MIDI, Samples, or Live Sounds – Part III

Posted in Production, Recording on Juni 13th, 2011 by EO-Manager

After discussing MIDI and Samples we are going to enter part three: playing recording sessions „live“. Some say that it is the royal league of recording others argue it is a waste of time because it is not efficient and leads to endless recording sessions without any advancement. Well, if we are going back a littel into the history of recording – let’s say 70 or 80 years – this was the ONLY way to record. Even when you had Big Bands or Orchestras playing – the shellac time only had one possibility: either you got it right or you got it wrong. There was no way to record the singer five times in a row and take the best parts and cut them to a perfect one. Musicians had to be really good and concentrated because each mistake could not be redone – the simply was no multitracking in these days.

However, today there IS multitracking and it is possible for everyone so we can make mistakes as many and as long as we like. Back to the point: is it any better to record playing „live“? And if so, why? First of all, we have to define the word „live“ here, as it has multiple meanings. It can be  that you actually record musicians or bands „live“, meaning everybody plays  the same piece of music synchronously. The alternative is that everybody plays „live“ but NOT at the same time, in other words asynchronous. This is usually the case when you enter a studio with a band and do a demo, a record or whatever you want to present afterwards. This is also the case (forced of course) if you are the only musician of your „band“ and you have to have to play all instruments needed one after the other.

Whether you play „live“ or any hybrid model these days ist simply depending on two factors as far as I am concerned: the musical genre and style and the musicians personal abilities. If you are not a multi- instrumentalist it is very hard to play trombone or drums or any other instrument – simply because you can’t. Even if you are multi-instrumental it is not easy because you might not have all the different instruments at hand or they might be very difficult to record because you need too many microphones or external gear that you don’t own. In our days synths and samplers have become so darn good you can emulate anything and everything – or you simply take a construction kit cd and use the ready made sax solo, for example.

The reason why people don’t do all the time is quite obvious: no matter how good the emulation is, the most important part of music will still be missing – the human factor. Mathematically speaking there is literally an infinite number of possibilities how to play an instrument, let alone all the paramerters you would have to take care of even if it were possible to emaulate all of them. And if you take another musician and have a duo, the infinite possibilities even double. You surely get my point: music is an act of instant creativity, talent, decision and ability and probably another million of important factors that any (and I mean ANY) emulation sounds dead in comparison. Take a choir for example. You will never ever get even close to the real thing (that usually blows you away when you listen to it) on and in ready made vocal cds or synth presets. They might sound similar – but unfortunately stale and therefore boring very soon. And – apart from synth sounds, where the artificial sound IS the original – you will always hear it, feel it and will like the „real thing“ more. It is probably because music is not a machine thing (apart from a few genres maybe), it is truly human and warm and emotional and it only stays that way if performed by humans. We even forgive mistakes (if they don’t take over) because the beauty of music is beyond cold perfection …

I bet you knew it yourself, even if (as we all do) you live the musician’s compromise and use some sort of preset, sample or MIDI sequence in almost any peice of music (unless you don’t record and play unplugged flute or acoustic all the time). And there is nothing wrong with it, either. The vision is to be able to substitute all the presets and samples with REAL musicians once you are a superstar. Good luck and don’t forget to comment. End of this trilogy.

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Hotlines? – Flame ON!

Posted in Opinion on Mai 5th, 2011 by EO-Manager

Your DAW is all beefed up, ready to go, you have lots of ideas. You just have the feeling this could be the song of your life, you can’t stop, the drums are hammering, the bass is pounding, the lead guitar is a dream. All it needs is the right synth sound, so you load up a couple of your favorite synths, play around with a couple of sounds. Aaahhh, this is it, excellent —- when suddenly you receive a message from your DAW “there has been a severe error and you must shut down everything”.

No problem, you think, shut down your computer, restart it, restart your DAW, the song … and it happens again. Oh, oh – bad news. You try and load another, already finished song … blue screen. Ok, same routine, shut down the computer, restart everything…new song…new project, just to test what caused the crash, but somehow there seems to be something wrong, you can’t really tell exactly what causes the trouble but it seems as if something has happened that cannot be repaired just like that. It’s time for the hotline.

Well, so far so good. DAWs and commercial virtual instruments and effects are usually programmed very solid. So the disaster I described above doesn’t happen very often (and thanks for that). But it does happen, because some things are not compatible or they falsely address memory they shouldn’t or…or…or. The point is, when this happens you need help.

And if you ask me, that is where the real trouble starts. Even though most of the vendors have hotlines or email support it simply does not work or works very slowly. I don’t know why, but for some reason you either get someone on the line that is more or less incompetent (“Have you tried restarting your computer?”) or you have to wait in endless loops (that you pay, of course), or, if you write a mail they simply don’t answer or answer after weeks and weeks. In other words: they don’t work! And what’s more: you feel diddled.

I had this case a couple of days before Easter when my Cubase 4 crashed. It crashed in a way I have never seen before, saying something was wrong with the code and I should contact the Steinberg hotline. So I did (via mail) and guess what: I haven’t heard anything ever since.

What do these people think? I mean there are so many of us being loyal to the products for years and years, paying lots of money – but when you really need them – nothing, nada, zero. Sorry, but this is outrageous! And by the way: NO, I don’t want to delete everything on my computer and rebuild it from scratch! And neither do I see the need to buy the latest version and install it, thank you. I am happy with mine. I just want the friggin’ hotline to take my problem seriously and answer in time! What, if I lose money because I can’t deliver? What, if I lose customers because of your ignorance and client unfriendly behavior?  Can I make you responsible for that, too?

I finally contacted a friend after a week of trial and error who helped me out so it is working again. Without the hotline – and without any answer or official support. But the trouble and anger and frustration about the Steinberg guys and their hotline remain. And it will for a long time.

Consequences? Well, they are not the only company that does DAWs and instruments – there are alternatives. Maybe not today, but there will be a time when new equipment and software is due. And I will definitely check out what else is on the market.

Oh, by the way, this is no exception: over the years I had quite a few similar experience with other major companies, too. So this is not bashing one company – it rather is the demand to either install working hotlines or none. But please, don’t treat us like idiots.

I am sure, I am not the only one who feels like that. Let us exchange experiences and feel free to comment. As always you are more than welcome.