Lately I’ve been talking a lot about songwriting and approaching things from new perspectives, with the intent of opening up and expanding your creativity. I must admit that one tool in my studio that truly opened the door to thousands of possibilities is the midi keyboard controller. If you aren’t aware of or familiar with midi controllers and virtual instruments you are missing out on some seriously cool stuff. Not to mention the many uses a conroller has for workflow improvement. The device itself produces no sound whatsoever. It merely controls and/or activates the sounds within a program in your DAW. I am a Pro Tools user and Pro Tools 8 happens to come stock with XPand 2. I’m fairly certain that most DAWs come stock with some type of virtual instrument, if not several. Dig a little and you will probably find some really cool stuff you didn’t know you had.
XPand has been an invaluable tool in my songwriting/music producing ventures. From organs, pianos, strings and effects, to drum kits, loops and many other types of samples. Not only does this program offer these sounds, they sound quite good. I used to approach songwriting with a guitar and notebook and while that still remains a common method for me, my midi keyboard and the stock virtual instruments that came with my DAW have proven to be more useful that I ever had imagined. I have even began writing music in genres I never knew I had the potential for. If you are not using this tool in your studio you are hindering yourself. You can find controllers fairly cheap at your local music store. I am using the M Audio Oxygen 49 and it’s a great keyboard for $150, but there are even a few under a hundred bucks. Like many others, the Oxygen 49 has a bank of faders, knobs and buttons that can be programmed to operate practically any function within your DAW. There’s really no limit to what you can do with these things.
What are some of the ways you all are using a midi controller for in your studios? And for the newbies, what programs come stock with the other DAWs? Drop some comments below. I’d love to hear what you guys got going on. Cheers!