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06 August

Troubador Tech

My Setup

More solo rigs:
-Setups I've seen
-Chuck Zwicky's gear

I sit upon my throne, master of all I my dreams! In reality, when I play music, the throne I sit upon is an ancient, falling-apart Tama drummer's throne-- and if I were truly master of what I survey, you might be seeing me on TV or hearing me on radio, instead of reading this page. Or, maybe not...

[Wiring diagram of my setup (4.37kb)]

MIDI Routing | Audio Routing

Physical Layout: On the floor before me, under my left foot, are the keys of a MIDI pedal keyboard-- usually an Elka DMP-18, formerly and now occasionally a MIDI Step. Under my right foot is a Goodrich photocell volume pedal, and under my right big toe is a Roland DP-2 footswitch, secured to the moving part of the volume pedal with double-sided tape. To the right of the volume pedal are a dual footswitch and a second volume pedal, a passive Dekley Lowboy.

Hear me play
Besides the brief song excerpts on the Sounds page, you can hear me playing complete songs with this rig at my Sensory Syrynx page.
On a stand to my right is a three-space rack, containing two Casio VZ-8M synthesizers and a Digitech GFX-1 Twin Tube preamp. Perched atop the rack, at the moment, is a Lexicon Vortex. Also on the stand is a metal box which originally carried very inexpensive socket wrenches. It now holds eight harmonicas-- most of them Hohner Special 20, but the occasional Huang or Suzuki, and usually a Hohner Pocket Pal for the key of C. The box also contains a Kyser capo, a no-name 11/16" socket wrench for slide, and assorted flatpicks and fingerpicks.

Strapped to my body is a Casio MIDI guitar, most likely an MG-510. Three cables are attached to the guitar, for audio and MIDI outputs and 9-volt DC input. Before my face, supported by a gooseneck-equipped stand, is a Shure SM58 microphone. And around my neck is an ancient Elton harmonica rack. I use no special microphone or signal processing for harmonica.

This rig is augmented from time to time by one or more acoustic guitars, plugged into the GFX-1 and/or otherwise unused mixer inputs, as whim dictates. A Fender 8-string lap steel sometimes receives the same cavalier treatment.

MIDI Routing and Controls: The MIDI output of the pedal keyboard is routed through an Anatek Pocket Pedal, controlled by the Roland DP-2 and configured as a sustain pedal; thence to one of the VZ-8Ms.

The MIDI output of the guitar is routed through an Anatek Pocket Mapper. This is configured to remap the MIDI Volume (Continuous Controller #7) data from the MG-510's MIDI volume control to Modulation Wheel (Continuous Controller #1) data. The Pocket Mapper's output is routed to the second VZ-8M; the MIDI Thru port of this VZ-8M is connected to the MIDI In of the GFX-1.
[Wiring Diagram]

This configuration allows me to change programs on both of these units from the MG-510, and to use Continuous Controller #1 on both as well. I haven't gotten beyond the preliminary experiment stage using this knob with the synthesizer, and the GFX-1's Continuous Controller implementation is frankly awful. I do use the control, however, for toggling between different effects within a given GFX-1 patch, which is handy since I have no foot free for the purpose.

Audio Routing and Controls: The guitar's audio output goes to the GFX-1, which feeds the Vortex. The audio output of the guitar-controlled VZ-8M goes to the Goodrich volume pedal. For now, the signals from the volume pedal, the other VZ-8M, the Vortex, and the microphone feed one of two monaural powered mixers-- an old Peavey XR-700 driving a pair of Peavey 112H speakers for practice at home, and a Peavey KB-400 into a pair of two-way cabinets, each containing a 15 and a horn (all EV) for gigs.
[Wiring Diagram]

The use of compact, full-range systems is of course a compromise, compared to separate dedicated amplifier/speaker systems for each audio source. But after years of hauling pedal steel guitars and heavy amps to each gig, I wanted as little roadie work as possible when I began working solo. I don't even use a monitor speaker.

Evolution: The acquisition of the Vortex and an Akai MB76 MIDI mixing bay has forced a reexamination of this setup; see Gear Acquisition Syndrome for the sordid details. Adding the Vortex meant the addition of three more foot controls-- the dual footswitch and the second volume pedal mentioned above, configured as an expression pedal-- and perhaps more, depending on what I decide to do with the many signal routing options the MB76 allows me. The current configuration is the one shown in the wiring diagram above, but I'm eager to use the stereo capabilities of the Vortex and VZ-8Ms. The MB76 is my first step in that direction; watch this space...

Unsolved Problems: This setup, which evolved over quite a few years, is pretty satisfactory for what I attempt to do. There are still two problems I haven't solved:

As noted above, I can change programs from the guitar on two of the MIDI modules. But the third-- the VZ-8M controlled by the pedal keyboard-- must be changed manually. I have an Anatek Pocket Merge, and as soon as I figure out what widget I need to strip out everything BUT program change data from a MIDI stream, I'll have this problem solved.

Hear this gear:
-MIDI Guitar Solo
-MIDI Synth Tricks
-Delays & Loops

More solo rigs:
-Setups I've seen
-Chuck Zwicky's gear

I'm still hungry for a way to implement a Hold function for the MIDI guitar. This would allow me to sustain a chord from the guitar-controlled VZ-8M while soloing with the guitar. The Anatek Pocket Pedal was supposed to solve this problem-- it can be set up to put out Controller #66, Sostenuto, which on many synthesizers will do exactly what I want to do. Unfortunately, the VZ-8M does not implement this controller.

If anyone has suggestions as to how I can solve these problems, please email me!

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