Friday, July 31, 2009

New software and hardware

I just entered into the "public beta" test of Propellerhead's new "Record" software. It's pretty freaking awesome, I must say. "Public Beta" means that anyone who has obtained a "code" from (free for the asking) can download the full software and use it until the September release date. Though it's marketed primarily to folks who want to record "audio", ie. guitars, vocals, etc., it also integrates incredibly well with their "Reason 4.0" software, which I have blogged about several times, such as here and here.

The skeptic in me says that this is simply Reason 5.0 and those clever Swedes at Propellerhead has found a sneaky way to market it in order to make more money. Of course the reality is a bit more complex than that. But for me, since I rarely record audio and do mostly virtual instrument tracks, this release means one thing: Reason 4.0 is now multi-core aware. Record does a very good job of utilizing all four of my processing cores when I play back a complex song like the one shown below, which Reason has never done. (and the skeptic in me is now reminding me that in an interview, one of the propheads said it was going to be incredibly hard to ever make Reason support multiple cores.)

The other thing Record offers is a much better virtual mixer than Reason, which has been modeled after a high-dollar professional board, the SSL 9000k.

So, if the goal of this "Public Beta" is to get Reason users like me completely hooked on this software so that we have to buy it when released, they have accomplished their mission with flying colors.

Like Christmas in July, the same day I got into the Record public beta, my two new Acer 24" wide-screen HD monitors arrived. I've got a lot more screen real estate now, as shown in the before and after pictures below. Click on the pics for a close-up look. These pictures show exactly how much of the beautiful Record UI will fit on my screens, before and after. Awesome. Just Awesome. (Thanks LoriLea!!)

Left Monitor (Tracking and Instrument Rack)


new - Notice that you can see ALL of both sides of the instrument rack without scrolling, and about 40% more of the timeline of the song!

Right Monitor (mixing desk and Tool window):


New - notice all that black space where a whole bunch more mixer channels would be visible without scrolling

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last track I recorded with Alan Wiseman

When I originally recorded the track "Reasonable Persons" using only Propellerhead's Reason, I knew that I wanted a "real" drum track on there eventually. And who better to do it that my old pal Alan Wiseman. I've known Alan since 7th grade, and we've been playing music together since 8th grade...over 30 years. His drumming style was something I had grown so accustomed to, I think when I "programmed" drums they sounded a lot like what he would play (in fact he said as much during the session).

Anyway, I provided lunch and access to the swimming pool, and that was all he needed for payment. We had a great time. I really played producer on him, pretty much telling him what to play in every spot. I tasked him with exactly copying the basics of what I had programmed on the original track, but also to make it his own, which he did with the usual flair and taste. I especially like what he did with those two "build ups" on the toms during the last two turnarounds, toward the end of the track. We did a couple of takes before his swim, then when he came back he nailed it after about four more takes. I don't think we did ANY punch ins; the take you hear was played start-to-finish in real time.

I did very little editing of his MIDI part, which he performed on my Roland V-drums triggering Native Instrument's Battery 3 plugin. Originally, I thought I might replace all of the Reason instruments with higher quality VST instruments in Sonar, but I ended up not doing so, just dumping each Reason instrument, raw, to it's own Sonar track and mixing them down with Alan's drum track. I did use three instances of IKM's Classik Studio Reverb on the various instruments to provide a "stage" ambiance.

My friend and musical comrade Alan passed away in March of this year. I'm still struggling very hard to deal with this loss, so I suppose resurrecting these takes (which were recorded in summer of 2007) and finally finishing this track was a form of therapy for me. Several times during the mixing and tweaking I could swear he was right behind me pounding the skins.

I am indeed blessed to have had his friendship and musical companionship for all those years.

So long Al, and thank you for all the drumming! I love you, man.

here is a direct link to the mp3 for non-shockwave environments