Your setup and workflow

Got a question for Jim, Jesse, Allen and anyone else who wants to pipe in. I'm curious about people's setups in regards to peripherals and how you use them.

I currently have a G4 Powerbook with Sibelius, but nothing else. What have you found that aids you in completing your work?

Separate keyboard or num pad (if using a laptop)?
Are you using a midi keyboard or a midi drum pad like a Roland SPD-20?
Are you using more than one monitor?

Any items you have found that you cannot work without?

I don't have a lot of time for trial-and-error setups so I was hoping to get some insight from some ";notation vets";.


-Ryan Kime
I play Piano so I use an 88 key MIDI Piano to enter notes into Sibelius. Drumming on a MIDI drum pad doesn't seem like a good idea to me because of MIDI latency and the notation software isn't going to write it the way we are used to seeing battery parts written.

I've posted a lot about computer hardware already so I won't go into it, but anyone can get good results with the right setup and there's no need to blow a ton of money on an expensive computer. With 1 GB of RAM and the right settings, VDL2 will run well.

If anyone is considering a new computer, Apple just revealed they will be switching to Intel Pentium chips in 2006 so it's probably a bad investment to buy a G4/G5 computer. If you are like me and upgrade in a year or less anyways, it's not a problem, but someone looking for a computer that will last them a few years should probably avoid Apple right now.
I tend to disagree with you on the Apple thing. After reading many stories and stuff on the subject, it appears Apple will be supporting the PowerPC processors (G4, G5) for years. Anyways, Apple has said that the first products to be affected will be consumer level, followed by the pro level by 2007. Apple has a very large user base using PowerPC architecture, and knows that it would be dumb to stop supporting that. Same with software developers- they will be supporting both for a long while, for sake of making a profit (the intel macs will not have a LARGE user base until about 2008-2009 at the earliest). So buy Apple stuff freely, if you are always waiting for the next technology, you'd never be buying a computer.
Here are my main essentials...

Sibelius for notation. If you use a laptop, you can get a numeric keypad, but be careful! They don't all function the same. See this:

A better alternative is to purchase a separate USB full sized keyboard since it has the keypad built it just feels better to work that way.

I load my VDL2 sounds into Kontakt 2 and use it as a stand-alone sampler. This allows me to load in up to 64 channels of MIDI (i usually run 18 or so for a typical band show), as well as multiple instruments into ";banks"; which will allow me to send program changes from Sibelius (to switch from one instrument to another on the same channel).

When I'm done with my writing, I load the MIDI file (saved from Sibelius) into Logic Pro to mix and sequence it all together, and finally bounce a recording to audio/mp3.

I work on both a powerbook as well as a G4 tower, however performance is much better on the tower. Processor speeds are the same on both machines, however the tower just runs more efficiently (faster hard drives, bus speed, technical stuff like that).

MIDI keyboard - definitely! The more keys the better - I use an 88 keyboard when i'm normally writing. If i'm travelling, I carry an M-Audio O2 which works great just have so switch octaves all the time to access sounds which span wide ranges (which is why I prefer a larger keyboard).

On a powerbook, if you can load it up with as much RAM as possible, drive speed may be less of a concern since you can load more samples directly into physical memory. I have 1GB, but i *really* wish I had sprung for 2Gb when I had the chance as it just makes life easier when running high-end audio stuff like this.
Thanks for the replies so far. Maybe I should have put a disclaimer in my initial message: I have the hardware covered, and yes we could debate for pages about the two. I have extensive experience with both platforms as a web programmer and working in large corporate IT departments. I currently spend 9 hours a day working on a Dell P4 XP machine - coming home to something different makes me feel more creative.

That said, I'm more concerned with finding a peripheral setup that allows the most efficient workflow. So far a USB computer keyboard and possibly a USB midi keyboard sound like good ideas. Anyone run into issues using a USB hub with these items? I figure it's better to plug those two directly into the computer.
Check out for a ton of different USB controllers. A USB hub will work as long as it's a powered one- the controllers need their juice from the USB cable unless you have a wall outlet for an AC adapter.

With my left hand on the keyboard and right hand on the numeric keypad, entering notes is very fast.
I've enjoyed using the MAudio Keystation 49e. It is basic, but has enough room that I don't have to be on the octave keys all day.

Also, it is USB powered with the option to use a separate DC power supply.

- David
I link the knobs from my Oxygen to initially control tempo fluxuations (ritard, rubato feels, etc.). I can then go back and fine tune the adjustments in the audio program. I experimented with this by putting Eric Sammut's 2nd Rotation and Bach's G maj Cello suite into the computer. I was blown away at how much it added the ";human"; element to the sound.

All good tips. I have a 5 octave Keystation -- I wish I had all 88 keys though. However for size & cost, it's perfect.

Yes; if you get a keyboard that's USB powered, you either have to a) have a powered hub, or b) use the AC adapter. Fair warning.

This might seem stupid, but I was actually pleasantly surprised that when I got a stand for my midi keyboard, I worked a little faster and cleaner. Seems basic, but not having both keyboards crammed on my desk helped. $20 well spent, IMO.

What no one else has mentioned, and since you're on a laptop, hopefully you have a good soundcard and monitors. A set of HD595's from Sennheiser will sit politely on your nogan for long periods. M-Audio also has some desktop choices for monitors. If not, higher end computer speakers are a minimum.

What it boils down to is a midi keyboard. That way you don't have to use a mouse. That's the biggest productivity key.

I'm thinking of getting an M-Audio Oxygen for my portable setup.

Is it a pain to work with for fast entry (due to the octave switching)?

My one big complaint about the 49e is that there is no indication of what octave you're on (except the center octave with the two lights).

- David
It indicates octave with the LED at the time you change it.

If you want to know how much trouble it is, cover half your 49e. :lol:
Pretty much the same as the 49e.  The biggest disadvantage that I can see would be entry of keyboard parts.  Thanks.
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