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When Christmas time comes around, are you scrambling to try and find gifts for your musician or audio technician friends? Are friends and family asking you what you want for Christmas? We have asked the staff at Musitechnic for their ideas for a christmas shopping guide with gifts under $100 in order to help you choose or inspire you. Here is what they came up with split into three articles. Here in Part 1 we have suggestions for music production, then I’ll give you the suggestions for the studio techs followed by suggestions for the techs who are into electronics or want to get started in electronics. There are some links so you can see where I obtained my prices but feel free to visit you local stores and compare.

 

1) Music production

Whether in the studio or live on stage, if you are into electronic music production you might enjoy suggestions from sampling and synthesis teacher Mélanie Frisoli: In this christmas shopping guide are some small controllers (MIDI) for your favourite software.

Nanokey2

$70 – $74

Nanokontrol2

$80

Nanopad2

$80

Mélanie likes the fact that they are practical and so portable. Available in black or white, they connect via USB. The NANOKEY2 acts as a two-octave keyboard. The NANOPAD2 has 16 responsive pads (used for entering drum patterns) and a KAOSSILATOR type touch pad controller. The NANOKONTROL2 is used to control your music production software, think mini faders (8), solo, mute and record ready buttons as well as transport controls (play, stop, record, etc..).


If you are considering the NANOKEY2 and NANOPAD2, you could consider Francisco Rendiles, director of studies, choice for the christmas shopping guide. He suggests the MiniLab MK II controller ($129). It is more expensive but cheaper than byuing both Korg controllers.

Still in the very portable range of controllers, the Arturia MiniLab MK II has only 8 pads (as opposed to 16 on the Korg NANOPAD), but you also get better mini-keys and 16 rotary knobs, so it is as if the Arturia also had some elements from Korg’s NANOKONTROL2 as well. In addition, the Arturia MiniLab comes bundled with various software titles including synths and Ableton Live Lite.


With so many music-recording sessions going on at Musitechnic, technician Françis Trépanier often provides tuners and metronomes to the students.

Metronomes and tuners are must haves for many serious musicians. The Korg TM50 ($40) is a tuner and a metronome, it has a Tap Tempo function (great for figuring out the tempo of a song), and if you need, the metronome and tuner can both be used at the same time. The tuner can produce various reference notes (3 octave range) through the built-in speaker if you want to tune by ear. It also has a great « SoundBack » function: you feed it a sound, it plays back the closest note to that incoming signal while the tuner display shows the difference between the incoming signal and the closest associated note (great for training your sense of pitch!). The tuner is also well suited to the particularitites of wind and brass insturment tuning with special markings.
On top of the usual metronome functions, the TH50 can play 15 various beats and styles. Available in black or white.


Music composer Medhat Hanbali set his choice for this christmas shopping guide on a reverb plugin he finds excellent. ValhallaRoom ($50) is made by ValhallaDSP, it is not a convolution reverb, it is not based on physical modeling of rooms and various reverb devices either.

ValhallaRoom is based on psychoacoustical modeling to create « idealized » room impressions. It basically sends the necessary cues to the ears so that the brain believes it is hearing sound in a particular space. This plugin has a pleasant feature not available on many reverb plugins. The Reverb Times can be modified for three adjustable frequency bands. Available in VST, Audio Units, RTAS and AAX. Check out their site for some free tips and tricks on how to parameter your reverb.


More hard drive space. Who doesn’t need more? Open House Studio owner Dan Smith suggests a Western Digital 1 TeraByte Elements Portable External hard drive ($75) that connects with USB 3.0.

It is not a flash drive, it is of the slower mechanical variety, however, I did not find any information regarding rotation speed. If you think it might be too slow for recording multiple tracks simultaneously, you can always use it for backups. Let us not ruin the Christmas season with horror stories of masterpieces, lost forever because there was no backup. If it has never happened to you, it has happened to a friend of yours. The same hard drive with 2 TeraBytes of space costs just over $100.


For this christmas shopping guide, technician Françis Trépanier suggests Joyland Electronics’ audio reactive LED strips as a Christmas gift. I suspect he used a few to decorate his apartment.

The 5M 5050 ($35) kit includes a 5-meter long strip of 300 LEDs that are activated by music (or other sounds). Placed by a speaker (or any source of sound), the color-changing LEDs will dance to your music indoors or outdoors. Easy to install, it comes with a remote that controls the LEDs reaction to the music. Oh, and they can double up as Christmas lights too!


Head of Musitechnic by day and Nutrix by night, Luc Lafontaine suggests some online classes to help musicians improve their music creation by better understanding their software. These video presentations are available in French only. Learn music composition with Ableton Live ($45) in a 2-hour presentation by Mélanie Frisoli, learn music ceration with Steinberg Cubase ($45) following Philippe Génier in a 4-hour presentation. There is also an Introduction to DJing (on special at $25, instead of $55) where Jonathan Doyon (EEKKOO) takes you on a 2,5-hour tour of Native Instruments’ Traktor. Still with EEKKOO, in an hour and a half video presentation you can learn mastering for your final mixes ($45). Or just check out the free tutorials on the website!


Pragmatic studio owner Dan Smith knows that most of you reading this can probably do with an extra cable or two (15 foot unbalanced instrument cable with Neutrik connectors at $18, or 25 foot Digiflex microphone cable with Neutrik connectors at $20). A DI Box is not too expensive, especially the passive, Canadian-made, Digiflex DPDI ($33), no frills, just a ground lift switch, does the job.

Also, if you do any recording at home or practice music seriously you might need a music stand like Profile’s MS130B ($44). Sure you can use it for your lyrics or music, but I sometimes find myself using it to put a sampler on a headphone amp. Most expensive on Dan’s list is a König & Meyer 21070 microphone stand (on special at $64, down from $70). Black, all metal, with boom. Never goes out of style!

 

I hope these suggestions help you in choosing the right gifts for music production. In Part 2 I’ll give you the suggestions the Musitechnic staff put together for the studio tech, followed by Part 3 and the suggestions for the techs who are already into electronics or for those who would like to get started in electronics.

Questions or comments : k.blondy@musitechnic.net

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