Jan 1, 2013
I used to use Logic to produce my music back in 2004 (they were then owned by Emagic). That year I wrote a song that to this day I consider to be one of my best.
The song was called "Play With Fire". It had some pretty tasteful guitar riffs along with one of my better vocal performances.
And you know how it is with recordings. When you get that great take, you may never be able to repeat it just that same way again.
Years passed. And as they passed I had often thought back to that song with the intent to eventually get back to it and make it all that it should be.
But then Apple switched to the Intel platform. And when I switched along with it those old files no longer were accessible to me. Or so I thought....
I guess I just assumed the original audio was lost within the actual Logic file format. Wrong!
A few months back I happened upon a folder which surprisingly contained ALL the audio files from my old Logic sessions. Only trouble was that this folder contained every take of every audio track I ever made (both good and bad). We're talking thousands of files.
So in order for me to salvage my original project a painstaking process of listening, categorizing and filtering each file down to the final end takes needed to take place.
Fortunately the downtime that came with the Holidays was just what the doctor ordered.... Well, that and Ableton Live.
I've said this before. Live is not so much a DAW for me as it is a Swiss Army Knife for Audio.
If you need to bring in a lot of audio, preview it, toss it into buckets to reassemble into usable tracks, I don't think there is a better tool available.
Below you can see the list of audio files I had to work with. From there I placed them into their respective instrument columns and titled them to start firming up how they would come together as the final tracks. Live's audio "grid" environment was made for doing work like this!
From there I pulled the audio into the linear format most DAW users are familiar with...
This took a handful of hours. However, I'd hate to think how long this would have taken using the more traditional DAW. With Ableton I was able to piece together the vocals as well as the acoustic and electric guitar parts (both rhythm and leads) in their entirety as complete tracks.
Knowing I now had the tracks compiled correctly just as they were before, I was then ready to export them into Reason.
And this is where the fun could really begin!
I pulled in some professionally recorded multitrack drum performances (one of Reason's Drum Takes) which I felt fit well. Added real bass guitar in place of the synth bass that was originally in the recording. Then finally in the vocal lines and lead guitars, I slotted out the occassional areas of imperfection and replaced them with better phrasings.
I then started beefing up the vocals and guitars further with some light compression and amplification/distortion and replaced the original synth lines with some traditional, 70s-ish Roland Analog patches.
With Refill and now Rack Extension options available, Reason provides a stable, intuitive format with access to a pretty broad selection of tools (see below)..
Last but not least. I mixed my session using automation with Reason's SSL modeled mixer along with its master mixbus compressor. Notice how everything is there for you. No hidden menus. If a row of tools is in your way just minimize it!
The result is "Play With Fire" and is posted below. Hope you like it!
I will probably take the next few days this week to tweak the mix further until I'm completely satisfied with the final version. Once that's done, I'll export it back to Live to treat it with the Slate VTM/VCC and Waves REDD plugins.
I've found this last step rounds off the digital edge to my finished track, giving it more depth.
Dec 14, 2012
Can't be helped it's just how I'm built...
And if you check around the Internet enough you will find I'm not alone and I'm guessing most of them share the same history which goes like this:
As a kid you have your first encounter with audio equipment. It can be your parent's stereo, your first guitar amp, a mike or synth. And you're fascinated. You spend untold hours with this thing in a quiet room digging deeper into what it does and how these tools interact with each other.
So much so that at some point your folks are popping in to make sure you're still breathing.
From here we normally take one of two paths. Either we just continue to play and experiment (as I did). Or you are a complete tech head and you are actually opening things up and eventually improving upon what's there (mods).
Since I've been writing and producing music for so long I thought I'd share the gear I have accumulated thru the years, what I still use to this day and why.
I don't profess my setup to be the right way necessarily but it's worked for me so far and has proven to be the least frustrating way to get my ideas coming out of the speakers.
First off my music software is Reason. I came upon the Propellerheads after finally weening myself off the ancient Voyetra (DOS based) Sequencer Program which was synched up to my almost equally ancient Spectral Synthesis 8 track digital audio recorder. In the late 80s and early 90s this stuff was cutting edge (and expensive), but alas by 2002 no longer.
To have a tool which started as the equivalent of having someone wheel in racks of gear (including drum machines, samplers, analog synths, effects, etc.) into your home was mind boggling. Later with the introduction of audio recording and the SSL modeled mixing console I was sold so far as making this the main platform for my projects. To me, the developers did a great job of recreating the traditional studio experience in the box (which is all I've ever been interested in).
To control this and minimize excess use of the mouse I have been using the Novation Remote Zero SL. It's not perfect by any means, but the controls are where I need them. The more I think on it the more I believe that a larger touchscreen (iPad) with Touch OSC will be the way to go. That is unless some manufacturer comes up with a mid market control surface with moving faders that is both customizable and works seemlessly across your DAW of choice. Honestly, no one has really knocked this out of the park yet. The Mackie design is not ideal to me (big and square). I am hoping for something more streamlined with less width, more length and fits neatly underneath your flat screen.
Basically an adult version of the Novation Remote Zero on steroids...
Still there are a few tools that have recently come along not accessible to Reason as the platform currently has only its proprietary plug in format (Rack Extensions).
These new groundbreaking plugs have recently allowed me to get a few steps closer to both that bigger sound and that more natural (analog) sound.
Slate Digital offers a plugin called the Virtual Console Collection (VCC) which emulates the nonlinearities that exist from one channel to another across a range of high end mixing consoles. I had my doubts about this product until I actually tried it across a number of tracks in Ableton Live.
It added something that I always felt was missing. A certain depth and dimension that was lost upon my movement away from mixing on my old Soundcraft 6000 to now entirely in the box.
Then came Slates' Virtual Tape Machine (VTM). This tool recreates the effect of running your tracks to two different types of high end Studer analog tape machines (one 16 channel for tracking, the other 2 channel for your stereo mix). While these two products seriously tax the CPU on my machine I have been dumbfounded by the results.
The richness is back and that sterility that I heard in earlier mixes of my songs has gone away. For me this has been key for my more rock oriented material where I use traditional drums, bass, guitar and vocal harmonies. These tools soften everything and give them depth.
Then a company called Waves partnered with Abbey Road Studios to create the Redd Desk Plugins. Of course these were modeled after the old tube desks made by EMI for Abbey Road back in the 60s.
There was no way I was not going to have and use these..
Moving on to my hardware setup... As mentioned earlier I still have my Soundcraft 6000. I love this board. I had it since it was new. Bought it back in LA from Westlake Audio shortloaded to 20 channels (from 28) so that I could actually afford the thing. It has 24 busses and the patchbay. At the time this was considered the entry level pro board that you could actually do real records on due to its very low noise. David Gray did his White Ladders album on a board like this..
Still want to eventually incorporate it back into my setup but am waiting for the right multichannel audio converter to integrate into it (currently looking at the Echo Audiofire 12).
My microphone is an AKG C414-ULS which seems to have always worked well for my voice. That said with all the incredible new mikes out there I want to add a few more to my collection.
My preamp is a Focusrite Voicemaster Pro. Yes, I know I need to do better, but at least it has a Class A preamp and in some cases I like the vintage harmonic processor on it. Planning to add a few more pres to my collection as well!
And then there are my guitars.. My acoustics are an old Takamine from the late 70s (copied off of the Martins) and a Martin 00-18 acoustic from 68 (my favorite). For electrics I have my old Rickenbacker 12 string and my Fender Strat which are in the closet. Perhaps one day I'll get back to them.
But for now my passion has really been with the Gretsch Guitars.
I have a hollowbody G5120 with Bixby and a cheapy Electromatic Double Jet which oddly enough has turned out to be the best sounding of the bunch so far as really filling out a track for rhythm and for creating some beautiful solo lines. Who would have guessed?
For bass I took the advise of some actual pro bass players who commented that while there are all types of expensive options out there one of the favorites is the Squier. After picking one up and getting up to speed so far as learning how to play, I have to say I agree with them. It does what it needs to do!
And there you have it; the stuff that fills the room I call my studio. Put a couch and a mini fridge in the corner and I'd probably never leave!