If you could name one thing that you bought that made you write a lot more stuff(tracks). What would it be? It can be a synth an Elektron box or a reverb/delay pedal mixer, laptop anything. But it can only be one thing just for keeping the thread on track.
Even though it’s not my favorite, nor the machine I’m most productive on, I have to give props to the sp404 as one of the most inspiring/liberating pieces of gear ever…
When I first got it, about 6 years ago, it felt like a weight was lifted of my shoulders. I started using the resample method to make beats, and it was the first time I didn’t worry about finetuning or endlessly going back to fix details or the way I mixed it. I just committed to what I did at that moment, and it lead me to make a lot of beats in a short time. Even though few beats made it into full songs (they where to weird for that) it was a lot of fun.
I ditched the small Mackie 1202 mixer and a huge clusterfuck of pedals and instead got one row of 104 hp eurorack to do mixing and EQ-/filtering-duties. No sound generation at all, just dirty mixing.
Even though the Mackie is a great tool and it’s really flexible in its routing and everything, just the row/col way of knobwiggling was so uninspring. Plus the general soundshaping is much more geared to be general-purpose, so I needed – wanted? – a lot of effect pedals to get more into the ‘electronic music’ zone.
It’s not really the main purpose to have a permanently wired modular, but I intended it from the start to be a wonky mixer with lots of CVs and feedback paths and whatnot dancing along the sound sources. It suits the techno’ish sound palette that I like very well and my shelf of music gear is much more compact with less pedals flying about everywhere.
Years ago, before I really got into hardware synths and sequencing, I was doing mainly “band” stuff, like drums, guitars, some traditional keyboards.
I got Maschine, it sat around unused for probably a year, then I finally had some time and really learned how to use it.
NOTHING has changed the way I make music like that first few months with Maschine. I basically made a track per day for months.
Nowadays, it’s mainly an arranger, I pretty much sample my hardware and sequences into it just to mock things up.
But, man, I wouldn’t say I really knew shit about electronic music until I started using Maschine. I thought I knew, but I didn’t. That was a real education. As much as learning piano and guitar.
Tough because different pieces come along that kick start the work into high gear. The big thing for me was just the Elektron sequencers/workflow. Started with the Digitakt. I made silly amounts of tracks just by sampling my bass into it. Made my drum sounds from a simple bass guitar note, same with synth sounding pads…everything. It helped me learn more about sound design too because I forced myself to just use my bass as the sound source. No presets or sample packs. I progressed to the point of being able to do a varied, 40 minute set using only one plucked bass note into the DT. Now I know lots of folks have done similar things, but I didn’t know that at the time
I’ve since sold the DT and got an OT, which I like more except for the rare occasion that I regret selling the DT. Also bought (and sold) an A4 and write tons of songs on the Model:Cycles. So that’s different gear, but really it’s the Elektron workflow that got the ball rolling.
Digitakt. I cleared all the samples when I first got it a couple of months ago. And I’ve already filled 30% of the storage manually sampling things. But that’s because I made a conscious choice to create tracks using a few 30-second samples, using fresh samples each time. Deliberate limitations work!
It would be easy to say Ableton, as the combination of Drum Rack/Sampler + Session View workflows have changed my approach entirely, making me more productive than I have ever been, but the catalyst for that was Koala. I had become bogged down by the directionlessness endless resources, but Koala restored the focus I desperately needed and meant that I brought all the Koala workflows back into Live.
4 banks of 16 pads brought back the focus I had when I used my MPC 2000XL
Having a microphone there all the time meant that I started sampling any and everything I could find again
Single cycle waveforms! Dear gods, how in the hell did I forget those?
Resampling. I know that others got that workflow through 404s but I never thought I needed one because of the MPCs so the closest I got previously was bouncing down channels in a DAW and then re-chopping them. Speaking of which…
Committing to effects chains by bouncing down MIDI to audio
Tactility. Hit the screen; make the sound. I’m a man with dozens of MIDI controllers, but I was barely using them.
Reface CP for me. Songs just seem to fall out of it.
Digitone: 8 voices is just about enough to make relatively complex drums, bass, melody and - crucially - leave enough voices for chords.
Having the ability to do this - use it as all in one groovebox - was revelatory and freeing; and enabled me to easily pick it up for short and enjoyable bursts when my youngest was a wee baby (when everything else was a hassle). I can turn it on now and almost instantly have productive fun.
I’d love it if Elektron did a 16 voice groovebox.
DN. I just couldn’t put it down when I first got it and it’s still my go to sequencer for programming clips etc. Oh and I fell in love with it’s sound too. Really can’t fault it as a tool synth… Elektron sequencer, 4 internal tracks and 4 midi tracks, decent FX that can be used by other gear, external inputs, great sound engine and a nice handy form factor. All reasons why it boosted my creativity at the time and still gets used regularly.
My first thought was the Digitakt since it is and has been my principle music making decide since I got it. But I think what actually brought everything together was the Digitone.
I was starting to lean more towards making my own samples from my little synth sessions and having a 4 part multitimbral synth that can also act as a sequencer, fx processor, and especially before the 1.30 firmware update on the Digitakt, a sound card was what made that work for me.
My favourite piece of kit I’ve bought during lockdown is the Roland Verselab. I can get ideas down very quickly and it just feels really easy to use. Like a modern take on one of the old portastudios. If they can improve sample editing to make it quicker, it will be perfect for me.
MPC Live is my favourite device of all time. Great new features being added still and have made a lot of tracks on it.
Analog Rytm for me. Once I got that, every time I wanted to “make something” I’d make a new kit, start tweaking, and have a few patterns. Then I could add melodic elements with A4, but the AR was always the thing that kicked me off.
Now I’m better with the A4 I often start with that, and more latterly the DN too, but to answer the OP, the kit the kicked me into always being able to make something is the AR.
Records 8 tracks simultaneously and another 24 for overdubs. Flexible enough routing to get most things done even if not in the most convenient manner. Can mix it in the box or export the tracks to a DAW.
I think the main reason it makes me productive is the somewhat focused nature. Just track and commit. Mix after tracking or live with your mix choices as you commit it to “tape”
gotta chime in predictably with the MD UW.
the only self contained machine that i find endlessly fun, inspiring and surprising to use.
It can produce results out of its main outputs that (aside from some gentle mastering) i can deem done.
1010music Blackbox… the one piece of equipment that never leaves the desk and that I would replace instantely should it break. It’s incredibly effective at gathering ideas and turning them into tracks.
Easy. Moog Model 10. I have made more music in the year since getting that thing than I had in the previous ten years combined. Why? Sound, primarily. But that isn’t the only thing - the classic 901-based “Moog sound” can certainly be had without the massive cash outlay.
No, it’s also probably the sense of joy I get from realizing a lifelong dream. It’s not as if I’m going to not use it, is it?
Plus, it’s simple. There’s only so much I can do with it, and that’s forces me to get to the point and get on with making music. My big Synthesizers.com system offers far more possibilities, but takes longer to patch. The Moog has a much smaller number of available options, so it is far more expedient.
Also, that simplicity really pushes me to think more about the notes I am playing. With synths, it’s too easy for me to get wrapped up in the sound and overlook the fact that I bought these things to make music. My second-favorite synth, the VCS3 offers far more potential for experimentation, but feels less like an instrument I play than it does an instrument I play with. Both have their places in my music, but the Moog encourages me to make my music better.
Also, maybe there’s a benefit to waiting (an hour or more!) for those old-fashioned oscillators to stabilize. This gives me time to think about what I am going to do with it.
Really, it doesn’t matter why it has made me more prolific, but it has. Very obviously so. What more can I ask for from a pile of copper, aluminum, and wood?
The Monome Norns Shield - it’s flexible, unique and capable of being pretty much whatever its coders can come up with, and then some. I can tweak this for hours, or leave it generating its own music, ambient or otherwise. Most scripts often have extensive midi control available too, so I’ve found new and interesting ways to connect up otherwise underused devices to make new and creative soundscapes along the way.
Cactus and other indoor flora not supplied.
I’m just finishing up a bunch of projects that are overdue for release but I have a Norns Shield waiting to be connected to a couple of Launchpad Minis…