And…..Done. Final Blog Post

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been running my blog for 6 years now, even more difficult to believe that I’ve done 282 posts in that time period.  But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step away from the blog and focus on other avenues for sharing my views on creativity and audio production.

It’s been really enjoyable talking to everyone and sharing your views on how you approach all the struggles and joys of writing music.  I can’t thank everyone enough for all the insightful comments, indepth replies, and most especially for all the donations you’ve made to help make all this possible.

As a way of saying thanks one final time, I’ve collected all of the best blog posts into one document, which you can download here:

BEST BITS OF THE BLOG (Zip File)

The zip file contains both PDF and epub versions of the document so you can view it on any of your devices.  I’ve made a few changes here in there in the text to update my recommendations on gear, and make it easier to read all of the posts front to back.

Thanks again everyone!
Tarekith

Welcome To The New Blog!

Woo hoo, welcome to the new blog location.  Sorry if you got multiple notifications for this blog post the last day or so, still working out a couple last minute bugs with notifications.  Ummm, that’s all I have, but more soon!

(Strymon Timeline review…..)

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Let’s Talk Social Media

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Whew, this should be a fun topic huh? 🙂

As a small business owner, the role of things like Facebook and Twitter in promoting my business is something that I need to pay attention to quite a bit. And of course the same more or less applies for my own music-making as well, we all need the FB page for our friends and fans to Like, right?

I have to admit, after two years of putting more time into this side of my online persona than I might have liked to otherwise, I’m struggling with if it’s all been worth it or not. The downside of working this way, is that in order for it to be effective, you need to be checking it constantly. Doesn’t do me any good to have that outlet for clients to contact me if I’m not available to respond to them quickly. So as a result I’ve had to spend a lot of time each day just checking in on Facebook and trying to stay on top of what my friends are doing.

On one hand it’s been a good thing, as I’ve gotten some opportunities to do things I never would have heard about otherwise (i.e. Orcas Island Audio Conference, which was amazing). On the other hand, the more I use something like Facebook, the more friends I get, and the longer it takes me to just check for updates. Or worse, updates I really cared about from close friends and family would get buried in the mix as it were.

Of course, FB has tools to help you manage this, but more and more I started to realize that there was too much overlap with my close friends in real life, and the business side of things that led me to start using Facebook in the first place. So I thought I would try an experiment and use Facebook the way it was intended (gasp!). My personal Facebook page would be just for family, close friends, and other people I interact with regularly, while my Inner Portal Studio page would be dedicated to general music talk and all my own music related announcements.

After giving my “Friends” a couple weeks notice about this change, I sat down last week for a few hours and deleted all the people from my friends list that didn’t fit the criteria above. They had fair warning, multiple times! 🙂 Started with people who never post in the same language I speak, followed by those who invite me to events on other continents, and then the people who endlessly invite me to like their latest band pages over and over. These were the easy ones, they needed to go.

Not quite as easy were some of the friendly people I’ve met online, or perhaps clients who had Friended me over the years. Still, I had warned people to like the Inner Portal page in advance, so in the end it wasn’t too hard for me to trim down 500+ friends down to a more manageable 120.

At first this was great, my feed was now relevant me again, it made sense, and took much less time to check in on what people I knew were doing. It seemed that many people had switched to the Inner Portal page for my music news, so all would be well, right?

Unfortunately then I started getting new Friend requests from the people I just deleted, and trying to follow up with them each to explain the other Page they should be following. Or worse, people got downright offended that I unfriended them, or thought this was some ploy to get my page Likes up (I really could give a shit about how many Likes I have, this isn’t a contest to me).

So now I find myself in the position of spending MORE time dealing with social media when I’m trying to spend less time doing it. Or perhaps spending my time on Facebook more efficiently would be a better way of putting it. Sigh, sometimes you just can’t win…

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At least Twitter is easier for me to manage, and honestly something I prefer more anyway. Short and to the point, and much less time-consuming to stay on top of. In fact, I’m giving serious thought to just focusing on that going forward, since I do find it personally a more appealing way of sharing news and information with people.

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Google+ is always an option as well, and I post there sometimes, but to be honest it’s never really generated the interactions with people that Facebook and Twitter have. So for now at least it’s something I only find marginally useful.

Instagram is another option I explored, since it seemed a little more artistic in terms of content. While it’s fun to see cool pictures of gear and club nights from people I know, the fact that there’s a 9 to 1 ratio with that stuff compared to pictures of what people ate for lunch, and well…. you get the idea. 🙂

All in all I’m starting to feel like a little more like a luddite every day thanks to all of this. I find it hard to get that balance of useful information versus just wasting time trying to leverage these services to be useful. Honestly I’ve been giving serious thought to just stopping the social media altogether. GASP!

But before I do something drastic like that (err… and is it really that drastic anyway?), I thought I’d throw this back to people I know. On social media. 🙂 So, how do you deal with sort of thing? If you use sites like these for promoting your music or business, has it really been a useful way to spend your time? Is it something you’d be using anyway so who cares?

Would love to hear how other people feel on the topic, or get some ideas for approaching all this in a way that’s not only easier to manage, but generates useful returns that make the time spent worth it.
Share your thoughts in the comments, or on the particular social media site where you read this 😉

 

 

Bits Gone By

Logic

Last week I had a some fun putting together a list of all the different music making hardware I’ve owned over the years, so I thought I’d try and do the same thing with the different software I’ve used over the years.  There’s a lot more overlap in the software realm than the hardware side of things for me, but I’ll do my best to keep it as chronological as possible.  So, here goes:

– Cakewalk for DOS (I have no idea, it was barely a GUI is about all I can remember).  A guy I used to work with got this free with some computer magazine or something, so he thought I might want to mess with it.  I spent about 3 days trying to figure it out, and eventually it made a “ping” sound that might have been a 3 bit piano.

– Cubase 5 VST.  Years later while attempting to rebuild my studio after having to sell a lot of it off, I decided to build my own PC (my first ever) and get into music software.  Went to a lot of seminars checking different ones out, but it was Cubase that seemed the most intuitive to me.  Used it until about the SX3 days.

– Reason 3.  Shortly after I got into making music on the computer, a lot of my friends did too.  They all liked Reason and were always asking me for help with the program, so eventually I got it too.  It provided the intro and hook for the very first track I ever got signed, so I’ll always have fond memories of Reason.  Bit too tiny and cluttered for me now though  🙁

wavelab3

– Wavelab 3.  At the Cubase demo they also showed the latest version of Wavelab, and it was that app more than Cubase that got me excited.  Hmmm, it’s for mastering you say….?

– GRM Tools.  I got talked into getting these by a friend who really didn’t know what he was talking about.  Very wild for weird sound effects and what not, but never stable at all for me and ultimately a lot of wasted time.

– Cakewalk Z3ta+.  I think this was my first softsynth.  Such a spartan UI, it felt like the perfect computer synth at the time.  Still a great sounding and really flexible synth though.

– Waves Linear Mastering plug ins.  I bought these when I started getting people coming to me asking me to “master” their work for them.  In those days there was very much a “linear is better” mindset, so they seemed like the best package for my needs.  Oh boy did I like to go overboard with those in hindsight, though I guess we all need to learn one way or another.

– UAD Plug ins.  In many ways I think my Cubase and UAD set up was one of the easiest to use and offered the greatest range of tones.  I wrote a lot of tracks using these plug ins, and only sold them when I decided to switch to a laptop and UAD didn’t have any options for those yet.  I still plan on getting an Apollo one day….

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– NI Spektral Delay, Absynth 2, Akoustik Piano.  My first disastrous foray into NI plug ins, all of these were nothing but buggy and crash prone.  I loved the Alien looking GUI of Absynth, though the tiny text boxes you used for actually programming it were less liked.  This is one of those synths I find myself often considering repurchasing.

– Ableton Live 3.  I had been watching Live since version 1 came out, but it wasn’t until around version 3 when I started to see that I could use one program for writing, DJing, and playing live.  I didn’t have any hardware for playing live at the time, and I missed doing that.  Enter Live…

– Battery 3.  So much potential, and so much wasted time lost to buggy errors and crashes.  I swore I’d never buy another NI product after this.  I didn’t listen to myself though.

– Elemental Audio Inspector XL.  Got this on some sale, excellent set of tools, too bad they got dropped when EAS was bought by RND (short-lived as it was).

– Logic 7.  I finally got curious enough about Logic after being a Mac user for awhile that I had to get it.  Seemed needlessly complicated at first, though over time I’ve grown to get more accustomed to it’s little peculiarities.  I’m still amazed at how little it’s changed over the years.

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– Sonalksis SV-517 EQ.  The first digital EQ that made me go “wow, this sounds as good or better than analogue.”  Debate amongst yourselves.

– Audiofile Engineering Wave Editor.  Switching to an OSX based set up also meant leaving my beloved Wavelab behind.  I used it for awhile in Parallels, but eventually got sick of the Windows-ness of it and looked for a native OSX solution.  Audiofile Engineering seemed new and full of good ideas, so I jumped onboard with Wave Editor pretty early on.

– Sonic Charge MicroTonic.  Best drum synth period.

– u-He Zebra2.  Huge potential and amazing customer support and interaction on his forums, and it sounds as good as you’d expect.  Ultimately I just found the UI uninspiring and sold it though.  The new version due out soon is making me rethink this one as well.

– Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Stylus RMX.  For years these were my go to plug ins for synth and drums.  Incredible sound and flexibility, easy to program yet capable of a lot of variations.  Only because I’ve been looking at them for so long am I starting to check out other options.

– DMG Audio Equality.  If you love the SV-517 EQ, this one will blow you away.  Sounds amazing.

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– Sonic Charge Synplant.  I bought this one on principle alone.  A weirdly unique way of programing a synth from the creator of MicroTonic?  I was first in line.  Drives me crazy that this one still is not 64bit compatible, it’s the only one of my plug ins I miss that is not.  🙁

– Voxengo Elephant 2 and Polysquasher.  Serious mastering tools in the right hands, frustration and distortion if you don’t know what you’re doing.  A little complex to set up, but still what I reach for when I need a really clean and cool sounding master.

– PSP Xenon.  Bought this on a whim after hearing so much about it, but I rarely use it.  I like it for softer more dynamic music, something where you don’t want a really transparent limiter, but you don’t want too much color either.  Has a way to reacting to transients that feels different to me from anything else.  Not often used here, but I know exactly when I need it with some projects.

– NI Traktor 2.  After using Live to DJ for years and years, it was time for a break.  Checked out Traktor and was hooked immediately.  Combined with the S4, it’s most tightly integrated laptop/controller set up I’ve ever used.  Works great, never gives me any issues, and is a ton of fun to use.

– u-He Uhbiks.  Bought these on a deal when they first came out, and loved the sound of them.  Sadly, I hated the interface, weird tempo multiple for delays times and what not.  As a result, for two years I never used them and eventually sold them.

– Presonus Studio One.   Presonus heard I was interested in Studio One and invited me to join the beta team.  So I’ve used Studio One quite a bit since it was released, and it’s still my go to for client mixdowns and audio editing.

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– Fabfilter Pro-L.  Best sounding limiter ever, very easy to make things weak sounding though.  Powerful when you can really hear what you’re doing through

– Audiofile Engineering Triumph.  The update to Wave Editor took me awhile to get used to, and this is with daily use as part of my mastering business.  For every user request they added, it felt like 2 steps back in the usability of some other function.  I’m used to it now and rely on it daily to earn a living, but it still feels needlessly complicated at times.

– Jam Origin MIDI Guitar.  Finally, an audio to MIDI program for guitar that works with my playing style. I love this app, it’s amazing how well it works.

– DMG Equilibrium.  The best EQ ever.   This does everything, and expects you know what you’re doing when it comes to EQ.  If you do, welcome to the most amazing EQ ever designed.

 

I’m sure there’s quite a few smaller plug ins I’m forgetting about, but I think this covers most of what I’ve purchased over the years.  Quite the list again in hindsight!

Logic Pro X First Play

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Specific Features

Well, today ended up being quite a bit different from what I had originally planned!  Woke up and during the usual coffee, email, and web-browsing routine, realized that Apple’s Logic Pro X was released overnight.  Ok then, guess that answers a lot of questions about Logic’s future!

At first look there were some nice changes, but nothing that made me go WOW, that’s awesome.  I think that I was one of those in the camp that was hoping that Logic version 10 would be a major rewrite, something new from the ground up.  Logic Pro X (LPX) is definitely a refinement of what was there before however, even if it does have a much needed visual overhaul.

I’ve always had a weird relationship with Logic, I’ve gone through a lot of periods where I was using it every day for months, and some where I didn’t open it for what felt like years.  Recently I’ve been using Presonus Studio One v2 for everything as far as mixdowns go, so I really haven’t been missing Logic all that much.  There was nothing wrong with Logic, it was just getting a little long in the tooth and Studio One fit the bill better for me.

I also have my first festival gig of the summer this coming weekend, and I’m busy as can be trying to wrap up work related projects for my clients and get all the last minute bugs worked out of the system for the live set.  So I really had no intention of even really looking at Logic Pro X until I got back.

Well, as you might have guess, that didn’t work as planned.  🙂

One of my regular mixdown clients hopped on the LPX bandwagon, imported a Logic 9 Project she had been about to send me for a mixdown, and asked me to do the mix in LPX instead.  So, I ended up installing and using the app most of the day while working on that for her.

This is my first install of Logic from the Apple store, I was still using the DVD installers of Logic 9 for each fresh install.  I love not having to save those anymore, and the fact that you can still pick and choose which of the additional content packs you want to download and install.  Lots of the loops and such have no interest for me, so I’m glad to retain the HD space.

The basic app is about 700MB, and the core content you need to install when you first run it is about 2GB.  Took me roughly 12 minutes to have it all downloaded and installed, and it sure beat swapping in DVDs every 20 minutes.  You can download up to 35GB of additional content right away, or wait until later, it’s up to you.  It’ll also open with your default template from Logic 9 if you have one and so choose.

When I first saw the new version, “Clean” is what came to mind.  Retina graphics looked great on my 15″ rMBP, and I really liked the new dark look they are using.  Much easier on the eyes, and definitely looks more up to date.  Except for the fake leather in the blank portions of the mixer.  That has to go.  Now.

If you’ve used Logic 9, finding your way around will be easy, as much is still exactly the same.  The time display and transport controls are at the top of the app now, which does seem to feel better.  What’s more, you can drag the lower edge of the transport panel down to reveal (and assign) your frequent edit comments, or drag it up to hide the transport panel completely.  I love this!

Some of the menus are reorganized, and honestly they make a lot more sense now.  Logic has always had a lot of menus to dive into depending on what you were doing, so it’s a welcome improvement.  The Library has also had an overhaul, with all new sounds and loops in LPX, and is organized much cleaner.  It’s also now on the left, which is a little weird at first, but not a huge deal.

I personally wasn’t blown away by the new sounds, most sound like… well the old sounds to be honest.  I first got into Logic around version 7 or so, and at the time, the included presets were amazing sounding.  A lot has changed since then, and with the exception of the new bass synth presets, I just felt that Logic’s presets were only so so now.  Then again, I’ve never really been blown away by DAW presets since then either.

I don’t have much use for the additional Apple Loops, so for now I have not installed them.  Given how many commercial productions used the previous loops though, I’m we’re all glad to finally have some new ones to listen to on the radio.

The Mixer is where I spend a lot of my time, so it was interesting to see such a change there as well.  Skinny meters, bigger fader, and overall more blank space give it a whole new feel.  The plug in slots work differently now, no more click and hold to bring up the menus.  You can reorder, mute, and browse your plug ins with one mouse click.  I thought the previous way Logic handled this all was obtuse at first, so while this will take some getting used to, it’s much easier as well.

Another new feature is Flex Pitch, which lets you handle pitch mistakes ala Melodyne or Autotune.  In my brief play with it I thought it was very simple to use and I liked how easy it was to access functionality this deep.  The results were so so on solo’d material except for small changes, but in a mix most of that was hidden and it worked just fine.

Finally, another change I’ve long been begging for, improvements to audio editing.  Well, sort of.  When you double click and audio region now, you open an editor where you can destructively edit the audio file, just like the Sample Editor of previous versions.  Or, you can choose the Track Editor option, and now you get a nice zoomed up view of the audio regions including their real time song position in bars and beats.

The reasoning behind this is that it’s easier to make audio edits when you don’t have to constantly zoom the main arrange view, so now you can do it track by track in a dedicated editor.  (Which is nice, because is it just me or are there no longer any Global Zoom Out Full key commands?)  On paper, this sounds great, and for simple joining and crossfading purposes it more or less works as you’d expect.  The issue, is that a lot of time you are editing audio based on information in other audio tracks, and with the new dedicated audio editor, you can easily see those other visual references.

Overall it’s useful in some very specific circumstances, but I find it just adds one more layer to the audio editing complexity in Logic.  Personally, I was hoping to see things simplified, to allow more details and destructive editing right on the Arrange Window.  Oh well.

The last new feature (there’s plenty more) that I want to talk about is the new iPad companion app.  On first glance it looks like a simple controller app, not too much different from some of the TouchOSC templates I’ve seen over the years.  At first I almost dismissed it, there’s only 5 or 6 different screens, and it doesn’t really look like much.

But as I played with it during my first mixdown, I realized how much more often I was using the iPad for certain tasks than my usual key commands.  In many ways it reminds me of what Ableton is trying to do with Push, though without the nice tactile feel of Push of course.  For many basic ideas and just sketching out a song, you can do quite a lot from just the iPad.  It even has a built in keyboard, drum, and guitar interfaces like the iPad version of GarageBand.

I’m still not sold on the idea, but it’s definitely getting more use here than most DAW controller apps do.

General Thoughts

Like a lot of people I’ve been curious for awhile about what Apple was going to do with Logic, or if they were going to do anything at all.  The new version is admittedly not what I was excpecting, which was a major new forward thinking version of something that has been lagging behind the competition for awhile now.  In many ways though, what we got instead was an even better compromise.  It’s not so new that you don’t know your way around, but it feels new enough that the wait feels worth it.  I really had hoped to be this excited with Live 9, and I wasn’t, it looked and felt just like the last version.

But, a modern look is not always done well either.  In general, I really like the new look of Logic’s interface, dark and sharp, it’s much easier on the eyes and feels fresh. However, all of the old included plug ins are still not retina versions, and look noticeably jagged.  (this has me seriously going WTF?)  Also, the reliance of generic instrument pictures in the Library, and the fake leather of the mixer feel the exact opposite to what Apple said is the future of interfaces in terms of iOS7.  A lot of Logic X seems to be modeled after Garageband, you can even show and hide different editing options in the preferences to “dumb things down” if you want.

I don’t get the need to make a pro app as simple as the app they make that comes free with every Apple computer.

For the most part though, everything feels better organized, and done to save you time.  Things are laid out better, the organization of menus is improved, and it just seems like it’s a lot easier to get rough ideas done now.  Detailed editing for MIDI has been greatly expanded, and while there’s more options for audio editing, I still think apps like Pro Tools and Studio One win here.

Overall stability for me was so so.  I had a few times where the iPad app lost contact with my laptop and I had to restart it to re-establish connection.  Once LPX crashed when playing with Drummer (neat, but more for rock bands), and once my mixer randomly would show and disappear across the screen requiring a restart.

Not exactly confidence inspiring for one day.

But!

I’m excited.  A little.  This is the first time in awhile I’ve wanted to use Logic, and not just because it’s new, but because there’s some genuinely nice workflow changes.  They’ve given us more detailed editing options, but also made the initial song creation steps simpler and faster as well.  Seems to be a common theme among DAW manufacturers, glad to see Apple has caught on too.

At this point I don’t see myself using Logic over Studio One for my daily studio work unless I’m requested to like today.  But I think for my own music making, I’m interested and impressed enough that I can see myself spending some time working on new material using LPX.

I’ll certainly post my long term thoughts after a few more weeks of using it, but I wanted to get some of my first thoughts out there while everyone was still curious about it.  Let me know if you have any questions, happy to answer if I can!