Author Topic: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?  (Read 18068 times)

mgriffin

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musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« on: December 01, 2009, 09:48:27 AM »
Those of you who make music or sound art or ambience or whatever... what are your latest favorite tools, and working methods?

My methods have remained very stable over the past 7-8 years, which may just be something I ought to change.  I create a lot of my own samples, process them in Sound Forge (still no good Mac equivalent to that one), and spend a lot of time in Ableton Live with various plugins, making collages of long loops.

The last several years I've used all kinds of sound sources, including "found" samples, guitar and bass guitar, and my own voice.

I miss playing synthesizers with my hands, and I miss midi sequencing.  I miss a more "electronic" sound.  I miss rhythms.  I guess this reveals which direction my future work may go.

I still can't say enough good things about Ableton Live.  I used to be a big believer in Sonic Foundry (now Sony) ACID but anything you can do in ACID, you can do in Ableton Live, or Soundtrack Pro.  Still would love to find a really good stereo wave editor for Mac.  I sometimes use Quattro DSP or Bias Peak for this stuff but I feel like Sound Forge is where I always return when I need to cut and paste, crossface, layer, noise reduce, and process the crap out of something.  I guess it helps that I have the full Waves plugin bundle for Windows but not for Mac. I mean, Waves makes the bundle for Mac obviously, but I haven't purchased it.

Recently I've done a bit of work in Logic Studio and while it has some very cool capabilities, I always feel overwhelmed by the insane complexity of it.  It's like piloting a 747 or something, too many controls and sliders and gadgets.  I wish there was a way of "skinning" Logic Studio so it could be more of a simple digital 8 track or something (really, more like Soundtrack Pro, which I suppose is why I've been using that lately), without all the bus sends and virtual instruments and bullshit cluttering up the screen and distracting me.  I feel like this is a product built more for a truly pro studio than for someone like me.  Some of the instruments, I must admit, are really very good, considering they're a free throw-in with the program.

So, what are the rest of you loving these days?  Cool virtual synths?  Real synths you actually play with your fingers?  

I know a lot of people are evolving to entirely virtual setups and I find that rather depressing, interacting with nothing but a mouse and keyboard and computer screen, which "contains" your instruments and fx plugins and sequencing and multitrack audio recording.  I mean, that system works, and I've certainly created a fair amount of music that way (and I disagree that you can hear the difference between a virtual studio creation and a "real" studio creation with keyboards and hardware fx and so on) but there's just something so bleak and dead-end about it.  Thinking about it makes me want to buy more keyboards or something.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

APK

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2009, 10:23:37 AM »
Speaking of being happy with your daw, I always had some operational problems with Sonar. It was awkward in some ways. Switching to Reaper was a very good move for me. Its fast, uncluttered, nicely skinnable, and isn't loaded with things I don't need. And it handles vst instruments very well.

I don't make much of a distinction between hard and soft synths, I use both, and I play softsynths from a master keyboard anyway and use a midi controller to duplicate the on screen knobs I need. So hardware or software they are both usually played from the same keyboard.

I don't work with loops, so the Live paradigm doesn't interest me much. I pretty much play everything in from keyboard. Just playing along to my earlier takes. I like to keep it very tactile. Keeps it fresh and nicely unpredictable. Then I end with some juggling and editing.

I do a lot of work creating interesting presets on my favourite synths.  I will then primarily stick to them when playing, it creates continuity of feel and style. And of course, they are the sounds i most enjoy.

I'll often use a lot of FX processing on certain parts. Especially odd granular things and rhythmic gating. I'm a fan of rhythmic gates and multi-effect plugins.

I use the Komplete 5 instruments and effects a fair bit. Massive is a super flexible beast. And of course Kontakt is probably the best sampler out there. I like the Alchemy softsynth a lot too.

I found, though, that reducing what I use was essential to my sanity, my style, and actually getting work done. I will usually reach for the same instruments and plugins again and again -  ones that have depth, quality, and that I love the sound and feel of. Its only a handful of things.

I also use an early version of EnergyXT as a vst host a lot. It lets me string together synths and FXs in any way I like, and save the resulting ensemble as a preset that I can call up in any project as a VST instrument. Super useful.
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2009, 10:25:33 AM »
You're using Reaper on Windows, right?
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

APK

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2009, 10:26:40 AM »
You're using Reaper on Windows, right?

Yep. Don't know how good the mac version is. Sure you can find out on the forum though.
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2009, 10:33:00 AM »
Holy eye assault, Batman!




This is a little better... must be a matter of skins.

[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

APK

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2009, 10:53:12 AM »
Yes, you can make it look as plain or as eye-jarring as you want.
There are skins that make it look like almost any other daw you know.
I avoid bright color skins.
And I never use the mixer view, so my screen is much less cluttered.
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2009, 10:57:11 AM »
I like this one... very simple.

http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=18687

Screenshots there are too big to fit within this forum window so I'll just link.  I'd like something like this but on the darker side.

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APK

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2009, 11:06:59 AM »
Yep, I prefer very little color as well.
There are probably hundreds of skins out there.

It makes you realise that you can't judge the program by how one silly skin looks.
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2009, 11:26:34 AM »
I didn't mean to turn this into an all-Reaper topic.  Anyone else using any cool tools.

I just realized what that garish, over the top Reaper skin reminded me of:  the early days of Cool Edit.  Anybody use that one back in the mid 90s?
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2009, 11:30:06 AM »
Ah, beautiful Cool Edit, back in the days of low-res VGA displays!

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jkn

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2009, 01:52:46 PM »
Yep - was running Cool Edit on my Gateway 2000 computer I bought in 1996.   I bought Vegas when I bought a new computer in 1999 - custom built / all scsi / aardvark 24 bit soundcard - it was rock solid for recording live audio. 

I'm still adjusting to life with an iMac and Logic now...  haven't had a lot of time to really use it yet.

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hdibrell

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2009, 02:44:59 PM »
This is an interesting thread to me as finding a comfortable recording/working platform has been one of my major hurdles to making new music. I like working with "real" instruments and synths as well as some soft synths, but I am always intimidated by the recording platforms I've tried to use recently. I have Pro Tools mBox, but I haven't been able to feel comfortable enough with it yet. It just seems like I'm making a big jump from being creative as a musician/composer to being an engineer. So far, I haven't made the jump successfully. I've got a demo version of Ableton Live that I haven't tried yet, but intend to. I've even toyed with the idea of picking up a Tascam 688 because back in the "80's that was when I was most prolific using a simple Fostex X-15  ;D . I like the idea of pushing a button and recording, but I also like the idea of being able to see what I'm doing on a screen. Obviously , part of my problem is I'm somewhat technophobic. Kind of strange for a guy who owns a Symbolic Sound Kyma system  ???  . So keep the discussion going, I'm listening.    Harry
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mystified

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2009, 03:14:20 PM »
The main element in most of my songs is a drone. I have used lots of different techniques, but recently I discovered a nice effects chain I can use and tweak. With these effects and Sound Forge I can transform a field recording into a tuned bell drone. I also like to tweak commercial loops (legally). I use a PC platform, mix in ACID 4.0. Almost everything I do is sample based, with some loops used. I went through a really retentive period when I would ONLY use home recorded sounds, but I found that to be too limiting. Lately I use as many sounds and ideas as possible.

I have some signature tricks. One has to do with panning. I won't specify, but I really like what this trick does to sounds-- it makes them shimmer. On the other hand, when I shared some panned bell drones with Lustmord, he positively hated them. I guess not everyone listens in the same way.

I do keep coming back to a point of wishing I could add an ambient guitarist to my music. Something along the lines of Fear Falls Burning. I have worked with a French ambient guitarist with some good results. I would play myself, but I generally lack dexterity and only was able to get into composing when I discovered music tools for the computer.

But again, I begin with and come back to the drone. Much of my work involves generating a drone, then layering rhythmic or somewhat cyclical events on top of the drone, until I feel the composition is complete. To me, the drone elements and cyclical ones kind of "lean" on one another, creating a coherent whole.
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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2009, 03:46:32 PM »
I've even toyed with the idea of picking up a Tascam 688 because back in the "80's that was when I was most prolific using a simple Fostex X-15  ;D . I like the idea of pushing a button and recording, but I also like the idea of being able to see what I'm doing on a screen.

This is something I've heard many people say -- "I wish I could get a high-tech equivalent to my old 4-track" or something like that.

I think Garage Band is a tremendous tool for this sort of super-simple, instant gratification recording, if you've got a Mac.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Sunbreak Music

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2009, 04:40:49 PM »
I've always wanted to try Live, but it just hasn't happened yet.

These days I'm really still outboard....synths going into my Eventide.  I do record quite a bit with a portable unit and use that to get some interesting sounds once I put them into the box.
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darkenedsoul

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2009, 07:04:29 AM »
I use Live, been with it since I started back at 3.02 I think. I am using the Suite version since I think 6/7 when it was offered. I use an external synth (Korg M50) when I want to record something off it (percussive orchestral patches, etc...) or as an input as a MIDI device controller for a softsynth. I've got Komplete 2/4/5 over the years and they are ones I don't use as much. I do use Battery * drum samples in some of my stuff when I get the mood on. I also have the padKontrol which I want to get using (sat in box for >1yr lol) for percussive stuff for my new project I started some time ago (and it's limping along lol).

I also use a lot of loops/samples. Check out http://www.freesound.org for a bunch of samples of all kinds. Sign up/join it and contribute if you like. Jovica has a bunch of his/her samples up there. I just wish that there would be a sample library that was all ambient, no percussion/latin/any other crap, just lots of drones/pads/etc...I think the only one close to that was Drone Archeology.

Mike

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2009, 08:49:51 AM »

Interesting thread, Mike

I try to use different approaches to different albums. I like to diversify.

I'm currently working on a project with 'Achromus' which is instrumental/beat-based. There's quite a bit of recorded guitar on it and I've really
gotten into how to edit parts in a way I don't do with my ambient material. Its all done in FL studio and I've had to learn it pretty well to do what
I want to do.

I like to do collaborations and reworks - they keep me fresh. Under my 'Formbank' guise, I've recently done quite a few reworks of some tunes by a
British artist called 'Mrs Jynx' (who is great), I learnt a lot from doing them.

Having played guitar for a long time kind of 'roots' me in a way. I'm a rubbish keyboard player ! I very rarely use soft-synths in my ambient work,
as I don't have the interest in editing presets to make unique sounds - I'd rather process sounds instead.

My way of working is almost entirely based on the computer, yes It's a pretty bleak way of doing things and I would imagine that approach won't suit many people.
For me, working on different types of music (hopefully) stops me from going into repetition mode, but saying that I'm a big fan of 're-cycling'
sounds. Taking the output from a process and putting it into another process etc - many times !

cheers
Pete


jkn

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2009, 09:11:47 AM »
I know a couple of artists using Garage Band and you'd never know that's what they're using.

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mgriffin

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2009, 09:16:57 AM »
Garage Band is simple as an interface, but there's no drawback quality-wise.  You could use it with all your usual signal routing and plugins, and you recordings should sound just as good as if you'd recorded them in Logic, or ProTools, or whatever other DAW you might name.  And yet you could learn most of the capabilities of Garage Band within minutes.

A year or so ago, we bought a Fostex 16 track digital multitrack for Lena to use, but we ended up finding it was just so much easier for her to use Garage Band, and there's really no drawback to it for simple recording.  Sure, you could name projects for which it would be inadequate, but I bet most of us are not really doing much that couldn't be done in Garage Band.
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hdibrell

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Re: musicians, sound artists and noise-makers -- what's new?
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2009, 09:35:31 AM »
Good info. I have Garage Band on my mac, but I haven't tried it yet. I will soon.        Harry
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