by Rich Van Slyke

"TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS? ARE YOU NUTS?!" That was the reaction from my wife when I told her of my plan to enter the world of MIDI. My goal was to produce studio quality music for spots and promos. I needed a system I could set up easily in the radio station's production room, and I couldn't convince the GM to trade until I demonstrated the possibilities.

"I really think this equipment will make me more valuable," I said, explaining why we should spend our vacation money on expensive toys. "For two grand," she said, "it better!"

So, I've made the financial commitment. Now, what do I buy? After several visits to the local music stores, I learned that a complete music production system must have the following: a synthesizer, a drum machine, a sequencer, and an effects unit. Because I said I wanted something that could be set up easily and quickly, they suggested a "music workstation." This unit combines a synthesizer that can play many sounds at once, including drums, with a multi-track sequencer. I looked at the Ensoniq ESQ, the Korg M-1, and the Roland W-30. I bought the W-30 because it's also a sampler which is G-G-G-GR-GREAT for radio, as you know. So, I dropped my $2,000 and hoped I'd be able to make this thing play and PAY!

It took about a month to get going. The manual is confusing, and patience is a must; but when you create something musical, it's a blast!! If you invest a lot of money, you get a professional instrument that sounds great, and the sound motivates you. At first I just used the sampler for effects. Then I made my first music bed. I knew I had something when I put down a simple 1-2-3-4 drum pattern and a two note repeating bass line, and people were saying: "Where did you get that music?" The sequencer corrects mistakes for you, and it's easy to add or subtract tracks, like a multi-track tape. When you are composing, you decide where the music should stop, start, hit posts, etc.. I love the control! The client loved the music and so did other clients. "Can you do custom music for me too?" "Well sure," I said, "but I need $500. After all, if you went to a recording studio and hired musicians, it would cost you more than that."

Within a year, I had produced enough music to pay for the W-30 and buy a few synthesizer modules to add sounds. The sequencer drives these modules and the sounds are stunning! I really believe my MIDI gear helped me get the Production Director's gig at WCMF. On my tape, half the commercials and most of the promos contained music and effects I produced. When I arrived here and showed the sales staff what was possible with MIDI gear, our Sales Manager, Ray Noone, set up a trade with the House of Guitars for more toys! Now, I can charge more money for spots that travel to other stations because I write and produce custom music.

There are many "workstation" keyboards on the market. Most are between $2,000 and $3,000. It's a great starter unit because it'll do all the basics: drums, bass, keyboards, horns, strings. If you can swing it, buy one. Your job will be even more fun! It will increase your value as a producer, and it will earn you money. I have to stress the fact that you don't need to know about music, just have an ear for good sounds. The computer does all the hard stuff. A drum pattern, a simple bass line, a couple of orchestra hits, and suddenly...you're makin' music!

On the Soundstage

Sentry Box
Joel Poirier, Kaden Hawkins, Will Halliwell

ICYMI...

June 01, 2002 2379
Chris Ackerman, Production Manager, Clear Channel Audio Design, Boise, Idaho By Jerry Vigil Imagine a production department in a small market with annual revenues of $70,000 a year. That’s right, a production department, not a...