We’re in San Jose with Ron Ramos – a regular contributor to Show Off Your Studio – whose studio shies away from the desktop DAW in favour of a hardware-centric setup…
Tell us a little about the studio…
My home studio has been a 35+ year project starting at my childhood home in Northern California (Santa Clara) with a Casio M10 that my dad brought back from a business trip to Japan, hooked up to a cassette recorder and a home stereo. Fast forward to about 15 years ago, I moved to my own house in the San Jose area and reserved the extra den next to the garage as my home studio. Since the early 2000’s until present day, this is where my studio is located.
What kit are you using?
My main kit list: Elektron Analog Keys, Elektron Monomachine, Elektron Machinedrum, Elektron Digitakt, Moog Mother 32, Moog DFAMx2, Moog Grandmother, Behringer Dx2, Korg Odyssey, Korg MS 20 mini, Korg Volcas, Korg Minilogue, Korg Monologue, DSI Prophet Rev 2, Roland VS880 multi track recorder, Yamaha MG10xu, Focal Alpha 65 monitors.
Which DAW do you use and why?
The DAW I use is the Roland VS880 multi track recorder if that counts… I’ve had it since 1998 and it’s so practical and keeps me focused at 6 inputs maximum. For my studio laptop, I use Cubase 8, only because it came free with the Yamaha mixer. I’m just one of those that prefer hardware, and the DAW I mainly use just to master and transfer to my music sites.
My favourite piece of gear has to be the Elektron Analog Keys. It’s the central nervous system of my studio. I compose on it, I CV control the Moogs, Berhingers, and Korgs with it, it can be a drum machine, it can be my all-in-one workstation. It’s very easy to make complete tracks on it, and the sounds are deep and highly programmable.
How often would you say do you spend in your studio per week?
I try to spend as much free time in my studio as possible, but with a full time job and a family of five, it can range anywhere from 2 hours to 20 hours, depending on how inspired I am to be in there constructively.
How do you use your studio?
The main use of my studio is as a creative workspace, from start to mastering. I’ve been lucky to have contributed tracks to start up video game companies (Giant Cranium), soundtracks for plays in San Francisco Community Theatres (Bindlestiff Theatre), and jingles and soundtracks for start up YouTube review channels. But mostly, I experiment with my gear, track what I like, and build on those as projects for future contributions or collaborations.
What is next on your shopping list?
Next on my shopping list is the Moog Subharmonicon. Much like the DFAM, I like how atypical it sounds, yet very inspiring. They seem to have a very organic “alive” sound that is kind of unique in a market saturated with 808 and 303 clones. But I’m also not against getting the Behringer RD 808…
Anything annoy you about your set-up?
There is nothing too annoying in my studio currently, although recently I was frustrated by my glitchy Roland MC505 with the broken sequencer buttons. After 20 years, it’s still the most powerful sequencer I own maxing out at 32 measures. However, in its current state, it won’t exit record mode.
Dream piece of gear?
My dream piece of gear is probably something like the Elektron Analog Keys on steroids, something with at least 128 steps analog sequencing and 16 analog voices with a 16 track sequencer. I think I am most creative and productive with a powerful workstation, but with true analog sound and feel.
What is your top piece of production advice?
Don’t rush to finish that song. I’ve learned to leave the studio and come back after a day, and start over with a clean slate. Just because you worked on it for hours the day before, it’s ok to throw it away sometimes and start over. It pays to be more selective when starting projects. The fun projects always finish first, because you want to go back to it, the excitement and energy is there, and it inspires. That doesn’t happen all the time, but I think that’s the expectation.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?
Top advice for someone starting out building a studio? Go to music stores, lots of them, the kind with a lot of gear, and play around with everything, learn what you like, don’t like while you shop. Everyone has different ears and different preferences. When you spend a lot of time in stores shopping for gear, you’ll learn what will be a good purchase for you. Also, you’ll truly hear what it’s supposed to sound like, as opposed to shopping online and judging from YouTube videos. For example, it took me two years of shopping to settle on my Focal Alpha 65’s. I compared monitor after monitor, side by side, and in the end, my ears just preferred the Focal Alphas. Always use your ears…