(My Ibanez SR300E Iron Pewter.)

A deaf playing the bass

After a break of many, many years, I’m playing the bass again.

Similar restrictions apply to my ambitions with the bass as they apply to photography: I am hearing impaired and have a hole in the frequency range where human conversation takes place. As a two-year old, I got ill with Pneumonia and heavy fever; they gave me Penicillin, and as is known now, Penicillin can destroy your hearing. Well, better deaf than dead – I was told by my late grandmother that the Pneumonia was about to kill me and only a strong dose of this stuff had managed to save my life.

The tools

Since I also want to experiment with sound and different genres and not only record but also try to compose a little, I acquired a few tools that I want to learn how to use:

    • Ibanez SR300E-IPT (The bass)
    • Fender Rumble 25 (The bass amp)
    • Lenovo IdeaCentre Gaming 5 17IAB7 Intel i5 12400F, nVidia 3060 RTX, 32 GB RAM, 512 GB NVM SSD + 2 TB Crucial NVM SSD + 1 TB Crucial SATA SSD, Windows 11 Pro for Workstations
    • Sharp 50″ 4K Screen
    • Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB (6.3mm jack plug and XLR audio input)
    • Shure MV7X (XLR audio output)
    • Nektar Impact LX61+ MIDI Controller Keyboard
    • Akai MPD226 MIDI Controller With Sliders
    • Akai APC64 Ableton Live Controller
    • Yamaha ATS-C300 (Soundbar/Subwoofer Combo for the Sharp Screen & PC, Fender Rumble looped in via Focusrite Scarlett)
    • Jam Origin Midi Bass (turns my bass into a MIDI device via software – it works and is frigging awesome!)
    • Steinberg Cubase 13 Pro (My main DAW)
    • Ableton Live 12 Standard
    • Propellerhead Reason 12 (The virtual synth rack that I plug into Cubase and Live; I don’t use it as a DAW)
    • Steinberg WaveLab Elements 12
    • MPC Beats
    • Audacity 3

The good news is that with every session that I play the bass, the fingers get less rusty and I’m slowly getting a feeling for the instrument again.

The bad news is that the learning curve for the software is really steep. I have the brain of an IT guy, not the brain of a sound engineer. I guess that most of the time “I’m thinking it wrong (TM).” But, as always, if I throw in sufficient hours and energy, I’ll get there eventually.

I recently added a Nektar Impact LX61+ MIDI Keyboard and some Akai controllers  to the mix Рand I cannot even begin to explain how great it felt to play some John Carpenter style (horror movie soundtrack) music with that keyboard using software synthesizers in Cubase/Reason/Live.

Spending time in my studio makes me happy, and investing those hours is a real pleasure, not a chore.

A note on Steinberg Cubase and Ableton Live

Initially, I downloaded a trial version of Cubase 13 Pro and compared it with Ableton Live Lite 11 (a license for Live Lite came with the Focusrite device). During the first minutes, Ableton appeared to be easier to use, at least for simple stuff. But while playing more with both products, the differences in their respective target audience became more and more obvious. Then I compared the list of reference artists that both companies show on their respective websites.

On Ableton’s page, mostly musicians from the techno and electro scene were listed – none of the names meant anything to me, that is neither my music nor my crowd and I also don’t need a software that was originally designed for live performances.

On Steinberg’s page, names like Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, Accept and Arch Enemy were listed. That message reached me and my heart made the choice right then and there.

But eventually I couldn’t help myself and I still bought an Ableton Live 12 Standard license (when Focusrite sent me an offer to upgrade from the bundled Live 11 at an acceptable price).

When I saw Guy Michelmore use both Steinberg Cubase and Ableton Live, and James Newton Howard using both side by side, it became very clear to me that both DAWs can peacefully share a place in the same household next to each other. And Reason can be used by both as a synth rack, too.