Finding a Control Surface for Your Home Recording Studio

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 43,376
    Recording engineer Franklin Taggart demonstrates how to create a home recording studio, including how to find a control surface.

    Franklin Taggart

    Franklin Taggart is a guitarist, singer/songwriter, recording engineer and record producer based in Silver Spring, MD. He's played guitar since 1975 and has been involved in some aspect of performing, recording and composing ever since then. He also is a well known guitar teacher in the Washington, DC area. He has been nominated for many WAMMIE awards from the Washington Area Music Association, winning the Traditional Folk Instrumentalist category in 2001. His first CD Falling All the Way has received excellent reviews from a variety of sources and was also nominated for seven WAMMIE's.

    Hi, I am Franklin Taggart. I am here talking about home recording setups and how to setup your own studio in your home with the computer based recording setup. The next area that we are going to talk about is control surfaces.

    When you see a picture of a recording studio, most often one of the things that you see is the big console that has all of the faders on it and the knobs and then it looks very impressive and very important. The truth is with computer recording is that, especially for the home recording person is that a console like that is not all that necessary. You can do a lot of things in computer recording with a mouse click that you would have relied on a console for in times past. So, the thing that is really interesting about a control surface is that it takes the place in some cases of one of those huge consoles that has all of the mixing capabilities. I am going to show you a couple of control surfaces that I use really frequently, that give me a lot of flexibility in my studio and they also enhance my creative process. This particular control surface here emulates a hardware sampler that is used very much in hip-hop and electronic music and what these pads do is each one of these just can trigger one sample that is in my computer. I hope this is a computer with a USB and all of these pads then can be assigned to different samples. They can be sample note or it could be a sample drum hit, it could be a longer sample of like a musical phrase. So, I can trigger those with these pads and create songs with that. This also has four faders on it. These faders can be used in the traditional way that faders are used to control the volume on a channel. It also can be assigned to different MIDI controls, so if I wanted to assign one to a pitch band, I could do that. These pads are used for editing and selecting different presets and then these knobs up here can also be assigned to different aspects of your sequencing software. They can be used to control volume, they can be set to control the panning of a channel, they can be set to control the filter cut-off and frequency and they can be just set for almost any use in a computer sequencing program. So, this particular one as I said, replaces the hardware sampler or emulates a hardware sampler. This control surface has a lot of different purposes. It has a MIDI keyboard, so that you can input things, you can input notes into a software synthesizer. It has 25 keys that can be set in different octave ranges from low to high, so that you can have a full range keyboard at your disposal. It has faders as well, so you can connect it up to eight channels and it has buttons that you can assign to mute and solo, similar to what you would see on a standard console. It also has these pads that can be used to trigger samples and drum hits and all of these knobs and buttons also can be assigned to different functions of your sequencing software. This has a joystick controller for pitch wheel and modulation, similar to what you would find on a MIDI keyboard and it has a touch pad that is used for special effects and that we require like a vector mixer. So, a control surface just gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of the way that you control different aspects of your sequencing software. There are many different types of control surface available. There some that include full piano keyboards, 88 keys, there are some that are specifically for guitars, there are some that are specifically for percussion instruments and then there are many combinations of all of those. When you are trying to find a control surface to use with your computer, I would recommend trying the USB interface rather than a MIDI interface. The USB interface has a tendency to be a little bit faster in its communication with your instrument and the computer than a standard MIDI interface does. A control surface makes a lot of your work in your home studio easier because so many things are included in one unit. Do your research; find a control surface that has all of the different applications that you want. I use this particular control surface not only in my home studio but I also use it for live applications as well because it is very portable. I take this control surface, my laptop and my headphones and I am all set up and ready to plug right into a PA system and do a live gig. A control surface just allows you a lot of flexibility in controlling your sequencing software and it is becoming more and more of a necessity in today s home recording studio. Find yourself a control surface, plug in and get ready to record. Thank you.