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The Ultimate Guide to Staying Healthy for the Touring Musician

Having spent many years on the road as a touring musician, I understand firsthand the health issues facing travel warriors with respect to maintaining proper nutrition and exercise. Several years ago, I received a wake up call in the form of a checkup at the doctor’s office in which I was informed that I was overweight with high cholesterol and heading toward a possible diabetes diagnosis.

Determined not to need medication, I immediately purchased a gym membership, started working with a personal trainer, and began tracking my calories using the iOS version of MyFitnessPal. I also began reading as much as I could about nutrition.

Fast forward several years and I’m now 30 pounds lighter, my cholesterol and lipid levels are within a normal range, and I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for three years, having just earned my blue belt. Just as important, I’ve found systems that help me to stay healthy while traveling. We all know how difficult it can be to stay faithful to a nutrition and exercise regimen while on tour. Aside from being a certified Pilates instructor (as a result of an educational benefit I received while playing keyboards for Cirque du Soleil), I’m not a fitness professional. Therefore, any advice I offer here is based on my own research and experience. I urge anyone considering a new nutrition or exercise regimen to check in with their doctor first.

Nutrition Tips for Road Warriors

One of the most difficult parts of staying healthy on the road is keeping your nutrition in check, especially when traveling in small towns with limited restaurant selection. The most effective way to keep nutrition on point is to stay in an apartment with a kitchen, but that’s not always possible. When traveling, even for just a few days, I always request a refrigerator in my hotel room, even if it requires an extra fee. I then shop at the nearest reasonably decent supermarket for fresh fruit, vegetables for snacking, nuts, raisins, bottled water, and any other healthy options I find that would be helpful.

The key here isn’t to address every possible food craving, but rather to keep a supply of healthy options around for snacking. When on the road, and especially at the theatre, we’re often bombarded with a myriad of unhealthy food options. As an emotional eater, I’ve made extra trips to the company manager’s office just to grab another mini candy bar. It’s much better to rely on a stash of baby carrots or a banana than to fill up on M&M’s and Snickers bars. However, it’s important to remember to divide your food into proper portions, especially with regard to the nuts. I always bring some ziplock plastic bags to set aside exactly 24 almonds, 16 cashews, or 1/4 cup of raisins. Otherwise, the calories and fat levels can add up quickly and you’ll wind up sabotaging your diet.

A fantastic nutrition book I read was Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Revised Edition. The premise of the book is that we should focus on eating foods that are rich in nutritional content. Rather than counting calories, by simply eating whole foods as part of a plant based diet, we’ll get the nutrients we need, will be satisfied, and won’t have to worry about counting calories or reading labels because our bodies will tell us when we’re truly full. While Dr Fuhrman is a strong advocate of a plant based diet (read “vegan”), I believe the lessons of his writing apply to everyone. Though I’m intrigued by the possibility of adopting a plant based diet, I still eat animal protein in moderate quantities. However, Eat to Live has encouraged me to include a much larger percentage of fruit and vegetables in my diet. This book promotes a lifestyle change rather than relying on formulas.

When eating out, try to gravitate toward salads with limited dressing and toppings, keep animal protein to a reasonable level, and limit intake of processed carbohydrates. A good rule of thumb that helps me stay on track is to try to eat at least one large salad during the day. This is a great source of plant based nutrients in one sitting, yet also has the side benefit of keeping you in a healthy mindset throughout the day. More on this mindset concept later.

Finding a Fitness Regimen on the Road

This is actually much easier than it seems. I’ll propose some options here, but in reality, the road actually presents many excellent opportunities for getting adequate exercise.

Bodyweight Exercises

When on the road, I often begin the day with a bodyweight workout in my hotel room. This will be as short or as long as I have time and energy for. I’ll also include some solo drills for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well so that I can stay on top of my game a bit. A simply bodyweight workout might include the following exercises performed as a complex:

Burpees / Squats / Lunges / Pushups / Plank

You could do 5-10 reps of each exercise and plank for 30-60 seconds (or as long as is appropriate for your ability). Rest for 30-60 seconds between each complex and repeat as many times as desired. For a great guide to bodyweight exercises, I highly recommend Paul Wade’s book Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength.

Hotel Gym

As the quality of hotel gyms can vary greatly, flexibility is key. Hotel gyms almost always have cardio machines, which are great, but it’s important to have options for strength training. I usually do a combination of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. Try to include the following in your workout to cover the major body movements:

1. Starter / warmup

Turkish Get Up (with dumbbells): This is one of my all-time favorite exercises. It’s a full body exercise that is especially great for shoulder health and mobility. It’s usually done with a kettlebell, though it can be done with a dumbbell if that’s what’s available. Do 5 reps per side, alternating between each side. I prefer to start with my non-dominant side. You can find many great tutorials on YouTube. I recommend finding a video that’s been made by a StrongFirst or RKC certified instructor.

2. Push

Pushups: You can do many variations of this one depending upon hand placement, incline of the feet, etc. Try going for sets of 5-10. Once you can do sets of 15-20, aim to increase the difficulty by introducing a variation.

3. Pull

Pull-ups, Lat Pulldowns, or Bent Over Row: You can mix this up. If you can’t yet do a single pull-up, you can stick with lat pulldowns or use a resistance band to assist you until you can perform pull-ups unassisted.

4. Hip hinge

Dumbbell Deadlift or Bridge: This is one of the most basic and essential body movements. We use this movement for picking up heavy objects. It also is very helpful for any sport movement that relies on the hips such as a golf swing or certain punches such as the cross. The deadlift in particular is excellent for working the core and the entire posterior chain. This, along with the squat, is an extremely important movement to counter the affects of sitting in a chair for long periods of time.

5. Squat

Dumbbell squats or Bodyweight squats: This is another hip hinge variation, but it works the muscles in a different way and from another angle. The emphasis here is more on the hamstrings and quadriceps.

Portable Exercise Options

I usually travel with my TRX GO Suspension Trainer Kit as it’s small, lightweight, and can easily be set up in any hotel room for a full body workout. One can get the same benefits from traveling with a yoga mat, Pilates resistance bands, or any other of a number of options. You can read my full review of the TRX suspension trainer kit here.

Lifestyle Activities

This simply involves finding an everyday activity that involves movement and incorporating it into your daily routine. This includes taking long walks, biking, yoga, running, swimming, etc.

Sports

This is where it gets really fun. There are all sorts of sports that can be done while on the road. When I used to tour regularly, I would travel with my golf clubs and played regularly. I have a colleague who finds a tennis pro to train with wherever he travels. These days, I always travel with my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi (kimono) and I visit dojos to train wherever I am. I’ve trained Jiu Jitsu in Hamburg, London, Osaka, and Tokyo, just to name a few. Playing sports on the road is a great way to get out and see your surroundings, get exercise, and make new friends.

Hydration

Often, we spend lots of time in dry places with tons of germs. Specifically, airplanes and theaters. This makes it even more important to hydrate. Conventional wisdom tells us to drink 8-10 8oz glasses of water per day. I find that when I’m exercising vigorously, I need as many as 12-15 glasses per day. This aids in keeping us hydrated as well as helping to flush out the toxins and germs that build up.

Rest and Recovery

Just as important as fitness and nutrition are rest and recovery.  Our bodies need proper sleep for rest and recovery. This aids with muscle growth, weight loss, and mental abilities. It’s not uncommon for UFC fighters and professional boxer to sleep for as long as 10-12 hours per night in order aid with physical and mental recovery.

Timing

I find that it’s absolutely essential to being each day with something fitness related. This could mean a brief bodyweight workout in the hotel room, a long walk, or even just stretching. This has a twofold purpose. First, it’s healthy! Second, I find that by beginning my day with a fitness related activity, it sets the tone for my relationship to my personal well being for the rest of the day. When I begin each day with something fitness related, I’m much more likely to hydrate adequately, eat with proper nutrition in mind, and get to sleep at a reasonable hour. 

Summary

Staying healthy while on the road certainly presents some unique challenges, but it’s definitely feasible, and can even be done in a way that’s interesting and invigorating. It’s not everyday that you can take a hike in Runyon Canyon, train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with members of the Gracie family, play tennis with a pro, or golf at one of the world’s greatest courses. Being on the road allows you to do all these things. Just remember to be flexible, don’t be afraid to switch up your routine, and most of all, be creative.

Links:

Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Revised Edition

Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength

TRX GO Suspension Trainer Kit

 

 

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How to Build a Redundant Rig for Using MainStage or Ableton Live

I’m often asked how to build a rig with a redundant computer and interface for using MainStage live. While there are a number of ways that this could be done, I’m going to detail how I’ve done this many times in the past successfully and reliably. Building your rig carefully and with attention to detail can often make the difference between being able to troubleshoot effectively onsite or having your rig crash and burn. If you can clearly see the signal path and can tell where every cable should go thanks to detailed labeling, it’s much easier to troubleshoot.

 

MainStage rig with cables properly dressed and all components clearly labeled
Which of the above two rigs would you rather troubleshoot?
To get started, you’ll need the following items:
2 x Apple Mac Mini (preferably with SSD drive and 16GB RAM)
2 x MOTU 828x (or your audio interface of choice)
1 x MIDI Solutions 2-Output Active MIDI Thru Box
1 x Furman PL-PLUS C 15 Amp Power Conditioner (or your rack mount power conditioner of choice)
1 x KVM Switch (DVI or VGA)
1 x Radial SW8 audio switcher
1 x Sonnet Technologies RackMac Mini
1 x VESA compatible video monitor (DVI or VGA)
2 x TRS snake (preferably 8 channel, TRS to TRS)
2 x MIDI cable (3’ in length)
1 x MIDI cable (20’ in length)
2 x Apple HDMI to DVI Adapter
1 x 8U Rack with Wheels
1 x Container of rack screws
1 x Roll of Red electrical tape
1 x Roll of Scotch Glossy Tape
1 x Brother P-Touch PT-D210 Label Maker (or similar model)
Summary of connections
Power cables from the following devices:
    Both computers, both interfaces, power conditioner (to sound department power), video monitor, Radial SW8
USB cables:
    Main computer to Main MOTU, Backup computer to Backup MOTU
    KVM switch to both computers
    Computer keyboard and mouse to KVM switch (if using Mac Minis)
Audio cables:
    TRS snake from Main MOTU to Inputs A on Radial
    TRS snake from Backup MOTU to Inputs B on Radial
MIDI cables:
    Long MIDI cable from keyboard controller Out to MIDI Solutions In
    Short MIDI cables from MIDI Solutions Outs to MOTU In on each interface
Video (DVI or VGA):
    DVI (or VGA) cable from video monitor to KVM switch
Step Three: Connect computers to interfaces and verify that all pieces are communicating and working properly
It’s important to ensure that everything is working properly prior to installing in the rack. Otherwise, it will be a huge pain in the rear to take apart the rack to replace a faulty component.
Step Four: Install computers in Sonnet Rackmac Mini
This is a little tricky the first time around, but if you read the instructions you’ll see it’s fairly straightforward. Be careful not to tighten the screws too much as they can be easy to strip on the Rackmac Mini.
Step Five: Label everything
I strongly advise labeling everything you can possibly think of. Label as if you’ve been tasked with using up all of the P-Touch tape that exists in the known universe. You, your keyboardists, and your sound team will greatly appreciate this should you ever need to troubleshoot down the road. This step can make the difference between a simple diagnosis and a stopped show.
Here are some of the things that should be labeled:
Audio Interfaces: Label Main and Backup (or A and B) on both front and rear, power, USB (or Thunderbolt) connections
Power cables (both ends)
MIDI cables (both ends)
TRS cables (both ends, and label where each end connects)
Power conditioner (power switch, power cable)
KVM switch (all cables, remote button, USB jacks for keyboard and mouse)
Radial SW8 (audio switch, power cable and wall wart)
IMPORTANT: After placing each label, apply a layer of glossy Scotch tape over the label to prevent it from falling off.
MIDI Solutions Thru (ins and outs)
Step Six: Install components into rack
Set the rack on the floor or on a low surface with the back facing down and the front of the rack facing up toward you.
Place the components in the rack resting on the rack rails in the order that suits your needs. I prefer the following order (top to bottom):
Power conditioner
Space
Rackmac Mini
Space
MOTU B
MOTU A
Space
Radial SW8
This allows for easy access to the components, easy wiring and cable management in the back, and allows space to run cabling from the Radial SW8 through the back of the rig. It’s also important to keep the Rackmac Mini at least a couple of rack units away from the top of the rack or it will be difficult to access the back of the computers. This also allows allows enough room on the rear rack rails should the sound department wish to mount a G-Block on a Steck Mount.
Note that the Main MOTU goes beneath the Backup MOTU. This is intentional as that’s consistent with how the audio will be wired in the rear of the Radial SW8.
Once you’re satisfied with where all of the components will go, secure them into the rack using the rack screws.
Step Seven: Mount the MIDI Solutions Thru on the floor of the inside of the rack
Use the industrial strength Velcro for this, and ensure that there’s enough room for the MIDI cables to connect to it.
Step Seven: Connect the audio and power cables
This is where things get creative. You’ll want to connect and mount the cables one group at a time (computers power cables, interface power cables, audio, MIDI, etc). Make sure you can clearly see the path of the power and audio cables and can access everything easily. You may need to repeat parts of this process in order to fine tune it.
Use the zip ties to connect cables to rack rails or the back of the RackMac Mini and use pieces of the roll of Velcro to hold together groups of audio and MIDI cables.
Dressing the cables will serve two purposes: 1) keeping the back of the rack neat and easily accessible, and 2) helping to prevent cables from becoming disconnected while in transit.
Step Eight: Install the KVM Switch (optional)
This step is only necessary if you’re using two Mac Mini computers. If you’re using two iMacs or two MacBook Pros, you won’t need a KVM switch unless you want to utilize one computer keyboard and mouse to control both computers. However, I recommend keeping things simple and using a separate keyboard and mouse for each computer if you’re using iMacs or MacBook Pros.
Mount the KVM switch on the top of the Rackmac Mini using the industrial strength Velcro. Make sure that the USB ports are facing the front of the rack and are easily accessible. Coil the cable to the remote switch and mount the switch next to the actual KVM so that it’s easily accessible, but secure the cable coil behind the KVM by fastening it to the top of the Rackmac Mini with black electrical tape.
Connect the KVM cables to the Mac Mini computers. You’ll need to use the Apple DVI to HDMI (or VGA to HDMI) adaptors to connect the KVM video connections to the Mac Minis.
Carefully bunch and secure the cables to the rear of the Rackmac Mini using the zip ties.
Step Nine: Connect the MIDI cables
Use the 15’ (or 20’) MIDI cable to connect the MIDI out of the controller keyboard to the MIDI In of the MIDI Solutions Thru box. Connect one of the 3’ MIDI cables from MIDI out A of the MIDI Solutions Thru to the MIDI In of the Main MOTU. Use the other 3’ MIDI cable to connect MIDI out B of the MIDI Solutions Thru to the MIDI In of the Backup MOTU.
Bunch the MIDI cables using a strip of Velcro from the Velcro roll.
Step Ten: Connect the video monitor
Use the included DVI (or VGA) cable to connect the monitor to the KVM switch. Also connect the ICE power cable from the video monitor to the power conditioner in the rack.
Step Eleven: Connect the computer keyboard and mouse
These should be connected to the respective jacks on the KVM switch
Step Twelve: Turn on everything and test
Your rig should function properly at this point unless you’ve connected something incorrectly. If you took the time to test the components prior to assembling the rack, you’ll be able to narrow down the culprit to having made and incorrect connection when assembling the rack. All you’ll need to do is trace your beautifully labeled and dressed cabling until you find the item that’s not corrected correctly.
It’s during this step that you can determine the proper boot up and power down sequence. You should experiment with several different orders and power your rig on and off several times to ensure that it’s working correctly and consistently. Also be sure to test the audio each time, and test both the main and the backup components of the rig as well.
Summary
When using MainStage live, it’s absolutely critical to be mindful of these seemingly small details. Be sure to take the time to really enjoy the process. If you rush, you’ll be more likely to overlook things and to make mistakes. Treat this as an art project and perform the steps beautifully and with attention to detail. It’s actually a very calming and peaceful process, and will serve you well in the future if you take the time to do it properly in the beginning.
I also advise creating a QuickStart guide for your players. It should be one page in length and should address startup and power down procedure in clear, simple bulletpoints.
Enjoy the process, and if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help. Feel free to reach out anytime at:
+1.917.338.7427
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MainStage Tutorial: How to assign pitch bend to EXS24 instruments

In this MainStage tutorial, we’ll look at how to assign a pitch bend wheel to EXS24 instruments.

After you’ve set up your controller assignments in your MainStage layout, return to EDIT mode and click on your pitch been wheel icon. It should appear as below with a blue outline.

MainStage Tutorial for EXS24
Select the pitch bend wheel in EDIT MODE

Next, in the screen control inspector select the tab labeled “unmapped”, then select the name of the channel strip you wish to affect. In this case, we’ll be looking to use the pitch bend wheel on the channel strip labeled “Boys Ch”.

MainStage Tutorial for EXS24
Select the channel strip you wish to affect

In the next column, highlight the line labeled “EXS24 (Sampler)” as this patch is an EXS24 instrument:

MainStage Tutorial for EXS24
Select EXS24 (Sampler)

Navigate down until you see the folder labeled “Pitch” and highlight that:

MainStage Tutorial for EXS24
Select the folder labeled “Pitch”

In the next column to the right, select “Fine Tune”:

MainStage Tutorial for EXS24
Select “Fine Tune” and adjust the pitch bend range

On the left side of the Screen Control Inspector, you can adjust the range of the pitch bend in the boxes labeled “Range Max” and “Range Min”. I suggest starting with +10 cents and -10 cents respectively, though you can adjust to suit your needs and your taste.

After moving the pitch been wheel while holding a note in the EXS24 instrument to test and verify that it’s working, save the concert.

It’s that easy! For another MainStage tutorial on how to adjust tunings of individual EXS24 samples, click here.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. I’m always happy to help!

jeff@mardermusic.com
+1.917.338.7427

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Review: Rowin Mini Guitar Pedals

I recently had the opportunity to check out some really cool Rowin mini guitar pedals from China. Rowin has been manufacturing mini guitar pedals for years. They had a pedal for just about every effect and need, including many varieties of distortion, delay, chorus, and even various looper pedals.

The pedals are rugged, well made, sound great, and simply look super cool. Also, they’re of a size and weight that make them extremely portable, and they’re inexpensive enough to feel confident bringing them on any gig without having to worry about damage or theft to a super expensive pedal.

As you can see, these pedals sound awesome and are an amazing bargain!

In the videos below, three of the most popular Rowin pedals are reviewed by Jake Schwartz, guitarist for the Van Davis Band and The Book of Mormon on Broadway.

These pedals are all available on Amazon:
Rowin Analog Dumbler Guitar Effect Pedal

Rowin Analog Chorus Guitar Effect Pedal

Rowin LEF-614 Delay Pedal



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MainStage Tutorial: How to Edit Tunings of EXS24 Samples in MainStage

I this MainStage tutorial, we’ll look at how to edit pitches in the EXS24 sampler.

It’s not uncommon to discover that one particular sample in an EXS24 instrument is out of tune slightly, particularly if resampled from an external sound library or instrument via Auto Sampler. Or, it may be necessary to adjust the pitch of a sound effect to achieve the desired result. In this post, we’ll explore how to do this.

 

  1. The first step is to open the EXS24 instrument you’d like to edit by clicking on the plugin within the channel strip in MainStage. This will open a window that looks like Image A below, which is the stock harp patch in MainStage.

Image A: Opening MainStage instrument

  1. Next, click on the edit button just to the right side of the instrument name (immediately above the level fader) to open the edit window.

Image B: Opening the edit window

  1. Now highlight the sample you wish to edit. You can do this by striking the key on your MIDI keyboard that corresponds to the note you need to edit or by simply highlighting it with the computer mouse. In this case, we’ll edit the pitch of note D4. Once you’ve highlighted D4, you’ll see something that looks like Image C.

Image C: Highlighting the note/sample you wish to edit

  1. Since in this case, we’ll be editing the fine tuning of the pitch, we’ll double click the number in the column corresponding to the fine tuning of the highlighted sample. However, you could highlight any of the elements you wish to edit.

Image D: Selecting the fine tuning

  1. Now simple type the number that corresponds to the degree to which you need to adjust the tuning. In this case, I’ve already checked the pitch against the built in tuning from MainStage, so I know that the pitch needs to be adjusted up by 10 cents. Therefore, I’ll type the number 10 into the highlighted area. If we needed to adjust the note down by 10 cents, we’d simply type “-10” instead of “10”. In the upper left corner of the edit screen, you’ll see a red dot. Click on this red dot to open the prompt to save.
  1. When prompted as to whether you’d like to save your changes, select save.

Image E: Saving the changes

  1. Close the instrument by clicking on the grey dot in the upper left hand corner of the EXS24 instrument.

Image F: Closing the instrument

  1. Save the concert and reopen it. Your changes should now take effect for any instances of the edited instrument.

You could use this process to edit any of the parameters in the EXS24 instrument. This is particularly helpful if you’re unsatisfied with the tuning of a particular note, need to edit the range of a note, or if you need to adjust the volume of specific samples.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427

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Review: Loctek Ergonomic Stands and Mounts

As creative professionals, we’re often sitting at our workstations for many hours on end, sometimes to the detriment of our health. Our posture suffers, we get tight quads and hamstrings, IT band issues, and fatigue. I often solve this by keeping a kettlebell sitting out in the middle of the room and taking a break every 45 minutes or so to perform a kettlebell complex. This way, I’ve done a complete workout by the end of the day, I have opportunites to move my body, and I can stay energized and productive much longer. However, I often wish I could do my work standing up. Now, there’s a solution with Loctek Ergonomic’s Sit-Stand Adjustable Workstations.

Loctek makes workstations that are easily assembled and sit on top of an existing desk. When fully collapsed, their workstations allow the user to work in a sitting position. However, the workstations can be extended to allow the user to work from a standing position as well. The workstations are solidly built and come with a tray for a computer keyboard and mouse. Many models have more than adequate room to also hold a laptop computer or other office items. As an added bonus, they’re priced quite reasonably too!

If you’re like me and choose to use more than one video monitor, Loctek has many great solutions. They manufacture a full line of articulated monitor arms, all VESA compatible. One of my favorites is the Loctek 2-In-1 Full Motion Gas Spring Dual Monitor Arm Desk Mounts for Laptop & Monitor (D5DL) which allows you to mount both a video monitor and a laptop computer on two separate articulated arms. This can easily attach to the FlexiSpot Standing Desk – 35″ wide platform Height Adjustable Stand up Desk Riser with Removable Keyboard Tray (M2B-M-SIZE) sit-stand adjustable desk.

I believe that the Loctek line of products will be extremely useful for anyone who spends long hours at their computer, especially those in the creative professions. I can see these being very helpful for composers, orchestrators, music producers, video editors, and graphic designers, just to name a few.

There are enough options to allow for access to all of the usual equipment, and I believe that the Loctek product line will grow to be an essential part of the workflow for any health concious creative professional.

 

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Buying a Used or Refurbished Apple Computer for MainStage

I often see posts in Facebook forums concerning which Apple computers could work well for Apple’s MainStage software for live music performance. More specifically, which Apple computers could function well if purchased used or refurbished.

This is a tricky proposition as there are a number of things to consider. First, you’ll need to consider whether you plan to run 3rd party plugins. Generally, I’d advise against it when using an older computer unless you can find something already loaded with 16GB of RAM. As the recent models don’t allow for RAM upgrades, you’re stuck with what you get unless you purchae something several years old. But then you run the risk of getting a processor that’s too slow, or running into hardware issues if it’s a used unit and not factory refurbished.

If you plan to run MainStage without any 3rd party plugins, you should be fine with a Quad-Core machine and 8GB RAM. Just don’t get too hopeful about running all of your favorite Native Instruments libraries. You’ll want to stick to EXS24 and other formats native to MainStage and you’ll need to optimize your programming to put as little strain on your processor as possible. You’ll do this by using aliases as much as possible, limiting the use of processor intentive plugins like convolution reverbs, and using aux busses for your effects. You might even be able to get away with running Synthogy Ivory Grands too depending upon your programming.

A great option for MainStage is Apple MacBook Pro MD104LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop (Intel Core i7 2.6GHz, 8GB Memory, 750GB HDD, Mac OS X v10.8 Mountain Lion, 2012 Model), Silver. Something with a Quad-Core processor, 8GB RAM (which is an absolute bare minimum), and an SSD drive would work great. If you’re looking for something for your personal home rig, you’ll want to look for similar specs in an iMac. Although it’s best to find something with an SSD drive, you’ll be find with a mechanical drive for home use. And if you find a great deal on a MacBook Pro model without an SSD drive, you could always purchase a DIY kit to remove the optical drive and replace it with an SSD. I’ve done it myself and it’s fairly straightforward.

While purchasing a used Apple computer for MainStage isn’t necessarily ideal, it can be a fantastic way to complete your live rig without having to lug around a $3,000 machine. And if you already own a $3,000 machine, a used computer can be an excellent way to keep a backup on hand just in case you need it.

If you have any additional questions, you can contact me anytime at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427

 

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Can I Use A Windows Computer For Music Production?

I’m often asked whether it’s absolutely necessary to use an Apple computer for music production. This question is certainly understandable given how much Apple products tend to be associated with creative professions and the tendency for content creators to gravitate toward the Apple ecosystem. However, I would argue that the answer to this question is a resounding “no” – it’s not necessary at all to use an Apple computer for music production and there are many great software options that exist for Windows based systems.

Why do so many music professionals use Apple computers? Originally most of the software created for music production was only available on the Apple OS, so many people simply started with Apple and never considered alternatives. Then when their friends, students, and colleagues were ready to purchase computers, they simply bought what they were familiar with. This makes perfect sense as I always advise people to use the same software and hardware as their friends and colleagues so that they have a network of peers who can help them with tech issues. A strong community built around a piece of software can be extremely beneficial to all of its members.

But what if you primarily use software that’s also available on the Windows OS? Is there any reason to use Apple products? I say not necessarily. Though there tend to be subtle differences between the Apple and Windows versions of the same software, the functionality is essentially the same between the two. Therefore, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just one brand of computer. Also, Windows based computers are often much more customizable, are available with much more variety, and can often be upgraded post purchase. And if your needs are very easy on CPU, it’s easy to find many inexpensive Windows based options.

It should be mentioned that an Apple computer and a Windows computer with the exact same specifications tend to cost exactly the same amount of money, so when comparing “apples to apples”, there’s no savings in purchasing a fully spec’ed Windows machine, so cost is only a factor if you don’t need an extremely powerful machine.

Several advantages to purchasing a budget Windows computer for music would be if you need something for music notation. Unless you’re using large sound libraries for playback, software such as Finale and Sibelius don’t require much processing power, so for this purpose a Windows machine is perfectly suitable. A budget Windows machine can also be excellent for travel so that you don’t need to be too concerned about loss, theft, or damage to your brand new top of the line MacBook Pro.

There are also many excellent digital audio recording software options available for Windows, such as Pro Tools, Cubase, Nuendo, Ableton, and much more. And for live performance, a fantastic alternative to Apple’s MainStage software is Brainspawn’s Forte. In fact, for someone with very basic audio production or editing needs, a Windows computer can be a great money saving option. Many musicians don’t necessarily need a DAW for producing albums, but rather just to make occassional edits to audio they’ll be using in other situations. I would argue that for these types of users, there’s absolutely no reason to spend a lot of money on a top of the line Apple computer when a perfectly suitable Windows computer can be purchased for a fraction of the price. That said, should the user’s needs become more complex, the cost benefits become less apparent.

So it’s not quite so clear cut. That said, I would still argue that for the right user with a certain set of needs, a budget Windows computer can be an excellent option for music production.

Feel free to contact me anytime with questions at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427

 

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KVM Switches for Live Theatre

I’m often asked about the best way to create a redundant computer rig for live theatre. Specifically, for use with MainStage and Ableton Live. A redundant rig with a functioning main and backup scenario would always include two computers, two audio interfaces, a MIDI splitter box such as the MIDI Solutions Thru, an audio switch such as a Radial SW8 and a KVM Switch. While the audio switch allows audio to be sent simultaneously from both the main and the backup interfaces so that with the push of a button the operator can choose the source of the audio that will be sent to FOH, a KVM switch allows the operator to control either the main or the backup computer from the same keyboard and mouse and to choose which computer to view on the video monitor.

It’s often tempting to purchase the fanciest KVM switch available and to utilize HDMI connectors for their superior video quality. However, I’ve found that this is one of those situations where often the simplest solution works the best. After trying many different KVM switches over the years, I often choose a simple IOGEAR 2-Port USB DVI Cable KVM Switch with Cables and Remote, GCS922U for its reliability, ease of use, and excellent price point. Often when using HDMI switches, there’s a considerable lag time when switching from one computer to another. With a VGA or DVI switch, the latency is minimal. The IOGEAR switches are generally “plug and play” with zero setup time, they’re bus powered, and are easy to fit into a rack full of gear.

For live performance, I advise against programming a hot key for switching computers just in case there are any issues with the USB port or bus, or if one of the computers should crash mid-performance. Always use the switch button on the KVM switch for safety purposes.

I highly advise checking out the IOGEAR 2-Port USB DVI Cable KVM Switch with Cables and Remote, GCS922U I’m always happy to discuss options with anyone who is looking for something with more features.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me anytime at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427

 

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Review: The Pelican Case

So it’s time to share my love affair with one of my favorite products: the Pelican case. As you already probably know, Pelican makes ultra sturdy watertight equipment cases that have become the standard in audio, video, and military use. They’re virtually indestructable, come in all different shapes and sizes, offer excellent protection for your equipment, and are completely customizable.

As an example, let’s look at the Pelican 1730 Large Transport Case
This case can hold a basic assortment of audio or video gear (or whatever else you need), the foam is totally customizable, and it’s easy to check on an airplane. I have several cases very similar to this one and they’ve flown all over the world with me. I’ve taken Mac Mini computers in it to Italy, MacBook Pro laptops and RME interfaces to Japan, and hard drives to Sydney. I’ve checked it under the plane ever time and even shipped it once and have never had any issues.

The only issue I’ve ever had with the Pelican case is that some airlines treat is as an oversized or odd shaped bag when unloading luggage. More than once I’ve found myself waiting at the luggage carousel for over a half hour only to discover that my trusty Pelican case was unloaded with all of the sporting goods equipment and waiting for me in a separate area.

Pelican makes cases of all shapes and sizes and for all different purposes. They’re highly portable, indestructible, watertight, functional, and very reasonably priced. Another Pelican case that I’ve had in my collection is the Pelican 1510 Case With Foam (Black)

My Pelican 1510 has traveled with me all around the world, and has reliable protected computers, audio interfaces, and other delicate equipment even after being handled by baggage handlers on the tarmac.

I highly recommend added a Pelican (or several) to your collection if you haven’t already done so.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me anytime at:

jeff@mardermusic.com

+1.917.338.7427