Words by Max Jacobson
When certain producers enter the Abbey Road or XL studio, they see the large mixing board as an overpriced laptop stand. You can do a lot with a little, as long as you make sure you know your little set-up well enough to sketch all of it’s features with your eyes closed. Know the capabilities, and you can make gold. We look at two producers who have made a lot with a little, here is the little secret weapons of Mura Masa and Jamie xx.
We all know Mura Masa’s music is as catchy as it is innovative. The leading bedroom producer seamlessly blends elements of electro, tropical house and hip-hop and mixes it with an eclectic sonic palette. His sound is versatile but he keeps his music accessible, a trick that is not commonly mastered by many producers.
So in this rundown, we’re going to take a good look at the equipment Mura Masa, or Alex Crossnan, utilises to get those twinkly keys and smooth bass that trademark his bangers that will be blasted all over Field Day. Crossnan definitely takes a less is more approach with his set-up, going on record many times saying he just makes music on his laptop in his room. The laptop you’re reading this on, that’s essentially Mura Masa’s studio. He restricts himself to one synthesizer, a Sequential Prophet 6. The Sequential Prophet 6 is a reworking of the vintage age-old Prophet 5 with a few modern twists.
- The instrument is a 4-ocatve keyboard with a 100% analog signal path, so everything is controlled with voltages which largely helps the usability.
- The navigation of Prophet 6 is a breeze, as it retains a classic interface on the keyboard. There are two new oscillator designs on the originals, giving it a total of 6 different voices.
- Effects include
o Bucket brigade
- There’s an analogue resonant high-pitch filter that keeps a classic sound, as well as a full-featured arpeggiator and a polyphonic step sequencer.
As far as software goes, he sticks to the common choice of Ableton Live 9, which is omnipresent across all electronic music in this day and age, not a hard find at all, in fact we’d assume that 75% of people reading this right now already have it.
Now we can look at one of the lords, Jamie xx, who boasts a pretty illustrious catalogue behind him. He is the mastermind behind the three widely acclaimed albums with his band, The xx, which has propelled them to worldwide stadium tours and a strong, passionate following since their first outburst onto the scene in 2009. If that isn’t enough, Jamie has garnered a reputable solo career with two records; the first being a collaborative album with renowned, long-time spoken word poet Gil Scott Heron, and the latter being completely under his own name earning him a Grammy nomination and the essential banger of 2015 ‘Good Times (I Know There’s Gonna Be ft. Young Thug, Popcaan)’. He’s soundtracked heartbreak and parties for millennial, and did it all with just some Casio keyboards and logic pro, so let’s delve a little further into exactly his simple, bare-boned setup.
Jamie looks like he’s a mad scientist with electronic gear when he’s on stage, but don’t be fooled by that, that’s actually his entire studio on those keyboard stands. Jamie uses an Akai MPK49.
- The keyboard has sliders attached to it that control each of the levelsIt comes with an in-built MPC pad, and has a range of sensitivity options which determine how loud and sharp the sounds of the hits are.
- The device features these Self-recording tools that are super helpful for looping, and then re-editing your work on the keyboard
- It has a pitch and mod wheel and a complete arpeggiator, which can give your sounds a lot of spark.
- There’s a new Pad control added to it, in which you can swap between 4 different banks of pads, allowing for kit of 36 sounds rather than 12
He plugs his keyboard into Apple Logic Pro 9, and just lets his hands to the talking from there on. He clearly knows the ins and outs of Logic Pro 9 better than most people on the planet, and has a strong ear for creating beautiful textures with this minimal equipment. Logic is much more apt for when it comes to writing and recording yourself straight onto the laptop, where as platforms such as Ableton and Fruity Loops are better for creating loops/beat-centric music. This impacts Jamie’s music, as he kind of feels like a composer more than just a beatmaker, as his songs grow and progress rather than just function as a beat.
Who are some other artists you want us to delve into in terms of their studio setup? Drop a comment below!