music tools.

A non-comprehensive list of my most-favorite music production tools, many of them embodying the philosophy of do less creative tool design and more recently permacomputing.

Studio Aug 18 2022, 6 15 53 PM

Photo: Aug 2022

Dirtywave M8

The Dirtywave M8 has become the centerpiece of my music-creation process. I've always preferred trackers for writing, starting with Pxtone and LSDJ in the early part of the previous decade, so it makes perfect sense how the tool that has felt most comfortable and immediate in my hands since than would come from the mind of chiptune legend Trash80. The best part is that also supported is a free "headless" version that runs on an off-the-shelf Teensy 4.1 and interfaced with using virtually any PC, which for me before I got my hands on the hardware version was a 2010 Macbook Pro.


I'm a fiend for distortion and my current favorites are the Eau Claire Thunder by Dwarfcraft Devices (RIP) and Black Hole by Coda Effects. I used to think software amp sims were garbage, always producing a distinct and signature "middyness" analogous to the difference in sound between an acoustic guitar's natural tone versus its sound through a pickup. But at some point early on while producing the band Qbomb several years ago I discovered that I had been approaching them all wrong. Amp sims are great and can give you a supernatural version of an electric guitar sound when run on clean settings using real hardware pedals at the input. The amp and cab sim pedal I use currently is the Strymon Iridium, which isn't the most full-featured of the options out there but the three types of amps it chooses to emulate, it emulates very well.


Eurorack systems are great in their versatility, but I have to admit I only really love them for one thing which is unpredictability. You can spend a lot of money on an amazing fully analog DAW-less system, but to me this can be a time-waster and a never-ending pursuit, though I also understand is a reason people like and get sucked into the format so much. The value for me has been creating a system where I never quite know what something's going to do or how something is going to sound, and recording the output of it to sample and use in other productions later. My favorite module that represents this mentality for me is the Akemie's Taiko by ALM Busy Circuits.


I've been a single-coil Fender supremacist for over 15 years, but lord help me last year I bought a 2019 Gibson SG Standard Tribute. It is the opposite of everything I prefer in an electric guitar in a lot of ways, especially because played clean it honestly sounds terrible. But as I've said before, I'm a distortion fiend, and although I've loved pushing single-coils to their absolute fuzzed-out limit, the dual humbucking design offers so much more flexibility in that regard. I've outfitted mine with Dunable Slugwolf pickups. I also must admit, after many years slinging some of the heaviest imaginable guitars and basses around my neck, holding something so light feels seriously great.

Outboard Gear

I worked full time in the music industry as an audio engineer and (extremely small-time) record producer from 2014 through 2020 and have been privileged to have had access to some of the most highly sought after vintage and cutting edge audio equipment there is. I honestly miss it, but my outboard rack is my little slice of curated (budget) relics from my time in that world. One day I'll get a lunchbox and 2500 in there (maybe another JoeMeek VC6Q cuz I love that thing) but as my interests have shifted and expanded I enjoy what I already have and it's more than adequate for my modest home productions.

Game Boy

Artifact of a bygone chiptune era of my life that I still keep around and occasionally use, flash cart is loaded with mGB + LSDJ and hooked up to my other gear via teensyboy MIDI interface. In Feb 2022 I upgraded the screen with a drop-in IPS replacement which is quite nice, also way way easier and better than some of the backlight mods we used to do back in the day. I'm currently on the hunt for an affordable Konami Hyperboy for desktop use that I can mod with audio outputs, or maybe just drill a hole and run an aux cable out of lol.


Not gonna lie, this is one of the tools that I use that objectively does too much. Still, it is on my list as something it would be fun to write a little app for one day as I increase my understanding with audio programming and dsp. I mostly use mine as a MIDI host, meaning I don't need a laptop on my desk with a DAW open in order to hook all my USB midi gear together. It's a nice platform with a cool community though, just not really for me as a main tool. Some people love to fiddle, and platforms like this always give you something new to fiddle with, but I think fiddling is probably my least favorite part of making music if I'm being honest.

Other Synths

I like simplicity in my hardware and software synths, "one-knob-per-function"-type interfaces are usually ideal. My favorite two at the moment are the Yamaha Reface CS and Behringer Poly D.

Music Computer

My main music computer is a refurbished 2016 Macbook Pro running Pro Tools 2021 and Reason 12. A hot tip for anyone who buys Apple products is to never, ever upgrade the OS beyond the version it ships with if you want to keep it fast and functional for as long as possible. Before I purchased this computer in 2017 I was using a 2010 version running Snow Leopard. Audio tends to break often on the newest version of Apple hardware and software, so for the sake of reliability older operating systems are often preferred.