I haven’t given my Arturia Spark as much love as I thought I would when I first picked it up, which is a bit frustrating since it sounds and ‘plays’ incredibly well. The main reason is that I always saw it as primarily a ‘live’ instrument rather than a sequencer / midi tool, and I just haven’t spent as much time as I’d like playing and recording live sets.
For this reason I’ve had a hard time integrating it into my current workflow, which is very much centered around NI’s Maschine with other synths running mostly as emulations on top of the Maschine software sequencer.
This about to change though since I’ve made a commitment to explore the ‘live’ path further. Currently I’m experimenting with recording the Spark as an audio input (as opposed to recording the MIDI it outputs). And at the same time layering other analog inputs on top of it. This means that after I hit record in the DAW, I have no interaction with the computer (not even looking at the screen) until the ‘set’ is done and I hit stop.
This is a super exciting feeling since it takes me much closer to a ‘performance’ kind of setting where there is no retake or after-the-fact editing of parameters. I’ve also recognized that it makes it much easier to feel truly immersed in the music.
At the moment I’m only learning the ins and outs of the Spark and some other instruments I have hooked up so I’m not really ready to share anything yet (except for the short ‘sample’ below).
I also have a super secret sauce coming in from Las Vegas tomorrow that will surely spice this up a lot, but more on that in another post.
Anyways, I’m really excited about spending more time with the Spark, it’s just such an incredibly creative and intuitive instrument to work with.
When it comes to recording ‘live’ as is playing live and recording the sounds rather than sequencing, one thing I’ve found invaluable is having a physical mixer with knobs for volume and pan. It just makes it much easier to finely tune the relative level of the different sources I’m recording rather than having to manipulate the software mixer for my interface.
Currently I have the Meeblip, Animoog (ipad) and iMaschine (iphone) hooked up :). The mixer I’m using is a tiny Behringer (Xenyx 502) 5 channel mixer. The output from the mixer goes into my Scarlett interface and from there I record ‘live’ into Ableton.
I highly recommend this little guy if you are looking for a really compact mixer. The only drawbacks are that it doesn’t have a power on/off switch and it can get a little bit on the hot side if you keep it plugged in and going for several hours. Not so much that I think its a problem, but worth knowing. Also, the power adapter that comes with it is a little bit on the bulky side. It’s actually heavier than the mixer it self. But for the price its great value.
Also, one of the reasons we got this mixer was to route sound from iPods/iPhones into the interface so that we can listen to them via the Adam monitors :).
I’ve been searching for a cheap, simple MIDI sequencing tool for some time, and I finally got this off of ebay.
Behold the Yamaha QY10. A MIDI sequencer built and sold by Yamaha back in the early 90’s. This is the original portable music workstation that spawned the term ‘walkstation’. It is essentially a portable tool for composing, with an 8 track midi sequencer and a tiny 1 octave keyboard. However, one of the primary uses of this device today is to drive other MIDI enabled equipment. Think of it as a portable melody exploration tool that you can hook up to a more powerful synth or other instrument once back home. (At least that’s how I plan on using it.)
Looking for a robust, small and simple MIDI sequencer that you can program with a pattern and then have it continuously loop that pattern back to you at a configurable tempo. For reference I am currently trying to grab a Yamaha QY10 off of eBay, but if you have other recommendations I would love to hear them.