My Mobile Beat Making Station

mobile gear

The Story

I have been making beats since about 1994. That’s right. 2 decades. Originally, studio equipment was anything but mobile. I was rocking out with a 512 Megabyte drive that was bigger than a shoe box, an Atari ST computer with C-lab Notator and a Korg Trinity sound module. That machine was a beast back in the day. I might even post some sound bites of what I did with that thing – I’m pretty sure I have an old beat CD around here somewhere. After about 10 years on the Atari, I finally copped a Macintosh G4 yikes and got started with Propellorheads Reason 2.5. Along with it’s sister program Recycle I began to start chopping up samples and integrating them with my Trinity. I lived on that computer for another 10 years until I finally bought my current bedroom studio off of my best friend and engineer. Eventually I got my hands on a refurbished macbook pro and began to go mobile with my music.

The Hardware

Right now I am still using my 2006 Macbook Pro with Ableton Live 8 rewired with Reason 5. It does the trick and I got to a point where upgrading and buying new equipment all the time just wasn’t economical. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – am I right?

The Microphone

Right now my weapon of choice for mobile recording is a Zoom H4n. I’ve recorded sounds from local business’, bootlegged the symphony, captured the hockey riots and used it in my workshops with kids. I’ve also seen it used for film and live news reporting. When I first picked up the mic one of my favourite things to do was to go outside somewhere, turn up the gains (using a windsock, of course!) and point it towards the busiest place I could see. Then just sit back and relax and listen to all the sounds it would pick up. Bits of conversation, traffic, car horns etc. I really am a sound geek.

The Keyboard

The MPK mini is marvel unto itself. 8 drum pads, 8 knobs, a built in arpeggiator and a software mapping program make this little machine amazingly versatile. I’ve used it to score plays, DJ and function as a beatbox looper through ableton live. The only downside to this machine is that I play it way too much and break the USB

The Headphones

When it comes to headphones I either rock my Sennheiser HD215’s or a small pair of cheap Apexes. The Sennheisers are comfy but they are also huge and obnoxious. Very hard to take on public transit – unless you like rocking the princess Leia buns. The smaller ones are great for transit or bike riding but a little too snug on my head and hurt the ears after too long. The bass response out of the Apexes are higher too so if I want it to bump in my headphones that’s the way to go.

The Result

Here is the first beat I made with my mobile setup. It features my son flicking a granola bar wrapper, a large rubber pylon and the hum of a diesel generator from one of our beloved food trucks.

Thanks for listening and as always, let me know what you think in the comments below.