Super prolific weekend, live-looping is awesome to get ideas out

One of the things I enjoy about this artform is that it forces you to turn out material really quickly. Sometimes I have a little bit of an idea but while punching in the notes I get another idea. And within about a half minute I have a base of a cool tune. That’s why in this weekend I was able to punch out 3 pretty well-formed song ideas—and have time to edit the videos too!

It all starts with the main iPad. I can lay down a beat, a bassline, or a texture in about 2-5 seconds. Then it’s all about putting some meat on those bones. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I’ll do a couple of takes, but lately that’s been more about technical issues—I’ll accidentally hit the stop button or set the wrong measure for the loop start/end. True, the solos and melody lines are a bit harder to come up with on the spot, but I’m building up this list in my head of the ones I really like. Plus, I have my favorite chord progressions.

As you can see it unfold on the videos, it takes under 10 minutes to get all that music built out … then I’m bored and want to move on to the next song. If I don’t like what’s going on I could cut it short and just move on to the next idea. During one of my live sets a “song” usually lasts from 1 to 6 minutes depending on how it’s shaping up. (This weekend’s batch of videos each was self-contained so I had to rebuild each song with the annoying metronome for the first 2 minutes or so.)

Before I started doing live-looping it would take forever to get out a song. I’d overanalyze parts, spend a lot of time EQing (and usually get it wrong), rewrite segments, try to put in a lot of different chords. Each song might be 30 hours of labor and constantly second-guessing. But with looping, there are really no take-backs. If you make a mistake you just move on. You build on what you know will work and take a few chances. You don’t have time to jump back to the mixer panel most times and you can’t do fancy progressions. In spite of this, I still find it wonderfully enjoyable and I’m always amazed at how other people can make fully-formed songs in this format—that’s definitely something I’m aspiring to.

Thanks for being along for the ride!

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Quick review: Roland DUO-CAPTURE mk2 for iPad

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Yes, it arrived! The new DUO-CAPTURE mk2 from Roland. Now my setup is even smaller and more portable—I’ve finally gotten to not requiring a power supply. The big iPad 4 now runs my synthesizer/sequencer and the iPad Mini runs the realtime effects.

I’ve been searching for months now for an audio interface ever since I got the LiveFX app from elephantcandy. I had been trying out the IK Multimedia iRig to capture inbound audio into the iPad Mini running LiveFX, but that’s really set up for guitars. I needed something with a clean line input, and I was really happy to hear about the mk2 after reading all the NAMM coverage.

At the beginning of March the mk2 started arriving at dealers and I immediately placed my order. Of course, no reviews existed at the time so I bought it pretty much on faith. It turns out to be quite the awesome little box.

The mk2 conencts just fine to the iPads when using a USB-to-Lightning camera connector. On the bottom of the unit there are two switches: a computer/tablet selector and a sample rate selector (44.1KHz, 48KHz). Setting the unit in tablet mode, it was ready to go after plugging it in. The unit itself feels cheap and it weighs almost nothing, but it seems like it could take a bit of abuse. The two volume sliders on the top control input and output volume, and that turns out to be a necessity when using a headset. The front panel has line in/out and it seems to have really low latency and a fairly clean DAC.

I’ve now used it for probably about 3 hours total and so far it has been very stable. I think for musicians on the go this is a pretty good lightweight piece of hardware, and especially for iPad users it feels like it is light on the battery. I’ll be trying it out in a live set tomorrow, so we’ll see how it holds up for real!