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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Looping...

Looping.  Loopy.  That's what it makes me.  I feel like I've been trying to go about this completely the wrong way.  Or at least a very difficult and convoluted roundabout sort of way.  I was talking about this briefly in my last entry from last night.  Lately, I've been trying to push forward with learning this software and am in a tiny bit of a rush because Lacy and I keep talking about wanting to play some of her stuff electric, plugged in and I really want to apply the looping to her songs.  Ultimately, I want to be performing my own stuff as well but have been putting off writing the songs because I want to write them with my limitations/capabilities in mind.  To some extent, the old stuff that I do want to perform will have to be modified (possibly improving it) in order to be played live.

Anyway, I bought all this equipment over the course of the past few years and have been slowly learning pieces of it.  Now, I could have just done what some guitarists do and build a set up of analog hardware and pedals, perfect my sound and then just buy one of these. But then I'd have to lug around a ton of stuff.  But then again, I'm already going to have do that with all the equipment I have amassed (see below).  Were I to have gone the route of a hardware looper, the one I have had my eye on for some time, and which I  will eventually looping my acoustic guitar, is the Line 6 DL4 Delay modeler, though I hear it has some limitations (check out this article if you're interested in a review of that and other pedals check out this).  Who am I kidding?  All these pedals have some limitations, which is the whole reason for going the "in-the-box" route.  I wrote a blog entry on my main web page a while back about Guitar Rig and it touched on amp modeling software a little, making that exact point; that having tons more options is the point of reducing everything, all those pedals and cables, into a laptop and an audio interface.  Tons more options than you would with a comparable amount of gear, that is.

The downside of going with putting everything in the box, I'm finding, is the limitations of modern day computer processors, to say nothing of the drivers and complex computer software that this stuff involves that's supposed to work together but rarely does.  I've read some great information out there about looping with these software packages and everything that goes with them and have come to one conclusion so far.  It's hard to find a perfect setup.  And you are, for all intents and purposes, learning a new instrument: the computer.   In fact, in some ways, it takes just as long to figure out and master your software and hardware setup as it does to get good at playing an instrument.

Anyway, below are some of the options I've considered.  But before I get into that I'd like to touch on exactly what it is I intend to be able to do. I want to be able to plug up my guitar and keyboard through my audio interface to my Macbook Pro and be able to loop the things I play on both instruments while simultaneously processing the guitar through Guitar Rig, sampling the things I play, mixing it all and tweaking the mix on the fly.  It sounds insane to ask all of this of one laptop but I have faith that this one can do if I just find the right combination of software and make the right concessions about what I can and cannot have. Here goes.

The hardware: Macbook Pro, Audio Kontrol audio/MIDI interface, FCB1010 MIDI foot controller, M Audio Axiom 49 key keyboard, Epiphone Gibson Guitar (sunburst)...oh and possibly a bass guitar I haven't even bought yet.  And obviously cables. 

The software(at least what I've considered using and some of what I've tried): Mainstage (with or without their built-in loopback plugin), Ableton Live (barely touched on it), Mobius, Sooper Looper, Guitar Rig (has a looper built in but I haven't figured out how to use it while using Guitar Rig as a plug-in in Mainstage), various software synthesizers including Absynth, FM8, Akoustik Piano and various other Native Instruments plug-ins.  (Bit of a Native Instruments fan).

What I've considered using a platform to contain all of this is mainly Mainstage, a performance based software that comes packaged with Logic, Apple's audio recording and editing suite.  I've had some weird error messages in Mainstage and was unable to figure out how to get their built in looper to work properly.  I spent a great deal of time on it and then read that it was notoriously glitchy and slow.  Plus some weird latency issue was causing my recorded audio to playback almost a full beat behind.  Not good for precision.   So, I then downloaded Mobius and Sooper Looper.  Sooper Looper I've not yet looked at but Mobius seems to be the one that's going to work for me.  Tomorrow, I have to sit down and try to make it work with Mainstage and my FCB1010 pedal.

Ah yes, the FCB1010 pedal.  Oh how I have salivated over this pedal for months, seeing as how it is the only MIDI foot controller out there, seemingly, that has as many options.  The one that is built by  Native Instruments for Guitar Rig, only has one expression pedal.  The FCB has two.  And it also has 10 footswitches and ten different preset banks, effectively giving you 100 programmable buttons.  My feet will never know what to do with themselves.  The trick with the FCB1010 though is that you have to program each of these buttons individually.  And you either have to do it with a complex series of button taps or with a software editor (free on PC, but not on the Mac, so I've been editing my presets using the PC and then switching over to the Mac).  I'm still in the process of programming the pedals and have yet to see it work with Mainstage.  Mainstage still isn't recognizing the footswitches when I tap them but I think I know what I have to do now.  It's all a matter of being at home where I can test these things with the actual pedal.  I can read and watch tutorials all I want here at work but without actually having the pedal in front of me I can't see if these methods actually work.

But I'm getting closer. I can feel it.  I just watched this batch of tutorials and I feel like it's all starting to make sense to me what I'm going to have to do.  The trick was setting myself simple tasks, like learn how to program the footswitches on the FCB1010 to send MIDI program changes, get the pedal to work with Guitar rig as a standalone plug in, set up Mobius in Mainstage, learn how to map controls in Mainstage to FCB1010.  This is all technical stuff but I promise I'll make an effort to make sense of all of this in a later entry.  For now, my brain is fried and I must go.

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