MIDI

Further Adventures in Studio One v2.6

As I wrote yesterday, I recently got a MIDI keyboard controller that came with a copy of PreSonus' excellent DAW software, Studio One Artist v2.6. I shared a song that I made while remembering how to use it (having used a demo version in the past) and talked at excessive length about my visit to Sweetwater and the aforementioned keyboard controller purchased there.

The day after making that first experimental track I made another one. Here it is:

This track was again comprised only of virtual instruments that were included with the Studio One software, though I did modify some of the sounds a bit, included some effects, and worked a little bit with automating some of the instrument parameters as the song progressed.

Keyboard Controller + Studio One

On a recent trip to visit Caitlin's family outside of Fort Wayne, we stopped by Sweetwater to have a look around. I had never been there before (though I've purchased from them online) and I was excited to check out the store. It didn't disappoint, and in fact reminded me of the old Woodwind & Brasswind store¹ in its glory days.

I only made it into the section of the store devoted to keyboards, pianos, synthesizers and the like, but even that provided a wonderful experience where I got to try out a bunch of cool stuff (including a DSI Prophet 12, which was just awesome, and a Yamaha NU1 hybrid piano, which was also super impressive). My real purpose in going to Sweetwater, though,² was to check out a few keyboard controllers and feel them under my fingers before purchasing one to use with my computer.

I finally settled on a Nektar Impact iX61, a fairly basic controller that consists of 61 keys³ along with pitch bend and modulation wheels, one volume slider, and a set of transport controls that double as transpose/octave shift controls. There's a jack for a sustain pedal, a USB port which provides both power and computer connectivity, and a power switch on the back. The key action is squishy like most cheaper keyboards (i.e. not hammer-action or weighted) but has a decent feel to it. I liked the keybed feel on the Roland A-800 pro just a bit better, but that controller is significantly more expensive and does not come with PreSonus' Studio One software.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the iX61 is the software that came bundled with it - PreSonus Studio One Artist v2.6 (and later, a free upgrade to Studio One Artist v3). Studio One is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software, designed for recording, arranging, and producing music. I had played with the professional editions of both v2 and v3 in the past as 30-day trials and was very impressed with both versions. I've played with other DAWs in the past and always found them to be intimidating and difficult to pick up at first but Studio One was much more intuitive, and I knew from that experience that I would want to purchase it someday.

Even though I bought the iX61 back in August I only recently got it out and installed Studio One - I had so many other projects going on that I couldn't let myself dive into this until I wrapped some others up, so it made for some good motivation to get everything else completed! Recently, however, I finally did install Studio One and jumped in to give it a try.

Because it had been a while since I used Studio One I got back into it slowly, and my first project was made without the keyboard controller or any of my external equipment - I programmed the parts on the "piano roll" arranger and used mostly-stock sounds on the included virtual instruments. Here's what I came up with as my first sketch:

I'd like to develop the idea further and add more to it, but for right now I feel like I'm more engaged and learning faster by cranking out several small projects or sketches because it reinforces the basic concepts while allowing me to go deeper in a variety of styles. And yes that does mean more are on the way :)


¹RIP WWBW :'(
²well, other than just to gawk at everything
³five octaves starting and ending at C, can be shifted in either direction

Dreams and Fear.

Tonight, a long-held dream of mine came true. It was nothing earth-shattering, just something I had dreamed about since 1997. Tonight, I played a note on a MIDI keyboard and saw it appear on a music staff on my computer screen. Then I listened as the computer played back the pitches I had just played. Then I listened as the computer sent those pitches back into the keyboard and the keyboard played them back to me in the voice selected on its control panel. This all might seem simple or boring to you, but it is seriously cool to me. And yet, it took far longer to achieve than it should have.

Sometimes, failure to achieve a dream is due to something completely out of our control. Something happens that has nothing to do with us and suddenly the thing we wanted to accomplish is no longer possible. Other times, life delays the completion of a project and we have to pick up the (maybe literal) pieces from where we left off and figure out how to bring everything together again. Some dreams might be too big to chase right now and we have to lay low for a while, work on what we can, and gather the resources over time to make them eventually come true. And sometimes, things just don't go our way - maybe it hasn't been our day, our week, our month, or even our year - but we can still find wins and keep moving on our dreams. Sadly, none of these are the true reason it took me so long to achieve this particular dream.

I've had the MIDI/USB cable I needed for months; I've had the keyboard, computer, and software for years. I even had a successful attempt at using MIDI to communicate between two instruments earlier this year. So what kept me from this dream for so long? In a word: fear.

Two types of fear were the key players in keeping me from chasing this goal and succeeding much sooner. The first was a fear of being let down. I've achieved some goals in the past only to realize that they weren't all I anticipated them to be. Certainly I've also achieved goals that were very fulfilling, life-giving, and encouraged me to move forward - but I've also realized dreams that turned out to be less like a mighty zeppelin and more like a 3-week-old birthday balloon. I was afraid that the idea of using a keyboard for notation via MIDI would far outshine the experience of it.

The second type of fear that held me back was a fear of success. I admit that sounds odd but I think it happens more often than we might realize. I've experienced huge wins, achievements I'd count as milestones in my life, that left me empty. I've had goals that I thought would be some kind of pinnacles only to find they were mere foothills - that the thing I thought would bring satisfaction only served to reveal how much further I had to go. This, I think, was the primary issue that kept me from pursuing this goal sooner. What if I suddenly have the tools to make notation and arranging easier, and I fail to live up to the potential those tools give me? What if I suddenly feel a responsibility to do more with music? Sure, it's what I want to do; it's what I've been dreaming about all this time - but when it suddenly becomes possible I suddenly become timid.

I've said many times that I started this blog to force myself to do things and share them with the internet. Apparently it's starting to work a little bit. You have helped me overcome years of fear and inaction to achieve something I've dreamed about for 17 years.

What type of fear is most prevalent in your life? How will you overcome it to move toward your goals?