Hardware is wonderful, but make no mistake about it: many musicians have put the same care and musical love into their software setup as once was limited to tangled guitar pedal rigs. We’ve been watching as intricate computer music studios appear in the CDM Flickr pool.

proem, the gifted electronic musician from Austin, Texas (see Wikipedia, proem’s own site) who regular shares haiku-like reflections in CDM comments, is the latest to post his setup:

  • Dual Dell e207 LCD displays
  • Windows PC
  • FL Studio (aka Fruity Loops), with a custom dashboard for controlling all the hardware and a modded install
  • Native Instruments Komplete
  • Evolution MK249-c keyboard (Evolution was a UK-based keyboard maker later absorbed by M-Audio)
  • M-Audio Trigger Finger
  • Wacom Intuos3 6×8 (just picked up the same tablet myself and adore it — mouse, begone!)
  • The now-discontinued (sadly) Fingerworks iGesture multi-touch controller. Apple iGuesture any time soon, perhaps? (I’ve heard rumors from a couple of sources that they bought the patents.)
  • The not-discontinued Shuttle XPress
  • Tablet2MIDI, which translates Wacom graphics tablets to MIDI data for use in performance

proem: midi control over load. this does not include the setups for the p5 glove or my mk-249c keyboard controller. i should probably aslo note that tablet2midi is still in beta and i have to set it up everytime i want to use it ๐Ÿ™
check the 3200×1200 version for good detail.

Whereas hardware fetishists brag about heavy, costly gear collections, the software setup has more to do with clever configuration and control. (Hey, I’m not saying I don’t drool over, say, some of the live rigs we’ve diagrammed in Keyboard Magazine, but the fact that you can afford and lift a great PC setup is encouraging.)

proem writes: flstudio dashboard internal controllers which are all mapped directly to the controller hardware [mk249c, maudio trigger finger and tablet2midi]

Custom performance setups are definitely where it’s at. FL Studio has Dashboards, Reason has the Combinator, Logic Studio 8 has the new OnStage, Live has Racks, Reaktor has — well, completely custom interfaces, Max 5 promises new performance interfaces, and Native Instruments has Kore. (Just to name a few; SONAR, Cubase, and DP all have custom dashboards with branding I’m presently forgetting.) The basic idea: build a virtual front-panel so you can get right to music making. I personally think it’s interesting all these applications have moved in this direction, with different implementations / design principles. I hope they all continue to go further.

The Tablet2MIDI part is especially interesting. Tablets have unusually high resolution and sensitivity, making them very expressive controllers once you’ve practiced using them. Also on Windows: WMIDI. If you’re on the Mac instead of Windows, you have an excellent (and slightly more polished/stable) alternative, ร‚ยต midi controller from Music Unfolding. And naturally, on any OS, you can custom-program or patch a solution with Max, Pd, and so on. But this, combined with all the X/Y control, makes for a beautiful set of tools for controlling sound. I’d love to see it in action, proem!

I’ve finally gotten a better tablet myself, a shiny, new, 6×8 Intuos from Wacom. That’s a good thing, because the cheap 4×5 Wacom I had previously first made me feel like I had somehow disconnected my hand from my brain (a combination of the smaller area, lower resolution, and challenge of using tablets in general), then promptly stopped working altogether. I’ll be trying out the Wacom on Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu Linux, and working on hooking it up to Java and Processing, so stay tuned.


Flickr Screen Grabs: Infinite Video Theremin, Odd, Free Musical Interfaces

Soft Flickr Finds: Obscenely Complex Bass Effects on a Single Channel

Use Graphics Tablets for Music: New and Updated Software, Free Tablet Theremin

  • Adrian Anders

    Awesome Proem! FLStudio is one of my favorite sequencers. I only stopped using it for my main sequencing because the CPU usage is so high on 192 or better PPQ settings.

    I personally use Rocketdock instead of objectdock (because it's free). Truly a great setup you're running. Very similar to my own, with the exception that you're able to come up with material that's way more intricate than what I can manage these days.

    A couple of Qs: Did you produce all of your albums with some variant of FLStudio? If not, at what point did you make the switch?

    Oh and do you have any special FLS tricks you care to share? That is, something that isn't covered in the manual that most users wouldn't know about. I have my own set, but I just want to hear someone at the "pro" level give their thoughts on some of the "hidden" FL features.


  • bliss

    My number one lust item, a Wacom tablet… Definitely have to get one of those.

  • Iain

    Very nice. Thanks for posting this. I'll need to learn more about dashboards. That sounds like something I need to look into.

  • awww

    no pictures of the rack i just finished building


  • adrian, I made the switch ages ago, circa FL3. some of the early fl stuff made it into "negativ" but pretty much everything since "among others" has been pre-dominantly FL based. I constantly try new hosts but nothing seems to click as instantly as FL did for me. As a side note, the last two records have been heavier on rewiring FL into live ("real-timing" stuff helps unstick the writing stuckness)

    I've got tons of tricks and hacks actually.

    but most of them are simple workflow enhancements I've come across and or come up with. eventually I'll get around to posting some of them.

  • hey proem… I really liked the stuff of yours that i heard on youtube "blacker the berry" in particular…

    where would one go about getting some of these songs… do you have any free mp3s for download anywhere??

  • Cute setup indeed, Dual Dell e207 LCD displays – these are nice to have =]

  • Thanks for sharing your setup Proem. Your music is an inspiration, especially knowing that you're using my favorite sequencer. I'm always interested to see what others are doing with FL Studio. I pretty much use it exclusively for experimental / ambient. Now you've got me thinking of adding more screen real estate. hmmm…

  • Whoohoo, another serious FL user ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sanford F.

    Vinayk: You can get his full albums from most any of the labels online mailorders that he has released on (merck, n5md, etc.). Its also all available on all the major digital download outlets (itunes, rhapsody, etc.). From what i heard, he has two kids to feed, so he needs all the album purchases possible, and alot less of the 'free mp3' downloading….

    On a side note: Awesome setup, Wacom is the future. So is Proem.


  • Thanks Sanford… I didn't mean to imply "free" album downloading… often people have a track or two up for free on their website/myspace etc…

    Will have a look at some of these online stores. Thanks!


  • What did you use to get the two monitors to work? Is it a splitter of some type and how does it connect to the computer and two monitors?

    Thanks and great setup!



  • We need a proem bundle!

    proem vinyl + Wacom tablet + FL Studio Producer Edition. With a free poster.

  • Hey so do you guys do everything with those tablets? I.e drop the mouse all together? is that possible?

  • Roney: i just use a dual head DVI video card (pci express16). i used to roll with a cheap as dirt dual vga (agp) back when i had two 19" fish tanks on my desk.

    vinayk : i primarily use the tablet to control cc#'s with tablet2midi

    its completely customizable with multiple assignments for each controller… well,… you can read the specs for yourself. but if you are a musician and have a wacom tablet its a must have. I dont use a mouse. thats what the gesturepad is for.

    peter: a bundle is an awesome idea. if only the kids at imageline would hook a brother up with some promo copies to sell in the bundle i'd work it into the someday arriving proemland store ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Paul H

    Great article, valuable insight into the workflow of one of the best producers around ("Socially Inept").

    Personally I'm a Renoise kinda guy, but horses for courses…