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Sanity check: MacBook Air + Cubase as 'hardware sequencer'
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Author Sanity check: MacBook Air + Cubase as 'hardware sequencer'
ObsoleteModular
Bear with me ...

So I have this constant battle with using software to do music because software is my day job. Last thing I want to do after work is sit in front of a computer again. The other thing is, I only really own one computer at a time for space and affordability reasons. Again because of work, the computer I do own has to be portable (a laptop), has to be fast, powerful and up to date and optimised for development in web/networking/security etc (not ideal for a music computer).

I've gone through the whole gamut of hardware sequencers. Yes MPCs are great but I only need the sequencer. Yes the Squarp Pyramid is interesting but actually my music is quite linear. The Cirklon is the nuts but who wants to wait 18 months for one? And so on.

In the past I've got by using workstations with internal sequencers. Thing is I've just upgraded to a Yamaha MODX (amazing machine) but Yamaha (and I'm sure Korg and Roland will follow with their next gen boards) have all but dropped any concept of an internal sequencer.

That's fine, I accept that for linear, timeline based sequencing it's bordering on madness to use anything but a DAW these days. But, see above!

Consistent with this Yamaha kindly give you a gratis copy of Cubase AI with the MODX. What I like about hardware seqeuncers is they're small and completely dedicated to the task.

So I've got to thinking, and here's where I need a sanity check, something small and cheap like a used 11" MacBook Air with nothing on it but Cubase AI could, for all intents and purposes feel like a "hardware sequencer". (Sure it lacks dedicated controls but the MODX has them, plus a whole load of dedicated Cibase integration).

Thoughts?

And a less vague question:

Will Cubase AI run on something as old as an early 2010s Air anyway?

J
ObsoleteModular
... and just to clarify

this is for MIDI sequencing with sometimes a recorded vocal and guitar track

not for soft synths
Panason
So long as you keep the computer diconnected form the internet and remove any bloat , it's OK but you still lack a physical interface with real buttons and knobs etc.

if you're not doing electronic loop based music a hardware sequencer isn't particularly useful and will most likely be an obstacle rather than a helpful tool... with the possible exception of AKAI MPC machines.

You can set up the Mac to boot straight into Cubase and remove password logins etc... I reckon a 2010 Mac Air will handle any MIDI sequencing you throw at it.... just check the Cubase's OS requirements and avoid Apple's latest OS.
ObsoleteModular
Panason wrote:
So long as you keep the computer diconnected form the internet and remove any bloat , it's OK but you still lack a physical interface with real buttons and knobs etc.

if you're not doing electronic loop based music a hardware sequencer isn't particularly useful and will most likely be an obstacle rather than a helpful tool...

You can set up the Mac to boot straight into Cubase and remove password logins etc... I reckon a 2010 Mac Air will handle any MIDI sequencing you throw at it.


Thanks for your thoughts Mr. P.

Sure there's a lack of physical control but the MODX has oodles of that.

It would be similar to a hardware sequencer in the sense that you just turn it on and it's ready to go and sequencing is the ONLY thing it does. From idea to recorded MIDI part should be as fricitonless as possible.

I know it could seem pedantic but it's a workflow/ergonomic thing I guess.

J
Panason
Bight Ron - is that Brighton? I saw Horace Andy last night at Komedia. His keyboard player was rocking a Motif.
You can probably set the MODX to control Cubase (transport control, play& record buttons etc)
ObsoleteModular
Panason wrote:
Bight Ron - is that Brighton? I saw Horace Andy last night at Komedia. His keyboard player was rocking a Motif.


Shh! Don't tell anyone where my secret underground lair is wink

Awesome. I saw he was playing. Good gig?
Panason
Yeah, it was good. He played the classics. The live sound in there is much better than when DJs are playing ( which sounds shit). I also saw African Head Charge there a few months ago- they absolutely killed it.
ObsoleteModular
Panason wrote:
Yeah, it was good. He played the classics. The live sound in there is much better than when DJs are playing ( which sounds shit). I also saw African Head Charge there a few months ago- they absolutely killed it.


AHC? Nice! Old school smile Saw Toots and The Maytals at Concorde a while back. They rocked it
Technologear?
Can you set some fail criteria and afford it if reached? IE sell the laptop at a bit of a loss if it doesn't work out.
Some fail criteria could be: must use my setup +25% more than I already do; must write 1 new tune every 2 months; etc
I agree with P, no internet no wifi, my trick is to never accept user licence agreements so default software never gets initialised! Like that mp3 playing one that comes with osx.

But

From the tone of your post, it sounds like you need a message from your previous self: "don't do it! Computers and screens interfere with your creative process. And the risk is too high for them to slow you down and get in the way of creating, they eventually need updates or something changes randomly, despite your efforts to keep it stable. It's not worth the convenience cost payoff, it's one more bit of gear that can go wrong (and most likely to). Go back to hardware"

(But that was MY past self talking, possibly not yours)
daveholiday
Technologear? wrote:
Computers and screens interfere with your creative process. And the risk is too high for them to slow you down and get in the way of creating, they eventually need updates or something changes randomly, despite your efforts to keep it stable. It's not worth the convenience cost payoff, it's one more bit of gear that can go wrong (and most likely to). Go back to hardware"

(But that was MY past self talking, possibly not yours)



I think it is more of how certain people work. I grew up in the computer MIDI sequencing world and it makes sense to me. I also like "seeing" the notes and tracks as "chunks" that can easily be edited, changed, then saved, then reverted! This doesn't work out in live situations very well but if you are only in the studio...well, it works for me!

I do agree that changes and updates can be a pain in the ass, but as a computer software person I bet you could maintain a fairly stable setup without too much effort. Achieving the best MIDI interface setup can take some fiddling, but I have managed a pretty tight timing/jitter setup throughout the years so it is workable.

Although I am not a hardware sequencer person I did spend lots of time with the Polyend Seq at Knobcon. Holy shit...that almost makes me want to take the plunge!
ranix
Do you know Cubase already from using it a long time ago or are you going in blind? The modern interface is kind of awful and the conveyance and tooltips are focused on in-the-box production using VSTs. It might not be immediately obvious how to actually use it as a midi control center.
taylor12k
if you like the MPC workflow but don't need the sampling, take a look at the Akai ASQ-10. i had one of those back in the day and it was definitely the best hardware MIDI sequencer i had ever used.

no laptop and DAW will ever feel like a hardware sequencer. more powerful? sure.. but not hardware.

it depends how important *hardware* (physical controls, stripped down, more focused functionality, etc) is to you.

is it the *hardware* aspect that you're after or simply the portability?
Sir Ruff
If you know instinctively that Cubase + laptop are the way to go, then you should probably go for it.

I have used Cubase my whole musical life, and while I am always interested in trying hardware sequencers for their creative aspects, or even as a panacea from the computer, the only actual music getting made is on Cubase.

The extra screen time isn't appealing, sure, but it's just a tool and if you treat it as a dedicated sequencer, it should hopefully not feel like being locked to a work computer.
rjungemann
The 11" Air is perfectly capable hardware-wise for recording. I've recorded 4 EPs with my current 11" MacBook Air. They're still my favorite form-factor for a Mac laptop (and I'm a little salty they were discontinued). I use Serum or Diva for most of my synth sounds, and Diva is known for being pretty demanding. I tend to reach about 20 tracks in Live with a few plugins per track before I have to start freezing tracks or whatever.

Of course Cubase will do all sorts of MIDI mapping if you have a hardware controller of some sort. I use an Akai MPC Mini with Ableton but there's a ton of great controllers. I just looked it up and the Novation Launch Control XL should map to Cubase out of the box.

If you have 11" Air related questions, let me know!
dubonaire
You don't need to keep the Air disconnected from the internet. The main thing it will be weighed down with will be using multiple instances of resource heavy plugins.

rjungemann - you know, the new 13" Macbook Air is almost the same size as the old 11", it's thinner and only 200g heavier.
Blairio
Most keyboard workstations have pretty robust and intuitive sequencers. My Yamaha Motif 7 ES is about 14 years old now, but I still find myself sequencing parts for live performance on it. You also have the advantage that there will be a shed load of sounds in any workstation - plus good ones have decent audio interfaces and can load enough ram for recording of vocals, guitars etc straight into memory. The workstation will obviously trigger multiple tracks of internal sounds via midi, but also send midi externally (plus MTC, clock info etc) to control your other midi equipped sound modules.

In short, you wouldn't need a computer at all.
Spectral Tilt
Atari ST + Cubase It's peanut butter jelly time!
ranix
Spectral Tilt wrote:
Atari ST + Cubase It's peanut butter jelly time!


nanners
ObsoleteModular
ranix wrote:
Spectral Tilt wrote:
Atari ST + Cubase It's peanut butter jelly time!


nanners


Omg that’s really weird! Last night I dreamt I was explaining to an ex girlfriend’s mother how the built in MIDI port on the ST made it such a success with musicians.

It’s a sign! Retro sequencing here I come screaming goo yo
ranix
good luck my dude, I'll be here if you want to talk Atari. There are a few of us on Muffwiggler still using Cubase and Notator on our Ataris. A few commodore and amiga users too. There is actually a physical, legal copy of Bars and Pipes within arms reach of me right now
ObsoleteModular
ranix wrote:
good luck my dude, I'll be here if you want to talk Atari. There are a few of us on Muffwiggler still using Cubase and Notator on our Ataris. A few commodore and amiga users too. There is actually a physical, legal copy of Bars and Pipes within arms reach of me right now


Nice! Octamed anyone? smile

I'm actually old enough to have owned an Atari ST new. I was in my early teens. I'll let you do the maths!

/|\
zite909
ranix wrote:
good luck my dude, I'll be here if you want to talk Atari. There are a few of us on Muffwiggler still using Cubase and Notator on our Ataris. A few commodore and amiga users too. There is actually a physical, legal copy of Bars and Pipes within arms reach of me right now


I just got back an amiga 600. I have not yet been able to test it (no monitor!). But im seriously considering trying to work with octamed. Especially that now there are some "vampire" cards that let you upgrade easily old amigas.

Amiga + octamed to me means, simplicity and a distraction free environnement which is different from a PC that I used everyday for work.

By the way here is an album made with just an amiga 500 and an external controller :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBDCS_xNmpI

It is incredible !
ranix
I've just finished refurbishing and adding a Furia to my Amiga 600, and I like it. It's a real 68020 processor so I feel that it is more authentic than it would be to use a Vampire.

Lotharek recently did a run of them and put some on ebay, there may be some left
CF3
On the Cubase tip, something like this might be cool.

Futuresound
Counterpoint: feel free to connect to the internet on your Air, and by all means install latest OS.
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