The Digital Renaissance
From the perspective of modern technology with it’s personal computers continually rising in processing power and an increasingly vast array of well-budgeted music software and hardware to choose from, it can be said that it has never been easier to make music.
Whether you are a professional with aspirations to climb dizzy heights and achieve multimillion sales with award winning projects, or just an amateur looking for a bit of fun, it cannot be denied that there is a lot of creative opportunity available using the desktop computer to handle you musical input. Long gone are the days when extensive multi-track recording was reserved for those connected to the industry with its strictly commercial
setup or for people well off enough to afford the expensive equipment.
Nowadays, in conjunction with your computer, a relatively cheap virtual recording studio software package like Steinberg’s Cubase or Pro Tools which has all the features of multi-track recording, a few instruments such as a midi controller keyboard, a guitar and a microphone and your all set up potentially to make some really good music: Basically, it’s all down to dogged-determination, enthusiasm and ability!
Who am I?
-Someone who has been making and recording rock and pop music for a hell of a long time! I have my own virtual recording studio set up and have written, performed on and produced some 16 CD’s to my name. I have also produced other artists in my long and varied repertoire. However, in the early days I never thought I would end up with having that much of an involvement with music in the recording studio.
Some twenty-odd years ago I had been in and out of bands. Then I decided to go solo. I had a head full of ideas and a handful of songs I wanted to record. The choice of doing it all on my own seemed quite practical to me at the time: It would save money employing other musicians and prevent endless rehearsal hours of trying to get across what I wanted and how to do it, when I could achieve this much quicker on my own.
… Well, so much for that nice little theory! Using the words of the immortal bard, what actually happened in practice was a comedy of errors! It took me over two years to finally come up with an album’s worth of my own material.
It had taken such a long time because I had made just about every mistake imaginable during the making (well, it felt like that!). I may tell you more about those mistakes later, with the hope that you don’t make them. It has to be remembered, in those days there was no such thing as computerised recording. It was not even a mere twinkle.
It was a time when the boundary between musicians and non-musicians was a lot less grey: None of this copy, cut and paste sound sampling that you get today from software packages such as Rebirth and Fruity Loops where anyone can have a go. There was no such thing as a controller keyboard linked up to a personal computer where a knowledge or experience of having played is not essential, or midi programming with all its time and money saving implications.
For example, these days I find it a wonderful thing that by using the midi there is no need to have to tune or mic up drums or go through hours and hours of rehearsal and take after take with the drummer to get what is considered to be right for the production. Or even have to call the whole rhythm section back a few days after because a flaw was found in the timing of the whole thing (I’ve been there and done that!). Nowadays the right sound samples and the necessary clicks of the mouse or operations via the keyboard can get the whole software-editing job done relatively quickly to my liking.
Nor was it a time when digital multi-track processing was used where signal-to-noise-ratio was not a problem. No, it was a problem then with analogue reel-to-reel tape recorders. Especially when a high number of tracks, not to mention the cost incurred through having to use a suitable Dolby noise reduction system. If you ever get the chance, ask someone to take off the Dolby on a 24-track tape machine so that you can hear how much hiss nose it makes.
However, in spite of my shortcomings, I still carried on in the same determined way. Which leads me to one piece of advice I can give loud and clearly: Never give up. From a philosophical point of view, I have learnt those mistakes, incompetence, disappointments, shortcomings or anything suchlike are events that can be seen as opportunities!
Sometimes when we are in the morass related to these things, we fail to see the big picture: those undesirable circumstances are platforms for learning, growth and achievement in disguise. -This is how it has been many times for me in music and recording.
From those early days on I did progress, slowly but surely. In a way I was glad to have been around in that era, since I can appreciate the transition from the old analogue set up: reel to reel tape recorders, mixing desks, the multitude of effects racks, echo machines, harmonisers… to the digital technology of today, having gained a broader perspective on how to approach a production and have a greater instinct in knowing how to put music together.
For me, it is this intangible instinct that I treasure the most in all the things I have gained through learning.
I realise also, apart from there being a whole number of different and alternative ways to getting the same task done, that with music being the creative process it is, it may not be appropriate at times to be governed by rigid laws and dogma on how to go about things. For example, today’s offbeat may be tomorrow’s convention. So, from this point of view I realize that many things are not set in stone; take an open minded approach at all times.
Above all have lots of fun!