Recording Advice: Rookie Decision Errors
Hi guys, I’ve been gone a while, been a little busy actually. I thought I’d put together a quick blog about some mistakes people make when they start recording music for the first time(s). I’m no pro by any means, but I’ve definitely made some rookie moves before, so I hope this helps someone.
Buying Too Much at Once
The worst thing that newbies to recording can ever do to themselves is to buy everything (or attempt to do so) at once. I have seen it over and over and over. Guys will decide that they need a recording studio. That’s the dream, that’s what we struggle for – the pimp recording setup. Great. BUT – baby steps, man; baby steps.
I was talking to an employee in a music store the other day and he had a used massive Roland Fantom of some sort on the sales floor. This was one of those huge 88-key workstation with practically a studio in itself. The guy who traded it in got it to use with his brand new Mac computer. This would be his midi controller, synth and audio i/o to use with Logic. He returned it why? Ah yes – why else? Because he decided the ideal setup for his first studio (ever!) is to run virtual instruments with an Mbox Pro (the newest one) with Pro Tools AND Logic. Next he needs to find a MIDI controller to go with this setup.
So, here we have someone who is new to recording, new to the Mac OS (he never used it before), new to Logic, new to Pro Tools, new to audio interfaces, new to virtual instruments and controllers. Who does this?!?! Countless people, in fact. Do you know how long it’ll take this guy to be comfortable with the Mac OS? How long will it take him to know his way around Logic? How long will it take him until he knows his way around Pro Tools? And on and on it goes.
In short – buy one piece at a time, figure out how it works and then buy the next piece of the puzzle. What happens, otherwise, is what would have taken you 3 months to understand each item (one at a time) turns into two years of constant frustration and conflicts – a sea of user error.
Next you need to be concerned with whose advise you are listening to. Here’s who you don’t listen to, this will help you sort out the potential advisors. Don’t listen to:
- The guy with a massive, expensive setup who says you should only buy the most expensive of everything.
- The gal who makes sweeping, outrageous statements like, “only use this DAW, the others are crap”, or “you have to get this mic.”
- The overly opinionated salesperson.
- People who make buying decisions based on such things as “this is what Dre uses.”
- Anyone you know with a great setup that doesn’t actually get any work done in their studio.
If you get the sense that a salesperson is a know-it-all and doesn’t appear objective – run! A salesperson in the music store can be very helpful or just an ego-driven megalomaniac that has this job in order to fulfill some sense that they must know everything about everything. They have a low self-esteem and can’t dunk, so they decided that being smarter than everyone would fill that hollow feeling inside of them. All you need to do is keep an ear open for a one-track mind. If they talk to you and know what you “need to buy” after asking less than three questions –time to move on. But, do talk with salespeople in a recording department with a music store – say, Unique Squared? This is an engineer’s day job – working for Unique by day and recording by night.
Anyone who can’t tell you the pros and cons of something and can only spell out only either the pros or the cons of a piece of software or hardware is an idiot. Morons will misdirect you at every turn. Just because your friend likes one piece of software can’t mean that the tens of thousands of users of a different app are dumber that your friend. Your advisor, you’ll find, just doesn’t know what they are talking about. But if your noble consigliore will be the one providing tech support for you (since they are all knowing) then that is a good reason to pick one piece of software/hardware over another. Just know that your friend is a mouth-breather that’s all I’m saying.
I’ll give you some simple advice. Buy a simple setup and do it on the cheap. Use it until it gets in your way. Once you hit a wall like “I can’t record more tracks, but I need to” or “the machine is slowing me down” – then it is time to invest more money in this. Don’t buy it all at once and know what you don’t know. If you don’t know audio interfaces – you don’t need the $1500 Apogee interface yet. If you aren’t sure why studio monitors are better than your home stereo speakers – you don’t “need” Genelecs.
Waiting for the Next Thing
Don’t let the next technology around the corner prevent you from making music now. Too many times I see guys who’s computer is sounding its death knell and they are waiting just 6 months more because they heard Apple was coming out with something new. Yeah. No kidding. There is ALWAYS a new technology just coming out. So what?
I wanted to get my wife an iPad for Christmas. There is an iPad2 on the way. I should wait, right? Wrong. There is an iPad 12 on the way for that matter. Meanwhile, she is able to enjoy this iPad and run it into the ground whilst playing solitaire and going on FaceBook. Let’s be honest, I think that is why Jobs made this machine – solitaire and FaceBook.
Then again, there may be no use in warning you of this pitfall. Usually the folks that are waiting for the next thing are merely bragging about something they don’t intend to buy anyhow. I can’t warn you against a personality type – you’re either this person or not. But, you know this person – they like to bore you with tales about what they intend to do with this vaporware. “Oh man, once I get my 73 core, i8 tower with 6 googlebytes of RAM I’m gonna”… Nothing. They are going to do nothing, because all they do is talk and not actually record music.
Getting Cracked Software
Queue the blessed B3 soundtrack in the background; for I am about to preach. Don’t get cracked software. Just don’t do it. Not merely because you will soon become paralyzed in a horrific car accident soon thereafter – or someone you love will. You know, “instant karma?” The real reason you should avoid cracks is because you’ll make two vital mistakes by using this software. First, you’ll install everything and learn all of it poorly. Cracked software users suddenly get Reason, Fruity Loops, Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, Native Instruments, Waves (and on and on) and proceed to learn all of them very superficially. Secondly (and worst of all) you are introducing a world of hurt to you computer. Unless you are a computer wiz (on par with those that cracked the software) and understand about kernels or library conflicts – stay away from cracked versions of software.
Buying the software you use will get you tech support, proper owner manuals and a computer that is healthy and happy. An unhappy computer is sad, sad thing. And, when your computer does die (as all good computers will do from time to time) you will have good, clean installers for your next machine. Oh, and you’ll keep the use of your legs since the universe won’t need to exact revenge on you.
The Unique Geek