I knew I wanted to do a year end list of sorts. But what to rank? I could go the normal route of best albums, songs, etc. But I’m doing my top ten albums for another outlet, and I recently switched from Apple Music to Spotify. Without access to my top played songs of the year, I’m actually kind of lost.

So, I’m gonna do my own list: Digisaurus’ Top 5 Music Tools of 2016. I’ve done our show over 150 times this year and been recording a bunch. There’s some definite go to pieces of gear/programs/apps that have worked wonders for me. This one’s for the nerds out there and anyone who needs gift ideas for said nerds:

1. Ableton Live 9

Starting out with the obvious, but a good DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is central to my entire operation. If I have an idea I need to get out, I need a DAW that can keep up with my brain as its spewing whatever.  Logic and Garageband are great for getting up and running in a pinch. But having the right tools to mess around, manipulate, and open up those ideas after is important too. That’s where Ableton shines. Warping, sampling, slicing, the instruments and anything MIDI related is easy peasy. It’s also the best DAW out there for live shows in terms of triggering samples, tracks, and automating effects.

2. Nord Lead 2

Up until 2013 I was still mostly using pre-sets on synthesizers. I struggled for a couple of years to really grasp synths and a big part of it was it was the lack of an easy to understand layout of knobs, sliders etc. on a machine or virtual synth. Not only does the Nord Lead 2 sound great (it’s my main keyboard in the live show), but it was the first machine that laid out the engine in a way that made sense to me. It comes with an excellent manual on subtractive synthesis to help you study the concepts too.

3. TC Helicon Mic Mechanic 2

During our shows in 2015, I was running most of my vocals into a computer so I could have full access to a plethora of effects. It didn’t really work. I had so many issues with feedback, compression, and delay compensation. So I decided to take the vocals back out of the box. This little pedal (I use it with my hands) has such great natural sounding reverb and delay and resolved a lot issues for me. It’s not as expansive on effects as I would like, but I’m planning on upgrading to a VoiceLive Play or VoiceLive 3 sometime in the future so I can really push things live.

4. Origin Effects Cali 76

I’ll definitely give the Cali 76 “pedal of the year” props when it comes to Digisaurus recordings released in 2015. “I Don’t Feel Alright,” and “Not a Chance in Hell,” were both dancy numbers that needed a tight percussive guitar tone to help emulate that Chic funk/disco sound. This pedal was a titan in helping us pursue that. The standard pedal we used is now out of production, but they put out a re-issue  and a bunch of compact models if you’re looking to up your compression game.

5. Waldoorf Nave Synth (iPad app)

Before getting into the production of the first Digisaurus live show, I really wanted some sort of wireless MIDI controller to trigger samples. The one I was looking at proved to be just as expensive as a used iPad 3, which I could use with the Lemur app and a daemon network to create my own wireless controller interface. Anyway, before I could fully realize all that nerdy shit, I ended up downloading a few synth apps and the iPad became a synth engine. The Waldorf Nave is my primary go to and features two wavetable oscillators, a modulation matrix, and kick ass filters that bathe your ears with angelic tones. I find it works especially well for more ethereal ambience than lead parts, but you can build some straight up incredibleness for about $20 with this app.

And there you have it. The definitive top five musical tools for Digisaurus in 2016. I’m also putting together my Christmas list. If you’ve got a great piece of gear, app or plug-in you can’t live without, drop a comment below and let me know.