across the point of how important they are.

Also extremely important: The acoustics of your room. They really makes a huge difference when recording and when mixing because poor acoustics can distort what you’re hearing (and what your mic is recording.) I recommend reading this book to learn about the topic (it includes very good information on how you can make your room sound better.)

It may be much more fun to buy various effects and plugins or whatever, but the accuracy of what you are listening to is far more important and it depends on the quality of the monitors you are listening to and the acoustic design of your studio. If you want to get serious about the sound quality of your recordings you need to get serious about hearing what you are mixing as accurately as possible.

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Vox AC4TV Tube Amp

July 6th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Gear 1 Comment »

My next gear purchase for my home studio is going to be this Vox AC4TV Tube Amp. I’ve heard great things about it and it looks like exactly what I want. Great tone at a low volume (and an affordable price.) Why low volume? Well I’m looking to use this amp just for recording, not for live performances and for recording there’s really no reason to go really loud.

This thing can be set at a 4, 1, or 1/4 watt output level. Yes, you read that correctly: 1/4 watt! I’m excited about the prospect of being able to put the amp at max gain and have it still be at a┬ámanageable┬ávolume. This seems to me like it will be perfect for recording in my home studio.

When I actually start recording with it, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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