Count The Beats: Playing Keys And Synth Live On A Mac (interview)

Over the approaching months, the Count The Beats series is going to be taking a better look at how the Mac (and the accompanying software) suits in with the assorted elements of a typical rock band (drums, bass, electric guitar and so on. You get the idea).

In this put up we’ll take a better take a look at keyboards (enjoying keys and synths) in a stay performance context. From honky-tonk piano’s on fire to out-of-control oscillating synths, there is a lot gear and software on the market it may be troublesome to know where to start, particularly in relation to playing in a live efficiency context.

Session musician, and good good friend of mine, Jon Dean does a fair little bit of this, and does it properly. In the last few years he’s gone from classically skilled pianist to Rock ‘n Roll, synth and pad-crazy keys extraordinaire.

I managed to drag Jon away from his busy touring schedule to take a seat down with me and a cup of tea with some After Eight Mints (it’s a new sort of Rock ‘n Roll on the market, apparently) to speak controllers, audio interfaces and transferring from Pc to Mac, with a couple dangerous musician jokes thrown in for good measure.

Even when you are not a keys participant, it is interesting to see how the Mac continues to facilitate and encourage artistic musicianship to an extent that simply wasn’t accessible a few short years ago.

Click the Read More link for the interview.

Photo credit score: kolleggerium on flickr.

TUAW: You do a whole lot of stay keyboard taking part in and make some pretty attention-grabbing noises, um, on your keyboard. How did you get into taking part in keys with a computer?

Jon Dean: I’d prefer to say that I have been doing this for years, however the truth is, its been a journey of round 3 years to get to what I exploit immediately. I’m a classically trained piano player, so going into the world of keyboards and synths took a very good deal of schooling, time and trial and error before I actually knew what I was doing. Also, this journey is definitely what brought me into the world of Apple and utilizing Macs. Before then, I did not have a clue!

TUAW: Naturally the quality of the instrument you play is admittedly important. Being a classically educated pianist you must have high standards when it comes to tone and ‘feel’ whenever you sit all the way down to play your instrument. With so many controllers out there, what do you search for?

JD: With the setup I’ve now I really look to my keyboard to be greater than a controller, as I exploit it for piano, electric piano and organ sounds. However, if I was taking part in all my sounds out of my laptop computer, then an important element could be the keys themselves. I must have weighted keys to play piano, and maybe, in a really perfect world, I might have a separate semi-weighted controller for the synth and organ sounds. The next factor on the record can be a great financial institution of faders and knobs to regulate the sound in no matter approach you need. If I might, I might most likely steer clear of a controller with a great deal of inbuilt sounds, as I’d be paying for gear that I wouldn’t ever use.

However, I’m currently utilizing the Nord Stage 73 EX. That is my newest addition to the arrange (previously I used to be using a Yamaha s90), nevertheless it has already grow to be my favourite! It’s outstanding in some ways, but specifically, the standard of the totally weighted keys, its piano and electric piano samples, and how easy it is to regulate effects as you go makes it, for me, an absolute minimize above the remaining. The organ sound is nice, and it seems to be fairly sizzling too!

I exploit the Nord primarily for piano in addition to electric piano and organ. There’s a highly succesful synth part on board too, although in the intervening time, I’m mainly utilizing software on my Mac for synths and pads.

TUAW: You’re utilizing a MacBook as the brains behind your operation. As you talked about, you’re pretty new to the world of Macs, why did you determine to go for a Mac as apposed to a Windows Pc to power your setup?

JD: I requested hundreds of individuals earlier than I determined which to go for (I initially had a Pc laptop computer with Windows), and the resounding answer was Mac all the way in which. The largest purpose for me, to go for Mac, was that a Mac is way less prone to crash, which is crucial in the stay performance setting. I do know someone with a Windows laptop computer that runs comparable software for keys and synths, and i’ve seem them battle, repeatedly. It made the choice a lot clearer. Having used my Mac for a 12 months now, and almost no problems by any means, I’m very joyful that I made that decision.

I ended up getting a 13″ MacBook 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM (was originally 2GB). Today this MacBook is no longer out there, but its closest out there product could be the present 13″ MacBook Pro. If money was no object, I in all probability would have gone for the faster mannequin, but with an extra 2GB of RAM (which I believe is necessary), it’s greater than able to doing the whole lot I want in a stay setting.

TUAW: What audio interface are you utilizing to tie everything collectively?

JD: I’m presently using the Edirol UA25-EX Audio Interface. This has been a extremely solid, robust interface while I’ve had it. It has a metallic fairly than plastic case which makes it much more durable, one thing that is important when you’re on the highway a fair bit. Its principal job, for me, is to interface the keyboard and the Mac, though when I am restricted to 2 channels on the PA desk, I can even use it as a mixer to take in the left and proper outputs from the Nord.

I’ve also received a Korg NanoKontrol. This little gadget is the width of my laptop and suits snugly before the trackpad. It’s potential to assign its buttons, sliders and knobs to almost anything you need, but I typically use it to control my volume levels in the varied tracks which might be open in Logic (as nicely because the grasp volume).

TUAW: Lets talk slightly extra concerning the software and plug-ins then.

JD: Ok, I’m utilizing Logic Pro 8 to host the whole lot that I’m doing, Logic has some nice built in plug-ins that I sometimes use for keys sounds, but for synths, Spectrasonic’s Omisphere is unquestionably one of the most powerful software program synthesisers on the market, and has some wonderful samples, in addition to some fairly weird stuff! In the intervening time I am barely scratching the surface of what it might do, as the potentialities, in terms of creating your own sounds, go on and on. I largely use this plug-in for atmospheric pads and 80s synth sounds.

TUAW: Are there any ‘methods of the trade’ that you’ve found to reinforce these superb tones?

JD: I’ve been known to use a Boss DD20 Delay guitar effects stomp box to get some unique delay sounds for my keys, however now that I’ve the Nord, which has an inbuilt delay effect, this is not an important piece of kit anymore. Having stated that, the DD20 does have extra options than the Nord’s delay, and it produces a special tonal quality which I like. It is also significantly useful to be able to use the built-in tap tempo feature moderately than my fingers to dictate the tempo.

Other little tidbits, possibly not tips of the trade however … A sustain pedal (Yamaha Control Pedal) and a switch pedal for Rotor Speed. Not a lot to say about them actually, aside from they are fairly helpful! The more you’ll be able to let your ft do the better.

TUAW: Lets speak about samples for a minute. With so many to select from, say you may only run 2 samples by means of a complete gig, what 2 samples would you choose and why would they be your “go to” sounds to get you through the present?

JD: To start out with, the software program I’d use can be Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere, the plug-in that I run out of Logic. It has a fully large bank of sounds, but greater than that, the number of results and parameters which you can change are countless. It has an excellent dwell setting which makes it possible to switch between completely different samples seamlessly, and loads of MIDI capability that makes using it stay too much easier. I have never come across something that comes close to this.

TUAW: Alright, we get it, you love Omnisphere! But when you may only choose 2 sounds for the gig..?

JD: For the bands I play with, what is typically required for many songs can be some sort of synth for the quicker stuff, and atmospheric pads for the slower, extra intimate or medium-paced songs. If you are you looking for more on tin containers, visit the next document, look into our website. If I had to decide on one synth it could be one known as ‘Eighties Oberheim Pluck’ on Omnishpere, which does precisely what it says on the tin, really. It has a nice modulation effect which really opens up the sound while you need it to go massive. For the pad, I’d probably go for Greenhouse Pad. Its light and airy so it doesn’t dominate too much, however has a slight crackling which makes it a bit more attention-grabbing. I’d also have the piano (either grand or electric) out there on the Nord at any time to layer on high and tin containers outline chords or play different components.

TUAW: Finally, something a bit more idea orientated, but what do you get once you play a diminished chord with an augmented chord? A demented chord!

JD: Thanks, I’ve bought to go now….

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