Thursday, May 17, 2007

Studio "Gear" I Like

I am a big fan of the virtualization of recording studios...that is, more and more the effects/sounds we had to use thing for are now available via software. I don't have a lot of boxes in my project studio, and having moved it 4 times now I like it that way.

I am not advocating for the virtualization of instruments...I think the feel and response of a
real instrument is necessary for the musician to create a real performance. I use drum machines because it's what I have, not because I think they could ever come close to the performance of a real drummer. But when it comes to processing gear, I think software is great. Whatever the real box does, you can create that in software, and doing so is driving down the cost of processing such that hobbyists like myself can have processing that would have only been found in big expensive studios a decade or two ago.

With that in mind, my favorite plugin (audio processing software for ProTools) is Trash. Trash destroys sound. Trash is a simulator not for whole guitar amps, but for all of the parts of a guitar amp, each individually tweakable, and it just sounds great. Back at WBRU, Steve and I used to use an old beat-up guitar amp to make a sound effect we just couldn't get any other way. Trash is the first distortion/amp modeler I've played with that can capture that, well, whatever it is.

Trash also has a wonderful feature that you don't find in real amps: it can act separately on three frequency bands. For example, when processing drums you can use different settings on the kick, snare, and hihat, each of which tends to live in its own frequency area. This lets you have that fat destroyed snare sound, crispy fried simple sound, and still leave the kick drum relatively unprocessed (so it doesn't get muddy). On vocals you can fuzz out the midrange but keep the high-end a little bit clean so you can hear what's going on.

I just said a drum machine can't replace a real drummer. Absolutely true. But drum machines are also their own things...I think electronica gets a hypnotic sound from the use of drum machines, loops, and computers. So sometimes I want a drum machine, and Rebirth is my favorite. Sadly Rebirth is out of production (sad because it was never ported to OS X, so while it will run on a PPC Mac under Classic or on Windows, its days for the Mac community are numbered).

Propellerhead Software did something that I think is really great: they posted Rebirth for free...a lot of software that is end-of-lifed simply ends up lost...the company puts the master code on a DVD-ROM for backup, and then the engineers who all worked on it move on to other jobs and eventually no one knows (1) where the code is or (2) how to build it. What a me the best thign would have been if Propellerhead had posted the source code (I would gladly port ReBirth to OS X for free), but it's their software and we're lucky just to have the CD-ROM image.

Rebirth is a simulation of the 808, 909 and 303 drum machines, plus you can plug in free sound modules. To hear what Rebirth sounds like (oh lord, another plug) take a listen to track 3 - "
Min Hameitzar" from Ami's album here. That drum loop is the Rebirth 909 simulation with a plug-in module (Orbit, I think but I'm not sure.)

Even more fun is Rebirth + Trash + Beat Detective. (Beat Detective is a ProTools feature that lets you cut up drum loops and apply "feel" to them, moving the beats a little bit.) Start with Rebirth, program a loop, use Beat Detective to loosen it up a bit, then Trash to beat the hell out of it...I wouldn't describe the result as comparable to a real drummer, but it's not a bad sound.

No comments: