Computers, they aren't so bad! (aka Just Buy a Computer)


After a couple of very productive and fulfilling years making music with only modular hardware, I felt it was time to bring Logic (my only DAW) back into the creative process. Having accumulated a lot more modules than I had when I eschewed Logic, I wanted a second MIDI to CV module. A couple of days ago, I bought a Doepfer A-190-5. Oh the irony of needing a module to reincorporate a DAW.


That is true of a lot of forums, but thankfully not here.

This is definitely a computer friendly community, given that for a lot of Monome’s history it’s only worked with computers and that’s still a huge part of the use case… Not that this place is all about Monome, but it was the seed. There are active threads about programming, Max/MSP, PD, SuperCollider, Lua, VCV, RaspberryPi, etc…

Computer != DAW, as we can see from my examples above. It can be an amazingly creative environment if it’s setup as one. One of the issues people run into is often that their computer is setup and optimized for work or leisure purposes, so the environment isn’t conducive to easily just getting into their music and creative headspace.

I generally eschew anything that is dogmatic and/or about “purity”, use what you like to use and helps you make your art.


It’s a lesson I picked up from a different approach, having never been a drummer myself. I started off producing hip-hop which is obviously dedicated to the drum on many levels. I studied why certain breaks had a better feel than others and (aside from the kit itself or the way it was recorded) a lot of it is about the feel - the timing of it. Through experimentation I realised that keeping the 1 and 3 on beat meant I could take serious liberties with the 1 and 4 (and from this point follows the essence of what we can refer to in shorthand as post-Dilla hip-hop drum programming…)


I can identify with this 100%. It still has a pretty massive impact on the amount of time I spend composing on the computer unfortunately, and there are sometimes days where I won’t touch the computer at all after work. I’ll just sit down with a notebook after work and dream up something to try out later on.

In general though something that’s helped me, and might not be possible in every computer job, is to do as much of my work on paper as possible, and just sit down at the computer when I absolutely have to use it to accomplish something. In other words I try to do my thinking and planning away from the computer when I can. That applies to music as well. It does seem to help.

I went through a stressful work period where I’d actually lock my computer away in a closet after work because I couldn’t stand to even look at it and ended up discovering that lots of what I thought I needed to do on the computer I could do in a notebook.


im trying to decide what order to get a norns, an atari st, and building a new linux desktop machine ;-; too many computer


I think it’s good when drummers practice to a metronome, but in my experience tracking without one always sounds better if the the drummer can manage and budget allows many takes.

Part of the drummer’s job is to increase the excitement through tempo manipulation, and the feel of each individual take. So even if you map a metronome to a good live take, you won’t recapture the feel.

Just listen to Charlie Watts, for example. Or similarly some conductors too - Wilhelm Furtwängler most famously - have a loose beat, and each performance is unique, some working where energy and momentum makes sense, some not. But better to have some really great ones than all merely acceptable.

For that matter, I much prefer music where most of the tracking, certainly the rhythm section, is live ensemble in a room.

These days with Logic’s tempo mapping, there are probably some experiments to do at least as far as overdubs on a live core. Particularly with electronic instruments no longer requiring purely click tracked drums.

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As someone with 18U of racked modules, I have similar pariah feelings when reading posts insisting on self-imposed size limitations.

While this is entirely valid if it’s your approach, it’s not the only way to achieve creative parameters.

My system has never induced choice paralysis.

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just a friendly reminder that computers can have knobs if you want them to


Hard to say.

This was a home studio, which didn’t afford us that kind of space, but which did allow us endless time to go wild with the arrangements. Giving that up would have resulted in a very different album.

(I guess the usual compromise is “track drums, bass and guitar together, then everything else separately”, and I’m very much in the “everything else” column, so it’s hard for me to conceptualize. From my perspective, nothing changes.)

Again, though, I don’t know if “quantize” is the right word for what he was doing. That feels like an automated process. This was more of a “letting your ear guide what needs adjusting” kind of process.


“Both” is also a good option, though more expensive.

I think you can create better sounding instruments, faster, with analog hardware. For certain kinds of sounds, anyway.

…but something like pure data (or max or lua or even html) is often the best way to control that hardware.

(shoutout to the Expert Sleepers ES-8, yo)

(I would definitely recommend that anyone considering modular hardware in particular spend a week learning VCV Rack, though. It’s probably the best way to figure out what you’re actually looking for before you spend money on things that you’re not.)


This is so kick ass! YA MAN!


Hardware rules. Software serves.

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these are indeed great.


i play in a trio (Hollow Bone: check our first vid for a teaser of the upcoming album :wink: ). Drums and percussions, guitar and me on the eurorack rig.
we do slow hypnotic stuff, the songs are on the long side (about 8-10 minutes).
in november we recorded our first album, in january we mixed it and now we need to master it and release it.
we wanted to keep the record as genuine as possible, production-wise. we chose a studio that’s oriented to this approach. it has a large recording room with a very nice ambience (which of course was recorded), the mixing room revolves around a 24 track analog tape machine hooked up to protools (so it records both to tape and to digital BUT post tape). the outboard tends to be on the vintage side, as the microphones, but not in a dogmatic way.
we recorded all tracks alltogether. we need to play together to keep the timing and feeling of what we do.only one track was too problematic to do in one single take and we split it in three blocks, but always recording altogether.
we did very few overdubs where we felt they were needed.
in the mixing session some editing was made but only on very specific points which needed a bit of correction.
we used almost only analog equipment for the mix but, again, not in a dogmatic way. we used some plugins too.
the mixes came out extremely dynamic and organic. of course there are some difficulties, some of them will be resolved in the mastering session, but overall we are very happy with the result.
all this to say that the process really depends on what you play, on what is your vision about your music, what in a way “feels right” for the job.
this also reflects my personal attitude towards my solo music and my rig. i slowly got rid of almost everything non-eurorack (except the big sky for reverbs and i use microphones and piezos and objects) only because i slowly realized that was perfect for what i was aiming at in my music.
in 18 years i switched many setups, software, hardware, hybrid, mpc’s, maschine, ableton live, synths, grooveboxes, on the neverending search for my personal holy grail.
the constant was that i usually want my live setup to translate almost perfectly my studio setup (meaning: i usually don’t want a larger setup in studio than what i can bring on stage).
when i started with eurorack my setup was centered around an mpc 2500 with jjos, a virus ti and a machinedrum.
then slowly the eurorack grew as my knowledge of it grew.
when i acquired the er-301 i decided it, with the grid\ansible combo, could totally rreplace the octatrack i was using.
i have to point out that the mixer (an analog one because i love the simple freedom it gives, no digital clipping, feedback loops allowed, etc…) is central to the way i work. i could never work with a small eurorack mixer. i need multiple aux sends for the fx’s, mic preamps…
but all of this is absolutely personal. as i already said in a previous post on this thread, for me is all about the experience, how i can relate with my instruments.
it always was, also when i had computer based setups, i practiced a lot to feel comfortable on stage.
now i’m really in love with the euro workflow even if it has its difficulties (mainly polyphony) mostly because the experience is deep and satisfactory from all points of view. now there’s no difference between my work on stage and in studio. only that the recorded material gets edited a bit (but in a very minimalistic way) before being released.


I’ve been working almost entirely within the iOS environment recently, which I’ve found liberating and inspiring in equal measures. The ease of recording sounds through the mic has added an immediacy to things - if I have the idea to record a noise, I just do it there and then, for example. Plus the range of innovative apps have given me different things to focus on and new ways of working.

I was looking at DAWs on iOS but gradually came to the realisation that I don’t actually want to do that within that environment. Creating and doing post-production on the same tool isn’t necessary and I have a desktop PC with a fantastic DAW on it which I know inside and out. In the last few days I’ve been mixing down unreleased projects and, free from the feel of wanting to tweak things because my creative environment is the same as my mixing environment, I’ve been able to embrace the creativity of the mixing process as an entity of its own. It has been fantastic, I have to say!


Do you mean you just use the built-in mic?

My experience has been that the built-in mic is pretty low quality… I’d be really interested in hearing some of your recordings …

Edit- also curious what iOS apps and DAW you’re using… and how are you getting the tracks from iOS to DAW?

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You might want to check thsi thread here initiated by @petesasqwax, which is precisely about that: Your iOS arsenal


No, I’ve been using a mixture of 30 pin mics (the Tascam iM2 and Fostex AR 4i) with my older devices and the iTrack Pocket with my lightning units. The internal mic isn’t bad though in terms of collecting sounds to use as the basis for percussive layer etc. Once you run them through effects they become something else entirely.

And yes - thanks @papernoise - please do check the thread :slight_smile:


nice, and here’s some love for the built in mic for vocals (iPhone version)

track’s been through the monolase(8bit) so…
also, theiPhone is a computer
(with a phone app and cell tower antenna)
inspired by the iOS Arsenal thread, nice work @petesasqwax

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Yes! Beautiful! And yes, I do love the irony of ditching a computer in favour of… a host of computers (ranging from iPhone 4 to iPad Pro and taking in a 4s, an iPad 3rd gen and an iPhone 6 along the way) - before feeding back into a computer to mix it all down! As you can see, I’ve thoroughly committed to my post-computer setup :wink: