Los Angeles session keyboardist Paul Mirkovich (pictured) has beenusing numerous virtual instruments in the studio, but he is now takingthem out on tour with Cher.
A longtime Cubase and Nuendo user, Mirkovich is especiallyenthusiastic about virtual instruments. “I’ve been using VSTi’s in thestudio since they first were developed, and now I’m starting to usethem onstage too,” he said. “For the longest time, I’ve been wanting todo it, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough with the reliabilityissues; the thought of a computer crashing in the middle of a live showin front of 20,000 people is a little scary! But during the 120 showsI’ve done during the past year on tour with Cher, I’ve been slowly, butsteadily, using more and more virtual instruments instead of my rack ofhardware synths. Fortunately, VST and Windows XP and computertechnology has gotten a lot better over the last year as well; in fact,it’s grown by leaps and bounds.”
According to Mirkovich, his Prostar 2.8 P4 laptop running Windows XPPro has been more than up to the task. “It’s got a 533 bus and a gig ofRAM, and is loaded with all the latest versions of everything, andthere have been no reliability problems so far. Of course, we loadeverything all in beforehand and we don’t have a tremendous number ofpatch changes.” Mirkovich runs a variety of Steinberg and third-partyvirtual instruments from within Cubase SX, including The Grand, D’Cota,PLEX, HALion and all the Virtual Guitarists: Acoustic, Electric and theElectric Edition.
“I find that virtual instruments are every bit as good as hardwaresynths,” he said. “In fact, they’re even better in a lot of ways,because they’re a lot more convenient, a lot more powerful and they’rerecallable. Plus, they don’t burn out, you never have a cord buzz, youcan save everything with your songs. You don’t have to go, ‘Oh, whatpreset did I use here?’ And you don’t have to worry about spilling beeron them!”
The main virtual instrument Mirkovich is using on the Cher tour isThe Grand. “That’s actually become the only piano that I use in theshow; in fact, I think it kicks ass over the real thing! D’Cota is thenewest addition to my collection, and I think it’s just brilliant. It’scool that it contains three synthesizers in one, and it’s a veryunique-sounding instrument. The analog section has a very warm sound,and the spectrum synth has a very cutting digital kind of sound. PLEXalso sounds great; it’s not quite as programmable as D’Cota is, butit’s not meant to be. But the sound of it is excellent, and there aresome presets in there that I really love.
“Back in 1998, I put together the Cher tour in Cubase VST,”Mirkovich continued. “It worked great, and everyone was happywith the results, so it was a logical step for me to move up to Nuendo.Since I’d been using Cubase VST for years to record audio, I was one ofthe people who was asked to help beta test Nuendo when it first cameout. In fact, when I was beta testing the Macintosh version of Nuendo acouple of years ago, I was about to start Janet [Jackson’s] All 4U tour. I think I was the first guy to use it for such a high-profilegig! There were some teething problems at that time, but the greatthing about it was that I had direct communication with Steinberg, sowhatever bug I reported would be fixed overnight and they’d e-mail apatch to me. Now I’m happy to see that a lot of the suggestions I madehave been implemented in Nuendo 2.0.
“Nuendo was used to put together all the audio for the current Chertour, as well as for Janet’s tour. Frankly, the initial thing thatattracted me to Nuendo was that it wasn’t the same DAW that everybodyelse was using—that’s just backward thinking to me. I never likedthe idea of being married to a piece of hardware that, in a year ortwo, is going to be obsolete. Look at the situation all the users ofthat DAW are in now: Everybody who’s got a system has to upgrade to thenew hardware, and then they’ve got to buy all of their plug-ins again.That’s just ridiculous!”