Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Oh, what have I done............???!!!

I am a creature of change, I love change and I don't fear change in the slightest. 2014 has already seen a few changes in my life and surrounding parameters, there's still more change to come and there has been something of a drastic change occurring over the last couple of weeks. That drastic, and I have to admit, completely unforeseen change has been to the GTK Studio. And I really do mean drastic.
 
Those of you who follow this wee bloggy thing of mine will know that I've spent three years buying and selling, wheeling and dealing and ducking and diving to get together a synthesizer-based hardware set up that would serve me for live use. As things changed around me, such as my departure from Code Indigo (Code Indigo was the main reason for getting the hardware), moving away from AD Music and the prospect of moving house in the next year or so, the need for that hardware became significantly diminished. I've had howls of despair and anguish from those around me who found great joy and pleasure sitting in my little studio, surrounded by synths, mixers and other musical gadgetry, but as I had to remind them, the GTK Studio was put together for me, for my use, for my enjoyment and for my needs. And now, seemingly over-night some would say, I simply don't have the need for hardware as I did not so long ago, and yes, three years of collecting has been travelling to various parts of the U.K. - I'm not overly precious about things and when I have need for something new or different, I use what I have to get what fits my need.
 
Not all of it is going. The Monotrons, the signal generators, the effects pedals and some of the rack gear remains. But the synths are no more. I've decided that I was happier and felt more creative when I was software only, and that is pretty much how it's gone. The sale of the synthesizers, the Peavey console and the Korg Electribes are funding a new look studio and new pieces of software, one of which is definitely a modern classic.
 
So, it's safe to say that I've pretty much gone back to where I started in terms of being software-based, with little in the way of hardware. I've retrieved my old Evolution MK-261 MIDI keyboard controller from the garage, an older model, but I have always liked the Evolution series, they are more then very capable of doing what I need from them and they are available at a good price now. As a companion to the MK-261, I've re-introduced my trusty old Evolution MK-449C MIDI keyboard controller into the set up - the MK-449C has four octaves with multiple assignable buttons, sliders and pots. The MK-449C was my very first MIDI keyboard when I re-entered the music world back in 2006 and has been in use the whole time - nice to see it take a permanent position back on the keyboard stand with it's larger sibling.

On the software front, I've got some new soft-synth additions, one of which is a major investment in an utterly amazing product from U.S. software house Spectrasonics: the mighty and the unspeakably incredible Omnisphere. I've hankered after Omnisphere for a long time. I now have it. Next up is the jaw-droppingly awesome ImpOSCar 2 from UK software house, GForce. It has a powerful sound and is considered to be one fo the best software emulations of a classic synthesizer going - I've only had a couple of hours with the ImpOSCar 2 and I get the hype. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it works alongside the massive sounds of Omnisphere, to my mind, this scenario shows the ImpOSCar 2 and Omnisphere to be very much a sort of David and Goliath of the soft-synth world and the ImpOSCar 2 shines through a mix beautifully. With these two synths, I'm hoping that they will help to take my music to a new level, particularly when used alongside the Alchemy player and related sound libraries. I have also added the rather excellent CS80V from Arturia - a very full sounding and expressive VSTi and I think a brilliant facsimilie of the original. Naturally, there will be those who disagree, but you know what, I don't care!!! Also joining the GTK Studio software mob are three Reaktor ensembles from UK based Everything Turns. These three gizmos are MoGi, TRanz8ight4 and ScatterVerb. MoGi is a weirded out modelling synthesis sound generator - very strange, lots of modulation and no oscillators!!! TRanz8ight4 is an analog percussive sequencer/loop generator that makes all manner of clicky clacky and seriously boomtastic rhythms and loops. And last, but not least from ET, ScatterVerb, which is a modulated filtered reverb and loop generator - this little beastie can do some amazing things and I'm looking forward to getting jiggy with it very soon. I'm a big fan of a German developer called Wolfgang Krumme - he releases his gizmos under the name of WOK VST - and so I splunged a few Earth pounds on three of his products. D-Arp is a two-channel MIDI arpeggiator, capable of triggering both software and hardware synths, could be highly useful. Next up from WOK VST I have X-Phaser which is a dual phaser plugin which is highly tweakable and the demos sounds rather luscious. And finally, a surprisingly bad-ass soft-synth called SAM (Sequencer Addon Module) which is an emulation of the classic Oberheim SEM synth module, first produced in 1974 - I've had a couple of hours with ti this evening and it is a serious piece of programming. So, plenty of new toys to be getting on with!!! :-D

 

 

 
And all of a sudden, I have space - room to move and breathe!!!

For the studio, I bought some new speaker stands for my Alesis M1 Active 520 monitors and foam isolation pads to put them on - this has really made the sound so much clearer and gives a little more idea of what's going on frequency wise. Ideally, it would have been nice to have got some proper acoustic tiles and bass traps, but that isn't possible at this time. So, when I does change, I does change. I wanted and needed openness, space and light, the ability to walk into the studio, immediately feel at ease and be able to breathe both physically and spiritually. I also wanted a contemporary feel to my surroundings - a studio that doesn't come across immediately as a studio, but a place to create music and work on photographs in an environment that reflects my moods and states of mind.
 
I really enjoyed having the hardware, it was fun to have and to look at, but what's the point when it's not really being used to it's full potential. The gear was bought for a reason, that reason stopped being what it was and so the natural thing, as with all things in life, is to move on and evolve, and that's exactly what I've done, so welcome to the new GTK Studio :-)