I know 5 months into 2016 is a bit late for a Year In Review article but hey… better late than never. 2015 was a very interesting year to say the least. Musically a lot of stuff was going on while some… not so much. So here goes;
Drums / Percussion
Another slow year for the drum kits. Once you have all the toys you need there isn’t room for much more. I’m still using my Gretsch Renown Maple kit for studio use and my Pearl Exports (now 35 years old) for live shows.
I’ve played around with heads this year settling on a set of Evans Hydraulic Black for the Gretsch batter heads and continuing to used Remo Pinstripes on the Pearls while using Evans Hydraulic Blues on the resonant heads. I tried the Hydraulics on the Pearl batter side, however, the sound doesn’t carry well in live situations. In the studio the Hydraulics work great, especially for recording.
I also scored a great deal on a Pearl hi-hat stand for my gigging kit. Pawn shops are awesome for gems like this and now I don’t have to tear apart my studio kit hardware when I gig.
2015 was a HUGE year for electronics as I have shifted my focus to DIY gear. It started with stomp boxes from Tonepad.com. These guys have some great clones of really excellent pedals. I began with a Ross Compressor pedal which, after a bout of using bad solder, worked out really well.
Building electronics was something I did early on in my computer career. My mentor Dave taught me how to build Apple 80 column clone cards, Z-80 cards and Hayes 1200 bps modem clones. He was a strict teacher and my soldering skills are really good thanks to him.
Incidentally, if you’re into music DIY and haven’t checked out Small Bear Electronics then you’re missing out on some awesome stuff!
While I enjoy building stomp boxes I really put my skills to use in a new area which came to the studio; Modular Synthesizers.
I’ve always been a huge fan of modular synthesizers. There’s something about all those knobs, plugs and cables that appeals to me. The sounds they create are astounding and in 2015 I finally got into them big time.
It started early in the year when I built a PAiA 9700 from a kit. PAiA has been around for a long, long time as a DIY supplier. I first learned of them back in the ’70s when I saw their Strings ‘n Things keyboard. PAiA also created the first drum machine which was used in Peter Gabriel’s Games Without Frontiers. It was only natural that I’d test my skills on one of their modular systems.
I learned to create some incredible sounds with the 9700 and began to study the basis of synthesis itself. From there I decided to move from the FRAC sized PAiA modules to the larger Moog Unit (MU) size modules which I’ve always liked the look of.
I discovered Synthesizers.com from where, in October, I purchased my first full size modular system. I got only a few modules to start but the number of toys I added grew quickly.
Following the addition of the “Dotcom” (as they are known in the community) I put my DIY building skills to use adding modules by Oakley Sound Systems. Today the modular is quite different from the original version but you’ll have to follow the blog and read the 2016 Year In Review to learn about that : )
Incidentally, the PAiA and the Dotcom get along beautifully with some 1/4″ to 1/8″ patch cables. In 2016 though there have been some format changes to the 9700 which you can read about in the blog.
Not much has been happening in the studio’s keyboard realm with the big focus being on modular synthesizers. I should note, however, that I did take part in Moog’s Sub 37 Editor program. Moog had been working on an editor for the Sub 37 synthesizer which has been released in 2016. It’s quite a nice piece of software which opens up all sorts of possibilities with the synth.
I have to say though that while I really love my Sub 37 many of it’s features are “computerized” for lack of a better word. Since working with the modulars I find I can accomplish more things more quickly without having to wade through menus and key combinations.
Still working with Reaper and loving it! They have a great upgrade cycle and terrific support. I can’t recommend it more highly.
Coming of Age has had a great year performing many live shows at multiple venues. We’ve done charity events and several private parties all of which seem to really have pleased the crowd. Our repertoire of classic rock tunes has grown and everyone is having a great time.
Fizzbin is also expanding its musical field adding a number of original tunes to the list of songs we perform. While we haven’t performed live during 2015 we are preparing an awesome show for the 2016 musical year. Stay tuned!
So that, in a nutshell, was 2015 for Lower West Side Studio! Sorry for the late entry but at least I got the info out there. Keep on Rockin’!!!