November 25, 2008

More DAW Real Estate!

Today I'm here to tell you that using two computer monitors is better than one. In fact, dual monitor setups are so very much better that I am going to spend an entire blog post telling you how.

I think the first order to business, however, is to admit that I have a bit of a monitor fettish...

My monitor craze is justified though! I'm not just an lcd nut, for example - if you use reason with rewire, you can keep you DAW open on the left screen, while the reason rack stays easily accessible on the right screen.

Since reason doesn't take up the whole screen, it even leaves some room for plug-in windows as well.

It also comes in handy when you want to open a browser window during a long tracking session, but need to keep an eye on the tracks. Same idea, DAW left, Firefox right.
"But jim," you say, "LCD computer monitors are expensive!"
All I have to say to that is,

What other piece of gear would be a better investment than $165 for a 22 inch widescreen monitor? You really can't get much for your studio for so little money.

Anyway, that's my rant for today! Next time I may try to tackle the compression issue again. This time more elegantly.

November 16, 2008

Being a synth guy and the wall of gear

While I was rehearsing with my band yesterday it occurred to me that guitar players tend to carry one guitar around and use pedals to change their sound.

And also, 'synth guys' always have a wall of gear - several midi controllers, a laptop, sustain pedals, possibly more... not to mention amps, and a mic/mic-stand if you're singing.

Here's the problem:
The wall of gear isn't exactly conducive to an awesome stage show.
Well, I'm one of those 'synth guys' these days (recently converted from guitarist), and I sorely regret the loss of mobility. And then I got to thinking: There must be some way to change patches using a foot pedal, just like the guitar.

That's when I came across this:
Roland FC-300
Aye, the Roland FC-300. It sounds like a the name of a spaceship from startrek, or some infomercial ripoff, but from what I gather it's a decent piece of gear. But for $350, is it really worth it? I'm not so sure. So I continued my quest... leading me to the much friendlier Rolls MP128.

I'm still not exactly sure how to get these things to do what I want, but I'll probably write up another post when I actually get one.

Here's how I would guess you do it:
  1. Hook up your keyboard to the midi in of the sound module/laptop, as you would expect.

  2. Then Hook up the pedal board to either
    A) The Midi In on your keyboard
    B) Another Midi In on your sound module/laptop (if it has one)

  3. Then you can change patches using the pedal board and have them go into action for input via the keyboard in real time
Step 3 is my personal goal here. Maybe I'm totally wrong about all this, though. If I am, somebody stop me before I drop $130 on the Rolls MP128!

November 3, 2008

5 Ways to get Top Dollar for Guitar Center Gear Trade-ins

For the past several years I've been using a Mackie 32 channel/8 bus analog mixer (the 32.8 one) in my studio. It's been great, I have many fond memories of projects created on that mixer from start to finish, but times change.

Unfortunately, as I accumulate more and more gear, space is at a premium and the mixer is one of the biggest things in the room. From time to time, I'd eye the mixer suspiciously, but then think better of it and reprimand myself for ever having such blasphemous thoughts; just like any good christian boy would.

yoga position

The time has come my friends. I do all my mixing the the box these days. I do say I want a revolution, and I don't give a damn who wants to change the world!

So I tried selling the mixer on craigslist. But as I suspected, very few people have that kind of money lying around in case they come across a beautifully gigantic analog mixing console on craigslist.

That's when it hit me: at some point in every musician's life, we realize that we need to get rid of some piece of gear and Guitar Center is probably the only place that will buy it.

Mackie 32.8 at Mixtake Recording Studio

I've had good trade-in experiences with the people at Guitar Center and I thought I'd share it with the world! Here are 5 ways to get top dollar on Guitar Center trade-ins:
  1. Get a general price point on the internet - My advice would be to search craigslist, and ebay to see what the general price is when the item is used. Then check the retail and list price on or musiciansfriend (which is owned by guitar center).
    As a general rule Guitar Center will pay about 25% of list price for gear trade-ins. This is something the manager of my local Guitar Center told me - of course, it assumes the gear is near perfect condition.
    You can sometimes get more if the item is in high demand (though in these cases you're usually better off selling on eBay or craigslist)

    note: If you're selling an instrument to Guitar Center, it may be a good idea to have it appraised by someone at that Guitar Center before you go about selling it to them. If you're happy with the appraisal it'll be a strong case for why you should get that price.

  2. Call up a different Guitar Center - This is the next step in your research on how much to ask when you go to actually make the sale. Once you ask your local Guitar Center how much they're willing to give you, that's it. You only get one chance so arm yourself with good info!

    This is a trial run. Pretend you're calling your local guitar center, tell them you're interested in selling the gear and describe it - just like you would to your local GC guys...

    You want to ask them two questions:
    • How much can they give you for it - in dollars, not goats ;)
    • What factors would influence how much they're willing to pay

    Make sure you mention and problems with the gear as well as any potential selling points, don't be afraid to ask for elaboration!


  3. Don't forget to mention you'll be spending money - If you're like me you're probably going to turn around and buy more gear anyway... so wait until you have a reasonably sizable purchase to make.

    Very often, if you mention that you're planning to spend a sizable chunk of the money they're giving you for the item during the same transaction (a trade rather than them just giving you cash), you can get more for the item. If you're nice and friendly about it they'll often times give you a discount on the gear you're buying as well!

    Which brings me to my next point...

  4. Know the names of the staff - to quote the famous Dale Carnegie,
    "Remember that a man's name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language."
    People really do appreciate it when you recognize then and remember their names. This is the first step toward a good relationship with the folks at Guitar Center, which can benefit you both greatly!

  5. Make sure the item looks good and works well - First impressions are very, very, super-extraordinarily important! Get that baby dust-free, polished, buffed, waxed, oiled, tuned, and whatever else needs to be done to make it seem as great as it really is.

    Someone is going to examine and test/play your item long before they commit to buy it, so make sure they're really impressed with how nice it is.

That's all folks, good luck and good night!

© 2008 Jim Robert