Then to Now

It’s been about a year and a half or so since I first got up and running. It was probably another year before that from when I first spied the pinball glass to the time I had a counter for my computer.

I guess we’ll start with the beginning and end up with the present…

For $20, in late December 2017, I purchased a Humble Bundle that equipped me with basic audio and video editing capabilities.

The “VEGAS PRO: Discover Creative Freedom” software bundle included, among other titles, MAGIX Music Maker, which is a basic DAW, and VEGAS Pro 14 Edit, which is video editing software that I was already somewhat familiar with.

For $30, in early March 2018, I purchased a second Humble Bundle. This one came loaded with some powerful audio software.

The highlights of the “MAGIX Sound of Music” software bundle included both ACID Music Studio 10 and ACID Pro 7, as well as both SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 10 and SOUND FORGE Pro 11.

Having all of this software really got me to feeling like I was wasting the opportunity to do something with it. I wasn’t sure what direction to take, if any. All I know is I opened the programs and closed them a bunch of times without doing too much of anything.

Around this time I found myself looking into the storage room that would become the studio office. That’s when I saw the pinball glass leaning up against the wall.

It took some time to build the recording booth and counter space. After over a year, in late December 2019, I had something. I started with running a USB condenser mic, which was fun to experiment with. Within a month I realized I was going to need some kind of mixer or USB interface to really do what I wanted. That, by the way, was to include my friends in my ridiculous recordings.

In January 2020 I purchased some inexpensive Behringer mics and a TASCAM Model 16 which is a combo USB audio interface, physical mixer, and recorder.

Pretty much right away I reached out to my friend Joe (aka Smokin’ Joe Rodak) and invited him check out what I was trying to do. Before long he brought over a guitar (or two) and a vocalist (or two). Over the next year he’d go on to record three sessions on the Model 16.

In mid-March 2020 I started using PreSonus Studio One 4.5 Artist, which was later upgraded for free to Studio One 5 Artist. I found myself pretty happy with the interface though it’s sometimes stupid about hardware, so I have to make sure everything I want to use is turned on before I click on the icon.

In April 2020 I stepped into the world of MIDI with an AKAI Professional MPK249 controller keyboard. There are 49 keys and a 4×4 array of 16 finger pads. I am able to use this to play a wide array of virtual instruments.

I had the TASCAM Model 16 connected to my ASUS ROG laptop, but I found myself editing on the Alienware tower more than the laptop. It was then, at the end of June 2020 that I purchased a TASCAM Series 102i USB audio interface.

In later July 2020 I recorded this rather embarrassing track, “Be That Guy” on the Model 16. I used the Series 102i to connect a XLR microphone to my iPad. With this setup I was able to use the pitch correction feature in GarageBand to affect my “vocals”. I also used GarageBand for the drums. The AKAI MPK249 provided the background sounds.

On Groundhog’s Day in February 2021 I laid down this drum track using Air Technology’s “Strike” virtual drum instrument. I was stumbling through my day in a swirling cloud of vertigo, which explains the name.

Towards the end of March 2021 I took the “Vertigo Drums” track and added more instruments, all of which I played on the AKAI MPK 249 and recorded onto the TASCAM Model 16. The track files were then mixed in Studio One 5. I titled it “Vertigo” as the drums weren’t the sole focus anymore.

Around the same time I put together this bit with me playing all the virtual instruments. I recorded loops and layered them together to create the finished track. I named it “The Only One I Want” as that’s what was going through my head when I started.

In the last couple days of March 2021 I put together some samples and layered them into a minute long track titled “Layered Loops”. I guess ‘Layered Samples’ would have been a more apt title, but I must have preferred the way it sounds.

In early April 2021 I added a set of Alesis Surge Mesh electronic drums.

Also in April, I adapted to an all digital workflow. This came by way of upgrading to a TASCAM Model 208i USB audio interface and a pair of TASCAM Series 8p Dyna microphone preamps, which allows me to input 20 audio sources. While that may seem like a lot, what it really means is I can leave the drums, keyboards, mic cables, and guitar cables all connected instead of unplugging them every time someone wants to use a different instrument or input.

The TASCAM Series 102i now serves as an audio interface for my iPad.

Last month, towards the end of April 2021, I paid $30 for another Humble Bundle. This one served to upgrade some of my audio and video editing software, including adding the ability to speed up and slow down video.

Included in the “VEGAS PRO: Discover Your Endless Freedom” software bundle were VEGAS Movie Studio 16, VEGAS Pro 16 Edit, SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 13, proDAD ReSpeedr, and a few other titles.

In the first few days of May 2021 a Furman M-8x2 circuit breaker and power conditioner was added to protect my growing collection of gear. In addition to peace of mind, this unit cleared up an issue where FM radio signals would sometimes get picked up on the studio monitor headphones. Clean power apparently affects more than the condition of your circuitry. It also affects the clarity of your sound.

Recently, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to Times Square in NYC. My phone was hanging from the passenger visor while we travelled through several tunnels, starting with the Lincoln Tunnel into the city. I used VEGAS Pro 14 (and 16) to create the edited video and remove the audio. I then used Studio One 5 to create a 13 minute soundtrack for the video. It was created using licensed audio samples, so I guess I more just “arranged” the track. It took the first 8 minutes of the video to travel the Lincoln Tunnel into the city; it was much quicker to leave.

In the past few days here in mid-May 2021 I put together a track using licensed audio samples. It has mostly the same drum loop sample throughout. It starts with a saxophone and ends with classical strings. Being ever so creative, I titled it “Drums Sax and Strings”. Oh… and there’s a tambourine in there.

And, so, here we are…

As you can see, lately I’ve been experimenting with layering and arranging audio samples. I’ve started with licensed samples to make it easier to get the hang of.

I’d like to sample sounds from my environment to use on my tracks. I use a Zoom H4n Pro handy recorder for field recording. It has a pair of X configured built in mics. It also features two dual TRS/XLR inputs with phantom power so I can use other microphones instead of or in addition to those built in. Like I did as a photographer, I was always finding pictures waiting to be taken. Maybe that’s what hunting for sound is like.

That buddy Joe I mentioned has been teaching me to play guitar, which will be my first instrument. So, maybe there’s some hope yet for me to create more meaningful songs. I have been using pitch correction software to help with my vocals. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be able to sing, but I’ll keep making whatever it is I want to make.

For the most part, my future plans involve learning to play that guitar and to keep fumbling around with my own music stuff. I don’t anticipate inviting anyone new into my setup anytime too soon. I really do this out of curiosity; it’s turned into a fun hobby.

Thanks for checking this out. I hope you enjoy my musings.

Ohio Music Scene

I recently started helping the Ohio Music Scene Wiki (OHMS) with their efforts to add artists and bands that I come across to the wiki. It’s somewhat like Wikipedia, but focused on musicians and bands that exist in Ohio’s history… maybe ones like you.