When Kenny Knapp first went solo in 1991, all he had for accompaniment was his guitar. It wasn't enough sound for dance-hall-type venues.
"I wanted more than that," he said. "I started investing in equipment, and the more I got into it, the more I liked it."
Today, Knapp records all his backing parts - bass, drums, rhythm guitar and keyboard - on an 18-track digital Roland 1800 recorder. He mixes all the parts down to two tracks and records onto a mini disc. His mini studio is portable enough to take on a plane and set up on a desk.
"The technology is just great today," Knapp said. "Your bedroom or your office can be your studio. It's a lot cheaper than going into the studio and hiring musicians to play all the stuff."
By the time Knapp plays a song for the first time onstage, he's probably played it 15 to 20 times during the recording process.
He uses a drum sequencer to program his percussion. He chooses a drum sound and types in each note and rhythm pattern, as opposed to playing the beats real-time on a fingerpad.
"If it's just a regular song, I can do that within 15 to 20 minutes," Knapp said. "If it has a lot of breaks, and a lot of changes, it may take one to two hours to program the drum part.
"The sequencer plays it perfectly according to however you program it, which is a lot different than a live drummer, who gets tired or who has too much to drink," he said.
"The Devil Went Down To Georgia," by the Charlie Daniels Band, is his trickiest song. Knapp had to learn all three parts of the guitar harmony, then figure out the fiddle line and program the drums.
Knapp sets up three mini-disc players. Two are hooked up onstage, so Knapp can cue up a song for a flawless segue. The third acts as a backup.
His guitar includes reverb options and a digital MIDI attachment that accesses a harmony machine. He can harmonize his voice to make it sound as if he has four backup singers.
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