One of the frustrations about being a musician, especially one that dabbles with electronic music, electric instruments and laptop sound recording technology is that you live with a vicious time vampire. Just when you think you have a moment of inspiration and the free time to actually make music, you discover something you need just doesn’t work anymore.
Software is notorious for being broken, even when the makers insist it works. I have software that refuses to work with other software, software that refuses to work with other hardware and software that just decides it should take my system down on a whim. This can be at any moment.
The latest “free” upgrade of my digital audio workstation software resulted in the introduction of several new crashes and it now prevents me using one of my favourite plug-ins. Thanks a bunch, guys.
Even when studios were simple affairs with crusty old analogue consoles and tape decks, there was always a channel strip that didn’t work, a few jacks in the patch bay you had to avoid using and the tape machine itself would become hysterical at the merest change in room temperature.
I have guitar amplifiers that once sounded great but now make no sound at all. I could fix them (I’m a qualified electronics engineer) but that would mean devoting music making time to repairing esoteric electronic problems. Sometimes diagnosing the dead component is only half the battle. One of my amplifiers has an unobtainable hum balance trimmer that I have not been able to source for literally decades. I get more satisfaction from music than I do from repairing dead electronics, so I park the dead gear and move on to something that isn’t (yet) dead.
My monitoring system’s main power amp died twice, before I gave up on repairing it. It was a design flaw. The same resistor cooked itself every time, taking out more of the printed circuit board each fry up. Historical equipment like cassette decks and turntables gave up long ago, rendering entire libraries of records and tapes I had lovingly collected obsolete at a stroke.
I have numerous exotic and rare electronic guitar effects pedals that gave up the ghost in their sleep. I am certain, from previous experience, that mending them is a matter of replacing the inexpensive failed component, but again, hunting down failed components is not the same as making music. Some of the components aren’t even made anymore (hands up anyone that ever tried to source an SAD1024 in recent times!)
I am now up to my fourth keyboard, after the previous three just died or lost driver support, as I moved forward with my laptop upgrades. There is a suitcase full of intermittent guitar leads under my bed. Some of my guitars need screening, need their worn out volume potentiometers replaced of have problems with switches and jacks. It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.
Even loading sample libraries is fraught with danger. Last time, the unzipper refused to unzip the massive sound library because the path name had exceeded two hundred and sixty characters. Why two hundred and sixty? Would it have killed them to make it five hundred? Or a thousand? There was an easy fix for that, but just messing with it kept me up past midnight. And the download itself took twice as long as usual because the latest update of Firefox rendered this venerable browser totally inoperable on my computer, thus taking out my trusty “Download Them All” download manager (only available for Firefox).
I don’t know what the answer is. It seems like no matter how much you spend, the same unreliability plagues you. Maybe it’s a way to keep guitar and electronics technicians employed.
I just hope that one day my music making will not be interrupted by the breakdown of my gear.