Question about tools

January 17, 2009 8:36 PM

Thinking about doing RPM. Need some advice on the "getting music into my computer" part.

Okay, so I'm seriously thinking about doing RPM this time around. For real. I'm not sure what kind of software I should use and whether I can get a good enough handle on it before February. As far as musical equipment I have a couple of synths and modules and a couple of toy Casio keyboards (and a USB midi interface). I bought an M-Audio Fast Track which came with a lite version of Ableton (lite 6). I don't want to get obsessive over the "perfect" tool - I know that trap all too well. But I do want suggestions over what I should use, including GarageBand or Audacity or whatever. MIDI sequencing is nice, but not mandatory. Just a tool that is decent enough and won't get in the way. I'd like to have some plugins and post-processing, but I don't want to get too involved in crazy technical stuff or be too precious about the whole thing. And I don't have money to blow on this, so I guess I want something free. Well, maybe a cheap microphone, but not much beyond that.

Previous experience involves a working knowledge of Garageband, playing around with ProTools when it was free about 10 years ago, and using the likes of Opcode Vision even before that. I haven't used any "contemporary" program very much. Computers are a Powerbook G4, an old dual G4 Powermac tower, and a mid-range MacBook (my wife's, but I could comandeer it).
posted by O9scar (7 comments total)

Ardour is available for the mac if you look hard enough, and the fullest featured free/opensource DAW out there. It has nondestructive editing, persistent undo, a mixer window with fully routable audio, and no limits on tracks/channels/bit-depth etc. The disadvantage is that it takes a bit of time to learn. Their first priority with ardour is to make a FOSS DAW usable in professional studios, first time usability does suffer because of this. You should be able to figure it out based on your knowledge of protools.

Ardour is best with linux, it gets all of its input from jack, which allows you to treat any given program as the audio input/output of any other. Which, in practice, is ten times as awesome as it sounds (no need to have silly export menus on every app, just route the output of each app into ardour and get sample accurate recording, instead of plugins as mini apps hosted in the DAW, you can have a standalone synth with midi input from a seperate sequencer app of your choice and output to your DAW). There are jack apps for mac, but not as many for sure (and soundflower is not quite in jack's league).
posted by idiopath at 3:30 AM on January 18, 2009

If you already know how to use Garageband - why not just use that?
posted by mary8nne at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2009

You've got a week and a half to be ready to rock, and you're going to want to spend as little of the month itself futzing with tools* because you'll have music to write and arrange and record and 28 days isn't much.

Figure out what you need to be able to do, figure out what you know and have available that addresses those needs, and spend this time dealing with the gaps. Know Garageband, have Garageband available, and Garageband will do the multitrack recording bits you need? Great—like mary8nne says, use Garageband and call that bit taken care of.

I like to have my shit just work so I can get down the creative stuff with a minimum of fuss, personally. But I do very little electronic stuff—almost all my recording last time around with acoustic instruments or guitar straight into the board, so once I have my instrument-mixer-soundcard path built I'm pretty much done with setup.

I could worry about it more, but in a time-compressed setting like the RPM challenge, time spent worrying about details is time stolen from doing the real work. And this whole challenge is classic perfect-is-enemy-of-good territory. Get everything you need into Good Enough territory first. If you do that and have still got time (and energy; don't burn out during pre-production!) left before February, worry about making this Good Enough or that one into Better Yet, but otherwise just don't sweat it.

*unless your motivation for doing this is to have an excuse to do a lot of futzing, in which case disregard and enjoy.
posted by cortex at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding cortex. That was an excellent answer.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:37 PM on January 19, 2009

I've never really used Garage Band but I think as far as donig basic Multi-track recording goes its pretty useful and straightforward.

obviously you doni't have a lot of studio wizardry in Garage Band but you could always export later on to Cubase, Prottols etc..your DAW of choice.
posted by mary8nne at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2009

Wow, I've never heard of this. I just may join you.

These are remarkably good at $26 dollars a pair. Then you can record in proper stereo.
posted by dagosto at 12:28 AM on January 22, 2009

Here's a guy (68mb album download link) who gives some pretty interesting advice on how to make an album for under 200$. I'm not sure how serious he actually is, a lot of the album is pretty funny stuff but he still gives some pretty decent recording advice here and there. I think sometimes it's easy to get caught up in all the technology we have available but really all we need is something to record, an instrument, and ourselves. Real Love was originally recorded on a hand held tape recorder.
posted by BrnP84 at 4:01 PM on January 22, 2009

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