And so the adventure begins. Setting up the new studio has taken me more than a few weeks, and it has been a challenge to get things as I want them to be. I am committed to the computer as my muse for art of course, but I am still in love with the way hardware worked. So the dilemma was devising a new path for my work habits. I usually use Cubase SX as my main sequencer, which I love dearly for mixing, but I generally hate using the computer to compose music.
The Diary for example, was done using Sony Acid as my arrangement tool. Later I exported the tracks into Cubase for vocals and mixdown. This was a decent method, but the quality of the tracks was questionable at times, and I don’t like to stretch the timing of my tracks. So Acid is out of the picture, except as a scat tool for fixing timing issues.
I love Reason, and with version 4 I have found some new sounds to create. My universal palette is expanding, no pun intended. I love Thor, and the more I use Reason, the more I am enamoured of its obvious simplicity, but I hate what they’ve done to the sequencer. It is now harder to do things in many ways, and this was a bummer. Again though, I used it in the past as an idea pad. I did Carmen Revisited in Reason 3 and exported my tracks into Cubase for vocals and mixing. I love mixing in Cubase. That isn’t going to change.
Then I discovered Ableton Live. Paul was actually the first of our clan to embrace the program fully, and I was on the fence about it. I was simply not into it. I wasn’t feeling the interface; it looked so alien to me. But recently, I gave it another shot and now I believe I am hooked! I used it more as an arrangement tool, as I had done before with Acid, and like my trusty Kaos Pad I learned to do new things with this tool. So today I went and put myself in learn mode and dug deep. I watched the tutorials for three hours. I found some amazing treasures within this application. Firstly, I can write very fast on it, and that is more important of a feature than everything else. For me, it’s all about how well a program translates what is in my brain. It’s a complicated issue. I’m crazy.
So now I’m going to detail my new working method. The first step is always the ideas, and in the past this would always start with my MPC. I would record odd sequences 4 to 8 bars long. I would build upon these and later edit away for a few days to arrange the song. This is the grunt work I hate about hardware. Editing away time. Boring! I would do it of course, keeping my goal to record vocals and mix in the back of my mind (the fun stuff). With my new setup I can almost approximate the MPC with my modules and synths on the computer using Reason and Cubase as my ‘idea machines’. That is, I record the same 4-8 bars for parts and add, add, and add until I am out of ideas. This is the writing process being fun, because no work is really performed; only writing, programming and layering of sounds. When I’m through, I export the files as audio files. I export the main parts as a stereo rough track to Cubase and once again add my parts using VST instruments to augment my mix. So far so good, right?
Now enter Live. The grunt work is now here, but becomes a real time performing of the song as I feel it. I fire off the tracks in what ever order I like, and Live is recording my real-time playing as an arrangement! No more cutting and pasting! Yeah!!! So when I’m done, I have a song that is almost 80% ready for vocals, and finished tracks. An amazing tool, one that I am sure to abuse in some fashion. As I said before, I am crazy. And speaking of crazy, the effects are amazing all on their own in this program. In my tests I found myself really enjoying the idea of real time automation of delays and verbs. So now it is time for some fun…