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A very exciting thread about laptop music
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windchill



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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm probably going to start a flame-war here, but......I'm aware of something of a 'backlash' against ableton live in the electronic community (well certainly the one I'm in).
Once you've heard a few too many laptoppers performing 'live' by stringing together 'diverse', poorly recorded wav files, often time-stretched to the point of lo-fi, or heard a few too many DJs working with nothing but a bunch of short groove fragments, and ending up with a shapeless set devoid of any real changes - you get rather tired of the 'Live' sound. And it does have a sound. Not a sonic quality but an inescapable sense of audio files being layered and mangled but not much actually happening. I used it for a brief period but have not used it since.
I suppose it depends what you think live performance is. ultimately, no matter how sophisticated it gets, if you work primarily with pre-recorded audio fragments then all you can really do is 'DJ' your stuff - albeit in a 'fine-grained' manner - not perform it live.
If you want to truly perform live then you will need stuff like Reaktor, Nord modular or G2, max/msp etc The beauty of these is that you can build self-playing systems that you can control - which means that even if you yourself are not directly responsible for everything that happens - something is at least happening - it's not a bunch of static audio recordings.
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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

windchill wrote:

If you want to truly perform live then you will need stuff like Reaktor, Nord modular or G2, max/msp etc The beauty of these is that you can build self-playing systems that you can control - which means that even if you yourself are not directly responsible for everything that happens - something is at least happening - it's not a bunch of static audio recordings.

I am not in the mood for any "flame-war" and I tend to agree with you but being a Live 4 user I must say that there are plenty of things you can control live while playing audio with it. it's only a matter to know that application well enough Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

windchill wrote:
I'm probably going to start a flame-war here,


Not realy, I´ll just have to explain a thing or two.

Realy, Live does not depend on recorded material at all. It can be used with MIDI or VST or it can be used as a matrix of effects and routings. When you do use recorded files those don´t have to loop and when they do then you have plenty of tools unavailable elsewhere to stop them from sounding "loopy". The "backlash in the community" is indeed there but strangely it´s based on the limitation Live had in version 2, yet for some mysterious reason people now feel the need to point those out, mistakenly believing them to be a problem (Live 2 was fine, if used properly).

Most of your points relate to how you preceive Live users and not so much to any problems of Live. I don´t think those hold up to closer inspection on a individual level, I don´t think Chuck will suddenly start to record better or worse after he buys Live, for example.

Sure, Live has a sound of it´s own, everything does. This comes from some features in the internal effects that aren´t readily available elsewhere and it comes from the timestreching algorithems, I happen to like those, perhaps you don´t, it´s a matter of taste; much like guitarists will disagree on what pickup sounds good. I personally like Live´s sound because to my ear the mixer blends sounds together a little more pleasantly then other digital mixers, one factor in this might be that I happen to like the Chainreaction corner of the world where Live comes from. In turn I myself find the G2´s sound quality almost unbearable due to the DAC´s while others praise those. This is personal and the reason why you should try demos. Admittedly the tools you use can direct you artistically, which can increase the sense of the tool having a sound, but nobody is forcing you to go along. In that sense Max/Msp has a sound too with many performers who currently use it being almost fixated on doing stuff to short audio buffers, that can hardly be blamed on Max! (I like micro looping, glitches and buffer fucking as much as the next member of the Microsound list, but not all night long, please)

You also mention selfplaying systems, Apart from the question wether everybody likes those and they are indeed essential for playing live, Live can be made to play itself and modify the data it itself generates through the use of a MIDI loopback driver. People on the Ableton board are doing very interesting things with that, compared to other sequencers Live is insanely good at thise, albeit not as good as modular synths. What you seem to forget is that they need not be mutually exclusive; I perform with with both Live and a modular (G1), to me Live is a better match for the modular then other sequencers because it´s logic is more modular in nature then -say- cubase or sonar and so it requires less mental switching.

I also fail to see the problem with audio files. I can´t be expected to fly with my whole studio, build that up on stage and repatch and calibrate the whole thing in between songs so some matrial will simply *have* to be sampled, some stuff is simply too heavy and large, not everything travels well. Sampling is a perfectly valid musical instrument anyway. Samples can be treated much like any other wave table (such as the wavetables in the G2´s oscialators), if some treatment I want doesn´t exist yet I´ll program my own.

If you realy don´t want a flame war you would perhaps do better to simply point out what you want from a live performance instrument, explain why you find ractor, the G2 and Max satisfactory and what you miss in Live instead of calling all Live users people with "a shapeless sound without any changes", after all; Live users tend to be a little bit more protective about their program then other since Live, more then the competition, is set up more like a instrument then like a tool and so they tend to relate to it on a more personal, emotional level.

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windchill



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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

To a large extent I agree you Kassen. Although I certainly did not accuse all live users of "shapeless sets with nothing happening", this was only mentioned when I refferred to a specific style of DJing that live has encouraged. I agree that my criticisms may not be so valid for version 4.
The one thing I do disagree with you about is your suggestion that you can't play live without pre-recorded audio. You can if you want - you just need to adapt your stuff. I found ways of getting rid of audio alltogether. It's one of the downsides of the laptop that a lot of gigs I go to are comprised only of pre-recorded audio. That is not the fault of Live, but it is partly a consequence of it.
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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I tend to agree with Windchill re how many are using Ableton Live. I have heard shitloads of the artyfarty local DJs do just what WindChill mentions. I don?t really think this has anything to do with Ableton Live and what it can really do, but rather what happens when kids are trying to be cool with a cool new toy. ..And probably because they are using the app like their friends are using it.. with no imagination. Anyone out there remembers way back to the early 70s when the cheap electronic organs were all over the place. And.. electric guitars anyone?
But is this really a problem? I don?t think so. I simply don?t expect top notch mindblowing performances all of the time. I can tolerate kids having a good time while they deliver pretty mediocre peformances.
We should also consider that the aestethics of this style of performance can in fact produce great art too.
Shocked

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, yeah, Windchill, I could do that and for a long time I did, for a long time my liveset was only a NM rack, a DP/2 and sometimes a little hardware midi sequencer. However, I started to miss the influence of my stack of analogue effects which I feel still haven`t been emulated satisfactory. Currently I feel I need that sound and so for me personally there is a need to use samples. I might get back to a purely realtime generated set later, probably still controlled from Live though, possibly rewirer-ing and loop-back-driver-ing the living daylight out Live and Msp.

For the Liveset of the disco project I play in it´s a different matter; people expect us to play certain songs and those simply need to have certain samples or there will be complaints. You can debate wether that´s a good or a bad thing but we enjoy it and so I see no need to switch. My own solo stuff has a different audience and in my experience they don´t care so much about recognition and they care more about mood and experiments.

I suppose those are concerns Chuck needs to figure out himself. If he does decide to go the Live way; I recomend looking into buying a "Nostromo speed pad N52", that´s a little USB thingy that pretends to be a keyboard. You get lots of keys under your fingers and get to asign all of those to arbitrary Live parameters such as clip launches. I hardly need to touch my laptop anymore and got much faster with it. It´s quite cheap for what it can add to your setup.

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
And probably because they are using the app like their friends are using it.. with no imagination.,,,
But is this really a problem? I don?t think so. I simply don?t expect top notch mindblowing performances all of the time. I can tolerate kids having a good time while they deliver pretty mediocre peformances.
We should also consider that the aestethics of this style of performance can in fact produce great art too.
Shocked



what has the age of people got to do with this....nothing, actually...a person of any age is capable of brilliance or mediocrity..so i can't understand your comments about 'kids'..and it is slightly offensive

also, a violin or Live can both be tools for mediocre ideas or brilliant ones...both are idiomatic and have signature strengths and weaknesses

so this discussion is moot, in my view...

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Sure Elektro, that´s happening, but let´s have a little faith in Chuck. After all; the great majority of guitarists suck too. come to think of it; the average website will make you want to eat your tcp/ip cables and the average girl will have you looking into the posibilities of chemical castration (that´s "girl; m/f"). I for one trust that Chuck won´t be one of the sweaty 16 year olds that warez a copy of Live, grab a sample cd or two and have their mother help them on the stage of the local community house´s monthly "disco" in order to impress scooter riding doughters of carsallesmen.

Not only is it happening with Live; for all of it´s posibilities many if not most Msp users "borrow" nearly all of their code, resulting in remarkably uniform sets there too yet I still wouldn´t mind a copy if any stray 500 bucks happend to come my way.

If this influence of the tool is realy so large in the opinion of some people posting here, perhaps we should discuss the influence of our tools on our own music in either my own or Paul´s corner?

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

paul e. wrote:


what has the age of people got to do with this....nothing, actually...a person of any age is capable of brilliance or mediocrity..so i can't understand your comments about 'kids'..and it is slightly offensive




Statistically.. you won?t expect to find crowded underground clubs of 60 year olds using Live for their DJ sets? OK.. so it is offensive.. but I really think it is quite OK to let kids start out with instruments. Is it really a problem that the resulting music is dull or shitty? So what?

paul e. wrote:
also, a violin or Live can both be tools for mediocre ideas or brilliant ones...both are idiomatic and have signature strengths and weaknesses



My point too..

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

paul e. wrote:

what has the age of people got to do with this....nothing, actually...a person of any age is capable of brilliance or mediocrity..so i can't understand your comments about 'kids'..and it is slightly offensive

also, a violin or Live can both be tools for mediocre ideas or brilliant ones...both are idiomatic and have signature strengths and weaknesses


Exelent point. I hope and trust young man of 16 will, more even then I do, see why I took that example and not feel personally offended. If any well-read, intelligent scooter riding doughters of caresalesmen feel they are a exception they can PM me and we´ll go for drinks and intelligent debate.

;¬)

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:

Statistically.. you won?t expect to find crowded underground clubs of 60 year olds using Live for their DJ sets? OK.. so it is offensive.. but I really think it is quite OK to let kids start out with instruments. Is it really a problem that the resulting music is dull or shitty? So what?


Underground clubs, by their very nature, reject mainstream dogmas and so typically their music isn´t "dull". It can be obnoxious, ear piercing or intentionally stupid but it´s rarely "dull", in my experience.

By the way, there used to be this 60+ woman that would show up at Dutch teKno parties in squatted warehouses, dancing with small steps to dawn. It was a strange sight. Of cource it was also a statistical anomally.

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
paul e. wrote:


what has the age of people got to do with this....nothing, actually...a person of any age is capable of brilliance or mediocrity..so i can't understand your comments about 'kids'..and it is slightly offensive




Statistically.. you won?t expect to find crowded underground clubs of 60 year olds using Live for their DJ sets? OK.. so it is offensive.. but I really think it is quite OK to let kids start out with instruments. Is it really a problem that the resulting music is dull or shitty? So what?

paul e. wrote:
also, a violin or Live can both be tools for mediocre ideas or brilliant ones...both are idiomatic and have signature strengths and weaknesses



My point too..


wow i really thought you were more open-minded than that...'dull and shitty' is a matter of opinion..your opinion...and it seems unneccesarily bitter..as well as mis-informed

maybe more 60 year olds should go to underground clubs

i am sure that at one time, the generation before you thought the same about 'kids' from the younger generation...your generation..playing new-fangled synthesizrs instead of pianos..

history repeats itself again..

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

paul e. wrote:
wow i really thought you were more open-minded than that...'dull and shitty' is a matter of opinion..your opinion...and it seems unneccesarily bitter..as well as mis-informed

maybe more 60 year olds should go to underground clubs

i am sure that at one time, the generation before you thought the same about 'kids' from the younger generation...your generation..playing new-fangled synthesizrs instead of pianos..

history repeats itself again..


Well, perhaps I am evil.. but isn?t it quite OK that performances are allowed to stink? They can be fun anyway, and many won?t notice at all. Why must absolutely every performance in public have to be top notch? the Rolling Stones are getting away with manure. Why cannot your local DJ with a pirated copy of Live do the same? Shocked

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Kassen wrote:
the sweaty 16 year olds that warez a copy of Live, grab a sample cd or two and have their mother help them on the stage of the local community house?s monthly "disco" in order to impress scooter riding doughters of carsallesmen.


Well.. that is fine too. Cool
It could be fun and kids gotta get into music somehow anyway.

MInd you, I am commenting Windchill?s post, and not Chucks?s.


As a editor I would like to state that mr 80 here was commenting on the "stage climbing" bit as being fine, not the "warezing" bit. The E-M staff firmly believes that mr. Henke should have food on his table.

mr. 80 is Scandinavian, you see, they get caried away by the mere mentioning of the monthly community-house disco and so temporarily lose sight of legal and ethical concerns. Or so I heard.

:¬P
:¬P
:¬P
:¬P
:¬P
:¬P

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Right... and we even kill reindeer.. Shocked
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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

New .Sig!

Thank Odin for sunday afternoons.
:¬)

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

[quote="Kassen"]... for a long time my liveset was only a NM rack, a DP/2 and sometimes a little hardware midi sequencer.

Now that's my style of live performance! It's the limitations that giver a performer the edge not the power to do anything. I would love to have heard one of your performances with that rig - it's very similar to mine.
That's not say I wouldn't want to hear you perfom with Ableton Live of course!
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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

[quote="windchill"]
Kassen wrote:
... for a long time my liveset was only a NM rack, a DP/2 and sometimes a little hardware midi sequencer.

Now that's my style of live performance! It's the limitations that giver a performer the edge not the power to do anything. I would love to have heard one of your performances with that rig - it's very similar to mine.
That's not say I wouldn't want to hear you perfom with Ableton Live of course!


I have one recorded from ages back, actually. It´s roughly one hour, and all done with that setup apart from three songs from minidisc that I used while changing patches that use NM, DP/2 and Quadraverb GT.

It´s a bit much to mp3 but I might be open to a trade. A cd of your set would of cource be fair, A weird button or sticker would also be good. I´m very emailable.

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, this turned into an interesting thread... Smile

Tools are tools. I agree with whoever (probably multiple people) that said Live can be either brilliant or mediocre depending on the hands that it's in. Some people are more creative, use and abuse their tools more than others, go that extra bit to learn things inside and out, etc... And then there's the other group (probably a fairly large group) that just uses the new fangled nifty doodad without exploring too far. I don't freak out when I see someone young (or just new) doing that - sometimes those kids evolve into absolutely amazing musicians later down the road - we all have to start somewhere. On the other hand - it's annoying when you see someone selling records that does that. Smile

I can't remember what came when... but when everyone was using Fruity - it seemed like everyone on forums bitched about everyone sounding the same, and before that it was the Rebirth sound. And later it was everyone doing the same thing in Reaktor - and yeah - the glitchkids doing the same Max stuff. And didn't Csound all sound the same? Smile

Extend it back like elektro80 was doing... when the DX7 came out - didn't everyone (everyone!) use the same darn patches? Or the D50 or Wavestation. Everyone learns the same three chords on guitar... etc...

Not sure what to drop? Pull out the amen break, brother.

Anyway - yeah - back to Live/Monolake - I think they had their Max/MSP stuff available for download for a long time (or maybe they still do) and then the whole Live thing started up. And yeah - I'm a big Chain Reaction fan, too.... Smile
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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Live is cool and very well suited for live performance. It is easy to learn and lots of fun. It assumes a view of music as a sequence of bars. This works for most musical styles, but not all. . Cool

I prefer to avoid software during live performance.

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

jkn wrote:
Well, this turned into an interesting thread... Smile


Blah! You´re just here for the talk about 60+ women who are into hardcore and squated warehouses!

Oh, wait, Mosc is back. Let´s sit up straight and pretend we behaved.

;¬)

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I must agree that a tool is just a tool and everything depends on how you use it. But I can't deny that the tool often has a strong influence on what kind of music ultimately comes out. Maybe it's just that the musician chose a tool that reflected their creative inclinations. But I believe it's also the case that certain tools make it very easy to do certain things, and 90% of users are going to do the things that are easiest to do with the tools they have.
I have seen the exact phenomenon that windchill talks about many times.
I don't try to tell people how they should make music. I agree with elektro and don't see anything wrong with people (young or otherwise) making music, even if they lack talent or the resourcefulness to plumb the full depth of their equipment. In fact I would encourage everyone to make music, the process itself is positive for them and the planet in general, a much better way to spend time than many things that people do.
But on the other hand, I'm disappointed if I travel a long way or spend precious dollars to see a show that seemed like it would be really interesting, but ended up being yet another laptop/ableton live/audio samples set with no real creative innovation. Funny that it's completely different from anything you could hear 10 years ago, but it's already getting old. If the performers would only try to get more of themselves into the music (and less of the tool), I think it would hold up.
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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

egw wrote:
But on the other hand, I'm disappointed if I travel a long way or spend precious dollars to see a show that seemed like it would be really interesting, but ended up being yet another laptop/ableton live/audio samples set with no real creative innovation. Funny that it's completely different from anything you could hear 10 years ago, but it's already getting old. If the performers would only try to get more of themselves into the music (and less of the tool), I think it would hold up.


I understand you play live using a G2, could you please go into some of the "real creative innovation" that is involved in your setup that would be unavailable to me with my laptop/ Live setup?

You see, except for Wan in his Zappa cover band and some experiments at the MOD(2004) festifal I´ve never seen anyone use the G2 in live performance and I myself was unable to find anything in the G2 to hold my attention so I´m unaware of these marvelous things it can do unavailable to me.

Please explain.

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I agree with egw..maybe our experience is similar. The many shows I've seen with laptops involved have very little to do with a live show. What I mean is there is little or no dynamics that connect the performer, instrument, and audience. Press play, and everybody crowd around the family room radio for a listen. I think this topic has made a strong link between "live" and "jam", which can be two different things. With many laptop performers...they don't have, or don't use a control surface. To me, they are more like producers who happen to be on stage. A few mute on/offs, and that's the extent of dynamics. **This does not cover all laptop musician's, and I have seen a few that really make you forget the instrument they use, and instead make great music**. To me, that's important. If I wanted a pre-recorded session, I'd buy the CD and press play myself. But live, I *WANT* the interaction of a live performer & the audience, I want to witness another human being struggling with an art form and expressing their intentions none the less. I admit there are other forms of art, such as installation art, but there you still typically have some form of interaction.

I think what egw is saying is that at least with a G2, or most other hardware devices, you at least *have* the controls for adjusting right there in front of you. With a laptop, that is not always the case. And in the case of a laptop, the controls available don't lend themselves to be used in a musical way.

As for the age of performers, I think Stein still has a point to call some people "kids". I've never seen an "adult" performer start off making music on a laptop...the people I've seen always began somewhere else, on a "real" instrument (for lack of a better term) and picked up the laptop *as another instrument*. That brings with it a different approach. Many kids these days, as Kassen pointed out, have the instant hot chocolate, instant tv-dinner, and disposable wipes approach...tools CAN make things so easy on laptops to make music that's always in time, always in tune, and require very little experience or insight for expression. The music made by these "kids" is reflective of that. I'd guess 10 years from now 1 in 20 of those "kids" will continue with the art, and craft something I'd really be interested in, which is great. I think there are more people making & performing music than ever before, which is also good. But I agree that the tools have made it so...sterile, that current music sounds "boring" already. I know every body starts somewhere. I'm sure many musicians get a good laugh (& reminisce) at an elementary school concert (but at least there, you still see the struggle & can admire it).

Oh well, my compile is ready here, back to work...
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seraph
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Joined: Jun 21, 2003
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Location: Firenze, Italy
Audio files: 33
G2 patch files: 2

PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

jksuperstar wrote:
in the case of a laptop, the controls available don't lend themselves to be used in a musical way.

yes, but a laptop and a good control surface do (or at least could) Exclamation

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