Where can I learn how to record music?

Technology moves fast, so does the music world and especially the digital audio world. What was cool last year, maybe cliche this year…vocoders for instance were cool at first, but now everyone and there brother is overusing autotune.

You have hardware and software that may be confusing or tough to learn. Reading the book or manual can be like pulling teeth. I do recommend keeping manuals around for technical specs and quick answers to questions but there are quicker ways to get the information you seek.

When you are just getting started recording in your home studio it can seem like a big scary world. You may feel like you are not doing things right, but don’t fret…no pun intended, there is help.

Look to the web

There are tons of message boards, forums and blogs that focus on recording music. As equipment gets cheaper, more and more people are recording music at home. Many of these people love to offer help and share advice. Find these people, and ask questions.

Youtube is also an excellent place to find tutorials on setting up mics, eq, mastering, using software, etc. You can spend hours on Youtube watching tutorials. Be careful, as there are millions of “watch me play” videos, try and stick with the tutorials and videos that actually teach you something, rather than just some kid in his bedroom stroking his ego.

Google can be your best friend. For instance, when I Google “recording guitar” I get 36,500,000 results. There are articles, discussions, and videos that will point you in the right direction. Google each technique that you need help with, you’d be amazed how much great information is out ther for you. You can even get very specific with your search terms such as “recording distorted electric guitar with Pro Tools and AKG c100s.”…

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Smart Loops MIDI Drum Loops Complete Review

I recently got the MIDI Drum Loops Complete library from Smart loops. Very impressive collection of MIDI drum loops. I’m taking down my “Drummer Wanted” ad.

Seriously, I can see myself using Smart Loops as my go to for beats on future recordings. MIDI Drum Loops Complete includes a wide variety of beats, fills and patterns. I was impressed with the fact that each groove includes a ton of variation. For instance, if you need a double kick fill, there are 10 different patterns to choose from. Making it very easy to find the fill that would perfectly fit your particular part. Some of the grooves have as many as twenty different variations, now that’s awesome.

These loops are versatile and sound great in different tempos. Most of the loops are in 4/4 or 6/8 with some double-time and half-time feels. All of the beats, fills and patterns have a great natural human feel to them. They are very well played and can be placed quickly and easily into a song. You can listen to loop samples on the Smart Loops website.

I attached a short techno-metal track to the bottom of this post that I created using only Smart Loops MIDI patterns. It was done in Reason so the drum kit could sound better, but the Smart Loops patterns are awesome. The loops required very little editing and tweaking to get them to fit into my parts. I’m looking forward to trying these loops with something like a BFD2 or Superior Drummer kit and Pro Tools.

According to Smart Loops:

All of the loops were performed live with no quantizing, keeping the original feel of the performance by professional session drummer and Smart Loops founder Frank Basile. The loops are professional-quality, real-feel MIDI drum loops and can be used with any PC or Apple MIDI-compatible music software or hardware sequencer capable of reading standard MIDI files. All of the MIDI Loop libraries include loops in four formats for compatibility with nearly all hardware and software MIDI sequencers. Formats include Standard MIDI File (.MID) type 1, Standard MIDI File type 0, Cakewalk Session Drummer 1, Cakewalk MIDI Groove Clip (Compatible with Cakewalk Session Drummer versions 2 & 3).

You get all of Smart Loops’ 5 MIDI drum loop libraries for only $59, which regularly goes for $145. Needless to say, this is a great deal for this set of loops. There are over 1,000 MIDI drum loops, beats, fills and patterns covering various styles such as metal, hard rock, blues, country, disco, funk, hip-hop, jazz, latin, pop, rap, reggae, r&b, shuffle, swing, and more.

In addition to MIDI Loops, Smart Loops also offers Acid, Apple and Rex2 loops as well as professionally recorded drum, guitar and bass samples.

Smart Loops is very affordable, you simply cannot argue with the $59 sticker price. It’s definitely worth looking into if you want some professionally created beats. Check it out!…

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Pok Wireless Foot Controller Review

How many times have you been sitting behind a drum kit or at the organ laying down a track and oops, you screw up. Now I have to walk over to the computer, reset the track, hit record and quickly run back over and sit down again. Very frustrating when you are recording alone.

There may be a solution to this dilema. X-Tempo Zone created an awesome product called the Pok. It is a wireless foot controller that controls your DAW (as well as other things).

X-Tempo Zone was cool enough to send me a Pok Wireless controller for review. I was instantly in love with this controller. It was built very sturdy and looked awesome too. I noticed immediately how much more effecient the Pok makes the recording process. No more getting up and resetting takes, no more tripping over cables, no more missing the first bar of the song.

The Pok allows you to free up your hands and use your feet to control your DAW. The Pok wireless signal will reach up to 100 feet. I would imagine there would also be some really awesome live applications for the Pok as well, but I rarely play live these days. Imagine triggering drums, loops, sequences and backing tracks without your hands ever touching the laptop. You could be your own one man band!

The Pok can be customized and will support over 20 commands. The Pok has 8 pedals and each pedal can have three functions.The Pok comes programmed for Pro Tools but can be used with all other leading DAWs such as Ableton Live, Acid Pro, Audacity, Ardour, Audition, Cubase, Digital Performer, FL Studio, GarageBand, Logic, n-Track, Nuendo, Reaper, Record, Sonar, and Sound Forge. It comes with editing software so you can easily customize everything to your specific needs.

Even for those not doing the playing, the pok can be a godsend. Setting up the microphones for that perfect acoustic room sound? You can test the sound quality from the recording point, adjust the mics and test it again, without having to run back to your computer.

The Pok actually emulates a computer keyboard and sends the keystrokes (including macros) directly to your computer using a USB device. It is completely wireless and runs on batteries so it can be easily moved to where you need it most. The thing I like the best about the POK is that you can configure it to control the things you do most with your DAW. Since the Pok is actually just a keyboard, you can customize it to do other things. It will basically work with any software that accepts keyboard commands. The sky is the limit to what you can do with the Pok wireless controller.

The Pok goes for around $320 and for $50 more you can get a nice gig case for it. Check out X-Tempo Zone for details on the Pok Wireless Controller.

The Pok is an extremely valuable tool for those of us who record alone. I highly recommend giving the Pok a try if you are looking for a better way to control your DAW remotely.…

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Portable Vocal Booth Home Version

Editors Keys makes some really cool and innovative products. They recently contacted me to do a review of the Portable Vocal Booth Home Version. What a treat, this product is so cool, I was very excited to give it a try.

First of all it is very sturdy and easy to setup. I had it put together and on my mic stand in less than five minutes. Basically what it does is surrounds your mic with soundproof foam. This is a great way to create clean vocals without reverb as well as keeping out computer noise, barking dogs, crying babies and screaming wives.

The specially moulded foam has been shaped and processed in a way which not only helps to create dry vocals, but to also prevent exterior noise such as traffic noise or air conditioning entering into your mic.

I did a few tests with and without the vocal booth, and yes it was quite a bit clearer with the portable vocal booth than without. I record in a concrete basement, so there are tons of sound reflections as well as noises that bleed onto vocals, the portable vocal booth did reduce the outside noise quite a bit. I was extremely happy with the way my vocals sounded with the portable vocal booth. My next test is to try it out with my 12 string acoustic, I’m sure it will work wonders there as well.

The Editors Keys Portable Vocal Booth Home Edition goes for $144 and comes with 110% money back guarantee. Go to Editors Keys to get more information.

I would recommend the Editors Keys Portable Vocal Booth Home Edition to anyone who’s looking to improve their vocal sounds without creating a real booth. This is an excellent and inexpensive solution to all of your home recording vocal issues. Check it out!…

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Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 Review

The people at Toontrack were cool enough to send me a copy of Superior Drummer 2.0 for review. I’ve heard a ton about it by reading on the web and I’ve watched lots of videos and heard demo songs created using Superior Drummer 2.0. Needless, to say I was pretty excited to get my mits on it and try it out.

Superior Drummer 2.0 comes on 5 DVD’s. Install was relatively painless and authorizing the program wasn’t too bad either. There are four different modes of custom installation, from the 4Gb basic install up to the full 20Gb sound bank. I had used EZdrummer in the past and Superior Drummer 2.0 seems like a huge step up from that. There are a ton of settings in this puppy. Actually, the interface seemed a bit daunting at first. Took me a while to figure out what was going on.

They’ve completely overhauled the dfh-Superior engine so it’s optimized for use with electronic drum kits, makes even more effective use of sample layers, and loads much faster than before. Plus, the sounds are top notch. Toontrack created the brand new Superior Drummer 2.0 engine expressly to showcase the sounds, instead of just releasing them as an expansion pack.

You can get great sounds right out of the box or you can lift the hood and tweak almost every minute detail to your liking. Superior Drummer 2.0 is primarily a mic-centric program, so learning the mics and how to mix them is key to getting your sounds. In terms of mic’s that can be accessed it’s got overhead, close, mid, and far ambient mics, mono ambient and an ambient bullet mic that can all be tweaked in and out to tailor your sound. It’s pretty amazing how many different sounds you can get out of one snare just by playing with the mics.

The mixer has your standard groupings, bus assignments, detailed bleed control for every instrument, and allows for 16 channels of output into your DAW. It is possible to do all of the drum mixing within Superior Drummer, saving valuable DAW resources. The Sonalksis FX are rather efficient, but when you do a complete drum mix inside Superior with 20-something plugins of course they hit your CPU like native plugins would.

One difference between EZdrummer and Superior Drummer 2.0 is that the midi engine is no longer a part of the drum engine like it was in EZdrummer. To use the included midi grooves you need to install EZplayer Pro (free with Superior Drummer 2.0) and place it just ahead of Superior Drummer 2.0 in the fx chain and then all will work as expected.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0 Features:

  • Recorded at Avatar Studios
  • Drums played by renowned live/session drummer, Nir Z
  • Custom MIDI engine
  • EZplayer Pro arranger
  • Functions stand alone with Toontrack Solo
  • Optimized for use with e-drums
  • Effective use of sample layers
  • Improved loading times
  • New built-in effects by Sonalksis

System requirements are:

  • Windows XP SP3 or newer, 2 GHz Pentium 4 or Athlon processor with 1 GB RAM (multi-core CPU with 2 GB RAM or more recommended)
  • Mac OS 10.4.11 or higher, 2 GHz G5 with 1 GB RAM (multi-core CPU with 2 GB RAM or more recommended)
  • 4GB free hard disc space, DVD drive (25GB free hard disc space, Sequencer application and professional soundcard MIDI controller such as keyboard, drum pads or electronic drum kit recommended)

Superior Drummer 2.0 is compatible with:

  • Ableton Live
  • Acid
  • Cubase
  • Digital Performer
  • Fruity Loops
  • Garage Band
  • Logic Pro
  • Mackie Traktion
  • Pro Tools
  • Reaper
  • Samplitude
  • Sonar

Superior Drummer 2.0 works well with electronic drum kits as well, and tracks all the stuff the electronic drums can transmit, like cymbal chokes and hihat foot splashes. I’ve done some testing, like seeing how many degrees of open to closed I can hit with my hihat pedal, or mixing jazz percussion stuff from other libraries in with the Avatar kit that comes with it and it performs excellent.

When downloading the latest update to version 2.2.1, you will get the integrated MIDI grooves browser, just like in EZdrummer. The update also adds a mapping/stacking function, which is very useful for the users with E-kits out there. When downloading the latest update flr the Avatar sound library, there is tons of mixer presets included, for the users who don’t have the time or experience to mix on their own. There is additional MIDI for download, when registered your EZplayer Pro and also from the Superior Drummer 2.0 product page. All of the above is of course free for registered owners.

Toontrack has some great videos up on their. Take a look at some of these, the videos will show you how intense Superior Drummer 2.0 really is. It probably has more bells and whistles than you will ever use, but it’s nice to know they are there if you want to dive in.

Overall, I think Superior Drummer 2.0 sounds amazing and is very intuitive. It is a must if you are looking to have realistic sounding drums without learning to actually play them yourself. It doesn’t require that you are a midi programmer or a computer engineer to run. You can have great sounding drums right out of the box without a huge headache. I would recommend Superior Drummer 2.0, check it out!…

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