Monday, 14 March 2011

It's not about what you've got, it about how you use it.

This is an interesting article and I'm going to come back to it later on in this post.  This might get a bit rambling and may shoot of onto some tenuously related subject so please bear with me.

Ok I'm going to tell you how I used to make music back in the day (a good 4-5 years ago).  Back then I played guitar and had got one of these, which I used to record and create music with.  The PS-04 was pretty limited compared to say a modern day DAW and yet I found it an intuitive and easy way to make the music I wanted to within the whole 4 track limit (ok plus a really bad step sequenced drum machine and even worse bass machine).  It had some basic effects for recording and 2 effects sends plus some basic editing capabilities (you couldn't see the waveform or anything for that matter).  I loved it.

This was back in the day when I had no idea what a compressor was or proper gain structure and was dimly aware that if it said clip that might be a bad thing.  The mixes I got out of it were terrible but creatively speaking within the confines of that little multitrack I felt like there were no rules and I was free to do what I wanted.

Ok fast forward to now, you may have noticed from my earlier posts that I'm rocking Logic which is so much more powerful - unlimited audio and midi tracks (well until the cpu tells me to piss off), flexible routing of buses and all that modern day DAW blah blah blah.  You know, sometimes I find myself falling into the same pattern of doing things in different projects, almost as if I have to do things a certain way.

So first real point: your interface for making music - whether it's a guitar, violin, pair of turntables or a DAW - has influence on the music you make.  Certain workflows make certain musical results or styles of composition easier than others (I know as a guitarist how easy when writing riffs or solos or whatever how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking in the box patterns of scales).  Arguably it's easy to fall into the pattern of "copy and paste loop then delete different parts to outline different sections" in a DAW.  My Dad once told me of a guitarist (can't remember who, I'll ask him next time I see him) who wrote all of his riffs on the saxophone so that they didn't sound like the sort of riffs that the very nature of the guitar encourages.

I think being aware of this is the very first step to combating this potential problem.

Ok now back to the link at the beginning of this post.  I find it interesting that you can exactly recreate the effect of those overpriced waves eqs (plus other analogue modeled ones) by using your own DAW's bog standard eq + x.  I remember the first time I used the waves renaissance eq thinking that "I can't really hear why this is so expensive" and I'm glad to know that I wasn't tripping.  One of my mates waxes lyrical about how fantastic the waves eqs are and how much better than the logic ones they are and over the last year and a half I could never hear it.

Compressors are a different issue and have too many variables to be recreated by a flexible one, but i guess what I'm trying to say is that it doesn't really matter what gear you use to make music or do mixdowns, it's all about how you use it.  It doesn't matter if you've got X plugin that's hyped on gearsltuz it doesn't automatically mean that your mixdowns will become any better.  Same with DAWs, if you're making real tight mixdowns on Fl studio, getting pro tools will not improve them.  Going back to what I was saying about how I used to make music, now I know what I'm doing I could make a mix that I'd be proud of using that PS-04 despite it's limitations.

A rookie guitarist with a proper Les Paul who can't properly do bar chords is going to sound worse than a really good guitarist with a squire strat.

Incoherent rant over.


  1. Okay, haven't even started reading this beast of a post. Looks like it is chock full of production advice. Lemme get some coffee.

    Big UPZ!

  2. Was reading this, and it inspired me to write a note about something I've been thinking:

    Nice one.

  3. It's more a rant about some principals of production and some logical fallacies you see in newer producers (like "my favorite producer uses X plug in for processing his bass, I'll never sound as good as him until I own that plug in).

    That and reminiscing about when I used to make hardcore punk - like this

  4. yeah man, interesting thoughts - look forward to the next instalment

  5. I'd like to see more of this.

  6. I really relate to what you say about a few years ago, recording into a limited thing, etc. (I used to record into audacity). I want to stick with what DAW i use now and try to get to grips with it so well that I will be able to make whatever idea is in my head into something very similar on the computer. I'm not really up to date on the plug-in/new VST hype that might or might not go on, which I think is a good thing for someone trying to learn something about what they've already got.

    Really enjoying your blog man.

  7. Cheers movement :)

    One of these days I'm going to make an album using only a monotron + a couple of breakbeats for the sounds and only mix it using the logic stock plug ins to prove the point of this post.

  8. Check out some of the stuff the guys on the sp forums make with their Roland sp samplers. Using only a few records to sample from and just a very limited sampler (its no mpc) some of those guys are making some inspiring music! Shows it not just what you use.