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.
- 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
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.)
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, Âµ 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.