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|Q. I need a bit of advice on what to look for. I want to get a midi thing going and noticed when I’m in port at Miami (Mark works the Caribbean cruise circuit) that I can pick up a laptop for much cheaper than when at home. I just don’t know what to look for. What I want is something I can take out and play solo gigs with. I’ve seen cats using laptops but I have no idea what all I need. So please, I could use your advice as to what I should look for as far as memory, gigabytes, soundcards, tone generator and what have ya. I don’t care about recording, just something I can take out and use. Thanks, Mark …
A. You don’t need much of a computer just to power a MIDI act since MIDI work takes neither a lot of processing power nor disk space. You could get by with something considered obsolete for under $200 if you wanted (150mhz, 1 gig HD, 16mb RAM). EBay is a good place to look (category 3707). For about $400 to $600 you should be able to find a Pentium II/III 300 to 500mhz machine with 2 to 8 gig hard drive and 64 to 128mb RAM that will do anything you want in music (prices are as of 4/3/03, and are for reference only).
Most of this list of specifics will be standard on a notebook, but here are the features that will make your life easy:
You can hook to any MIDI module, synth or tone generator through your MIDI OUT cable running off the serial port. The tone generator you choose should be considered along with your EWI. If you go with a Yamaha WX5, for instance, you probably should invest in a VL70M tone generator to take advantage of your EWI’s full capabilities. There are tons of used tone generators to choose from. Here’s a link to Yamaha’s Virtual Acoustic Synthesis Instruments area. Click here for Roland.
If you just want to play the EWI as a stand alone instrument you don’t need a computer at all – just a good tone generator. With the computer though, you can generate a complete arrangement with BIAB, PowerTracks, Cakewalk, etc. Software for a full act is another complete issue. I prefer the MIDI shorthand system of BIAB for inputting sequences, arranging and performance playback. It’s made for people who want to be musicians – not MIDI computer geeks …
Here’s a link to a couple full arrangements done strictly on BIAB & dumped off to a wave file (converted to MP3 for the web) through the MS Wavetable. If you’re pumping out live through BIAB & a tone generator for your act you just mute the piano melody & play your horn (that’s where the Glidepoint comes into play). The MS Wavetable sounds are just fine, but you can really get some great stuff live through a pro module from Yamaha, Roland, etc.
The final piece of equipment you will need is a PA system to amplify your output. We suggest not using a keyboard amp because of coverage issues. There are a number of small PA systems (by Crate & others) that work very well, are reasonably priced & offer the superior coverage of multiple speakers. The PA systems handle the mic for your sax better than keyboard amps, as well. My Crate PA-4 will handle the computer, my sax, and two extra mics for singers or other players.