I use a Fostex multi-tracker for general audio recording, Logic to sequence midi and to mix/master and Ableton Live for general crazy experimentation.
I recently rediscovered the joys of Garageband. Before I was using importing raw tracks from my multi-tracker into Logic projects and it was total overkill. It’s this sort of thing that Garageband is meant for.
Garageband all the way. I wouldn’t use it for pro recording, of course, but it’s more than good enough for making MP3s and just generally noodling around, and is one of the most intuitive sequencers I’ve used. If you know what you’re doing you can get some surprisingly realistic sounds out of it, too. Realistic strings/guitars are a problem, as with all synths, but they’re still pretty damn good.
GB for tracking. Not sure what the house is using for their mix downs. I stick with GB for my personal stuff. It isn’t about the quality for me any more. I am just having fun.
As to hardware…
Tracking: tascam 1804 firewire
Effects: Digitech tsr 24 Alisis and Berhenger compressors,
Pre: Marshal JMP-1
Noise makers: Parker Fly Deluxe ('91 manu-date so it has the real pickups and fishman), Martin 16GTE, Cort bass, an original Simmons SDS-9, Mapex 9 piece, Zildgen/Sabian cymbals.
Mics: Down to just a SM52 for vocals and a couple of old senhizers for room.
I find my taste/technics veering toward lower tech, old school methods. all the drums in a room that has the room acoustics that i want (bathrooms are amazing for drums), 2 mics placed to get a mix “close enough”. Gets a fuzzier sound that works real well for me.
Any who… some day I will a actually do something with all this stuff. Then I will die as I will have fulfilled my purpose. That or Snort will kill me for tracking drums at 3AM in the bathroom.
Anthony - Garageband uses the same audio engine as Logic (considered one of the best DAWs available), so it’s good for pro-recording. It’s pro-mixing where it falls down. Oh yeah, and Soft intruments aren’t brilliant.
When it comes to string sounds, I’ve made the following decision - either collaborate with string players, or use a string sound that sounds deliberately artificial. You know in Mellon Collie and the Infinate Sadness where the strings kick in and they’re really obviously sampled and sound really dirty - I think that sounds far better than a half-baked realistic (by approach rather than effect) sound. A read quite an interesting article about sequencing strings and it talks about the way you compose them has to be very dynamic. It mentions the way that if you do too many block chords then string players call it “Football music”.
Jaysen - it’s interesting you have an interface that could easily handle close-micing a full band yet you choose to bleed-mic. I love bleed micing - for a couple of reasons: it’s easier to set up, and it sounds awesome.
I think you’d need to work very hard to convince me not to bleed mic a kit now, even if the facilities to close mic were there.
I use Cubase as my primary system, with Reason & Live as Rewire slaves. In Live, overwhelmingly I use Sampler, because it’s unbeatable as a true software sampler. Reason works for me as a glorified digital instruments rack, with all the MIDI tracking managed by Cubase. I’ve been working on a system for playing the whole thing live, using a Behringer MIDI floorboard and a Frankenguitar Telecaster/Keytar hybrid. Cubase is problematic live, though, even with the Arrange track, so I may strip it out for live stuff and just use Live with Reason piped in.
In terms of instruments, I mostly stick to my two beautiful guitars (a Fender MIJ Tele, which I’m soon going to gut and turn into the aformentioned frankenguitar, and a Maton Mastersound 2000 Deluxe, a glorious Australian-made electric guitar, kind of similar to a Les Paul), which I record through an Orange Rockerverb 50 halfstack, via a pair of ever-popular SM57s
I’ve also got a lovely Novation SL65 MIDI controller which I use to play a plethora of VSTs, Live, and Reason.
I need to get a better vocal mic - I’m still using a serviceable but uninspiring Behringer B1 condenser, probably the weak point in my chain. Still, it’s done the job so far.
Lastly, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of writers around here are also closet musos
After all, if it worked for Douglas Adams and (works for) Neil Gaiman…
Export the midi Cubase and use Logic to do the live work. Logic is supposed to have an included module for just this use. I haven’t done this as I am not doing any live work nor will snort approve the purchase of Logic until I start making $$ playing. Can’t blame her for that position.
The equipment I’m using is listed on novatlan-sound.de/studio/equipmentliste.php (in German!).
I simply love the combination of composing in Sibelius and recording in Logic.
In contrast to most people here, I do music for a living and writing as a hobby
I only jumped on board the Live wagon with 7 so unfortunately I’m not well placed to sing it’s praises in comparison to the older versions, but I can’t see myself living without it, now. It just became my primary music environment, actually.
I dearly love Cubase, and yes, if you take the time to REALLY learn to use if you can do some very powerful stuff, very quickly. But they’ve never quite managed the ‘just works’ mentality that I’ve so loved since going Mac. You can’t just fire up a Cubase project, flick on the interface, and start recording. First off, you have to route your hardware through to the input buses. Then, you have to choose between several output buses (more, if you choose to use the control room mixer), and then route those buses back to your interface so that you can hear what you play. All this stuff is invaluable to a studio producer - who needs say, five different output mixes to route to the control room, the recording booth, the noise chamber, headphones, near field, far field, etc etc. But for the everyday bedroom producer, it’s more trouble than its worth.
Live is the perfect balance between the two - it’s a fairly powerful production environment, so you’re not going to get to the point where technology is stopping you from creating the ideas you have in your head - but more importantly it doesn’t expose any functionality until you need it. Don’t care about automation? You don’t need to even see it until you do. Don’t have a MIDI keyboard handy? You can use the COMPUTER keys to at least preview the software instrument sounds. AND it handles VST more stably than Cubase does, which is hilarious since Steinberg invented the standard. I love it. And I adore how powerful the Sampler instrument is…puts Halion to shame.
I hear you on the mic. I’m not sure about M-Audio stuff, though. I highly recommend Røde mics, though. In terms of sheer quality for price they’re difficult to beat -and they’re designed in Britain, should you need to add national pride to the bargain I’m planning on getting an NT-1 and a pair of NT-5s as soon as I can rustle up the money. I’d dearly love to get a Classic II (the closest thing you’ll get to a Neumann or a Beyerdynamic valve mic for less thant $1000 AU), but unfortunately buying the Creative Suite for uni has completely cleaned out my pockets.
Ah fair enough - I would love to give the demo a run for it’s money but unfortunately, if I did that, my current version would go all weird on me (this happened when I installed the Ableton 6 Demo). Ableton used to be my main environment to work in, but then there were a few things that just really bugged me. Mainly how incompatable it was with other programs. What, ideally would have liked to do is to arrange things in Ableton - export the individual tracks and then mix in Logic, but Ableton 5 was… a pain in the ass trying to do that - instead of being able to bounce tracks individually, you had to solo a track, bounce it, solo another track, bounce it. I mean, in Logic you have “export all tracks as audio files” which is exactly what live needed.
Something, I believe it now has. Also, being able to export individual clips as audio would be lovely. Rewire isn’t very stable on my computer so that was an issue.
Also the Midi editing wasn’t that good in 5.2 - recording was fine, but I mean, I had no idea, most of the time, which quantise thingy to use.
For these reasons, Logic became my main environment for a while, but I think with some of my gripes addressed (most of which, I get the impression, have been), I wouldn’t hesitate switching back to live.
Aside from the (you’re correct, pretty woeful) export options, the biggest thing I’m missing in Live from Cubase is takes. Takes and lanes are Cubase 4’s most underrated feature, but they’re fantastic. You loop a section you want to record, or fix, punch in, then just keep looping over it, playing your part over and over again until you get it right.
Then, all of your takes are fully expandable within the track as lanes - you can click between them and audition the individual takes in context of the track…and here’s the best part…seamlessly merge them. So if you get something right in the first part of one take, but make a mistake in the second half, you can merge this with a take where you got the second half right. You also can leave all of the takes sitting quietly under the track, there’s no point where you have to bounce them (hidden takes are effectively frozen).
MIDI in Live is pretty good these days, by my ken, even if it’s a bit simplistic I’ve never had a problem editing the notes easily enough. Reason 4 has finally got a sequencer almost as good as Cubases (it’s got takes now, no lanes though, and edits well).
Live does sidechaining so very easily too, which for those who need it is very very nice (Cubase only finally got sidechaining in the last update, and I suspect Logic still doesn’t support it, but I could be wrong because I’ve never used the most recent version).
Takes and lanes in Live would be AMAZING (I love Logic’s version of this feature!) I mean, that would be one thing that would change if from something I would do a backing track on, to something I would happily use start to finish; especially when I’m working with other vocalists.
I suppose, with the workflow Live encourages, I’m trying to think where you’d put that feature in - maybe by having expandable clips!
I was just thinking as far as a verbatim copy in the Arrangement view, but you’re right - expandable clips would be bloody outstanding. They would have to do a bit of thinking to get the interface right - some easy way of flipping between clips under a single clip (as opposed to clicking between scenes in a single session track), that wouldn’t require them to mangle the beautifully sparse session view.
(writes enthusiastic email to Ableton that will probably never get past the slush pile)
I did try Audacity for editing my (voice) recordings, but found the interface less than appealing. I already had Amadeus and much preferred that … Amadeus Pro is another brilliant piece of software created by a kind, responsive, helpful single developer! It’s not that expensive, but you do have to pay for it – unlike Audacity.
PS … the original Amadeus II, which is stereo but not multi-track is still available and pretty cheap … though I can’t remember the price US$25 or $35, I think it was. hairersoft.com/Amadeus.html
Disclaimer: No connection with Martin Hairer or HairerSoft, merely a happy user of Amadeus/Amadeus Pro