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Which music software to choose?

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(@jwmartin)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1437
 

A couple of things I wanted to add...on the drum software, you might want to add Addictive Drums to your list of things to check out. Great software and very easy to use. Here is a demo I did in about 15 minutes the first day I had it installed.

On the USB mixer, I haven't heard many good things about the durability of USB devices like that. I have an Alesis USB mixer and the USB quit working after 3 or 4 months. The mixer part works fine and I still use it, but I bought a cheap $30 external USB soundcard with the thought that if it goes out, it's much cheaper to replace than the $200+ mixer.

Bass player for Undercover


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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
Topic starter  

Hi jwmartin,

Thanks for the link to the drum demo, which sounded great. I'll check that program out too.

Interesting to hear about your experience with the Alesis. I noticed that on the Harmony Central review site most of the posters were enthusiastic about the Zoom unit, with a few minor quibbles. However, there were 2 or 3 who served up a zero score rant because it failed either immediately or soon after purchase. It's tempting to dismiss an isolated rant, but this is looking like it might be something more than just a one off bit of bad luck. Thanks for passing that on.

To be honest, I think that the USB mixer is probably a piece of un-necessary foolishness on my part, that I don't really need. When the music allocation bank account creeps up a bit I'm prone to bad attacks of G.A.S. and this is beginning to look more like a vanity toy than something that I actually need right now. With a bit of luck I'll have calmed down by the end of the week, and just go out and buy some of the software that's been suggested, and get on with the business of learning how to use that properly.

Thank you very much for all the input. You've all been most helpful, and I think that the light is beginning to dawn now... The time to look for grander bits of hardware should be AFTER I've mastered the software (not to mention making some major improvements in my instrument playing and song writing/arranging skills as well...). Interesting times ahead. :)

Cheers,

Chris


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(@ignar-hillstrom)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5384
 

Chris: BIAB works great with cubase. You can render the basic MIDI track in BIAB, import it in cubase and change the notes/sounds as much as you want. As for Zoom, don't worry. They make millions of products so it's no more then normal that a few hundred won't work. If German Tiger tanks would be availlable for purchase I'm sure Harmony-central would be overcrowded by people complaining about the durability of those panzers. A USB mixer is handy if you have a multitude of analog inputs you want to keep connected at one time, but I think the ART USB project series has enough channels to keep you occupied. As for durability, I've never had any of my USB devices crap out on me, and some have been turned on for years on end.


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(@lee-n)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 142
 

Chris: BIAB works great with cubase. You can render the basic MIDI track in BIAB, import it in cubase and change the notes/sounds as much as you want.

Yep, I do it all the time for knocking up quick jam tracks, the difference is huge when you are using even just half decent samples. Chris, let me know if you want to hear any examples.

I would agree that while you are on a learning curve, it's probably not a great idea to spend a bundle of money. I personally think Cubase is the most intuitive of the lot and even the light versions are still very capable despite their limitations. One thing to note with Cubase LE ... you only have two VST slots so careful before you spend! For your needs I would recommend something like Halion because it's reliable and you will find plenty of decent and usable sample sets for free that will load into it. But even that I wouldn't rush into.

In the meantime, grab the free Sampletank plugin at http://www.sampletank.com/Main.html?STFreeDwn this will give you a basic set of drums, bass and piano etc to spend some time getting used to it all and only using one VST slot. The samples aren't great but they are a hell of a lot better than what you'll get from your sound card with the benefit of giving you time to get your head around it all without spending a penny.


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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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Chris: BIAB works great with cubase. You can render the basic MIDI track in BIAB, import it in cubase and change the notes/sounds as much as you want. As for Zoom, don't worry. They make millions of products so it's no more then normal that a few hundred won't work.

Starting in BiaB and switching if required sounds ideal. I take your point about Zoom, (very nicely put too, I liked the tank analogy ) I've been happy with the MRS8 that I already have. I think what's happening here is that I'm moving from the "Gassing about yet another pretty gadget that I don't actually need" phase to the "Clutching at straws to convince myself not to waste my money" stage. I suppose there's still a chance that I'll grow up one day, but it's looking increasingly unlikely...

I would agree that while you are on a learning curve, it's probably not a great idea to spend a bundle of money. I personally think Cubase is the most intuitive of the lot and even the light versions are still very capable despite their limitations. One thing to note with Cubase LE ... you only have two VST slots so careful before you spend! For your needs I would recommend something like Halion because it's reliable and you will find plenty of decent and usable sample sets for free that will load into it. But even that I wouldn't rush into.

Thanks for the input Lee. I think you've nailed it there. This exercise has cleared the fog a bit, and allowed me to get more of an idea about which are the important bits of the chain, and which aren't. I've now got a much better idea of how to work with what I've got.

I've already got a couple of free VST plug-ins - 4Front Bass and 4Front Piano, which I saw recommended somewhere - and they seem pretty good. Certainly good enough for me to learn with, try it all out, etc. I'll check out the Sampletank one too, so thanks for that.

Today is my weekly singing lesson. It's the 4th so far, and we spent the first 3 mostly stuffing around with hardware and software. The guy attempting to teach me has a great a little studio setup with a Mac running Protools, a HUGE screen to display it all on, and a nice little mixer thing to control it all with (the Digidesign 003 setup). It all makes my eyes light up with childish envy when I see it all.... BUT.... he was obviously having some kind of glitch with it all, and it's obviously not totally compatible with what I use either. So much grumbling and muttering has gone on.

On the first week we didn't manage to get the proposed backing track onto a CD, so I went home, took a couple of minutes to write out the melody line and a couple of chords (using the free Finale Notepad) made a rinky-dink little midi, and sang to that. It worked just fine for the job at hand.

The second week also featured a lot of stuffing about, but I did come away with a great backing track (as a Wav) on my thumb drive. I sang along as a duet with him all week, green with envy at his playing and singing talent. The third week we split it up and I came home with his voice panned to one side of a stereo mix, and the guitar on the other. I was able to split that into two separate tracks so that I could practice singing solo. But somewhere along the way we had lost the original click track. :( Wipe-out.... I then had absolutely no idea when to come in, and kept losing track of the timing.... But that's not going to be solved by my buying more fancy gear, I need to learn how to improve my own timing, and also how to line up a fresh click with his file. I'll get there.... :)

I think the message is clear now. Get over the fantasy of copying his studio gear, and get on with the real job which is learning to copy his talent and knowledge. Thanks to everybody for for all the patient help.

Cheers,

Chris


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(@gerry)
Reputable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 441
 

I have Cubase 4 and use Sonar 7.2, for being intuative I think Sonar is the one to go for. apart from that you can get a full trial download which you can't get with Cubase.

http://www.cakewalk.com/Support/kb/kb20061101.asp

Oh and don't forget Reaper now that is one piece of software that keeps getting better and better.

Good luck,

Gerry

Those who can't dance always blame the band.

http://www.gerrycooper.com/


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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
Topic starter  

Thanks for the input Gerry.

I did end up upgrading my out of date version of Cubase LE to Cubebase Essential 4, which is has everything that I need on the recording side of things, but for way less money than the full versions. I also upgraded the free version of Finale Notepad to Finale Print Music. This was also comparatively cheap but does everything that I need for writing both standard and drum notation, generating midi files etc. One handy aspect is being able to use 4 separate layers on one staff - good for writing a drum track where the kick drum, snare and high hat may be asked to play different note lengths on the same beat. It also sounds better than Notepad. I tried to get Band in a Box, but there were no copies available locally, and while I was waiting for someone to restock I changed direction....

I decided that, after 20 year of DOS and Windows style computers it was time to try out a Mac. The iMac came bundled with Garage Band, which is quick to get the hang of. A guy that I get some lessons from also has GB, so he can use his setup to add backing tracks to my projects. I use a thumb drive to transfer it around and can either just use his version, or attempt to copy it with my own playing.

The last piece was a Zoom H4 which doubles as a handheld recording device with a pair of condenser mics, or can be used as a USB audio interface, complete with built in effects if needed.

Now it's time to stop Gassing over gear, and hanging round music shops, and get on with doing the work..... So if I'm suspiciously silent for a few months, put it down to embarrassment at the results....

Cheers,

Chris


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