This is the rig rundown of my gear that I’m currently using. You can also check out my YouTube rundown video, but I’ll go through each instrument below, and these comprise my current gear assembly.
This is my mixing board, it’s a called a Mackie MIX12FX, a 12 channel passive mixing board with built in effects. I like it for its combination of being compact and small but with a large array of features such as 4 stereo channels, an effects channel, phantom power capability, a stereo CR/Phones output (dual 1/4″ patch cables), and gain control to name some.
Most of the mixing boards I compared this one against in terms of features (such as the Yorkville PGM – stands for Pretty Good Mixer!) were just larger in size and for anyone like myself who is live-mixing their sets as they perform, it’s nice if the unit doesn’t take up a ton of space.
To the right of the mixing board is my Roland TR-8. The TR-8 was released in 2014 as part of a group of machines under the issue name Aira. I have most of the other related Aira machines on this table as well – everything except the Roland MX-1 which is the mixing board that is specifically made to mix the other Aira machines.
The MX-1 has some really awesome capabilities, but I am happy with my Mackie for now, and in terms of price they are not comparable (the MX-1 is more expensive than the Mackie MIX12FX).
The TR-8 is a drum machine, and a re-issue of the former TR-808, and the TR-909 – two famous drum machines released in 1980 and 1983 respectively, that eventually would come to model much of the drum machine sounds of the 80’s and 90’s in popular music, notably in the genres of hip-hop and rap, trance, house, and other forms of electronic music.
The newer TR-8 is digital, but it is built to create very subtle, random imperfections in its play, in order to emulate the imperfections of older analog equipment. In this way the sound is a little bit less cold and lifeless. The TR-8 features the sounds of the 808 and the 909, but it also has a third department of sounds which are new and unique to the TR-8.
Next is the Roland SP-404. This version was released in 2005 and I actually bought this one in 2006 as my very first electronic instrument (besides electric guitar and different guitar foot pedals). The SP-404 is a sample machine. There are 120 spaces to record samples onto from various mediums, using a microphone, or the built-in condenser mic on the unit, or the dual RCA inputs for direct sound.
These samples can be played back, there’s tons of effects, you can play them in reverse, but even further than that the SP-404 is also a sequencing machine which means that you can take these samples that you’ve recorded and set them up to play out in a sequence, like a rhythm or a beat. The options here seem endless as I love recording my own sounds to create rhythms because the sounds can be anything at all. There is a lot of room to think outside the box here.
At the far top right is the TC-Helicon Voicetone C1 pedal, basically an auto-tuner, part of the TC-Helicon Voicetone series. For any vocalists who are interested in live vocal effects, this entire Voicetone series is worth checking out. There’s some pretty crazy stuff you can do with this equipment! My pedal specifically is for auto-tuning.
You can adjust the level of the effect, you can set the pedal to a specific musical key or else just leave it to correct your voice to the closest note, and there is a gradient control knob called Gender which increases or decreases the pitch of the vocal effect. In this photo I am running my home made rotary telephone mic through this auto-tuner, which also has an on/off switch.
Moving down to the lower right is my new Boss RC-505 loop station pedal. I recently replaced my Boss RC-300 with this pedal. The two pedals are very similar, but the 505 is specifically meant to be on a table and controlled by your fingers. For that reason it accommodates the more electronic side of the music world, as well as beat boxers.
There are 5 Tracks on the RC-505 to create loops, and these loops can be synced up with one another, so that you could drop out certain channels while keeping other channels playing, with all of the tracks syncing up as they play and as you drop them in and out. There’s a lot of effects on here too, and so much you can set up in advance, in terms of how you specifically want to use the machine on a song-per-song basis.
There are 99 channels to create and save “songs”. You can save Tracks as recordings to each channel, and play them back whenever you like, or you can also do a performance of live-looping where none of your loops are pre-recorded and you are creating everything on the spot. You can also do a mixture of both – record some tracks for later playback, but also record live loops over top of those pre-recorded tracks.
This last option of doing a little bit of both is what I have settled into, I think it just opens up the maximum amount of possibilities for using the machine and for live-loop song writing in general.
Moving clockwise still is my home made rotary telephone microphone. It is a real rotary phone that I bought for $10 at a junk store called Dis-A-Ray here in Guelph. I cut the telephone cord out of the back, and peeled back the coating to look at the different colours of wires. I traced the coloured wires to the microphone and the speaker of the telephone. Then I bought a male XLR chassis from an electronics store for $10. This is the part of a microphone where you would plug your XLR cable into.
So I soldered the proper wires to the proper prongs on the inside of the XLR chassis (you only use Left and Right, nothing goes to the ground), and then I fitted the chassis into a hole I had drilled through the plastic shell of the telephone body. Now I just plug in an XLR and treat it like a microphone, running it through the TC-Helicon Voicetone C1 pedal. When you hang up the phone, the signal is cut and the mic is off. Fun stuff.
To its left is the Roland TB-3, part of the Aira series released in 2014 along with the S-1 synthesizer (which I have but is not shown in the photo), the TR-8 that I mentioned above, The MX-1 mixer (which I do not have), and the VT-3 which is coming up next! The TB-3 is a bass sequencer with tons of keyboard selections and tons of pre-recorded loops, and you can select which loop you want to play and which keyboard to use for it.
You can also record your own loops using the keyboard options available. You can later change musical keys to the loops, meaning if you liked a loop but it was playing in the wrong key for your song, you can simply change the key of the loop to accommodate. All of these machines are MIDI synced by the way, so that they play out in synchronization.
Lastly this is the Roland VT-3, a voice processing machine with various effects to create strange vocal effects of different types. You can synthesize your voice, there’s harmonies to some of the effects which are hard-tuned, there are two different vocoder emulators to work with, a “Robot” on/off select, etc… You can also manually adjust the pitch, the formant, the mix (from no effects to max effects) and the reverb of your overall vocal sound. It has 3 patches where you can save your specific settings.
There’s a little bit of a look at my current gear set up. It changes from time to time, piece by piece. There’s a whole lot more to talk about regarding any of these machines; check out my other posts and stay tuned for more!