Feb 9, 2009 Gear
Last night I hauled out the EWI for the first time in… a very long time, I suppose. I got it over a year ago now, I believe, but for most of the year it’s lain on a shelf. Part of the problem has been the learning curve and utility — basically that it’s not that useful while my proficiency with it is low, and it’s always tempting to go back to tools that I can use to immediately make music, rather than pulling out ones where I can struggle to play Happy Birthday reliably. A big thing, though, was just that I got it just before a long gap during which I didn’t work on a lot of music. After finishing up Fountains, I took a while during which I was ostensibly supposed to focus on skills development, reading music-related books, learning to play the EWI, developing the website and getting my name out, etc. In actuality, I basically just took a long break.
In the early fall, I decided to get rid of my trusty Roland A-33 controller keyboard. I never developed a workflow in our house that worked well with it. In our old place, I could spin my chair around and play fairly easily. In the new place, playing required getting up, walking across the room, playing for a bit, getting up, walking across the room, fiddling on the computer, etc. It was tedious at best, and more often than not I wound up not doing it.
However, I think I also hoped that if I got it out of the loop that I’d turn to the EWI more to noodle out ideas. However, I also got sick only a little while after that and was sick for six weeks. One drawback of the EWI that I discovered at that point — it’s kind of hard to play if you can’t reliably breathe.
Anyway, long story even longer, I’m feeling mostly better now and hauled out the EWI last night for a little while. Instead of using the internal sounds, some of which are fun but many of which aren’t all *that* exciting, I connected it via MIDI cable to my laptop and fired up Miroslav Philharmonik. Playing the MP woodwinds with it, it turns out, is really lovely. I tried several different instruments, and they were all really fun, especially the reedier ones. I also tried, instead of just doing scales and trying to play very simple songs, noodling out some ideas and playing along with some of my own music, which turned out to be very satisfying. In the long run, a combination of that and dryer, more technical practice will probably be necessary, but I’m glad that I tried it and that it turned out fun anyway. I was able to fairly easily set the breath control to modulate the volume of the patches, but the range isn’t optimal. I may have to recalibrate the EWI if I plan to use it mostly with MP. Still, it was neat to make that mapping and see it work. The bite sensor right now seems to apply pitch bend, but the pitch bend sensor also does. I don’t think they send out the same controller number, so I’ll have to investigate that and see if I can route it to vibrato or something.
Lately I’ve been really craving the upcoming Native Instruments Maschine. It really does seem like it could make coming up with rhythms easier and more intuitive, and also make modulating and modifying those rhythms over time easier. It’s a lot of money, and I know that part of this is that I’ve been really craving a much more responsive, tweakable synth to play with. I’ve been fiddling with mapping the UC-33 to the controls of FM8, but it’s not really the ideal marriage. I could pick up Massive, which is probably better for that. (Really, I have to figure out how best to get onto the Komplete line instead of buying all of N-I’s products individually.) In the meantime, Maschine is really tempting me, and I’ve been putting myself through a lot of internal strife over that purchase decision. It’s certainly much more affordable than, say, an Access Virus TI P0lar. On the other hand, if I keep buying expensive-but-much-cheaper tools, I’ll never have enough saved up for something like a TI P0lar, if that’s what I really want. (And is it?) I think mostly I just want something inspirational, to get me back in the groove of things. Maschine could fit that role, especially since I often start with rhythms.
Ultimately, I may have another issue. I also use the UC-33 as a MIDI interface, and that’s worked okay so far. However, last night I tried using the EWI’s editor/librarian software with it, and it couldn’t find it at all. I suspect that the output to the UC-33 that gets sent out in turn through its output gets filtered slightly or something like that. Whatever the case is, I may end up having to buy an actual MIDI interface, which won’t be expensive, but feels a little odd in this day and age, like realizing that there’s some reason you really need a floppy drive.