Producers Who Own Multiple Keyboards But No Mixer?

One thing I’ve never understood is the tendency for people who produce music to own all these music accessories, such as multiple MIDI keyboards, but not own a single mixer (control surface). It’s understandable if someone has limited hardware and doesn’t have a mixer, but that’s not the case for so many people.

Throwin’ money in all the wrong directions

Like take a look at this random person’s studio setup. They’ve clearly thrown money at all these music toys; they have three keyboards that appear to be very expensive. Just one of those keyboards probably costs three times as much as my one keyboard. And let’s not ignore the fact the main keyboard’s highest octave keys are inaccessible under the table.

Then you have… count’em… four sets of speakers. Four! This person will claim it’s for auditioning different speaker sources for mastering, but that’s not the way auditioning works. You audition for different sources, such as on high-end speakers, car stereo, Apple EarPods, tablet, etc… Not auditioning on the same type of speaker (two-way, lacking a mid cone) in the same exact positions in the same exact acoustic space. Nonsensical…

Then there’s the two monitors, the two computer mice (why??) and the goofy-lookin’ rack devices that are only one or two inches deep (likely more style than substance). So all this hardware, hundreds to thousands of dollars in music toys… yet not one mixer?

Wouldn’t you want to get the core elements used for producing music? Something to control music (a MIDI keyboard or drum pad), something to control the mixer (a mixer) and something to play the sounds (speakers or headphones) before adding all this other crap?? And why get multiple keyboards when you can only play one at a time? And sounds dedicated keyboards can make (synth / sampler) are replicateable with virtual devices (and virtual devices give you way more creative freedom).

Where’s people’s mindsets when it comes to this? “I have three keyboards… maybe after I jam a sixth keyboard and an 8th set of speakers awkwardly into this room, I’m then ready to get a small mixer.

You might think this image is from a music keyboard store. Nope… it’s this dude’s studio in a few months. “Maybe I should add a mixer? …Na, I should buy a few more keyboards first.

Adding more keyboards doesn’t add more skill

This is one of the sad truths that people don’t wanna’ hear; a person who is bad at playing a cheap keyboard will be just as bad at playing the world’s most expensive keyboard. Place Herbie Handcock on a cheap toy piano and challenge him to a playoff using an expensive keyboard controller.

Clearly people would choose Handcock even though he was on a cheap, toy piano. MIDI keyboards only add a few things to your playing ability; weight, expression, aftertouch… the rest is all just adding controller knobs, faders, crampy-little drum pads, all things you really should have dedicated controllers for and not shoehorned onto a bloated keyboard.

Physical mixers help you feel connected to your musical creations

The lesson to be learned from this is that a mixer should be considered a key element if you have a physical studio setup, whether it’s a desk in a dorm room…

Or a custom built addition to a house…

There’s something to be said about being able to feel the fader knob on your finger tip, to be able to reach out and make level changes to a channel the same way people in big-time studios did back in the day.

Listen to Nice and Soft and Smooth above, the flute and synth was created with my M-Audio Oxygen49 keyboard. No aftertouch, no expression… just keys, mod wheel and pitch wheel. For a keyboard I bought as a display model for $79 a few years ago (I did hustle to get it for that price however).

Virtual music studio meets physical

Having a virtual music studio, such as Propellerhead’s Reason, you don’t need physical hardware. And physical hardware can make you less mobile; there’s something so freeing about being able to create music on the beach or while waiting in the airport.

But this isn’t about stationary versus mobility, this is about those who have a physical place where they’re using their music hardware (studio). A physical mixer should be the third thing added to a physical studio setup; controller, then speakers and then a mixer. I hate seeing it when people who throw all this money at music accessories, such as multiple keyboards, and they don’t have a mixer.

Be smart with your money…

Later. – MJ