Santa’s Little Helper 2011

Mentioned on the air

Here we are once again in the wonderful Christmas season where love and good cheer reign supreme… or maybe not so much as the news reports of violence and other mischief roll across the wire from early Black Friday sales… so as I make this years gift recommendations, remember that everything here can be commandeered online… perhaps not the safest place in the world, but safer indeed than your local Walmart. As always, we have one suggestion for those of you with a little more to spend… a second recommendation keeping things more middle-of-the-road… and then bringing up the rear are some stocking stuffers in the under $30 range.

Yamaha CP33 88-key Stage Piano ($1,000) • This year for the most expensive spot on my list I’m going considerably cheaper than the 10k Mac Pro tower I featured last year… but with good reason as this keyboard was one I’ve gotten to know over the last 9 months. Obviously a gift limited to those amongst us with musical tendencies, but if someone on your list fits this bill, this is one amazing instrument that can be used by professional stage performers all the way down to parents looking for a good alternative to the higher priced acoustic pianos for teaching their children how to play the piano. Having been the purchaser of literally dozens of keyboards over the last 3 decades, it boggles the mind what kind of quality you can get these days at such an affordable price… and yes, even though a thousand dollars may feel like a lot, you more than get your moneys worth with the CP33.

Yamaha CP33

The feature to note right off the top would be that this is an 88-key ‘graded hammer effect keyboard with authentic resistance’. In other words, this is as close as you can come to the feel of a real piano in an electronic instrument. I’ve really beaten the heck out of mine over the last three quarters of a year and it’s holding up just fine. If you find yourself with some interest here… check out the following video featuring Yamaha’s Tony Escueta demonstrating the sounds and features of the keyboard… and if you think you might want to hook this board up to a computer and get into some digital recording, continue reading below the video and I’ll show you what else you need…

MOTU Audio Express ($395) • So where I went a lot cheaper on my big ticket item this year, I’m going a little more expensive on my middle-of-the-road suggestion because that’s what I feel is necessary for this particular piece of technology as I stick with the musical theme. You’ve got the computer, you’ve got the keyboard controller, now you need a way for the two to talk to each other, this is where the audio interface comes in… now as far as audio interfaces go, you can find much cheaper than the Audio Express… in fact for the most basic of interfaces you could go as low as $70 or so… but the durability, versatility and reputation of the Audio Express makes it worth the extra money, particularly if you consider the recipient more than your basic tinkerer. I’ve owned and used the cheaper models and I now swear by the Audio Express which has been steadily working in my studio for over two years now meeting all my varying needs and desires for audio input/output along the way.

MOTU Audio Express

I use a CP33 along with an Audio Express to interface with a Mac running Logic Studio Pro, which is a software app that’s basically just a super-souped up version of Garageband which comes for free on all new Macs, in fact I’m guessing that many of you have messed around with it at some point… well now imagine you were controlling all those ‘virtual instruments’ within Garageband from the external keyboard… that’s the versatility and functionality this combined $1400 set-up would bring to the computer-owning musician on your Christmas list.

Stocking Stuffers Under $30

Lynda.com

1 month of Lynda.com ($25)  As their webpage states, “Give the gift of knowledge”… and knowledge is exactly what’s delivered at Lynda.com… What is it? Lynda.com is an online archive of technology training videos geared towards those looking towards teaching themselves software applications and techniques. Lessons are presented in pretty much the same format you’d expect from a book. There’s an overview and a table of contents for every title as the user consumes the content either as one continuous movie or as dozens of smaller more focused ‘chapter’ videos… as the website allows you to bookmark your progress through any given lesson, I’d guess that most users split the learning process over several days watching the smaller movies in sequence. Also noteworthy is that most every lesson comes with downloadable exercise files so that you can follow along at home using the same files as in the video.

For the person in your life passionate about making things with computers, you can’t go wrong with this gift… plus, if your recipient had never heard of Lynda.com, you’ll get the credit for turning them on to it for the rest of time… Courses in 3D, animation, audio, business, design, developer, home computing, photography, video, web and interactive software packages represented… and even some Garageband training sessions to keep the theme rolling here… five of ’em in fact… so have it.

The Great Escape Artist

Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist ($12) > Only their 4th album in 23 years, its been an 8 year wait for the Great Escape Artist… and although there’s a couple misses, by and large this is a sometimes textural, sometimes all out rocking album that may not be a repeat of the bands seminal works of the late 80’s, but instead a representation of where they are today as both individuals and as a band. The album begins with ‘Underground’, a brilliant choice to start the album as it rises from harmony over dissonance and quickly finds a groove… breaks loose at the two-thirds mark into a tribal beat that then gives ways to a volcanic Navarro solo just to let you know he’s still in the house. Other exceptional tracks include the tribal, harmonic ‘Irresistible Force’, the departure from the typical Jane’s sound that is ‘Twisted Tales’ and the step back into the classic Jane’s sound embodied by the albums closing track ‘Words Right Out of My Mouth’.

I’ll conclude this year with a sampling of ‘End to the Lies’, 1 of 3 songs you’d consider radio singles from the Great Escape Artist… be forewarned before clicking play that this is an R-Rated video to be sure… I usually save the racier content for theScroll but as this is such a great piece of film-making, I thought I’d make an exception ;-)

A Merry Christmas to all and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

spacer

Leave a Reply