Thursday, 8 September 2011

New Stuff

Okay, it's been a pretty cool week thus far with the odd glitch, but that's what is about isn't it. Yep. Soooooo, after a few days spent hitting to the motorways, snapping studios and other daffy stuff, I've started thinking about music again.

I've just sorted myself out a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) called Reaper. A DAW is essentially the software equivalent of a mixing console and multi-track tape recorder, but with so much more. Reaper is an amazingly cost-effective DAW when put against the likes of Cubase and Logic et al. It does pretty much everything the "big guns" do, but at a fraction of the cost. I made a few noises on my Facebook page about trying out the evaluation version, and I immediately had a number of known musicians telling me to go for it, and they couldn't recommend Reaper enough. Well that was good enough for me and I duly paid for licence which was ridiculously cheap, helped by an improvement in the exchange rate.

It loads onto a USB stick, it has a tiny digital footprint on the hard-drive and it is stonked with some serious kick-arse features. Why haven't I tried this out before now? I don't know, but I have it now, and I think it will staying put on my hard-drive(s) for some time to come. Which brings me back to where I was - thinking about music.

The addition of Reaper 4 to my system will mean a little bit of "learning time", but not too long because essentially, from what I have seen, a DAW is a DAW is a DAW, no matter how you dress it, skin it or throw bells and whistles at it. I know what I want from it and that will be my focus for a few days. And then I am going to try what will be new stuff for me. I want to do more sampling, I want to play around with different effects combinations and also dabble with synth/sequencer/effects set ups to see what I can get with a little creativity rather than reach for the preset browser. And then there's the Roland JV-2080.

I have a Roland JV-2080. It's the only hardware synth I have (not counting my Casio VL-Tone and my Stylophone of course). The JV is a great box of tricks and I have, shamefully,  neglected it for far too long. Reaper loves the JV and happily speaks to it and vice-versa so integration will be just right. I have found it easier to integrate the JV with Reaper than I did with Cubase. Cubase now seems very unfriendly in comparison to Reaper, so the JV gets the benefit of that immediately. I have found some rather cool editing software, which means I might even get into creating my own little patches, but no promises on that. I used some of the JV string presets on "Soundtrack For City Living" to great effect, so I now know what can be achieved and that's a very good thing. The visit to Benge's studio in London earlier this week (see HERE for a little word on that) also opened my eyes to the benefits of using hardware synths. Not that I am planning on getting hardware synths. No. No room. No cash. Sadly. However, the JV is plenty to be getting on with and I suspect that it will feature prominently on my next "body of work" - I might even have the project title soon, but I'll share that with you another time (it's a cracker though).

Through my association with other musicians, I have had access to instruments such as Omnisphere and the like, and it was a real pleasure having my good friend David Wright playing some the synth parts on "Soundtrack For City Living" using the Omnisphere. I had to get him to do it on the album because the company that makes Omnisphere are very strict about who uses it, I believe that if anyone other than the licence holder plays it, they publicly decapitate them. Not for me, sorry. Sooooo, whilst it was a joy to hear and see and dribble over the sounds and features of Omnisphere, it's not an instrument that I can exactly go to, and in some sense, everything is kind of done for you. Add to that, everyone is now using it. So I thought that I would go to the other end of the scale and check out freeware stuff. There's a lot of it about - and - a lt of it IS very good. Minimogue (Minimoog clone), Pokegy (Moog Prodigy Clone), Augur (Prophet VS clone), Wavesim (PPG Wave 2.2 clone) and a European software group called Elektrostudio do a fantastic line in vintage synth emulation - for free!!! I used their Micromoon (Micromoog emulation) and Rhythmus (vintage drum machine emulation a la JMJ) on the "Endless Night E.P." (Rhythmus provides the drums for "This Man") and "Soundtrack For City Living" - you'd never know they weren't high-octane, all singing, all dancing, powerhouse VSTi's!!!

Well there you go. A cheap DAW. A classic rack synthesizer brought out of retirement. A fistful of freeware VST's. That'll keep me going. And oooooh, I can hear the noses of the guys with the big guns elevating their way into the air already - lol - but hey, it's not what you've got that matters, it's what you do with it that counts ;-)


  1. What's happening with the "Classical Music" project?.

  2. The classical project is still very much alive and, because of the change of sequencing software, is going to be re-started very soon ;-)


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