I think I might have mentioned that I’m part of the Fizzle community before. They offer courses on building an online business and also have a forum where members can connect and learn from each other.
I recently had a question about streamlining my work life, and was provided with a couple of helpful answers from community members.
One was from Brad Robinson, creator of Cantabile, a live performance software that helps keyboardists. I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about what he’s doing, so here’s our Q&A!
1. Tell us about who you are and what you do.
I’m Brad Robinson, the founder, developer and designer of Cantabile.
Primarily, I’m a software developer and spent most of my career working on accounting and financial software systems – something which I never found to be particularly rewarding.
Cantabile started as a side project, but has grown to the point where I now work on it full time from my home in Sydney, Australia.
2. What is Cantabile? How is it different from the software that’s already available?
Cantabile is a workstation for musicians who perform live – primarily keyboard players.
At its core it’s a plugin host – a way to load instrument and effect plugins and play them in real-time. Around this core functionality are many features designed specifically with live performance in mind – things like fast song switching, dynamic MIDI and audio routing, the ability to integrate with and configure external gear, large on-screen show notes and so on.
There’s also a real focus on performance and stability. If your software crashes or glitches while composing a song in your studio, it’s not that big of a deal. But if your keyboard crashes in the middle of a solo while on stage, then that’s really not cool! So there’s been a lot of effort to make sure it’s rock solid and efficient.
3. What inspired you to create the software?
It started as a side project when I was getting back into playing piano about 10 years ago. I was using a digital piano with reasonable sound quality, but I knew about these incredible sounding virtual piano plugins.
I was looking for something that would let me play virtual instruments in real-time and record what I was playing. I tried a few of the programs that were available at the time, but none of them really did what I was after so I decided to write my own. I released it on various forums and it grew from there.
4. How does Cantabile solve the challenges performing musicians typically encounter?
One of my customers summed it up nicely as “the software that lets me play with 2 keyboards instead of about 6”.
In other words, it lets you load all of your instruments, and Cantabile will manage the things you need for a particular song. When the next song starts, you can hit a button and Cantabile will re-wire the whole rig, enabling some instruments, disabling others, setting up new keyboard splits and layers and perhaps sending patch changes to external sound modules. It can also display show notes like lyrics and chord progressions for that song, and it can do all of this really quickly without glitching or stalling in the process.
Some users have reported that by using virtual instruments the amount of gear they need to cart around is significantly less, and I’ve even heard of some users leaving their keyboard at home while traveling, just taking their laptop and renting or borrowing a keyboard at the gig.
On the other hand, some people just find it an easy way to play and record music in their lounge room.
5. Is there anything else I should have asked?
I have to mention the great community of musicians using Cantabile. There’s a friendly discussion forum where they help each other out with Cantabile questions and other related topics like the gear they’re using and how they set it up. Cantabile certainly wouldn’t be what it is without their feedback and support.
Building a product like this and seeing the way it helps musicians with their shows – I find to be extremely rewarding – definitely more rewarding than accurately calculating a figure on the bottom of an accountant’s balance sheet.
Well, I can certainly get behind anything that saves keyboardists from having to cart around and set up multiple keyboards.
And if you enjoyed this interview, I hope that you’ll take a moment to say “thanks” to Brad on Twitter: @CantabileApp. Let him know I sent you.
And, as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.