I took it on the suggestion of fine folks at the Syntax podcast to create a page that lists out the things I use regularly. These things will change over time but this is a fairly complete list of the things I use for creating imagery, building websites, and writing music.
Music & Recording
Guitars & Keyboards
Martin D-16RGT Dreadnought Acoustic has been part of the family for about 10 years. Never underestimate the quality of a well made acoustic guitar. Yes, Martin guitars are expensive. I have a basic dreadnought guitar. It’s rosewood back and side with a spruce top. No fancy in-lays. No stock electronics. Just a good sounding guitar. It’s been said more than once that it’s a “hurricane of sound”. These instruments are such powerful and intimate things. You play them hugged up tightly to your chest. You feel the guitar swell through you as you play. It’s more than just notes being plucked and strummed, it’s energy that heals and soothes.
As one who also records music, I find this particular guitar a bit of a challenge to record. It’s so full and rich that it wants to be the hero in recorded music. Taking away too much sound when tracking this instrument feels like a sin, like your throwing away the dishes to a wonderful meal. Over time I’ve come to realize that there are pros and cons to this full sound. Solo fingerstyle guitar is a natural fit for this sound. A closely mic’d setup make a recording ‘feel’ like you’re sitting right there. Strumming and background sounds are a different story. I tend to EQ the living crap out of the low mids and compress the snot out of it to get it to sit in the mix and behave (yes, I said “snot”).
PRS SE Custom 24 6-string electric. I have the 2018 veresion of this guitar. It’s a purple quilted maple top over mahogany. It’s heavy. If you are looking for a guitar to gig with every night, this one will surely be a burden hanging on your shoulder. I use it for home studio work 99% of the time. That extra weight resting on your lap when tracking feels quite comforting and plays amazingly well.
There’s a spring tremelos system built-in that is tight and responsive. I would almost trade this out for a fixed bridge as I don’t play with tremelo bars too often. But it tends to add a but of slinkiness to your playing. And if you’ve ever played a Strat, you learn that there’s a comfort in that “rubberiness” when playing.
Speaking of Strats, this guitar can sound Strat-ish, but it’s a stretch (no pun inteded). There are humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions that can be split with a push/pull tone knob. In a single coil position, it thins out nicely. I still prefer the warmth and punch from good quality humbuckers, though.
PRS SE Custom 7 string electric. Again, this link shows specs that are close to what I have. Mine is solid blue mahogany body with a fast neck. This guitar is light! Compared to the 6-string above, this guitar comes in a little lighter and feels so well-balanced. It’s a joy to play.
Fender Stratocaster. The link is to a guitar that looks much like mine, but there’s no page that exists for my ancient relic. it’s 20+ years old. It feels great, plays like a slinky, and sounds like a strat. It doesn’t get played as much anymore but every time I pick it up it feels like home.
Ibanez MiKro short-scale bass. I’m not a bass player so I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of what a much better bass can deliver. But I really dig its sound, the playability, and punchiness from the shorter strings. The link is to Sweetwater Sound’s page for this guitar (and any musical instrument) and I highly recommend buying from them if you’re interested in it.
M-Audio Oxygen-49. Great little controller! Pads, buttons, and sliders make it so much fun to control and create with.
M-Audio Keystation 88. I have an older version of what’s listed in that link. Not much has changed with it over the years. I’m a little too heavy-handed with it – it’s so lightweight. But 88 keys wins when it comes to piano composition.
Alesis Command Mesh Electronic Drums Kit. Holy crap these drums are fun! Originally purchased for my daughters to bang on, it’s quickly become an integrated part of my music making. Linking the command unit up to Logic via USB, and now it’s a controller for my drum plug-ins – of which I use XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums.
Logic Pro-X. Recording for me is a very personal process. Logic provides a path to making music that is efficient and fun. You can get as deep as you like technically, but the raw creation is rock solid.
Propellerhead’s Reason. Not my “go-to” music production software. I hesitate to call it a DAW because I was using this software when it was just virtual instruments and no ability to accept and record audio. They’ve come a long way and have advanced functionality that now allows for multi-track recording and more advacnced workstations features.
Univerasal Audio’s Apollo Twin II. Yeah, these are not cheap interfaces. The price alone kept me from entertaining this as an option for years. There’s a price/value threshold that finally hit (due in large part to Sweetwater’s 0% interest). I made the purchase and took delivery of this small but powerful interface. This is an amazing audio interface! To be able to track in real-time with UA Audio’s Unison technology is a game changer. A near-zero millisecond latency and a host of software plug-ins, I definitiely feel like I have powerhouse tools at my disposal. Ideally, this is a solo engineer/producer’s tool. Unless you have a dedicated control room, limitations on monitoring can slow your down. 90% of what I’m making is purely solo. But for those times when I have other talent that is recording with an open mic, “headphone mixes” do require some creative thinking. The interface (and subsequetn account on UA Audio’s website) give you about a dozen plug-ins. Pultect EQ, UA Compressors, etc. To that I’ve added some additional plug-ins that I use nearly everytime I fire up the studio. They are;
Yamaha HS-5 Powered Monitors & an HS8S Power Subwoofer. Having come from a professional recording background, I always loved Yamaha’s NS-10 near-field monitors. If you make your mix sound good on them, you were pretty much guaranteed it was going to sound pretty good outside of the studio. These have quickly become an indespensible part of my music making. Paired with the subwoofer, this monitoring “system” provides a high-end home recording experience. It’s not the studio, but it sounds amazing!
Sony MDR-7506. Bright and clear. They lack substance on the low-end, but it’s headphones… it’s difficult to get accurate low-end this close to your ears.
I have a few MXL Microphones. For the dollar, these mics are a great value. There are other brands and mics that sound better, but I just can’t justify the cost for home recording.
- MXL 604. This link is to a newer version (the 606). A “cigar” condenser mic with a small diaphragm. I love using this on acoustic guitar right on top of the fretboard around the 12th fret.
- MXL 2006. Large diaphragm condenser mic. Lots of body and warmth.
- MXL V67G. Much like the 2006 above with more clarity and transient response. Over the course of a few years, this has been my go-to mic for vocals and fingerstyle acoustic guitar.
Shure SM-57. I have to list this even though I can’t find it any longer. It’s worth mentioning that I’ve used this as a hammer and has still worked as it was originally intended – a mic.
I predominantly design in Photoshop and Illustrator with a Wacom tablet. I keep connected with Sketch and Figma but I might be just a little too old school to leave the Photoshop tools behind. Hand-drawn artwork is lovingly paired with Krita. ImageOptim is a favorite utility app. It’s an image compression utility that just works! When creating/editing imagery that will go on the web, keeping the file size as low as possible is important. ImageOptim does this quite painlessly.
Simple… VS Code. A text editor that is fun to use. By far, my favorite features are Git integration and a Terminal right in the ditor. Regular updates and a massive marketplace make it an undisputed leader in text editors. For a few years I used (and loved) ATOM. Before that was Brackets – with its super cool in-line editor model . Sublime and Text Wrangler is where the love strated with editors. I wonder how these apps hang given the marketshare that VS Code has.
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