The Anything


As I've certainly mentioned elsewhere, I am the proud owner of a number of musical instruments. Just because I enjoy them greatly, I wanted to show off what I've got :). So, without further ado...

The images all link to a larger size. Browse at will.

Yamaha Electric Violin EV-205

My shining glory at the moment, a Yamaha Electric Violin, model EV-205. For those of you who play violin, yes, that's 5 strings. The 5th is a low C string (which should make those of you who play viola quite happy). I use it all the time because of its deep, rich tone. In combination with some heavy distortion and an octave shifter (down, of course), it's been variously described as "Dude, that's scary!" and "I've never heard anything quite like that before." That particular effect chain can be heard on Abduction (it's the choppy triplets in the second movement).

A Mandolin

I don't know the make or model of this mandolin, but it was a gift from my parents in my mid-teen years, after I obtained a far-less-than-ideal mandolin on eBay for about $20, and it turned out it would need $200 of repairs to make it useful. So that's about how much this mandolin costed. It's been a close friend for a long time, second only to my electric violin. I haven't done much recording with it, because I haven't acquired a decent microphone just yet. Although that will hopefully change.

My Guitars

Well, once again, I don't know the make or model of either of these guitars. The one on the right was my father's guitar, which he played in college. It's a nylon-string classical guitar. I love the wide neck and easy action, although it could use to be refretted. And, of course, like my mandolin, it lacks a pickup, so I haven't done much recording with it. The one on the right is from some as-seen-on-TV deal a few years back. Honestly, the guitar itself is a piece of crap, and I should probably get a better one, but it does the job for me. It's got a Dean Markely pickup installed in it, which, thanks to the nature of magnetic pickups and the magic of digital sound processing, nearly makes up for the lack of quality in the instrument itself.

Drum Kit

One of my more recent toys, this is a Yamaha DD-55 digital drum kit. It is MIDI capable, although I have found the on-board sounds to be more than adequate for my needs. I've got a decent pair of sticks, and you can find me pounding into the night (with a good pair of Grado headphones) quite frequently since I got it. One heck of a lot easier to deal with than a drum machine.

Cheap Late 80's Keyboard

Back when garage sales were still popular ways to get rid of junk, I found this keyboard for $2. I believe I was still in middle-school at the time, and clearly this keyboard has stood the test of time. It's a Casio MT-100 keyboard, vintage, with no modifications done to it. Not the rarest out there, but rare enough to be worth something. It's nice, sometimes, to get a truly retro sound out of your equipment, considering that most of the rest of my stuff is quite modern. I used it in Doomsday Device to get that flute sound in the first melody. It was also a signal source for the bass line, although the original signal is nearly gone there (and, the keyboard doesn't go that low -- there's a bit of after-the-fact editing there.)

Cheap Early 2000s Keyboard

This one is new this summer. The first keyboard I've owned with full-size keys, the ctk-533 is not velocity sensitive, but it has extremely good patches on-board. As well, it's a great MIDI controller. When I want to keep the volume perfectly constant, this is the tool for the job (the lack of velocity sensitivity is actually a feature, not a bug, believe it or not). Anywhere you hear piano (and a number of other places), this is probably the source of that sound.

Korg Kaossilator

Korg is an interesting company. They've captured many artists' allegiance. In fact, I own precisely one Korg contraption, that strange wonder that is the Kaossilator. The old saying goes, "Big things can come in small packages." I couldn't agree more. In fact, I had a hard time photographing the Kaossilator because when I got close enough to see details, the flash would blur the image. This is actually smaller than the boss effect pedals in the next picture. But man can it sing. If I turn off the pitch normalizer, it's as close to a theramin as I'm likely to get. The synth programs onboard have a unique controlability that you can't quite do on a keyboard or violin (at least not in real-time). I do wish I could program it to do more than what it can do, but it's never failed to give me interesting noises. Effect Chain

From left-to-right, on the top, are a Zoom 504II, 505, and 507 multi-effect pedals and a Behringer UB-502 mixer. On the bottom, you find a Yamaha MagicStomp v2.11, a Boss MD-2 "Mega Distortion" pedal, and a Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer pedal. In varying combinations, these appear in all of my music. The MagicStomp probably has the most wear and tear lately, because, unlike all of the others, it is programmable. It came with a program to change detailed parameters in real-time. Plus, it has some stereo effects, which the others don't. The only thing it can't do is take an expression pedal.

This effect chain is really the magic to most of my music. The characteristic distorted and flanged violin as heard on Abduction is the combination of the 507's reverb followed by the "SciFiFlange" effect on the MagicStomp. I'm quite fond of using the octave pedal in the MagicStomp followed by high-toned distortion from the mega-distortion pedal. The 505 has an effect called "Metropolis", which somewhat arpeggiates and deepens the sounds coming in. You can hear it forming the deepest basses of Slumber. The 504 is much more subtle than the other effect pedals. Although it shows up in nearly all of my music, it has no characteristic sounds. Mostly, is excellent at smoothing out rough spots in either my playing or the rest of my equipment. Sometimes you just need to sharpen the source sound a little to make an effect chain work the way you want it to. It was the first pedal I owned, and it is certainly well worth keeping.

Awesome Amplifier

The most important piece of any sound setup is the amplifier. It's difficult to overstate how much this can affect your tone. I actually own several amplifiers at present, including the ones that came with my first electric violin and guitar, as well as one that I purchased somewhat later. But so far, I have never found an amp that compares to the tone produced by the Roland Cube 15X amplifier. Being a violinist, one of the problems I run into quite often is that equipment intended to work with guitars is too focused on the bass to hear the nuances of the treble. But, I barely have bass when I play violin, unless I really work to make it, so it's difficult to find equipment that sounds great with my playing. The Cube definitely does that. And, it handles the bass quite well also. It also has low signal output which can safely plug straight into my sound card for recording without peaking or clipping. Oh, and did I mention that it does this while being small enough to bring along with me? Yeah, I love this amp. I wouldn't trade it for much of anything else.

Along with my collection of instruments, I use my computer for both recording and editing purposes. It's running Debian Linux, the Jack Audio Connection Kit (and some various utilities), and Ardour. This software setup is not only free as in both freedom and beer, but also extremely powerful. I'm not an audio professional, but I would bet that most pros would be very happy with the setup I've got.

Last Edited Aug 14, 2010