Setting up a dedicated music making space

Over the past couple of years I’ve hardly written or recorded any music. Part of this is because I’ve been so busy doing other things: moving flat, grappling with the UK immigration process, getting married, and travelling a lot. On top of that though, was the lack of any dedicated space where I could leave my recording gear set up, ready to be used whenever.

The time has come to do something about it, and I’ve reclaimed space in a corner alcove that previously was home to our washing and a couple of bikes.

Behold, the new studio:

I’ve set up the Kaoss pad, along with the mixer and Gameboys – all illuminated in some bright LED lights. It’s amazing what having a decent area set aside for making music can do to your motivation.

Unsurprisingly, I ran into a whole host of new issues when I went to record some tracks – both related, and in addition to the ones that I listed last year.

  • My M-Audio Firewire 410 has finally become properly obsolete. The workarounds that people have developed online simply aren’t working anymore. It’s frustrating as the hardware was still perfectly good – but since it was released over 10 years ago, it was probably a reasonable time to invest in a new interface. This time, I’ve gone for USB.
  • My Gameboy USB cartridges that house LSDJ are acting up. One of them has crashed and needs the ROM re-flashed (which is a pain in the ass on a Mac), and the other seems to get stuck on the second ROM that is loaded (Pokemon Gold!), rendering LSDJ inaccessible sporadically.
  • I’ve lost a couple of my Phono couplers, which I used for splitting the signal from the Gameboy so I could run it through the Kaoss pad as well as bypassing it. A stupid minor thing.
  • I no longer have a keyboard with a MIDI DIN connector, and all of the newer ones that have been released only have MIDI connectivity via USB. That’s all well and good, but not much use if you’re using a hacked together arduinoboy to play the Gameboy as a synth. I had to work out how to use my laptop as a MIDI thru device, which is thankfully up and working now.

It does make you stop and wonder why the hell you go to all this bother to use vintage hardware rather than sticking in some samples and being done with it, but there’s just something so satisfying about using the Gameboy that it’s all worth it in the end.

Maybe.

Everything is coming together nicely now though, and I’ve got some new gear to experiment with too: A Pocket Operator PO-14 (the Sub one), and probably an Ableton Launchpad. My plan is to dive into the MIDI side of things a bit deeper, as it’s something I’ve never really understood that well. Time to change that!

Hopefully this dedicated space will make a big difference. Watch this space.

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