Tips & Tricks

As usual when you start walking into the world of music it is important to decide what do you want to do? How much time are you planing to spend on music? How much money can you invest? Do you have old equipment? Can I still use this? What do I need? How about an iPad? etc etc… It is a difficult task to decide the “right” DAW (Digital Audio Workstation; eg. Logic Pro) for your usage. I was pretty much focus on copying the old Atari ST times (yes, I am an old guy already) and also not spending too much money… so I opted for Logic Pro that time (affordable and I dont need a master degree to understand it).

Here we will use Ableton Live and Logic Pro X. There are plenty of other workstations out there but I do not have the money nor time going through all of them. It is also not our goal to judge each application as surely each has their pros and cons but to simply try to make it as easy as possible for you to work with each of them. We will also look at Mac OS X system only, sorry, I do not have a Windows machine; however, most parts are very similar for each DAW and the functions of Ableton Live are actually same.

The DAW for you

Logic Pro is a DAW and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) sequencer software application running only on Mac OS X platform. Originally developed by German software developer C-Lab and finally purchased by Apple in 2002. – It therefore has a long history and strong footprint in the music market. Logic Pro X is currently avialable at the Apple Store for approx $199. – I will describe core functions of Logic in the section Tips&Tricks Logic.

Ableton Live is a DAW and MIDI sequencer software application running on Windows and Mac OS X platforms. In contrast to other DAW, Ableton is more to be used as an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging and mastering. It is also used by DJs, as it offers a suite of controls for beatmatching, crossfading, and other effects used by turntablists. – I will describe core functions of Ableton in the section Tips&Tricks Ableton Live.

The VST for you

What the heck is a VST I hear you say? A VST is short for Virtual Studio Technology, so a software interface that integrates software audio synthesizer and effect plugins with audio editors and disk recording systems. So to say a Keyboard/Synthesizer/etc as a tiny software add-on to your DAW. There are thousands of plugins available for puchase or free to download. A sheer endless possibility exist; yes, you are right therefore we need to concentrate on a few. Again, I am not a know it all person, so I just chose some that I like to use and present them to you. I am not a contractor/promotor of them nor in any way affiliated; hence, your choice to go out and buy or just use the functions the DAW have already incorporated. Generally, a VST can make your life quite enjoyable and you can get out a good sound in no-time… yes, there is a risk someone else uses the same sound… Ohh, maybe thats why many new tracks you hear in the radio or watch on MTV somehow sound similar. – I will describe main VST I am using in the Tips&Trick VST section.

The HARDWARE for you

It is not required that you go out and purchase a new keyboard / synthesizer, any old keyboard with MIDI or USB connection will do. – If you have an old keyboard (I have a Kawaii K1, 20 years old) with MIDI only connection you also need a converter, a tiny box/cable that actually allows you to connect your old piece of hardware to your brand new computer. – I have describe this here in the Tips&Tricks equipment section.

Most people actually feel comfortable using a keyboard (piano style) to play in their notes while others likely simple use the piano editor within the DAW to work on their compositions. Important is to have setup that makes your workflow as easy as possible.

Additionally to “traditional” keyboards you may want to consider to buy a drum-pad or any other controller to enhance you workflow. I have opted for the Ableton Push controller after having “played” with the “software-copy” on the iPad via the Lemur app. There are limitations when it comes to controllers specifically designed for a certain software and so is the Push… I will described tricks to “get-around” this limitation in the Tips and Tricks equipment section. – Controllers allow you not only to evtl get around the traditional keyboard but also allow you to control your DAW directly, so no shortcut clickings on your computer keyboard. Easy…

Akai Professional produces the APC40, a MIDI controller also designed to work only with Ableton Live. Novation produces the Launchpad for Ableton and Apple introduced its Logic Remote to get a similar feeling as Apples favorite Garageband software to its users.

The French company JazzMutant under the name of produces a customizable multi-touch input device “The Lemur Input Device”, which serves as a controller for musical devices such as mixing consoles and synthesizers.  Lemur’s role is equivalent to that of a MIDI controller, except that the Lemur uses the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol, a MIDI replacement to work via your network.  The device is discontinued due to heavy competition especially from the tablet market and a software version of Lemur has been developed and is available on the AppStore for iPad users. – I highly recommend this as its an affordable way to test controllers and integrate your iDevice in your music making activity.