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Some suggestions to get you started
#1
Hi Folks,

I figure some of you "songwriters" would like to wade into the matter of mixing your songs.  and some of you have already started doing this.  So I'm going to list some helpful things to get started with that are either very inexpensive or free and helpful for the new person's home studio.

DAW's:

There are three that stand out:
  • Reaper:  is a very difficult learning curve, but literally can do just about anything that Pro Tools does.  They offer a 60 free trial that can be extended forever if you wish by just clicking the little note thing that comes up saying I'm still evaluating.  However, if you decide you really like working with it the cost is $60.00.  If you want to see this software in action and are new to recording I highly recommend Dave Maxey's Website called Home Recording Studio 1.  Very good video tutorials and he uses this DAW and hawks it constantly.  If you are a "Gear Head" type of personality this software will amaze you.
  • Audacity:  Why?  It's totally free.  Basic set up easy learning curve and will work with any and all downloaded Plugins.  Sound quality?  Depends on the quality of your plugins and of course your playing abilities.
  • Mixcraft 7:  For the most part this is the easiest learning curve and by far the easiest DAW to work with.  Comes with a ton of very good loops, samples and so on.  Does nearly everything that Reaper does.  Works well with third party plugins.  Excellent tech and customer support.  They also have what's called Mixcraft University which walks you through all the basic and advanced features.  This one is my go to DAW.  It's a memory hound though so be thoughtful when mixing and follow the advice on the University tutorials re using too many plugins in the wrong places.
  • Audio Interface:  I use focusrite scarlett 2i2.  Like a lot of us, I play guitar, have a basic keyboard controller and decent (not expensive) condenser mics.  So I don't need a lot of inputs for my work.  Since I do a lot of over dubbing two inputs (both line in and XLR with phantom power for condenser mics) Two inputs is all I need. The hardware has it's own headphone input jack (use it) and comes with the Asio Drivers installed (use it!!)  What makes this interface exceptional to me is A.) the quality of sound.  There built in pre's are superb sound quality.  B.) when you register your hardware with the company, you are automatically given several bundles of high quality "Pro Studio Level" Plugins called The "Red" Series" and "Scarlett Suite" respectively.  Also  a free library of Loopmasters Loops, and access to yet another DAW (forgot the name at the moment hurrying to get to work)  So for the price you are getting nearly a complete production system.  There are other interfaces out there and all good, but Focurite's cust service is a five star so I recommend them over the others.  total time setting up and starting recording...five minutes.  Wow!
  • Mic's:  I use the CAD GXL 2200.  Very inexpensive and works great.  NO ISSUES.  Two of the three submissions to the Whetstone Project were using this mic.  So you can hear the results right now.  There are bargain offers galore on EBay for this mic, however, I found a better deal at my local music gear store, which sold me in one package the GXL 2200 Condenser, GXL 1200 Ribbon Condenser, Shock Mount, and pop filter all for $200.00 complete.  Well worth every penny.
  • Monitors:  Save your money as you simply need Powered "Reference" Studio Monitors.  No way around it.  Their are less expensive monitors out there (I'm using the Berhinger (spl) MS16's for the moment till I can save up about $600.00 and upgrade.)  So I also use headphones for detail work.  Mix down my mixes to wave and play back on CD players and so on for reference checking.  But like it or not good monitors are an essential (and often expensive) necessity.  I've had studio equipment before so know the difference in sound quality.  Miss my Roland DS-90's much.  But they cost me $900.00 for the pair.  So buyer beware and do your homework before just buying something on EBay or Craigslist that says "Studio Monitors.  If they are not "Referencing Monitors" by name you may be buying something that isn't going to give you true sound back.  Referencing monitors are not like your home music speakers.  They are opposite.  They are BY DESIGN to help you hear what is WRONG not what sounds cool. (Ego buster)  So that you can fix or adjust whatever is popping out of your mix and fix the balance.
  • Video Tutorials for your Learning Curve:  there are three go to's that I rely on (actually four but one's pretty advanced.)  They are:
  1. "therecordingrevolution.com" hosted by Graham Cocrane. (he is also a devoted Christian Worship musician and works extensively with his Church Worship Band.)
  2. HomeStudio1.com hosted by Dave Maxey. (also Christian based Engineer and mixer)  He is hawking his "Paid For" Training Courses so be advised.  Very good, but if you're on a budget, you can still make use of his excellent mailng list posts.
  3. Produce Like A Pro, hosted by Warren Huart.  A delightful guy, very open and does respond directly to comments and questions.  He uses Pro Tools, but his tutorials and videos are always about what any DAW or Plugin is capable of doing.  
  4. MixbusTV.  this is the one that's a bit advanced.  But the host if very funny, doesn't pull any punches, knows his craft VERY WELL and is a good teacher and explainer of what all the stuff does.

I promise you if you take the above suggestions and follow through...a year from now you'll be publishing your own original music.  That does not mean you'll be making money at it but you will be published and active.  Making money off this is all about Marketing, and that is another subject for much smarter experts than I apparently am at present.

Peace!

Marty and Linda from Linmar.
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#2
Thanks for the tips! If you (the songwriter) have a Mac, chances are you already have an easy-to-use DAW - it is called Garageband and it is part of the iLife suite.
I am a damp hamster, a small moist rodent with a pea-sized brain... so what do I know?! 

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default....ID=1243220
 
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#3
(01-22-2016, 02:24 PM)damp hamster Wrote: Thanks for the tips! If you (the songwriter) have a Mac, chances are you already have an easy-to-use DAW - it is called Garageband and it is part of the iLife suite.

Since I don't have a Mac, I cannot make use of GarageBand.  But GB is the very first DAW I looked at last year when Linda and I decided to take the plunge and get back into music production.  Ten years back I had a full blown "Hardware" Roland VS Recording Studio.  Plus a wonderful PA rack for routing and all the other fun stuff.  However, mixing in the box is a bit different from the live recording situation. (XP-60 Sequencer, DS-90 Ref Monitors, Sure 58 and 57's, VS-1880. Rack was Alesis something or other, plus Alesis Microverb, Alesis Compressor, DBX 32 band dual EQ (I think), Mojo Stereo 32 band eq, patchbay and so on.)

Because of tight budget, long work hours at the day job, and learning curve I opted for Mixcraft as it's by design for immediate recording.  Not a lot of pre set up track routing stuff.  Loads instantly to exact specs that you set when you turn on the DAW. (Want six sends just type it, want ten virtual instrument tracks for synths?  Just type it in, want 100 audio tracks (good luck with that) type it in.  The only drawback is it's use of CPU and memory.  Since it has an extensive and constantly updated library of loops, effects and samples  often times I will have to do all the music first, then render down to stereo before vocals and other live instrumentation.  Annoying but not a big deal.  Works with nearly all the third party plugins.  Works wonderfully well with the Reaper plugins which are all very good.  Just downloaded the Meldaproductions free bundle of their plugins and they are amazing as well.  Modeled visually like ProTools so easy to understand and use.  Only drawback on these for me is a CPU issue that freezed up the screen.  Sound alteration still works fine,but there are some things that require "Seeing" what's going on.  (Loudness meters for one, curve of compression and so on.)

If and when I can afford to upgrade my computer system, I will do Mixcraft's upgrade to the "Pro" Version as it comes with the Isotope Mastering Bundle which is nothing short of A+
By the way Sir Hampster... the MeldaProductions bundles work for both Mac & PC.  If you haven't checked them out I would really like to emphasize doing so.  Very advanced stuff, and not all that expensive if you decide to actually buy their pro suite of plugins.  A ton of them and a very good synth and drum machine as well.  I just can't handle the CPU load so use limited resources of theirs.
Oh yeah one more plugin that I find a wonderul alternative to Easy Drummer (and again FREE!!) is called MKPower Drum Kit.  It's listed on the first page of Google if you type in the name.  From Germany.  What makes this one so cool is it comes with it's own internal drum mix console that includes compression (basic nothing fancy) pan volume controls aannddd... allows for you to route the individual drums to separate channels.  This creates an automatic Aux Buss in the DAW which you can then further tweak using your DAW's effects inserts.  By using this feature you are creating a rudimentary "pre" signal before the drums actually hit the tracks.  The song "My Shepherd" is an example of using that drum machine.  Tons of fills and intros and easy to design inside or drag and drop individual patterns and fills as you wish directly to your DAW's tracks.

Okay I'll shut up now I know you're busy.  Bye!

Marty & Linda from Linmarmusic
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#4
If you are Windows based another VERY capable, and in my opinion best bang for the buck, music recording software is Cakewalk Sonar. Owned by Gibson, Sonar is a major player, though they are for some reason overlooked by many in the industry. I know several here that use Sonar, including Reece, Sean and myself. They have a very active Forum site, which I have found to be one, if not the best Forum in the business. Sonar also has a monthly payment plan, making it easier than ever as a start up DAW.

Pro Tools is like the name Kleenex, in that everyone calls it Kleenex rather than a tissue. Pro Tools isn't what it used to be.

Marty, you did a really good job hitting the basics.
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#5
(01-22-2016, 04:26 PM)michaelhanson Wrote: If you are Windows based another VERY capable, and in my opinion best bang for the buck, music recording software is Cakewalk Sonar.  Owned by Gibson, Sonar is a major player, though they are for some reason overlooked by many in the industry.  I know several here that use Sonar, including Reece, Sean and myself.  They have a very active Forum site, which I have found to be one, if not the best Forum in the business.  Sonar also has a monthly payment plan, making it easier than ever as a start up DAW.  

Pro Tools is like the name Kleenex, in that everyone calls it Kleenex rather than a tissue.  Pro Tools isn't what it used to be.

Marty, you did a really good job hitting the basics.

Had Cakewalk a long time ago and loved it.  Used it extensively for my one man band thing I was doing.  Just plugged the laptop into my midi interface and into my Roland XP 60 and sang and played harp to the background tracks I was doing.  Loved it.

I know about the Pro Tools b.s. which is why I mentioned Reaper.  Amazing DAW, but I'll be darned if I  can figure out how to configure it correctly.  It eats my songs.  Yeah that's what I said.  I record tracks, save them as per instructions, and when I come back to the song everything is suddenly "Offline" whatever that means and cannot find a single track.  Even tried using the rewire it has just so I  could record my playing in MC and fly it right over to Reaper.  But nope...still ate the songs.
However, I've seen some amazing mixes and several well known Christian Rock Bands have been produced by Dave Masey using his Reaper DAW.  (can't remember the names but Dave's Video Tutorials often times will use the songs I've heard and seen on YouTube for his training.

Thanks for the compliments.  Happy Recording!

Marty
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#6
In addition to what Mike said about Sonar, I'll throw some more Sonar love out there.

Sonar can be purchased on 4 different "levels' and can be purchased 2 different ways.
they are:
version price for NEW customer price per month
Sonar Platinum $499 $49.99
Sonar Pro $199 $19.99
Sonar Artist $99 $9.99
Music Creator $19.99 N/A

http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/SONAR/Versions#start
https://shop.cakewalk.com/1244/?scope=ch...47Fd381oF6

Music Creator is an INCREDIBLE value for $20! it's amazing what you can do with MC and all of the STUFF that comes extra with it!
a little explanation about the monthly price: you don't pay the new customer price AND the monthly price, you pay one or the other. details on pricing can be found there on the that link. It's a good deal either way, tho.

I've used Sonar for 10 years. it's always been a rock solid product....no music eating! Big Grin
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#7
Reaper doesn't actually eat, I promise. I leave coffee unattended nearby and everything. Smile

When it says offline like that I've (so far) only seen a couple of reasons: One is whenever it comes up with the last opened project, and some of the files aren't where Reaper expects them to be. I've had that happen using an external hard drive fairly often because on one computer the drive shows up as the "G" drive and on another its the "F" drive or whatever. (Of course, I've also forgotten to plug the drive IN, sigh) Regardless, the answer is always just to close the project and then re-open it from the now "correct" drive/file location.

The second reason is similar - tracks offline because of a required plugin that it can't find. Same problem if you keep any plugins on an external drive. I've also had that happen after an update when I didn't have Reaper set up to automatically scan for new plugins. Its like the update sometimes clears out its cached list of scanned plugins. Again - quick fix and no actual loss. Just click "scan for new plugins" on the menu and its all good. Never say never, but I've never had it lose anything and I've abused it countless times.

-----

Pro-tools has a free version now. The full version (the highest software based version that doesn't require some really expensive special hardware) is $29 per month. They demo'ed new cloud collaboration at NAMM last week. We see I guess if it becomes a must have professional asset/new way of working that they say it will - a means to give more people access to more opportunities. Anyone else have an opinion on that? I want to like Pro-tools better, I really do.
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#8
(01-28-2016, 09:37 PM)gdball Wrote: Reaper doesn't actually eat, I promise.  I leave coffee unattended nearby and everything.  Smile  

When it says offline like that I've (so far) only seen a couple of reasons:  One is whenever it comes up with the last opened project, and some of the files aren't where Reaper expects them to be. I've had that happen using an external hard drive fairly often because on one computer the drive shows up as the "G" drive and on another its the "F" drive or whatever.  (Of course, I've also forgotten to plug the drive IN, sigh) Regardless, the answer is always just to close the project and then re-open it from the now "correct" drive/file location.

The second reason is similar - tracks offline because of a required plugin that it can't find.  Same problem if you keep any plugins on an external drive.  I've also had that happen after an update when I didn't have Reaper set up to automatically scan for new plugins.  Its like the update sometimes clears out its cached list of scanned plugins.  Again - quick fix and no actual loss. Just click "scan for new plugins" on the menu and its all good. Never say never, but I've never had it lose anything and I've abused it countless times.

-----
Pro-tools has a free version now. The full version (the highest software based version that doesn't require some really expensive special hardware) is $29 per month. They demo'ed new cloud collaboration at NAMM last week.  We see I guess if it becomes a must have professional asset/new way of working that they say it will - a means to give more people access to more opportunities.   Anyone else have an opinion on that?  I want to like Pro-tools better, I really do.

Free version?  By free do you mean the $29.00 a month version or an actual "Lite" aka free version?  A good friend of mine and an excellent engineer in his own right literally had to buy an entirely new computer and rewire everything out and back in with mulitple i.O's just to get his ProTools to stop locking out his other hardware and software.  That's when he started using Reaper till he could finish all the hardware upgrades to get back to his original works.  That's why I don't like P.T.  Proprietary Software is a throw back to the 80's and 90's.  Remember Netscape? word Perfect? Corel Draw? Eudora?  All of them died and went bankrupt because of the proprietary b.s. from Microsoft and Apple.  Two rich kids waving their you know what's at each other while whole companies and thousands of employees went under.  (And we wonder why their are so many virus bandits out there now...)  Let me know if the P.T's is really free.  Tanks for the tips on Reaper too.  Peace.
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#9
The version "Pro Tools first" is really free. It is limited on the number of tracks and in some other ways. But it is not lite in quite the same way (a little different in its choices) I think because one of its purposes is to be used to teach Audio Engineering at the University level. It's also meant to enable certain clients like artists, vocalists and session musicians to work remotely with large studios via their new Cloud Collaboration. For that reason IMO its a better way to start than Audacity. I don't think it would satisfy a current Sonar user, but a Sonar user might use it just for the collab features if they had the right client, or the right job opportunity and set it up so that they can import/export easily to the DAW they like most.

I understand and respect your perspective, but I don't feel right agreeing that the current version of Pro Tools is a throw back. Their primary goal is NOT to please audio engineers as weird as that sounds. Avid's main business is in big data and the cloud - meaning they intend to be (and already mostly are) the underlying engine that drives every local news agency, every movie and television show as far as managing and putting together peta-bytes of digital content; both audio and video. IMO they are pretty innovative wherever they choose to be; in features that make or save money for their customer's bottom line. That's where their most reliable bread and butter is I guess. I went to a conference that Avid sponsored last year, and it was all about features for keeping track of, sharing, editing, collaborating and approving content between teams that were working together to meet some tight deadline. Their new standardized non-proprietary meta data to help you find, track and organize all your audio files - that is something that I can see trickling down to every other DAW as we all fill up hard drives.

The only thing I take offense at is that Reaper only MOSTLY does what Pro Tools does. (Just kidding I take no offense[Smile )

I partially agree about not using VSTs natively, but actually the Pro Tools AAX format is not proprietary. About anyone can write plugins to that standard, and a number of free VSTs are also available freely in the AAX format. Its just that again the big manufacturers like Universal Audio choose to make money by pricing themselves to movie companies at the expense of some of our business. Plus I've always felt that some people think that (like Reaper) something can't be of the same quality if its inexpensive. No, the real thing about AAX and the hardware you mentioned is that prior to thunderbolt the inability for a computer to keep up with the number of tracks and plugins that a movie required, and the latency was a deal breaker. AAX is made so that it will run on (so that you can offload) processing onto DSP chips instead of your computers CPU.

I'm sorry if I sound negative in any way - I TOTALLY get were you are coming from. I also agree that the Purple Palace has certainly gone though an earlier lock out /(or is that iLok?) stage. But being close to bankruptcy earlier seems to have gotten their attention. I still have trouble liking them and I use Reaper. I expect Sonar users to hate it still - everything about Sonar seems to cater to Sonar users - to make using it easy, pretty, and a joy. But that too comes with a trade-off IMO, as I have found it harder to get to some advanced options, into some guts or work flows that are open and available (and even scriptable with different scripting languages) in Reaper. At the cost in Reaper, as you say, of possibly not being as easy to learn. Worth it to me, as Reaper may have an alt key sequence that will create several difference mixes for you at once while making coffee (did I mention that I like coffee?) So to each their own DAW. And peace back at you. Smile
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#10
(01-29-2016, 09:17 AM)gdball Wrote: The version "Pro Tools first" is really free. It is limited on the number of tracks and in some other ways. But it is not lite in quite the same way (a little different in its choices) I think because one of its purposes is to be used to teach Audio Engineering at the University level. It's also meant to enable certain clients like artists, vocalists and session musicians to work remotely with large studios via their new Cloud Collaboration. For that reason IMO its a better way to start than Audacity. I don't think it would satisfy a current Sonar user, but a Sonar user might use it just for the collab features if they had the right client, or the right job opportunity and set it up so that they can import/export easily to the DAW they like most.

I understand and respect your perspective, but I don't feel right agreeing that the current version of Pro Tools is a throw back.  Their primary goal is NOT to please audio engineers as weird as that sounds.  Avid's main business is in big data and the cloud - meaning they intend to be (and already mostly are) the underlying engine that drives every local news agency, every movie and television show as far as managing and putting together peta-bytes of digital content; both audio and video.  IMO they are pretty innovative wherever they choose to be; in features that make or save money for their customer's bottom line. That's where their most reliable bread and butter is I guess.  I went to a conference that Avid sponsored last year, and it was all about features for keeping track of, sharing, editing, collaborating and approving content between teams that were working together to meet some tight deadline. Their new standardized non-proprietary meta data to help you find, track and organize all your audio files - that is something that I can see trickling down to every other DAW as we all fill up hard drives.

The only thing I take offense at is that Reaper only MOSTLY does what Pro Tools does. (Just kidding I take no offense[Smile )

I partially agree about not using VSTs natively, but actually the Pro Tools AAX format is not proprietary. About anyone can write plugins to that standard, and a number of free VSTs are also available freely in the AAX format.  Its just that again the big manufacturers like Universal Audio choose to make money by pricing themselves to movie companies at the expense of some of our business.  Plus I've always felt that some people think that (like Reaper) something can't be of the same quality if its inexpensive.  No, the real thing about AAX and the hardware you mentioned is that prior to thunderbolt the inability for a computer to keep up with the number of tracks and plugins that a movie required, and the latency was a deal breaker.  AAX is made so that it will run on (so that you can offload) processing onto DSP chips instead of your computers CPU.  

I'm sorry if I sound negative in any way - I TOTALLY get were you are coming from. I also agree that the Purple Palace has certainly gone though an earlier lock out /(or is that iLok?) stage.  But being close to bankruptcy earlier seems to have gotten their attention. I still have trouble liking them and I use Reaper.  I expect Sonar users to hate it still - everything about Sonar seems to cater to Sonar users - to make using it easy, pretty, and a joy. But that too comes with a trade-off IMO, as I have found it harder to get to some advanced options, into some guts or work flows that are open and available (and even scriptable with different scripting languages) in Reaper. At the cost in Reaper, as you say, of possibly not being as easy to learn. Worth it to me, as Reaper may have an alt key sequence that will create several difference mixes for you at once while making coffee (did I mention that I like coffee?) So to each their own DAW.  And peace back at you. Smile
Hey Greg, just now saw this comment from way back when... sorry about not responding before, but I get bombarded with email every day and sometimes just don't get the chance to check every thread and every forum. (I am trying to stuff my brain with as much info as humanly possible)  Just a quick update, as I think I've found the perfect alternative choice to both Reaper and Pro Tools.  Studio One.  I love it.  Extremely sensible visual layout. And can be adjusted to look more like Pro Tools if that's one's preference.  Their on board plugins are also exceptional.
Taking me a bit of time to get used to it...or unused to Mixcraft...not sure but sound quality has gone up quite a few notches.
I'm using the "Artist" Version as I cannot afford the full blown pro system and really think it's kind of a waste of time as their are still way too many really good third party mastering tools (like Izotope) for that end game stage of producing.

My only fuss about Artist is it does not allow for third party plugins.  Unless you purchase a plugin from them that alllows for that.  Which brings me to a question I have from your post...  Can you explain to me exactly what AAX format is? Reason I'm asking (no pun intended) is if some of my third party plugins come with that configuration, maybe I don't have to buy the Studio One Ancillary at all? (S.1's add on costs $80.00 but that's a lot better than shelling out $250.00 which I don't have.)

Oh yeah did I say synths? (no)  Studio One's on board synths (Presence, Mai Tai) are amazing.  First synths I've found so far (that don't cost an arm and  a leg) that actually sound like real electric guitars.  Easy to manipulate too.  Got a really nice sounding "Pedal Steel" sound out of the Acoustic Guitar synth sound palette with only some minor knob turning.  And I don't know BEANS about using synths.  Nada, Zilch and all that.  So check it out.  A lot easier than Reaper, and every bit as high standard quality of sound.
Talk to you later.

Marty & Linda from LinMar
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