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CMB 040 : Upgrade Your Tools (2013 Wrap Up Part 2)

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CMB.podcast.cover3As we wrap up 2013, I want to get highly practical and provide you with some ideas, tips, and tactics that you can take into your new year, to see immediate results.

For the next four weeks, each episode will have something that you can take and apply right away.

I’m learning that taking action and putting one foot in front of the other, is the only way to grow in anything. Even in our walk with Christ, we aren’t merely hearers of the word, but doers.

It’s in our doing that we learn and grow the most.

Action is a huge part of anything in life. No one sits around on their hands to watch things magically happen.

I want to give you a few ways to quickly be on the path towards a GREAT new year. These are 4 things every musician should do in 2014…

CMB 039 : 20 Mile March (daily activity)
CMB 040 : Upgrade Your Tools (become an engineer)
CMB 041 : Connect With Your Listeners (master the internet)
CMB 042 : Harness Inspiration (decode the mystery of creativity)

Upgrade Your Tools

Here’s my story…

When I first got my hands on Garageband in 2004, I fell in love with the creative process of recording. I was forever ruined.

It wasn’t engineering in itself that I came to love, but the artistic process of capturing sound and making it musical. Engineering, mixing, and audio production, were just as much a part of the art as the music itself!

I also loved that I had more control over the end product. Often in recording projects prior to that, there would always be some issue in the production or final mix that I wished were different.

I later came across Propellerhead Reason, which gave me more options for different sounds and samples and was more powerful and flexible than Garageband.

After that I also came across a great Pro Tools course at Berklee Music Online, and I began to learn professional-level engineering methods.

Your Story

But what should you do?

Your path will be different than mine, and it’s important for you to be very aware of what your needs are. Your musical direction will dictate specific types of software, plugins, and other tools, but here are some basic tools you should definitely consider if you’re just getting started….

Computer Choices

Software and DAWs

Hardware

Education

What are you currently using?

If you’re currently a DIY engineer for your own music, why not leave your tips and ideas in the comments below? Let us know what you’re using.

Comments

  • Alan Humm

    I have used Pro Tools since the mid 90s. It has a steep learning curve, but has more capabilities than anything else I have run across. It has also gotten cheaper and more flexible in recent years. I have also used other high end recording software and found that once you get past the initial stuff, they are no easier. It is a lot like other software packages–the easiest one to use is the one you know.
    So, I continue to use it for higher-end projects (anything more complex than stereo). However, if you are just doing something simple (such as recently when I was simply making digital backups of my old notebook tapes), it is kind of overkill. Macites will prefer Garage Band for this kind of stuff. On the PC, I found that something called WavPad is quite useful for smaller stuff. It is free for non-commercial stuff. You are not limited to stereo, if you are looking for a free startup program, and it does come with the basic manipulation utilities (normalize, fade, etc).

    • http://natefancher.com/ Nate Fancher

      Awesome Alan. I haven’t heard of WavPad. Is it like Audacity? Another simple audio program would be Adobe Audition. I actually use that for the post-production for the podcast. Thanks for the tip!

      • Alan Humm

        I couldn’t tell you how it compares to others in the same price-feature range. I was looking for a quick solution. On the higher end I have used Vegas, Steinberg, and Sonar. Much of my decision to go with Pro Tools was that both of the first two were limited at the time (Steinberg did not do MIDI and Vegas was weak on DAW. Sonar came along later. Those issues have since been resolved, and I am sure they are good products. I was very happy when Pro Tools became capable of supporting VST. Their own RTAS worked but lacked wide support in the hacker community. My former recording buddy is in love with Logic Pro, but I have never been able to afford to side-grade to a Mac, so I can’t intelligently compare it.
        I have not tried Audition, although I have it, and I would be happy to point folks to an older version (2003ish) made available free from Adobe. My impression using Premier is that ‘simple’ is not a word they understand, though.

  • Julie Lindemuth

    Another fantastic podcast, Nate! I previously had been using Cubase by Steinburg and found it quite easy to learn. Was using a MAC at the time. Then I moved, bought a PC, and life got in the way. That was 3 years ago. My latest recording was one track on a digital recorder and wasn’t quite as interesting as those multi-tracks, but it served the purpose. While I was listening to you, I sailed over and signed up for free online video courses with Berklee online, to help me get back into Cubase. Oh, and another thanks for the first of this series “The 20 Mile March”. I’m medicated and not feeling well, but I am still doing at least my hour of songwriting if NOTHING else happens. The “weather” in my life might be nasty today, but I’m still putting in the miles so I can reach my destination. Thanks again for all you do for us! Merry Christmas!

    • http://natefancher.com/ Nate Fancher

      Thanks so much Julie!!! Awesome to hear that you checked out the Berklee site! Keep it up with your songwriting…. :-)

    • Julie Lindemuth

      So, I’m putting this out to the community, and hoping someone can lend some advice. I recently found that I cannot input my Firebox (with Cubase LE) into my PC, because the USB and Firewire ports are technologically incompatible. I already have Cubase installed on my Mac Desktop. . . which is over 5 years old and has a few lines running up and down the screen, but so far, it still works. AND I just found out that Steinberg has discontinued my Firebox. Here’s what I’m tempted to do in the short run: Start using my Mac again, cleaning up the unused files and only use it for my music studio. Each time I have a new bunch of tracks ready for MP3 format, I download into I-Tunes, copy to a thumbdrive (is this possible?) and upload it to my PC, which I have Carbonite backing up. It’s not exactly “upgrading my tools”, but it would get me back in the game and re-learning some interesting stuff. Any thoughts? And, for when I’m financially ready, do all new MACS have firewires ports? Thanks for not snickering TOO loudly. . . :)

      • http://natefancher.com/ Nate Fancher

        Hey Julie! No worries. No snickering here!

        Upgrading tools can be a great opportunity to think creatively and outside the box. There are probably a lot of different ways you could go, but looking at cleaning up an older computer to do heavy processing (audio recording/editing software) may not make a big difference. Freeing up storage is always a good idea, but doesn’t always translate to “faster” or “better”.

        New macs do not have firewire ports unfortunately. Something I was bummed about. You’d have to get a separate “dock” that had a thunderbolt (what macs now have) connection that you could run your firewire device through. The new macs still have USB, which a lot of great interfaces run on. USB has come a long way.

        Hope this helps! :-)

      • Julie Lindemuth

        Thanks, Nate, I appreciate your help. I think I will start using the old Mac and the Cubase that I’m accustomed to, and as my husband recommends “relax into the research” for a new Mac, to see exactly what I need. This is a good learning and growing experience for me, as I formerly left ALL tech purchases to him. (which is how I got a PC quickly, but with no firewire port :)
        An aside comment, I finally bought the Kindle version of “the Inner Game of Music”, after years of thinking about it. It’s a great read about how our inner critic gets in the way. Good stuff. :)

  • Linzmeister

    Hi Nate, I only found the podcast a couple of months ago and I’ve been touched by each interview. My main involvement in Christian music is primarily as an audio operator. I mix in my local church each week and in years gone by I was involved with Youth for Christ “Travellers” (1991 Tour) and Youth Alive concerts including the ’96 mini tour of New South Wales.

    I have recently set up the http://www.facebook.com/mobilestudioguy page with the desire to record and mix local bands – and, as the name suggests, the studio comes to you. All an artist needs to provide is a quiet, nice sounding space to record in or a PA system to hook up to. I can record multi-track at a live show or in the quietness of a home, function centre or empty auditorium using studio techniques.

    As far as gear goes, I’ve got:
    1x AKG D112
    5x SM57
    1x SM58
    2x Rhode NT3
    1x Rhode NT2
    2x Behringer C2 – cheap but great as a spaced pair on a Grand Piano or drum overheads
    1x RM-10 Ribbon mic – just killer on electric Guitar
    Yamaha 01V Digital Mixer with ADAT output
    Focusrite OctoPre LE with ADAT output
    Focusrite Octopre with ADAT output
    RME HDSP9652 ADAT sound card – 24 channels of ADAT input
    Headphone Amp and headphones
    Mackie HR-824 Monitors
    Sonar X2
    Slate Trigger (but I prefer to record live drums)
    a bunch of other plugin tools
    anything else can be hired for a day or 2 while recording.
    But all the gear is secondary to the skills and the relationships that form between artist and engineer.

    I would love to discuss the possibilities of working with christian bands or solo artists who also listen to your show and want to record, but haven’t got the skills or gear and are in the Sydney area of Australia.

  • New Scottish Hymns

    Hi Nate,

    Really enjoying the podcast. Have listened to most recent two, and now onto Paul Baloche interview.

    The story about the cross-fit instructor was really helpful! Your sentiments, your struggle and the admission of failure, but also the equanimity with which you recounted it…all these things were helpful. Because of Jesus, our failures don’t need to crush us, and even when a guy stands there and shows you how much of a failure you have been, you’re able to acknowledge it with humility (even as the blood rises in the cheeks!), but still feel inspired to change and do better – and not because you want to think of yourself as a success, either, but because you want to honour Christ who has saved us from the condemnation which our deepest failures deserve.

    Your way of responding to that situation is a strong witness, so thanks a lot!

    I know exactly what you mean about pushing on through and actually being a “doer” not just a “talker”. The 20-mile march idea of preparing well, setting a daily target, and chipping away at some large endeavour until it is complete…another important lesson!

    I thought you might be interested to hear how these thoughts are speaking into my own situation, and hopefully if this is of value to anyone else reading this, then great! Sorry for the long post…People in a similar situation might find it useful, I hope.

    I’m in the situation where I have already made many of the important preparatory arrangements – I have -invested in a very good, versatile home recording studio that lets me track most of my stuff (though I occasionally use studios for e.g. live band tracking).
    -I trained in Logic back when I was in uni (12 years ago – it was still on version 4, and I used it on PC!) so I know how to record, mix, produce etc…

    -I’ve got Masterwriter songwriting software which is excellent for workflow and keeping track of ideas.
    -I downloaded tutorials for Logic 9 (still need to brush up!) from macprovideo.com.
    -I’m also getting online skype singing lessons from the Singing Success people, so that I can record better, and take my songs on the road with confidence.
    – I have social media platforms up and running with Facebook and twitter, as well as a blog where people can hear/watch/download/buy the album I recorded in 2012.

    So I’m in an arguably strong position…BUT…
    I also have other work to do to bring money in. In this kind of ministry/career, there is quite a high tipping point before it starts to become financially sustainable.
    What this means is that I have my time split up between a job that more reliably guarantees income, and the work that I want to do in building up the church and encouraging Christians with my music.
    I’ve been lucky enough to choose a career in music already (I play in and manage a wedding band) so my performing skills and musical connections have developed over the course of my career.

    So here are my biggest struggles:

    1. -DISCIPLINE Finding the time to do the important things that need to be done.
    2. – MOTIVE Finding the motivation to do things I don’t feel like doing.
    3. – PRIORITISATION Understanding which aspects of my career need the most urgent attention.

    No 1. requires me to have that kind of 20-mile march approach, so your podcast about that was helpful.

    No 2. requires me to focus on the greatness of Jesus who saves me. It’s so easy to stoke up fantasies about wowing audiences, and gaining critical success, and all your peers talking well of you…but these fade in a moment- it’s idolatry, and it enslaves you if that’s your motive. So I need to be disciplined in remembering the manifold beauties of Christ – praying that God’s Spirit would enable my blind eyes to be opened to his glory.

    No 3. I’m coming around to the fact that success in this kind of business endeavour is rarely down to ONE thing. We see artists succeed and we think “Oh, it’s because they recorded that great song” or “Oh it’s because they got connected with that record label” or “they were lucky enough to get onto that show” etc… But the truth is that for a successful career, you need *everything* to be in alignment. I’m not talking about planets, here.

    What I mean is that every component that makes up your career has to be working correctly. No part of your career can be substandard – every part has to resonate consistently with the other parts. There needs to be harmony. If your music is good, your lyrics should be too. If the production is good, the album artwork must be, too. If your songs are good, they’ve got to be well-sung. If your website is good, your social media should be, too. Sometimes it’s better not to do something at all, than to do it in a way that introduces drag factor to the rest of your career.

    Every aspect has to be right – if there is anything about it which feels substandard, people will lose interest…Your career depends on people sharing your stuff, and they’re not going to feel confident identifying themselves with you if they feel there is something substandard there.

    It’s like, you can be the most handsome person in the world, but if your date catches a whiff of bad breath, you can forget about that second date.

    So I guess what I’m thinking about at the moment is this: what are the things which don’t line up? What are the things that are stopping people from getting excited about my music…the things that are stopping my music from spreading…what is adding to the drag factor?

    I think it helps to disassemble every part of your career, and ask “is this the best it could be?” and “what are the implications of not having this done right?” So many people never ask these questions about central things, like the songwriting, or the live show, or the distribution, or the “narrative”.

    The point is that I think I’ve got a lot of key things *right*, but there are still things missing, I’m sure. I need to constantly review – ask how I could do things better..deconstruct, criticise, seek advice… Perhaps the thing that is missing is simply the body of work – my expectations and timescale are misaligned. That can be damaging, because when you see two new album sales, you can think “wow! Two!” or you can think “What? Only two?” because no-one has told you what you can expect. If there is someone who has already been successful who can then say “this is what those facebook likes mean”, or “this is what those album sales mean”, then that would be really helpful.

    I’m sometimes lacking the motivation to keep pressing on, because there is no promise that people will take notice to the degree that would justify the effort…It’s so much easier when you’ve got a large, dedicated fan-base I think! Perhaps I need to learn from the people who have also taken that step in the dark, and learn from them too, in order to calm my fears and channel my direction.

    Right, that’s all. I have run out of steam! A fairly long ramble there…I’d love to hear if anyone has any thoughts!

    PS the music is at http://www.newscottishhymns.com

    God bless, and keep pressing on.

    • http://natefancher.com/ Nate Fancher

      Hey thanks for the comment! I can definitely relate to what what you’re saying. I listened to your stuff and would love to chat further. Shoot me an e-mail at nate@christianmusicblog.com when you get a chance. If you’re a subscriber, we should definitely do a CMB-ite Spotlight on you guys too!

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