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Workflow Check-in: Circuits, Cords, Connections

Starting out is overwhelming. I’m fortunate enough to be fairly adaptable to software and hardware, one of my backgrounds being cyber and physical security systems. But Ableton is a powerful DAW, it reminds me of Office or Photoshop – accessible, but deep. Music theory is also not my background. And surprisingly to me, I didn’t know much at all about midi. I didn’t know it couldn’t carry audio – now of course I recognize, having since studied this, that an audio signal can’t be transmitted via midi, or at least the aspect of it related to pitch etc. I figured this out from another direction as well when I received my Novation Circuit – I couldn’t get it to play sound out my monitors, and it took me a minute to realize this device generates its own sounds, so unlike my Launchpad Pro, it’s generating rather than receiving a signal. So this occurred to me – and it took me 2 extra days to figure out what cord I needed to take out of the Circuit to my audio interface, which is the Novation Audio Hub 2×4.

Cords are something else I want to complain about. No uneducated regular person knows what cord they need. On the back of the Circuit there are midi in/out jacks and two other holes labeled R and L/Mono. I get what R and L mean, I figure that the mono hole must be mono and ergo R/L are likely stereo. Okay great, now what do I need to get from there to the audio hub? There’s nothing else in the Circuit User Guide – no blame on that though, I realize this challenge is confined to me. So of course, turn to Search – but this is not an easy query to structure, you definitely end up on forums, searching for an explanation of the same issue, though likely related to different products and platforms. The same goes for the Audio Hub – its 2 Line In holes on the front and it’s 4 Output holes on the back – are just that to me, HOLES. Just because something says “line in” it is not inveterate that I know those are the holes to use, and that they are RCA jacks, and that I need a 1/4″ TRS to RCA cable to successfully make my connection between the Circuit and the Audio Hub. One other point, I studied the Circuit extensively before picking it up – and I had no idea I’d have to figure out this audio connection conundrum. It took me a lot of searching, and ultimately I made the wrong choice, thinking I needed a 1/4″ TRS to TRS cable – that was how I ultimately figured out I needed RCA on the other end – so that was 2 car trips to the local music shop. Lucky for me it’s right next door to my favorite Indian restaurant. There’s worse problems in life than connection issues and curry.

Another hitch along the way – talking on the phone to a reputable music store – who insisted I needed a new audio interface. Nobody in this world is interested in figuring out your connection issues, it’s boring, and requires knowing all the holes on several devices, which are being translated to you via someone like me who calls them holes. However, that’s why you make the big bucks presumably.

Having solved this issue, I’m pleased to say the Circuit sounds great.

Okay back to Circuit in a moment, now back to workflow, here’s where I’m at:

  1. Need to figure out how to connect my Korg MS-20 mini to the Novation Audio Hub 2×4. This one is a bit more complicated because I also have a Korg Sq-1 in the mix. I need to get audio from one/both to my monitors. I don’t know if I should or must have it from both, either, or one specifically. I’m also not then sure what cords connect the MS-20 Mini to the Sequencer, and what then goes to the Audio Hub. Same issue here as with the Circuit, except no 1/4″ TRS holes, just a “Signal Out” on the MS-20 Mini.
  2. Once I’ve finally connected up the MS-20 Mini and the SQ-1 I then need to do some reading. I’ve only dove into their user guides for the connection issues. I like reading user guides.

Further Routing – Currently my layout is:
Novation Launchpad Pro

Novation Launch Control XL (With XXL Editor from Isotonik)

Novation Circuit

Arturia Beatstep Pro

Korg MS-20 Mini

Korg SQ-1

Ableton Live Suite

I need to figure out what creative ways I can connect up these devices physically, along with virtually using the send options within Ableton. One of the reasons I came up with this device layout was thinking I’d have numerous options for sound generation, manipulation, sequencing. Sort of the best of both worlds for production and live performance. The Beatstep Pro has bunches of connections – and I have no idea what I should or could do with any of them. I like that – and I’ll like it differently when I have it figured.

You’ve also got to have some signals i.e. music to route, so I’ll be continuing that. I’m finding I can make sounds and sequences I love. I still haven’t cracked the nut of how to arrange my sounds into a song or a mix. I don’t know how to go from one sound to the next. It’s just software knowledge – I know what I want when I get there – knowing the software workflow is the only roadblock. My other major roadblock is that I generally dislike watching instructional videos. I’m an English and Philosophy major, I’d rather read. The visual candy of a hairy arm twisting a knob is by on me. Clearly I’m in the minority here, as hairy arm watching trumps reading text any old day.

The Ableton workflow learning curve is my biggest challenge right now. Until I figure out how to arrange a song – my output is going to be limited.

Categories: featured, Music Production

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