Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Problems with New Gear

As you probably know by now, I just bought a ton of new gear to use with my live show: a new iMac, software, cables, tables, and a MIDI pedal. Since I'm a Logic recording software guy, I decided to give Mainstage a try. (Mainstage is the "live version" of Logic, and it comes with Logic Studio.) Cool. Everything was good so far.

I received everything in the mail and proceeded to set it all up. Computer connects to a MIDI keyboard and a MOTU 828, the 828 connects to a Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro and my guitar. Let me know if this is too much tech jargon...

I was able to flawlessly assign functions within Logic to each button on the Ground Control. The problem, though, is that when switching from record mode to play mode, with cycle mode on, there is a delay in the audio output. The end result of this is that it appears that I can't use Logic Pro itself to live loop on stage.

I was hoping I'd be able to just use Logic to do this, considering that I already know the software, and would like to see an Arrange window on stage. Maybe there's a fix out there that I haven't found yet. If you have the answer, let me know. Enter Mainstage.

Mainstage was built to use in live shows. The only problem is that the Ground Control Pro, apparently, hates Mainstage (or vice versa). Mainstage, so it seems, only allows the GCP to change from one set to another. It does not allow a user - ME! - to assign, say, the "record" button to the MIDI pedal.

Needless to say, this has been a frustrating week for me - one in which I have been all-consumed by this nagging problem. I have decided to return the Ground Control Pro, but there is one, big issue with that: I ordered it online, from a company that has a totally loser-fied return policy. Here's a cut-and-paste from it:

"No Hassle" Return Policy:
We want you to be completely happy with your purchase from XXXXXXXXX. If you are not satisfied with any product, you may return it for a refund of the purchase price, an in-house credit, or exchange for another product within a fair amount of time from the shipping date (30 days or so). If your purchase was eligible for Free Shipping, the shipping cost will be deducted from your credit or refund.

Returns must be in the complete and original packaging with all accessories and complete documentation (Owner's Manual, warranty card, quick start guides etc.), show no signs of wear or use and include a Return Authorization number or be subject to a restocking fee. Products like software, personal items (such as in-ear monitors, etc), and items which are not normally stocked ("Special Orders", discontinued products, close-outs, used products, etc.) are not returnable.

If you can't guess, I don't think I'll be ordering from them any more. Even though they are out of state (thus, I don't have to pay sales tax), I have thusly been screwed by them, and any money that I have saved over the last three years by ordering from them (and not paying sales tax) has been swiftly eaten up in a single week. I'll pay sales tax any day if it means there are no slaps on the wrist for making a return or exchange. If you're curious as to *who* this company is, I'll tell you if you ask, or you can C&P my text in to a Google search. :)

You might be curious to know what kind of a pedal I will get to replace the one I'm returning. Here it is:

It's no-hassle, it's from one of the best audio equipment manufacturers in the world, and it's designed specifically to work with Logic, Mainstage, and Garageband. Plus, it sends and receives *both* MIDI and audio (the GCP is only MIDI).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Message to a Friend

I sent the following FB message to a friend of mine, who was asking for feedback on attending Columbia College in Chicago. Here's what I wrote:

Thanks for the message about this. Yes, it is a big topic - and one that needs some discussion - at Columbia.

What I can say, from personal experience, is that I never felt driven to graduate. I personal drove myself to acquire the knowledge I felt was necessary for me to succeed with my art in "the real world". As it turned out, though I learned a lot of stuff about the business of art and music, it was all stuff that I could have learned by reading a stack of books.

Do I regret my days at Columbia? No. But knowing what I now know, I mostly tell aspiring artists to take a year off after high school, pursuing their art full-time. Don't hold down a day job during that year or you'll screw yourself for financial aid, if you decide to go to college the year after. Make sure that your parents see your art, because if they do (and they think it's truly good work) then they'll support you in pursuing it. Great artists don't have to go to college, but they do have to be smart, eager to learn and always learning, ever-refining their skills, and unafraid of failure.