Posts tagged ‘technology’

August 6, 2014


A former band-mate recently asked if I still had my huge modular Moog and stack of keyboards that I owned when we were playing in a band together decades ago. While the simple answer is no, there are logical reasons why not.

DuaneDeckerLiveShotLive performance setup – 1980

Back then, I was a live musician who would occasionally go into the studio to record songs. My main focus was playing live and giving audiences the most entertaining show possible. The fact that I carried over 1/2 ton of equipment to every gig was a part of the show. And believe me, despite all the work involved, it was a whole lot of fun.

Each keyboard had a unique sound. While it was possible to manipulate the sounds of each keyboard while on stage, there was not enough time between songs to make dramatic changes – especially with the Moog. There was no “save” button, everything was done manually. The main purpose of all this equipment was to perform live and entertain audiences wherever we went.


2014DDMStudio3Duane Decker Music Studio – 2014

Fast forward to today. I no longer play live. I am a full-time Music Composer and Sound Designer. Yes, people really do this for a living and I’m one of the fortunate ones who do. All of my work is done inside my recording studios. My requirements have changed dramatically and so have the technology and instruments that I use.

In order to compose, record and produce music and sound, I now use very powerful professional computer software. I have well over a terabyte of musical instruments and sound effects that allow me to create music and audio in any style. Everything is still performed and recorded in real-time. The main difference is that each part is performed using a keyboard controller and a percussion controller that trigger sampled instruments.

When budgets allow, I can bring in live musicians to record. I have even recorded a full orchestra at a commercial recording studio, then brought those recordings back to my studio to integrate them with my recordings in order to complete the finished product.

Current technology gives me complete control over every aspect of creation, production, delivery and archiving. If I need to call up an old recording session, it can be opened in a matter of seconds. Most new music you hear is produced this way.

I still love going to concerts and admire all of the talented musicians who play live. But my job as a composer and sound designer requires a very different set of tools.

July 3, 2014


As you walk around any game development studio, you’re likely to see the majority of programmers and artists with headphones on, listening to music. It helps them focus on their work and their favorite artists inspire them.

As I was creating my latest YouTube video, I realized how much technology and art inspire me as well. While I’ve always appreciated those elements, creating this video really drove it home.

The technology affords me an almost endless palette of musical instruments, recording, mixing and sound design options. I am able to spread those options across multiple screens so that it only takes a turn of the head to monitor all the processes that are necessary to produce a professional quality master recording of my work. And unlike early in my career, it’s possible to build a fully functional recording studio without costing as much, or more, than a house.

Most of the windows on the screens are not only functional and accurate, but also provide graphically pleasing and stimulating feedback. While I have had a lot of experience in using traditional musical instruments and recording hardware, the high contrast visuals that surround me now are truly inspiring.

If you wish to succeed in a technology, art or music career, never forget that there are elements in each field that can not only help you, but inspire you as well.

January 13, 2013


Every once in a while, you need to change things up to give yourself a fresh perspective. In the case of composers who pretty much live inside their studios, that’s the place to make changes. Like a lot of composers, I have two studios. One is at my full time job at IGT and I also have a studio at home that has seen decades of changes.

I had a little window of time at IGT last week to do research on keeping my studios current. So at my IGT studio, I decided to upgrade my digital audio workstation, Digital Performer, to DP8. That, of course, led to discovering that more of my software needs to be upgraded. That will be this week’s challenge.

As for my home studio, I had an opportunity to deliver a few audio files for an upcoming game (that I’ll reveal as soon as possible). After working so long at my IGT studio, I’ve gotten used to certain things. So I decided to spring for a 27” main screen for my home studio. And like every upgrade I’ve ever done, it turns into a project that takes four times the amount of time that you think it will.

After all day yesterday and most of the day today, it’s up and running and I couldn’t be happier with the change. There are more changes in store this year and well worth all the work to get there.

Is it time for changes in your environment?

The latest Duane Decker Studio.

The latest Duane Decker Studio.

July 7, 2012


Women want shoes. Musicians and composers want gear. The tendency is to want more, more, more, but finding the money and the physical space to store or transport everything can become problematic.

Throughout my career, I have probably spent enough money on equipment that I could have purchased a small house. The unfortunate part about keyboards and recording gear is that, unlike a lot of other instruments, they become obsolete pretty quickly. While the obsession to get the latest and greatest is always present, it’s not always necessary.

How do you know what you really need to get the professional results that you want? Do your homework. In my experience, impulse buying of musical equipment has rarely worked out well. While I usually plan my purchases well in advance and down to the length of cables required, I have also been guilty of some awkward purchases.

At the moment, I’m in the process of trying to unload an 88-note MIDI keyboard controller with fully weighted keys and lots of buttons, knobs and sliders. At the time I purchased it, I was looking for a semi-weighted keyboard. But the alternative was a basic 88-note keyboard with no other controllers. I went for the big, cool-looking one, thinking that I would get used to the weighted action and the other controls would give me more options. I ended up never using the other controls and never got used to the weighted keys.

So how do you know what to buy? Any purchase can be a leap of faith. But you can certainly swing the odds of buying something useful and inspiring in your favor.

Ask respected musicians and composers in your community (or those who have a presence online) about the pros and cons of various instruments or studio tools. Although there are User Reviews of equipment on the Internet, I tend to take those reviews with a grain of salt. You can sometimes pick up tips that relate to your needs, but not everyone has the same needs as yours.

Find reliable retailers, as well. I’ve had a very positive, long-term relationship with the folks at Sweetwater in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The staff there is very knowledgeable. And because I’ve purchased gear for my full-time jobs at various companies and for my own personal studio, they’ve given me fair prices and attentive service. In fact, before I bought the aforementioned MIDI keyboard, I bought another controller only to find out that a key controller function that was important to me didn’t work. They sent me another one and the same thing happened. Sweetwater then tested the function and found that all of the brand new units were like that. They stopped selling that keyboard and made sure that I was able to buy my second choice — at great expense to them. Integrity has always been important to me when making big purchases and Sweetwater has always come through.

Bottom line, there is no easy way to make your purchasing decisions. Define your needs and your budget. Do a lot of research, both on-line and in-person. Buy your equipment from a retailer that you trust and will support you if things go wrong. And remember, you never know when that latest piece of gear will inspire you to write the next big hit.

This was my first solo act, Mr. Christopher, in which I played flute, drums, piano and a synthesizer that I designed and co-built. It was a pretty avant-garde show at the time.