Thursday, April 30, 2009

Damn You Squidoo! :(

I'm not pleased. I am supposed to create a Squidoo lens to promote this blog and whatnot, and I was all set with my idea and details, then I go to Squidoo to set it up only to discover that I need to have a Paypal account - even if I don't want any of the money myself. So, I say "ok, I'll go set up a paypal, I bet you don't actually need to put a credit card # in." But no. If I want to make a Squidoo (which I have to do for HW) I need to give Paypal my CC# or my Bank acct #.

Not cool.
Not acceptable.
Not doing it.

I have not created a paypal yet because I'm not down with giving my financial info away online, and there is no way I'm going to do it for a dumb website that seeks to dilute good information with invasive advertizements simply because they want to monetize everything. (note - no adsense on this blog. there never will be. I do not approve of the monetization of information on the internet.) So, instead, I will post what would be my Squidoo lens here on my blog. So, prepare for a long blog post. ;)

Quality Audio Editing, Music Production, and Recording on the Cheap

Many DAW (digital audio workstation) manufacturers and plug-in companies would like you to belive that in order to create "pro" level recordings you need "professional tools," and the only way to get those is to spend hundreds of dollars on software. Though, yes, some of the most well known music is made on expensive equiptment, it is not true that you need this stuff to make great music and great recordings. I'll give you some links and information about my very low budget set up, and how I use it to make music using the same techniques and ideas I would if I was using a $30K ProTools set up.

First off, since this is a computer based set up, you will need a DAW. A DAW is a way to put all your different audio information together in a way that is easily manipulated. ProTools is the "industry standard" DAW. Many people also like Steinberg's Cubase and Apple's Logic Pro. For those who are budget minded though, many low cost alternatives exist. Personally, I like REAPER.

The greatest advantages to REAPER (in my opinion) are 1) Price - a personal license is only $50, 2) Support quality - the forums on the REAPER site are AMAZING. Support is fast, accurate, and friendly, and major updates (bugfixes with new user requested features) every month or so, 3) Power of program - REAPER is simultaiosly an insane routing junkie's dream, and extraordinarily simple, 4) Included Plugins - More on this later, 5) Cross platform - Windows (95, 98, 2K, ME, XP, Vista, 7), Mac OSX, and (under WINE) Linux. Trust me on this one, and hey, the fully functional demo is available right on the site. What are you waiting for?

Next, you'll probably want some plugins (smaller programs that work within a program to modify signals - similar to guitar pedals, and hardware compressor units, reverb etc.) REAPER comes with an excellent set of plugins. The included EQ, compressor, delay, pitch shift, and auto tune are all my first choice for plugins. Also, REAPER supports VST's, AU's, DXI's, and a special format called JS. JS is a plugin language written by the makers of REAPER for use within REAPER. It is very simple, and codeable by the user. IOW you can make your own plugins, and edit other people's. REAPER comes with an unbelievable number of JS plugins, I've done entire mixes without any plugins that did not come with REAPER. In addition to the plugins that come with REAPER, I'll list some of my favourate freeware plugins are: MDA Plugins - this whole package is worth downloading even if you only ever use the leslie emmulation, it's that good. And Bootsy Plugins - I especially love the BootEQ2, it's a great sounding eq that can help give that sought after "vintage tone" to a track.

Finally, if you are on a PC, you should download Asio4All, a special driver for audio hardware. It allows you to run audio processing much faster and more efficiently, giving you lower latency within your DAW, even with a stock "multimedia" audio card.

Now, that's the basics of a great setup. But here are some links to other awesome free/cheap software:

Sonic Visualizer - great for seeing and analyzing audio.
Audacity - powerful audio editor.
Stillwell/Schwa - OUTSTANDING, inexpensive plugins. (these rival many 3-500 $ plugins in my opinion)
Ardour - Another cross platform DAW. This one is open source and modeled after ProTools. Slightly more complex to set up, but has routing possibilties that BLOW MY MIND.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


By the way, I just wanted to let everyone in the White Plains area (Purchase students thats you), that there is this AMAZING diner on East post road in White Plains. It's called the Star Diner, and the food is great. The interior of the diner is very small, just five booths and the bar with the grill behind it. It's very affordable, but they only accept cash. I got french toast (3) with an egg and 5 pieces of bacon for about 6.50. Great great place that you should visit if you have a midnight hungering for good food.

More End of Semester Nonsense.

Figured I'd let you know what is keeping me busy right now.

I've finished the six mixes I needed to do last week, and made large headway on tracking for Andrew and Kelly. Still have to plan out the large live-sound/recording on Saturday, but I'm getting help with that one.

I can finally start turning my mind to actual school work such as the viral marketing final I have to do for tomorrow, the art law final for next week, keyboard final on Friday, studio comp final project and final exam for next Wednesday, ear training final also for Wednesday, and a planning a whole summer tour including dates, venues, merch, contracts, etc for touring class on Tuesday.

wow. now I wish I hadn't written that all down - makes me realize how much work I need to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

End of Semester Insanity

It's the end of the semester and I'm going crazy with all this work I have to do. Ironically, very little of it is my school work, most of it consists of mixes and tracking for other people - junior recitals, Downtown Cabaret, competitions, etc - it just seems to all converge on the end of April.

Three mixes to do for Andrew Fox (find more on him at ben's blog here and here) and Dylan Ezzie; they're a combination of 80's dance, film score, and hilarity and are for a series of dance performances next week.

Three mixes to do for Kelly Izzo (previously mentioned in this blog) that need to be done for a singer-songwriter composition contest (deadline is REALLY SOON).

Huge tracking session with live sound for a junior recital on the 2nd - prog-metal-rock - with a mix needing to be done afterwards.

Oh, and tracking and mixing for a piece Kelly and Andrew wrote together which calls for prepared piano.

I don't really have time to be doing this now, but it's for class.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interview with Singer-Songwriter Kelly Izzo

Last night we finished tracking for three new songs for singer-songwriter Kelly Izzo . It was a great experience for everyone involved - we tracked an excellent jazz drummer and jazz bassist, something Kelly had never done before. Up to this point she had worked exclusively as a solo artist - just her and her guitar. Now that we're moving on to the mixing stage, here's a short interview with her where she discusses her thoughts on the process.

The Silly People

So, apparently about a year after Qtrax announced that it had deals with all the major labels, it has launched. For those who do not know (or totally forgot - like me) Qtrax promises to make music from the major labels available for free on it's Gnutella based P2P service. The model is supported by ads on the site. In theory, this sounds like a great idea - use P2P, the way most people aquire music, and make music available for the price that people want to pay for it - nothing. Unfortunately, the scheme is crippled by an excessive DRM scheme.

The problem with any service like this is IT CANNOT COMPETE WITH FREE, EASILY AVAILABLE MUSIC. The model presented in regular P2P services and Torrents is king - all the music you ever want for free. In my opinion, you cannot make a model where you "sell" digital music - it is not profitable or sustainable when people have the options of open P2P and Torrent.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is crazy!

This is insane - look at the Billboard top 200 right now - the first three albums are Now 30, The Hannah Montana Soundtrack, and the Twilight Soundtrack. This is the first time I ever have seen this - collections of SINGLES getting the top slots on the Billboard charts. It's not ALBUMS it's singles. Evidence that a pick and choose approach to music is seriously taking hold - I would attribute this to the rise of iTunes. But anyway, I consider this highly unusual and quite revolutionary. The artist now has a much different type of freedom on how they release music.