A Web Site You Should Read

Brad is pointing to TweakHeadz Lab Guide to Home Recording. This is easily one of the best resources on the web (or anywhere) for anybody doing recordings out of their house.

Sites like this just bring home the idea that the days of requiring a huge big-ass studio to make professional recordings is already here. The bigger the studio the more specialized they will become and the mid-size and smaller (“budget”) ones will simply disappear. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you have a few hundred dollars you can make professional sounding demos. If you have a few thousand you can make pro records. Pretty much all inside your off-the-shelf computer.

From Rich (a.k.a. Tweak):

The studio pros used to shake their heads at all this software stuff, till a few years ago. Now even they are on the software bandwagon.

Yes, the transition from HW to SW is still in progress but I say the tipping point (ugh) is at hand and especially for sociological reasons (i.e. fucking with RIAA) we musicians need to take music back and if that means pushing the envelope so be it. How does this work?

If you deliver a completed album to a record company then they don’t have to give you an advance, which means you do not start (and end) your career in debt. It means they are out of excuses for not paying you for sales from the first sale of your music. If you play it right they are out of excuses for demanding that you hand over the rights and masters to your music.

Rich (a.k.a Tweak) at least partially acknowledges the trend, in probably a more reasonable way than I claim above:

…if you are a one-person-performer/producer/engineer, and you like doing it all yourself, then the software studio has lots of promise. … You can get effects with software that would take a 20 foot rack of gear to do in the hardware realm. The sound of these devices gets better all the time, and there are some modern producers that actually prefer soft samplers to hardware for their sound. … Perhaps the main advantage is the awesome thing you can do with sample editors and soft samplers with plugin effects in your sequencer track. The power is awesome and its right at the control of your mouse. Perhaps the main disadvantage to going a software only route is that you must, of necessity, be extremely computer literate. To keep your studio running you need to maintain your PC, deal with driver conflicts, be able to upgrade components, and most important, learn how to troubleshoot.

Hey, I don’t know about “extremely” computer literate. Certainly more literate than my 70-something mom, but if you’re 23 years old it’s time you learn how to visit a web site and download a driver. That’s just life in the modern world. (So much for reasonable.)

I have a confession: I have never read any book on home recording gear, setup, techniques or anything of the like. I can not imagine they get much better than this site. And it’s free on the web. The cross and outbound hyper-linking from these pages is very, very deep and a thing beauty (even if the site isn’t).

If you are locked into your current setup it is still worth setting aside an afternoon to go through the whole site (an afternoon, an evening, early morning…) to see how your thinking and rationale for the purchases you made matches up. I’m happy to say that many of the recommendations made here on VT overlap generously with Tweak’s from Cakewalk’s Home Studio for starter system to Waves Native Bundle for high-end mastering and effects. In addition I highly recommend reading TweakHeadz sooner rather than later. Things change very, very quickly in this world and the site seems remarkably up to date — that might not be the case 6-12 months from now. (The site is already behind in at least one area: as of a few months ago Live is also a MIDI soft-synth host yet is listed on the site as a audio-sample-only tool.)

There’s not a lot of daylight between my observations and Tweak’s, although his is much more extensive in mixers and other digital processing hardware. I use an outboard USB interface and it has served me very, very well. He is very down on USB and makes a very solid case against it. In fact, if you can get a firewire solution that works for you I also recommend that over USB. I’m just saying for me, personally, I’m happy with my OmniStudio USB from M-Audio (and they’re going for about half of what I paid for it).

The section on remixing makes some very good points about building imperfections into a remix when using a DAW instead of specialized dance/dj hardware. On the other hand, considering how many damn “imperfections” riddle my music I could make the case that it isn’t quite as much work as he implies — but I digress into woeful self-effacement. With the notable exception of real time scratching, I would argue that using a tool that emphasizes performance (like Ableton’s Live) over authoring (like ACID) you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between remixes done on vinyl turntables and pure software. The proliferation of laptop battles only furthers my point.

The section on mixing has invaluable knowledge but little help when you are using more complete samples (like drum loops). I’ve spent a fair amount of energy trying to help musicians deal with pre-recorded samples where instruments and vocals are all mashed together so I guess, it gives me hope that VT is not a totally redundant site.

One the most useful parts of the site is the chart that breaks down recording configurations based on your needs. I’ve been meaning to do a similar chart for this site, but quite frankly it would look about 98% like that — only less accurate, more opinionated and therefore useless.