Monday, February 20, 2006

Music Machine

I've been spending 8-10 hours a day mixing my wife's record. It's the second album production I have done where I tracked/mixed/produced all by myself. I am learning a new DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) called Cubase SX2. It's been out a couple of years, but I have done all of my previous engineering on a harddisk recorder of one kind or another. Essentially the digital audio equivalent of a tape deck, HDRs are computers that simply record audio, with minimal editing capabilities. The DAW is an integrated system of recording and mixing using only the computer. Hardware controllers exist, but I am mixing it totally ITB -"in the box"- -no controller, no hardware effectors.

Since the DAW, Cubase, acts as both storage medium and editor, I had a lot of reading to do to catch up. Like H.I. in "Raising Arizona", I have an infant in one hand and the Dr. Spock equivalent in the other. Read a little, record and edit a little. It's a blast. I am amazed at the power of the recording technology in the present day. I remember lusting after the Tascam Portastudio, an early multi-track (4) cassette recorder. I had to settle for the vastly inferior PortaOne, but it was a start. Combined with a horrid Korg drum machine (I think it was the D-110), I made a few noisy demos in college.

Today, you can get a full-blown home studio for around $5k. And that's with having some pretty nice gear.

While taking a break from mixing, I like to read about other methods of making and recording music. Programs like Propellerheads "Reason 3.0" and Ableton's "Live 5.0" have a different take on it. I suggest anyone interested go the the Propellerhead web site, click on the Listen to Reason button and download the tiny app that plays music. There are 23 demo songs to listen to, all of them excellent. All done using Reason.

This kind of creative power is bound to have a major impact on musicians and music in the long run. Sure, everybody with a Dell will try to make music with these programs, but when you give artists access to the known universe and the galactic DNA to create new universes and store them as Favorites, we listeners are sure to reap great benefits at a great rate. Never before have the historically less affluent members of society had the ability to make heard the sounds they hear in their heads. Without the huge expense of having those ideas -and all of the fertile side experiments that any project generates - holding them back, today's musicians are taking great advantge of the technology.

I intend to learn Reason well enough to compose on it and integrate it into my future productions. It "sits" on top of Cubase with a click of a button. Anything composed in Reason can be downloaded directly into Cubase for editing or adding live audio tracks.

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