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My Composition Setup

Today I’m going to pull back the curtain, just a bit, on my “personal life”, and show you the setup I use for composing.  I’ll explain how everything’s set up and routed too…

On the left is a maybe ten year old Roland RD-700NX stage piano.  I have a (nearly eight year old now) Korg Kronos in another room, and I’m debating swapping them around.  The Kronos is better featured for this, but the Roland will do for now.  It is tied into that small mixing panel on the right.  The CR output is tied into an old Insignia amp that I’m using for monitoring, and the main output is tied into that Prosonus audiobox, which is tied directly into the computer.

I had to set it up that way because I’m also taking online composition lessons, and there is a very small but noticeable latency when the sound is processed through the computer – about 100ms.  It’s not really troublesome for most purposes, but when I’m playing for my teachers, it can really mess me up.

There are some old (over ten year old now) Sennheiser headphones tied in as well.  I don’t usually use those, but I can if needed.  See the open window?  Gotta be careful so the neighbors don’t complain.

On the top monitor is a Voicemeeter Banana instance.  It has the piano tied in on Hardware input 1, and that cheap USB headset on Hardware input 2.  This way when I use OBS or whatever, I can tie the piano in at the same time as my voice input without having the speakers interfere too much.  This takes away a small amount of flexibility for recording because they’re not on different channels, but for streaming or Zoom (or zoom-like) calls, it kinda has to be that way.  I have to be careful of levels when recording though so I don’t mess things up (I can adjust in a limited way on the mixing panel, so all is not lost).

I don’t really use the Steinburg UR44.  It turns out that only really works for a DAW, and at the moment I don’t use DAWs.  Maybe someday.  Same for the launchpad – it’s mostly for Ableton, and I don’t use Ableton at the moment.  I keep it hooked up, though, because it can be a midi controller, and I can still think of some uses for it.

The Akai MPK mini on the right is useful for note entry, but it’s kind of a tossup whether I’ll keep using that or the Roland, or maybe both as needed.  I want to keep it around though because it’s really portable, if I want to do some tablet composition at some point.  Don’t see how, but it’s a possibility.

Apart from a few cables, I really didn’t spend much for this at all, well, recently, anyway.  This is all stuff I’ve been collecting for years and years, and having a stash of hardware like this comes in handy when one needs to do something useful.  I’m not a hoarder, but I keep around the stuff that matters, and sometimes it pays off.

The under desk storage and keyboard trays are REALLY useful, though.  I’d recommend those.  It helps to keep the clutter away and I can use space that would normally be wasted.  At some point I really need to get rid of the cruft, but it’ll work for now.

Is this a great studio?  No.  I share this office space with my, well, office.  On the other side of the room is my workspace for, well, work (which I won’t share because it might give a clue as to where I work).  I have a Kronos setup in another room, as well as a couple of electric guitars and amps and a much more capable mixing panel.  I’d never claim this setup to be the “be all end all” of setups.  I think I’d need a room twice as large for that purpose (which gives me an idea, but…)  But it works well enough for me, didn’t break the bank (though I did spend years collecting this stuff and most of it was individually expensive), and I’m sure I’ll get some pretty good mileage out of it.

Oh, that streamdeck?  Great toy.  I might find a use for it soon.  But right now it’s tied into IFTTT as a glorified house light controller.

Just to be clear – I’m not rich.  A lot of this stuff I’ve been slowly acquiring over the last ten years or so.  It’s only just now that I’ve managed to make it into something useful.

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