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My new setup (December 2003)

The laptop is an Apple PowerBook G4. It's the center of everything - I do computer based learning & practice, composition, notation, performance, recording, mixing, and CD burning with it. It's not a substitute for a proper recording studio but it's more than good enough for demo-quality recordings. It's connected to a 21" display that can be used simultaneously with the laptop's built-in display (they don't have to show the same image), so it's great for working with multitrack layouts or sheet music.

The small keyboard next to the laptop is a Midiman Oxygen8, which is a 25-key USB keyboard with a MIDI interface on the back. Its main purpose (for me) is to be a data entry keyboard for music composition and for practice with Practica Musica. It has some interesting knobs and sliders for expression (bends, tone changes, etc.) during play, but I'm not really interested in that, at least for now. What I like about it is that it's a weighted keyboard (meaning, it feels like a real piano) that fits directly in front of my screen, like a computer keyboard, without taking over the whole desk. I had tried to use my old Thinkpad with Practica Musica on the dining room table but it was just a pain in the butt - the keyboard was too big to fit on the table, and since I was using a laptop, I had to reach across the (musical) keyboard to get to the laptop, and the screen was about 3' away from my eyes (which is too far in my opinion). I also had to take over the dining room table in order to set this up each time I wanted to play. As a result I basically gave up on Practica Musica. So now with the new setup I hope to get back to that.

Just behind the laptop you can see about half of an Audio Buddy microphone preamp. This is a gizmo that boosts the signal from a musical instrument, and which provides power and amplification to microphones. The microphone plugged into it is a Shure SM57, which is a decent general-purpose mic for vocals or instrument recording. The AudioBuddy would be the place where a non-MIDI instrument (like an electric bass or guitar) would be plugged in, possibly after going through an external effects unit like my DigiTech RP7.

The larger keyboard to the right is a Roland A-33 MIDI keyboard controller. It's not a synth, just a keyboard. You might wonder why I need two keyboards, given that neither is a synthesizer nor sampler. Well, one (the A-33) is almost full size, with 76 keys (a piano has 88), making it suitable for practicing and performing two-handed piano pieces (such as the ones that I am assigned for piano class at school). The little one is useful because it's right in front of the screen so I can do composition or computer based learning more easily. I don't have a damper pedal for the A-33 yet but I'm planning to get one soon. In case you're wondering, yes I do play them both simultaneously from time to time, and yes I do feel like Rick Wakeman (13K JPEG image) when I do.

The two keyboards are connected to a FastLane USB MIDI interface that plugs into the laptop. The Oxygen8 is plugged into the MIDI interface because at the moment, M-Audio has not updated their Oxygen8 USB driver for for Mac OS X 10.3 ("Panther"). It doesn't really make any difference as far as I can tell, except that if I needed to go portable with the Oxygen8 and the laptop, I'd need to drag along a MIDI cable and the FastLane USB adapter too.