The Secrets of Morningstar's Studio Revealed

Find out how one of our top electronic producers/composers creates music with a studio constructed on his own. Includes complete gear checklist and pictures of the setup.

Posted by Morningstar on Wed Dec 15, 2004

Music News
The way I go about creating music is rather the old fashion midi-audio route. It means I record every midi note, which later commands my hardware gear to record it into wav in my favorite digital audio program. This might seem slow to some but I've manage to get used to my system very well and I'm able to crank out tracks faster and faster each time.

It all starts with my Akai MPC2000XL. This is not just a sampling drum machine known to the hip-hop world, but a center stage to my synthesizers, sound modules and drum machines. Since MIDI is the controller language, the MPC understands it via 4 inputs and outputs. Glued to my MPC like conjoined twins is my 61 key Korg triton. The triton is the controller for my studio and it's MIDI output is routed into my MPC. From there, everything else gets controlled with the MPC as the master, keeping track of the tempo and all MIDI note record functions. Its easy to see how these two pieces of hardware are the main elements to my studio.

Morningstar's Gear List

hardware Synths
Korg triton
Korg ms2000
Korg poly800
Korg ea-1
Kawai k1m
Roland u-110

Drum Machines
Korg er-1
Roland mc-307
Boss dr-202
E-MU Drumulator

Samplers/Sequencers
Akai mpc2000xl (studio)
Akai s3000xl (not working!)
Roland sp-808emix

Mixers
Allen&Heath wz16:2dx

Processors
Focusrite voicemaster pro
Line6 bass pod pro (rack)
Art tube preamps
DBX 266xl compressor
Behringer denoiser
Sony tc-730 (reel2reel)
Pioneer pdr-509 cdr deck
Akai mfc42 (analog filter)
Electro. Harmonix big muff (stomp box)

Microphones
Rode NT1-A
Shure and Sony handhelds

Computer/Audio.Midi Interface
Gateway PC P4 1.5GHZ 512mem. XP
Motu 828mk2

DJ Equipment
Technics 1210 (2)
Vestax pmc-07pro
Roland dj-2000
Numark cdn-88 (cd players)

Monitors
Roland rsm-90 (2)
Polk Audio 8"sub
AKG K240monitors
Pioneer Headphones (vintage)

Other
LTD bass guitar
Behringer electric guitar

Software
Ableton Live3
wavelab4
sonar 1.0
FL studio4



The recording process is one that I continue to improve every time I start on a new project. My recording audio interface is the MOTU 828 mk2; it is connected to my PC via a firewire cable. I use all 10 analog inputs as well as the coaxial digital inputs, this gives me a good audio flexibility in case I wanted to record multiple tracks at once. My favorite digital audio program is Ableton's Live3. I find this program to fit me like a glove with its simple user interface and it's rock solid MIDI sync capabilities.

I began to record a few bars usually about 2-4 on my MPC, which is triggering different sound modules and synthesizers. After I have some sort of backbone to a track, I proceed and record everything in Live3, which is being synced by my MPC through my 828mk2 interface. When I have all of that recorded, I begin to lay tracks over it, sometimes programmed in my MPC, or live input using my keyboard.

Vocal recording is my hardest task as I have no isolation booth and sometimes controlling noise levels becomes very difficult. I use a Rode mic condenser amped threw a Focusrite VoiceMaster Pro. The addition of these two pieces of gear really has helped me improve on vocal recordings. For the longest time I was using a Shure handheld mic with no processor, it was extremely hard to get vocals right with that set up.

The software programs I use the most are limited to Live3 and Wavelab4. I use Live3 for all my sequencing of audio data and for multi-track recording and editing. I use wavelab4 for final mix down editing and mastering purposes. I have FL Studio, but just can't use it with what I'm working with. I intend to make full use of softsynths in the future but for right now I work well with what I have and find it a bit cumbersome trying to get the sounds out of VSTs.

My monitoring system includes 2 Roland RSM-90 speaker monitors, Polk Audio 8" sub and AKG K240 monitoring headphones powered by an Onkyo stereo receiver. Most of my work is done under my headphones, but from time to time I peak out and monitor my lows and highs with my speakers and sub to get an accurate perspective. A good source to get a real read of my recordings is in my truck! I usually put a pre master in there to compare with other music from my favorite artist.

I made all my studio furniture myself. Includes the main workstation area witch holds my computer monitor and Triton synth and a small cabinet that holds my MPC, SP-808, and analog mixer..I made it out of plywood and two by fours, sanded and stained...all to my custom sizes and most comfortable positions.

I have much to go before I'm done with my set up. From more musical instruments to audio patch bays and computers there seems to be no end for my love of electronic music. My turntables are always ready for the next sampling session. I constantly dig through my vinyl collection to come up with the perfect drum kit. Combined with my constant synthesizer and sound module programming, there is no end to my search for the perfect sound.

You can find two brand new Morningstar tracks on the InternetDJ Compilation CD What Incites You right here.

Other Links
Morningstar's Music Profile
Studio Photo Gallery

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