Friday, November 28, 2008

New Workstation

I was reading an interview with Trent Reznor, seemed weird that it was from 1994, in Keyboard magazine. I guess NIN was a bit more musical back then, but his opinions struck me as highly suitable for Keyboard magazine, and also quite a bit leaning towards my own tastes.

He said that he didn't like to mike guitar cabinets, preferring to go directly into an amp simulator. I could see that. Of course his production technique at the time was very sampler intensive. I personally prefer simulated instruments, but would not split hairs as to when the sound becomes a digital recording. He admitted using a minimoog for most if not all of his bass lines, and though I use a virtual minimoog, I can see why.

The Keyboard Magazine mentality came to mind reading Reznor's passion for technology. I can remember in the 80's they thought Thomas Dolby was using the guitar in its proper place by only using them for textures and accompaniment. That is to my liking also. Keyboard used to rave about how "thick" Gary Numan's synth lineup sounded, and that's a no brainer as well.

Ten years later, I read where the guy from The Prodigy used Propellerhead Reason as a sampler on a G4 Powerbook, which was a few years back, but may show a trend from hardware samplers to software based ones. I have thought about trying that, but I may be stuck in the 80's or some kind of facsimile.

I still use a G4 Powerbook with Logic Express to do preliminary mixes, and sometimes entire songs. I like the mac because it is already geared up for making music, whereas with Windows you have to do a great deal of poking around in the settings, loading drivers, and other time consuming maintenance. Even so, I use a PC for recording, partly because I already have it set up, and partly because some of my VSTi synths only come in a PC version.

I try whenever possible to purchase soft synths that work on both mac and PC. The GForce Software line does this as does Native Instruments. Some of my dual platform synths are Minimonsta, Oddity, ImpOSCar, Absynth, and Reaktor. I've written quite a bit here about my tastes in software synths and together with Sonic Project's OP-X, those are my primary tools. Sonar came with some others that I use every once in a while, but I think Trent Reznor actually endorses Oddity and ImpOSCar.

It has been said that Gary Numan's early sound was characterized by the Polymoog's "vox humana" voice through two MXR phase shifters, but that would be discounting the minimoog quite a bit. The Pentagon DXi has a phased pad that sounds remarkably authentic, and OP-X does a straight vox humana that sounds lightweight in comparison.

For me, percussion is a weak spot, though with so many loops available and all manner of drum machine simulators, I still want for a better sounding drum kit than I tend to come up with. I should probably build some samples together for my own kit, as that would seem to be in order.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Uncharted Waters

I've started working with some of the widgets in Reaktor by Native Instruments. Absynth, by the same company has a kind of organic quality that reminds me of Reaktor, but there's more to it than that. The weird gizmo beat box things are fun to play with, and inspiring to work with. My next few songs may sound very unlike my previous 30 or so, especially in the beats and percussion tracks. I'm still digging the OP-X and by the way, I have toyed more with Stringer since my last post and I can say that it is one of the best deals in VSTi technology if you like string machines. I'm sure it isn't as nice as GForce Software's "String Machine" but at a fraction of the cost, there is much to be liked. The Logan strings and Arp Omni settings are just great to me. I have to figure out something now to use it in. I worked up one piece but its really just a demo to me. All those sounds remind me of Pink Floyd and all the anthem rock bands that I went to see in the 70's. You can strike quite a mood with a string machine, especially if not overdone. Leave it to me to warn against over doing the strings.