So, I’m not that well-educated when it comes to tech. As a songwriter, I just like instruments and tools that are straight-forward and easy to use. It makes it easier to stay creatively motivated if there are as few steps as possible between you, the idea you have, and the record button or the audience. With that in mind, here’s a list and some chat about some of bits of gear that I like and have fun using.
Pencils and notepads: the most reliable kit I own
Despite all the tech in the world, a pencil and notebook have been easily the most helpful tool when it comes to writing music for me. The fewer the steps between you and an idea, the better. Plus, pencils are better. Nothing is permanent.
Critter & Guitari - Organelle
I bloody love this thing. I can never do it justice, explaining it and what it does. It’s a magical, weird, little everything box. An absolute don of a machine – I’ve used it loads when working on new material. It can do everything from sampling and effects processing to being a full-blown synthesiser. All open source, the patch list seems to be endlessly growing and expanding. More importantly, it’s really easy and not intimidating at all to just pick up and immediately start coming up with ideas. I’m currently using it as a synth as well as an effects processor for my guitars… I’m excited to see what Critter & Guitar do next with the idea – search for it on Youtube. It’s nuts.
Logjam Prolog Stomper
A lot of people ask me about this at gigs – The Logjam Prolog is an awesome live tool. I don’t really use it much at home unless rehearsing, but, the Prolog makes for a really effective and malleable kick drum. It’s simply a wooden block with a contact mic in it, [but] I’ve managed to get some pretty massive sounds from it – put it though an EQ pedal and you’re away. It’s pretty popular amongst folk and blues musicians, but I think for any genre it can really open up some interesting moments live. It’s a real favourite of mine on the pedal board.
Teenage Engineering - PO-12 Rhythm Pocket Operator
I recently got the PO-12 Rhythm Pocket Operator by Teenage Engineering. It’s a really easy, low commitment way to enter into the world of drum machines. It’s loads of fun. I’m still learning how to use it, but so far it’s been a great way of setting up good vibes and experimenting. I find Teenage Engineering really interesting and I’m pretty keen to get my hands on the OP-Z at some point.
Melodicas are great – they might be toys, but I really love them. All the things I’ve talked about here in some way help get ideas out. You can get some really interesting wind-like instrument sounds from it. Especially when exploring harmonies, it’s a really handy tool. Plus Melodicas don’t need batteries, so that’s always a plus.
I groaned too when I wrote this down. I generally try to stay as far away from my phone as possible, but in reality it can be a massively helpful tool to capture ideas and write songs. There are two apps I use for making music on my phone. The Shure Motiv App and the Harmonic Dog DAW. They’re both super-basic and straight-forward – I’ve tried a bunch of different recording apps and mobile DAWS on my iPhone over the years, and these two do a really good job for what I need.
I actually had a year without a working laptop or computer. During that time, I recorded vocals for Booka Shade on my phone, using an SE Gemini 2, plugged into the Apogee One, hooked up to the Harmonic Dog app on my phone. I’m not a pro engineer by any stretch, but I think it worked out ok. The Shure app is awesome too. It’s my go to. It records at super high quality and is simple and straight forward. So while I may moan about phones and go on about dreams of being off the grid, my phone can do some really cool things outside of contributing to anxiety.
I really like my Apogee One. I used it a lot when I didn’t have a computer and was only able to record on my phone for a while (see above). You can get ace sound quality out of it and it’s super simple to use. Happy days in a pinch.
I love field recorders and Portastudios. I’ve used the Shure MV88 for a while with my phone, which is an awesome bit of kit for recording demos and found sounds. As well as that I’ve used the Tascam DR-44 and currently have a DR-22 on the way. When I was last in Uganda, I went and captured about 20 hours-worth of audio that I’m hoping to use on the next record in some way. Really special conversations with friends and family. I really loved capturing the different sounds and voices of that country and people that I care about. There are some really beautiful moments in there. These days I try to use my phone far less. Using field recorders is a great way to grab really good-sounding audio easily on the fly, and with multi-tracking available on a lot of them it’s a no-brainer for undisturbed work.
Daudi Matsiko’s double EP, An Introduction To Failure, is available now via Naim Records.