So another year has gone screaming by at Lower West Side Studio.  It was a busy year for making music both live and in the studio.  Once again the budget for gear was less than previous years as I worked on learning to play my instruments better and to understand their workings more completely.

So in the fashion of my previous reviews, here goes;

Drums / Percussion

This year was incredibly slow for kit purchases.  Honestly I don’t need more stuff.  My two sets serve me just fine.  I’ve learned that having these wonderful monster sets is great for the basement but when playing live – not so much.  Some venues don’t have enough space for the entire kit.  Those that do are great until I realized how much extra gear I had to bring.

Then there was the gig where I took my Gretsch instead of my Pearls.  The Gretsch kit has DW hardware versus the Pearl which has… Pearl.  The DW hardware is significantly heavier than it’s Pearl counterparts.  I have some pretty descent Pearl hardware.

I did purchase a Roland OctaPad II Pad-80.  It’s an pad MIDI trigger which I have been using to trigger drum (and other) sounds on my Yamaha Motif XF6.  It is also where I plug in my dog Baxter’s synthesizer so that he can trigger sounds too.  Now I can’t play a note on the synthesizer without Baxter coming into the room wanting to join in.

Roland OctaPad II PAD-80
Roland OctaPad II PAD-80

I also finally settled on the double bass drum thing.  I was on-again, off-again pleased with the DW-3000 double kick pedal.  Mostly because I felt the extra hardware slowed the pedal down a bit too much for quick tempo double kicks on the main pedal.  At one point I set up my second kick on the Pearl kit again.

I made some adjustments to the DW-3000 bit the bullet and got rid of my second bass drum.  I’d still like the option of two kick pedals, I just fear the idea of ever having to take two kick drums to a gig.  The double pedal stays!

Electronics

This year involved a bit of a change-over.  I got rid of the TC-Helicon VoiceWorks, not because there was anything wrong with it but rather because I wasn’t using it for anything but maybe a little reverb sometime.

To replace the reverb on the vocals I purchased an Electro-Harmonix Nano Holy Grail Reverb.  This pedal, which works for guitar or vocals, is a great entry-level toy to patch into the Send on your mixing desk.

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I also picked up an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress.  This combination Chorus / Flanger adds incredible dimension to not only my bass but my synthesizers as well.

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I plan to add a few more rack effects to my setup.  These include a tube preamp, compressor and delay.  I’m going to stick with hardware because… well… it’s hardware.

With the new options opening up by the effects and instrument that have been added to the studio over the years I’m also considering adding a patch bay.  Designed correctly it would provide practically unlimited connectivity options for the devices in the studio allowing me to create previously un-thought of sounds.

Software

I consider this year a bust for software.  I finally bit the bullet and purchased Cubase 7.5.  It’s recommended by Yamaha as the preferred interface to the Motif.  It’s an industry standard.  Etc…  Etc…

I found that while I’m able to get some things done with it, the learning curve has slowed me down immensely.  I’ve even tried to hire people to teach me 7.5 (specifically this newest version).  I don’t know if the folks aren’t out there or nobody around here (geographically) knows enough 7.5 to teach it.  I spun my wheels for months spending hours on tasks I could do in Reaper in seconds.

The funny thing is that I find the Motif’s interface to Reaper far smoother than that to Cubase.  I finally switched back to Reaper, shelved Cubase and will see what the future brings.

Keyboards

Another great keyboard year here at LWSS.  This fall I picked up a Moog Sub 37 Bob Moog Tribute Edition.  This is Moog’s latest combination of analog synth sound with the advanced programming capabilities provided through digital control.  But really what I mean to say is – THIS THING IS FREAKING AWESOME!

I’ve got the PAD-80 triggering sounds on the Motif while the Motif outputs clock data to the Sub 37.  I’ve got some rocking sounds going with practically no effort.  The Sub 37 is also a joy to program.  Anyone who loved twiddling knobs on synths of the ’70s will fall in love with this instrument immediately.  Stay tuned for more info as I learn more.

Bands

Coming of Age – Well the Silvertone Rock Camp changed it’s lineup a bit as well as its name.  Our guitarist / vocalist and teacher Rick graduated us to full band status.  We added a new vocalist while our former lead vocalist switched to rhythm guitar and backup vocals.  We’ve done several gigs this year and plan many more for the next year.  Most of all, everyone is having a great time playing together.

CoA

Fizzbin – Fizzbin has been busy working on both cover tunes but has switched focus to more original creations.  Our act will become a mix of both.  John and I love covering our favourite music of the ’70s and ’80 but also want to use the cool tools we have to express ourselves musically.  So far it’s working great!  Oh yeah, we also played a small set in Collingwood.  What a blast

With all the time being spent with these two awesome groups of people I haven’t had much chance to jam with my old friends from the GTA.  My buddy Randy apparently build a very cool studio which I have to drop by and see.

So 2014 is a wrap and 2015 is underway.  I can see a lot of very cool music coming on strong!  Check back now and then and see what’s up.  Thanks once again for dropping by!

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