Proving that age is no barrier to making electronic music, ’81’, a 12 year old producer and record label owner based in Detroit shows us his studio.
81 – My Studio
Hi everyone, I’m Otto Dean, known as 81 in the musical world. I’m 12 years old and I have been making music for the past three years and have accumulated a studio and lots of equipment. I own a record label and a radio station which occupies my time when I am not making music. Due to my musical preference, I usually make House or Electronica music, but I really just like making whatever sounds good.
Korg Volca Keys
The first piece of equipment is my Korg Volca Keys. Don’t let anyone call this anything other than amazing! Even alongside all my other synthesizers, this one sounds the most prominent. This was the first synth I bought and I was attached to it from the start. You have so many options sonically, there is no reason not to love it.
It does have its cons, however. The included keyboard is small, and it only supports three note polyphony. But for it’s cheap price, it’s totally worth it. This was used for the melody on my track “Life” and you can also hear the iconic fifth setting on many other tracks on the same album. Many might be surprised to hear its use on my ambient track “When Your Horse Kills You” as well.
Another product by Korg, the Electribe is also completely amazing. It’s basically like having a DAW in physical form. The sounds it offers are a little bland, but you have many options in terms of effects, and you can even use it as a standalone effects unit with the audio input jack. You can hear this on about half of the tracks on my album either as the drum track or other background sounds complimenting the main melody.
Korg Volca Bass
The Volca Bass is a great machine for many types of basslines, however it has its cons. While the many waveforms it offers, and the ability to detune each oscillator provides many opportunities, I personally think the sounds it offers aren’t as interesting compared to bass sounds created by my Volca Keys and MB33 synthesizers. Ironically, when it comes to other types of sounds, this machine can get quite interesting. This was used on the main melody for my track “Desire” where you can hear polyphony created by individually tuning the VCO’s.
Novation Launch Pad Mini
The Launch Pad Mini is pretty cool to mess around with, but you may find as I did that it simply doesn’t have much use in a musical workflow. I probably would of used this a lot more if I didn’t have my Electribe with all of its pads and similar midi capabilities. I have never used this on a track, but I think it will serve me well for live performances.
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators
The Pocket Operator Sub and Arcade are must haves for any setup. The Arcades’ drum and synth sounds are spectacular and cannot be found on many other synthesizers. The Sub has some really cool 90’s FM sounding stuff and is also very unique in design and sound. Unfortunately, these can only operate in the scale of C, but they are still nice to have around. I am yet to use these on a track, as I recently put them in my studio, but I think they will see some use sometime soon.
My next item is the MAM MB33 Retro synth. This is designed to sound like the Roland TB-303 and it does an amazing job! While the sound capabilities on this are very limited, it’s totally worth it for the price. I love the square wave sound, and if you turn the volume all the way up it really shines with it’s unique and interesting bass sounds. Like it’s fellow Pocket Operators this is comparatively new in my studio so I am yet to use it on a track, but I hope to soon!
Wilcox Gray Recordio
No, this isn’t just an old tape deck and record player, this is a full on record cutter! This is a Wilcox Gray Recordio which were in production from the 40’s until the company went bankrupt in the 60’s. These are rare and barely documented, so I actually have no idea how old it is. I got money from my IndieGoGo campaign to buy a more powerful machine, but I never reached my goal and wound up with this little guy. I’m in the process of repairing this and I am very eager to make my first vinyl (technically polycarbonate) record!
The only piece of Roland equipment in my studio is this JV-1000 keyboard. This was made in the 90’s but sounds very 80’s. This was given to me as a MIDI controller, but after using it I found it could be used for so much more. The cool thing about this is that it actually contains a MIDI sequencer that can be used as a standalone unit or to control the keyboard. You can craft your own sounds with the many samples and save them on the floppy drive (!) included with the device in addition to the factory presets. This has not been used on any published recordings however, I do have some unfinished songs that use this synth in them with potential to show up on my SoundCloud soon.
The Fostex MR16
The Fostex MR16 is a great machine with lots of potential for piano recording, drum recording, vocal recording…you name it! This is a simple to use, super hi-fi and super cheap multitrack recorder. It has 4 inputs, all with 48 volt phantom power at your disposal, built in effects and much more. However, the recorder only has one insert which is a real bummer if you plan to use a lot outboard effects. I have been using this a bit lately for my upcoming album; I can expect to use it a lot more!
I have a few effects pedals that I like to use on a lot of my recordings, each one is very different and they are all very good. My personal favorite is the Donner Yellow Fall delay pedal which sounds like a lofi 70’s tape delay pedal.
The Deluxe Looper is really cool just like its delay pedal brother, but like the overdrive it’s not really anything special. The name says it all.
There is not a lot special about this piano physically but it’s been in my life for so many years and I have played many songs on it that it has just became a seamless part of my daily life and now my music creation, mainly due to my new mics and my Fostex multitracker.
Speaking of mics, you probably noticed the two mics that were put inside of the body of the piano. Those are they Samson C02 pencil condensers and they the best microphones I have ever owned by far. They can be used for piano (duh), drum overheads, vocals, guitars, etc.
When I realized the potential for my GX-30M as an effects unit in my tracks, I was blown away by its capabilities. It comes with the usual distortion and EQ but it all has a chorus effect and, best of all, this has a really cool spring reverb effect that adds an awesome vintage touch to any track.
This drum kit is great when properly tuned (it’s been a while). I’ve jammed out many times. I especially like the splash cymbal, despite the fact that you often end up hitting the crash cymbal accidentally because of its awkward placement.
This is my “non-musical” item 😉
81’s album ‘Analog Dreams’ is out now and available from his SoundCloud page.