Feelers On The Dealers
Take Note Music
A music shop which only sells one product — and it isn't an instrument? Well, not quite, as Billy Punter Takes Note...
So there you are shoved into the back corner of the shop with a badly tuned telly, a dodgy micro, and a shop assistant who wouldn't know a RAM if it got up and bit him. It's taken half an hour so far, and he's just worked out how to load it up. And now the shop's resident Ritchie Blackmore has started in on Smoke On The Water. His amp's all the way up to 11...
To be fair, there are a few general music stores around the country who do know how to set up, present, explain and sell computer software to musicians, which is just as well given the enormous potential of this ever-increasing element of the musicians' armoury. But they are few and far between. And it's not often you'll be given the opportunity to get to know a system in quiet and relaxing surroundings, with as much (or as little) expert advice on hand as you need. So it was with an air of anticipation that I set out in search of Camden's Take Note Music, a store apparently dedicated to such an end.
My first surprise came when I reached Carol Place, a couple of minutes walk from Camden Town tube. Wall to Wall motorbikes. You see, Take Note is a strange music shop in many ways, not the least of which being that it recently traded its conventional storefront location in Camden High Street for a purpose built showroom in a new warehouse development coincidently occupied also by the Camden Motorcycle Cooperative. Contrary to expectation, this looks like a good move. The interior of Take Note is a brightly-lit, high ceilinged, split level space reminiscent of the better class of recording studio's relaxation areas. All very 'pro' looking, I thought. But did this mean I'd encounter the dreaded 'Pro' attitude? ie: 'this little oik hasn't got got two pennies to rub together. Why should I waste my time on him?' Only one way to find out...
'Hello. Anybody about?' (It was a bit quiet the day I visited.) A genial, ginger-bearded guy emerged and smiled. 'Hi' His name was Nick Kiey, and what could he do for me? Reassured, I launched into my spiel — I'm a drummer with a bit of MIDI gear, can't play too well, looking for some kind of Real Time/Step time software with the emphasis-on simplicity, not too loaded, blah blah blah...
First off, and with little prompting, Nick filled me in on the history of Take Note. He and his partner had spent the last three years in LA selling American software to American musicians, before deciding to chance their arms selling American software to Brit musicians. They opened in Camden High Street nine months ago 'Just to test the water' and moved to their new and very flash premises three months ago, having decided to concentrate on a very select range of proven, pro quality software packages. It sort of giros the impression that Take Note is a shop which is only selling one product, but this is misleading: what about the instruments I could see mounted on keyboard stands over in the business end of the shop for instance? There was a CZ101, 1000 and 3000, an Alesis MIDIverb, TX7 Expander, CZ1 sampling drum machine, and a Matrix 6 Rack expander. Just the kind of instruments, in fact, you might want to end up using with a computer sequencer.
Yes, Take Note do sell all those, the Atari 520 and 1040 ST micros, a variety of the latest MIDI junction boxes and management gadgets from manufacturers like Southworth, Dr. T and C-Lab.
But the emphasis isn't on the hardware per se. In Take Note, the floppy disk and the EPROM rule supreme. Virtually all the best names in US and British Pro software for the Commodore 64, Atari 520/1040 ST, Apple IIe and Macintosh are represented, but it is Steinberg's extensive range of software and hardware which holds sway. Here you will find their patch Editors for Mirage, DX, CZ and Korg synths, their remarkable Pro-Creator for the DX7 — and of course those twin enfants terribles of the sequence software scene, their Pro-24 and Pro-16 packages, on disk or EPROM, with a full range of interfaces and software upgrade kits.
We chatted for a while about what I wanted out of a system, what I thought it should and shouldn't do, discussed the relative merits of likely packages and settled on the Pro-16.
We went over to the instruments, all 'live' and fed through a Boss 8:2 mixer into an unspecified but perfectly adequate PA system, and set to work... A pretty neat idea this, since not only can every aspect of a MIDI set-up be demo'd before your very eyes, you can even (if you choose) try whichever bit particularly turns you on...
First, Nick spent 15 minutes or so taking me through the system, answering all my obvious and not-so-obvious questions in an accurate and agreeably non-patronising way. When we both felt I had the basics sorted out he left me to it, intervening only twice when I got myself lost in the manual and asked for help... I looked at my watch. I'd been at it, making a (fairly quiet) din for close on an hour without a hint of a hard sell. Time to wind things up...
Nick seemed not at all put out by my revelation that 'I'd go away and think about it' merely pointing out that if I should come across with the cash, it was part of his company's policy to maintain contact with its customers after the sale is made, and help was only a phone call away. In extreme circumstances they'd even come out to my place to sort the problem out. Now there's service for you. Especially when you consider that you can be parted from considerably more than £200 without anything like as good a grace in many regular music shops.
I left Take Note with the firm impression that it has to be the place to go in London if you're serious about musical software. Quite simply, I've seen no-one else so well geared up to taking the mystery out of the whole thing.
Take Note Music, (Contact Details)
Feature by Billy Punter
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