Category Archives: workflow

Resistance is futile

For as long as computers have been a part of music studios, I’ve resisted using them. I don’t know why that is, given my otherwise great relationship with machines. I used to love writing using hardware sequencers, samplers, drum machines….and keeping the computer in a different corner for when I needed to e-mail the band about practice.

Eventually, because it became pretty much impossible *not* to use a computer in the studio, I got one. I can’t say I’ve really regretted it, but I’ve never really embraced it, either. I’ve let it be my tape machine, editor and recorder, but I still prefer to have a room full of synthesizers and even hardware samplers (I will always have a hardware MPC of some flavor in my studio) than to let it all be in the box.

It’s kind of ridiculous if I really think through it. Most of my hardware synthesizers have cheap and easy software equivalents. In many cases, I actually *own* those equivalents, but just don’t use them as much as their real-world counterparts.

This is undoubtedly some sort of psychological thing for me. Making music, being a more ‘physical’ activity, I prefer to be able to physically touch and interact with my instruments in 3d meat space. It feels better touching a ‘real’ instrument instead of mousing about on a virtual one.

In the name of personal grown and exploration, I’m attempting to embrace the computer more in my workflow. I’ve been tempted to sell off large parts of my hardware and *force* that issue…but that’s probably not a very wise idea.

I’m working on a little project now, and I’m going to make it interesting for myself by pushing myself to use a stack of software to get it done. I know, I know…I’m way behind and many of you have been doing that forever. But I’m an old guy with a psychological block against using software. Time I got over that.

Or maybe not..

So I thought about it…maybe I should keep the blog around, if only for jotting down a few thoughts and keeping my mind on music.

I’ve been considering my goals for the next album. Aside from the usual ‘pushing myself artistically’ and so forth, there are some things I’d like to do that are more about process than art. There are some tools in my studio I’d like to find a way to shoehorn in to this process.

First and foremost, I’d like to make a lot of use of the hours and hours of audio I’ve been capturing on my field recorder the last few years. I’ve got gigs of back yard recordings, walks in Chicago, construction sights, coffee makers, garage noises and every noisemaking toy my son has received since he was 3 that I can draw from. All of it is poorly cataloged and completely unorganized. That actually might be a good thing, since not knowing the source of a sound makes it easier to divorce your mind from that source and to think of the sound as something else. I’ll be making heavy use of Adobe Audition for this, which I didn’t have the last time I did an album.

Another thing that needs to make it into the workflow is the iPad. Ideally, I’d like to start a track on it, or develop assets for a track using the various apps on it. I’m sure if I put my mind to it, I could do an entire track in Korg Gadget and Akai iMPC Pro. Samplr and probably the Thor app by Propellerheads would probably be a good fit.

I’d like to find someone who plays hand drums to work with. A drummer would be really cool. Vocalists, obviously. I wish I could find an actual writer to help with the lyrics/thematic material.

That’s just a few of the points I’d like to hit. Obviously, there are modular workflows i’d like to explore as well. I’ve never really done percussion on the modular, and maybe that’s something to be explored as well.

I’m not going to guilt myself with deadlines or promises that I may not be able to keep, I’ll just say that I’m going to make progress, steady progress, and it will be done when it’s done.

Do you want to contribute to my next album or broadcast? Contact me, and let me know what you have in mind.

Vision

Writers block is a bitch. It seems like it’s been forever that I haven’t written anything that grabbed me, or slogged through finishing something just to finish it only to hate it later. When I get like this, it’s like having audio dysmorphia. Not matter how many times I look in the mirror, it doesn’t look like it’s me staring back.

Recently, I was in the studio working. Well, not really working. I was playing around with one of my synths and something on the modular. I recorded a little of it and messed around a bit in Live. When I played it back, something happened that hasn’t happened in a long time. “That’s NoiseTheorem!” I thought. I had finally seen myself in the mirror.

It’s hard to put my finger on what it was that actually triggered that reaction. I instantly had more ideas for the track and took down some notes. I’ve been playing with sounds since to find timbres that match what I have in my head. I hope I can sustain this one. It’s been *too* long.

The problem

The problem, it seems…is screens.

Screens are everywhere…on my synth, on my desk at work, on my DAW, on my phone….I am sick of screens. I’ve spent my life staring at them and I don’t want to stare at them anymore.

This presents a problem – How does one create music in the modern era without being absolutely bombarded by gigantic screens full of more information than I want? How does one make music without mouse within a 50ft radias?

I hate screens. Screens are evil. They get in my way and make my music harder to make. I want the screens to be gone.

How do I get rid of them?

Labor of Love

I started recording the audio elements to the track I’d been improvising around. The capture went well, but I am having some trouble structuring. I’ve *kind of* got an intro…kind of…but not really, and I don’t know what to do in the body. The impove I did with J the other night sounded *really* good…but I just can’t get back to that sound.

Part of the reason I am having issues, I think, is also that my speakers are poorly placed. I don’t know how to improve that much given the layout of the room I am in. One nice thing in my old space was that the PC was centered which made recording and mixing easy. I need to figure out a better way to lay things out for mixing. I almost need a separate set of speackers for mix and compose. That is just so expensive though…

The important thing, though, is that I am engaging in the process of recording and arranging. I haven’t gone to that step with a track in a long while, and it is extrenely important to keep engaged in it. Even if progress is painfully slow, at least it’s there.

So never stop – Keep moving – Breathe….

Choosing my DAW

For a while now, I have been using Reason 8 as my primary DAW. My previous album, Dust, was recorded using Ableton Live 8. The question I am wrestling with as I begin my new album is if I want to continue using Reason 8 or go back to Live 8 (and upgrade to V9) to work on the new recording?

Both environments have their plusses and minuses. For the way I work, my DAW is basically a big multitrack tape deck with some cool editing capabilities. I tend to work with long linear performance tracks that I perform minimal edits on. I don’t do the micro-editing every-little-sample-in-the-right-place style of overworking tracks into dullness (I have a whole blog post I could make about that, but it wouldn’t make me many friends..) and prefer to do most of my thinking in the peformances. For this, both DAWS are fine. I do feel that Reason may be a bit more focused for this type of editing since Live seems to focus on the clip view (which I honestly never use, not even in writing).

Live, however, has VSTi, which reason just plain doesnt. I don’t use VST instruments, but I have a *lot* of FX. Also, sometimes its nice to build a quick something in Reaktor and use it on a send. Can’t do that with Reason without looping the audio through a third application.

I *could* try rewire…but I’ve never had luck getting that to work and not crash projects.

hmmm…

Overall, I’ll probably go with Reason for this one. It just kind of makes sense to go with the simpler tool. Also, I really like the way I can build FX chains by patching cables. For an oldschool guy like me, that speaks to my home and where I came from as a musician.

So…decision made: Reason 8 for entanglement. Time to start recording…

 

Writing

I’ve been assembling the gear and arranging it so that I could start in earnest the process of writing a follow up to 2012’s ‘Dust’.  I am glad to say that I think I am now ‘there’ as far as the cast of characters I am going to use to produce this album.  For all of my fellow gear nerds, this will be my core tool set:

  • Eurorack Modular System (of course)
  • Virus TI2 Polar Dark Star
  • DSI Pro2
  • Elektron A4, Octatrack and Analog Rytm
  • Korg KronosX

I will, of course, be bringing in other tools from my storage closet as I feel the need.  My first track that I am writing now is using the Akai MPC1000 through a mess of pedals (Korg SDD3000, Rodeck Restyler, Eventide ModFactor) and that’s turning out well.  I like this concept of core devices and rotating in and out the extras.  It makes the setup more manageable.

So writing has begun…and I will post about my concepts soon.  Time to get to it.