Our Digital Music Workstation

Special Note:  On August 9th at the Kooskia Library at 1 pm I will be demonstrating this system to the community.  Audience participation will be a highlight and we may have a special guest artist show up to do a short song recording for all.  

This is a very unusual feature of Lifewater Ranch that few if any guests have taken advantage of.DSC_2676

It has actually taken me about 30 years to finally get to a system that I can really compose on with relative ease.  I started trying to do MIDI music back in the 80s and it was just one bug after another with hardware problems and technical issues constantly. The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) has finally come of age and I have a decent one – admittedly it took about 11 versions of cakewalk before it finally began to work well for me.  It doesn’t look like much, just a computer, an amp, some speakers, a fancy MIDI/Audio interface and a synth keyboard to control it along with a microphone.  Yet this workstation can do just about any kind of music or sounds you can imagine.

You can hear many of the compositions I have done with this system on my SoundCloud page.

Although the system is easy to use once you know how to use it, it is not simple.  This is something a geeky teen or mature technically minded adult would use.  It is however easy to just set up the synth to play live through the speakers and hear cool sounds that even little kids can enjoy.  Kids love it when I record their voices and then pitch-shift it up and down or add cool reverb effects to it.  It’s not something you can let a little kid play with without supervision – but I think it has immense value as an experience that will give children the imagination to see what is possible that could inspire them to any of a number of very fun and profitable vocations or hobbies.

Back when I was a kid my mother made me take piano lessons.  Once it got to two hands at the same time I just could not perform like a machine and play anything I liked.  I dropped it completely.  Later I tried trumpet but never practiced.  But MIDI music lets me play what I feel and then fix it up to where it sounds like a pro played it (I love to quantize!).  With the cool sounds you can choose from and a drummer in a box to play for you, it’s very possible to make music you love with very little musicianship skills.  I think this is the way to teach music to kids – let them enjoy it first – then, if they really want to master it, it will be easy because they will be inspired to play and improve their skills so they can play the wonderful tunes in their hearts and minds.  Adults could do with turning the standard music teaching on its head as well I think.

Here are the components I use most:

DAW: Cakewalk Sonar X2 Essentials – the paired down version of one of the latest version of Cakewalk.  This is what is known as a MIDI sequencer and hosts VSTs which are virtual instruments in software.  Understanding this tool takes a bit of time but I have videos and the manual on the PC for guests to use.  Once you are done with your composition you can export it to an MP3 file to publish or take with you.

Synth/Controller: Alesis QS6.1 – this synth has a nice array of sounds it can make itself or you can use it just as a controller for the DAW and VSTs.

OmniSphere VST: Probably the most powerful soft-synth on the market.  25k preset sounds and massive ability to control and alter them.  They say it takes a lifetime to learn this product.  The manual is 1600 pages but it really doesn’t take long to get this thing to do simple stuff.  I have developed my own way of using its 8 separate channeled sounds and it’s not too hard to use for me.

Studio Instruments:  I used this array of 4 VSTs mostly for the drum VST which has a nice set of pre-canned sequences to quickly get a good drumbeat to work from.

A decent microphone lets you add voices.

This is all I used to make all of my songs on SoundCloud.

I would be happy to run any guest through my song-writing process and help them to create their first song.

Lifewater Ranch’s beauty provides ample inspiration for wonderful works of music to create and take home with you – or listen to in the hot tub!

So do some reading up on these products and come ready to have some musical fun!

NO I am not a keyboard player and I don’t read music very well.  I just play what I feel and then use these tools to fix what I have played and turn it into something I like.  You don’t need to be a musician anymore to make beautiful music! – it does help to have a good ear though.

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About sanfords

Ex Microsoft Dev for 20 years. Currently retired at my ranch in Idaho near Kooskia. I like coaching Chess for kids so let me know if you are interested in those services.
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