Saturday, July 07, 2007

Creating Constructive Musical Work Environments

I don't believe I've ever heard anyone mention this subject before, but it has become increasingly important to me over the years. Perhaps the most significant operative word here is the plural of "Environments," as having more than one workspace - and having those workspaces dedicated to different things - is what I think is of paramount importance. Not only do multiple workspaces facilitate the various tasks - performance practice, technical practice, recording, &c. - but they also stave off boredom, which is important to me.

Secondarily, the quality of the space - what I call the "vibe" of the environment - is important too. Below is my performance practice space, for example:

As I say, this space is dedicated primarily to performance practice. This is my "Large Venue Rig," which consists of a Lexicon MPX-G2, which I run in stand-alone mode as both the preamp and effects unit, and a MESA/Boogie 20/20 stereo tube power amp. These run a par of high-zoot Turbosound TXD-081 monitors, or alternately I can listen through headphones for late night work. Power monitoring and conditioning comes via Furman's top of the line AR-1215 A.C. Line Voltage Regulator: The fundamental piece of gear for any pro audio grade rack system.

This environment also lets me hear what a front row member of the audience hears, so I also use this environment to program the patches in the MPX-G2.

As a contrast to that, here is the space I set up primarily for recording and technical practice:

This is actually where I spend most of my time, of course, as this is the main computer location. This rig also allows me to listen through a pair of the Turbosound TXD-081's, but what is more important here is the ability to monitor through a professional grade studio monitor setup: The Tannoy Proto-J near field monitors, which are run by the mythical and magical Bryston 3B-NPB stereo power amp (Watching DVD's on the Apple 23" Cinema HD Display and listening through this sound system is an awesome experience. Like I said, I spend a LOT of time here).

The guitar rig is fundamentally diferent here, however. Instead of the Lexicon MPX-G2 being run in stand-alone mode as the preamp and effects unit, this rack has a Lexicon Signature 284 All Tube Class "A" Stereo Recording Amplifier in place of the MESA 20/20 in the Large Venue performance rig. This allows for a tube preamp section as well as a tube power amp section via the Signature 284, which produces the most sparkly 3-D sound you can imagine: The perfect thing to record, which is facilitated by the 284's professional balanced outputs.

Those balanced outputs go into a DigiDesign M-Box, and I record in the Mac Mini with Pro Tools LE (Which I find just barely tolerable as a digital recording work environment: Still too complicated for just recording stereo solo guitar tracks). One thing I did do which helped a lot, was I got a MicroNet MiniMate 250GB external FireWire HD and FW/USB hub just to record onto. It gives a ton of space and works magnificently.

The beer is a Coors Light "Silver Bullet": My daily grog. Must watch my figure.


The last thing I wat to mention - and this is becoming more and more important to me as time goes by - is the concept of functional overlap: The ability to do all of your tasks in whichever environment if need be, or just for variety's sake.

Here is the secondary computer workstation in the performance practice space:

Once I realized that the MESA 20/20 tube power amp had an unbalanced pair of slave outputs, I got the idea that I could record from this rig as well. So, I set up this smaller workstation around a 15" PowerBook. The plan is to replace my old M-Box USB with a new M-Box II FireWire, and have the PowerBook use the old USB version. I also moved my printers in here, as you can see, allowing for the recording rig to go on the top shelf of the other Anthro station. Connected with WiFi via my Airport, when I'm at one computer, I'm at the other computer. I find myself spending more time here than I expected, and that will surely increase with time.

I swear, I thought God only gave me this warped imagination of mine, but Ballantyne evidently enjoyed suffered with the same affliction.


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