Archive for the ‘iMac’ Category

Talk about putting a product through its paces! My Mac fatally crashed yet again! Yikes! When that happened, I didn’t panic because based upon Boyd Jarvis’ input in my previous article on my Mac crashing, I went down to my local Apple store, and purchased a copy of Disk Warrior. I also talked to a few of the folks about Disk Warrior, and they said that’s the utility to get, so I also wasn’t bothered by spending the $99 I spent on it (it would also come in handy as I have another Mac at home that I purchased used with a corrupted drive).

Anyway, I got home all excited to repair my disk and be up and running. I opened up the box, inserted the disk in the drive, and patiently watched it do its thing. I watched in horror as Disk Warrior report that my drive was so messed up, it couldn’t be fully recovered. Looks like I have a real bad sector on my disk. So with a shrug, I opened up disk utility, re-partitioned my drive; this time making two: One really small one to isolate the bad sectors at the beginning of the drive, and another large partition. But I still wasn’t too worried because I had my data backed up with Time Machine.

To make a long story short, near the end of the installation, Installer asked me if I wanted to transfer information from a variety of sources. One source was Time Machine. Cool! I though to myself, I’ll have my data ready to go and not have to worry about finding it in the vault! That was a plus, though I was dreading having to install my applications again. Was I in for a surprise!

I let out a huge WHOOP when the restoration process not only restored my data, but also restored all my applications!!! I just simply had to let it do its thing! Now I’m back in business. No smell. No mess. No spending hours installing, and I didn’t lose any of the latest songs I recently recorded in GarageBand! YIPEE!!!

Now that I think about it, it’s a bit creepy that my last article turned out to be self-fulfilling prophecy…  Well, at least I know now that with Time Machine, I can replace my drive and get everything back. Talk about being stoked!!!

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I finally got a couple of songs to a mostly finished state though I have to tweak the vocal volumes on one of the songs.

You Stir My Soul
Great God

For the past week, I’ve been ever so tickled by the ease of recording that GarageBand provides. But no matter how easy the recording process has become, it’s still a very tedious process. In fact, the easy part is actually laying down the tracks. What takes the longest time is the post-production stuff that gets my songs to a finished state. I probably spend at least 4 to 5 times more time tweaking what I’ve recorded than actually recording.

But that’s the beauty of music production. The artistry is not just in the recording or the song. There’s also an incredible amount of artistry in how your sound is ultimately presented to your audience. The original recording is much like a line drawing or a pencil sketch on a canvas. That forms the basis of the picture. Then like using paints, you apply color and shading to the raw sketch to make it come to life, resplendent with colors that give the picture a “mood” of sorts. A touch of reverb here, some delay there, perhaps some pitch shifting, or time correction. It’s all part of the “painting” process.

So why all this focus on recording in this series? Well, I haven’t mentioned it distinctly, but I’m working on creating an album of the religious music I’ve written for the Catholic Mass. The album is entitled “You Stir My Soul.” You can listen to the title track here. Note that this is not in a finished state. I have to bring down the lead vocal volume a touch because it totally steps on the instrumentation. I put this out on my band’s website so my cohort Dave could see what I did with the harmony, and how I slightly restructured the song from its original form. I also laid down a groovin’ song called “Great God” that is mostly finished, though I have to re-record the guitar solo because of some bad string plucks on my part. 🙂

To tell the truth, I’ve been working on this album project for a couple of years. My wife has been bugging me to get my music out, and I’ve just given her the excuse that I’m so busy that it’s hard to find the time to record. But that’s not really the truth. The real truth is that I purchased much more advanced equipment than I actually needed to create spec recordings. I mean, it was total overkill, and on top of that, I’ve spent tons of time just learning how to operate the softaware! Don’t get me wrong: I love ProTools, but it’s so much more software than I need right now. For specs, you want to get your songs to a good enough state so that when you submit them to a music publisher, they have a good idea of what you’re after in your music. And as I’m doing this myself, ease-of-use and a short time-to-production are absolutely key!

This is where GarageBand is literally a God-send. Most of the hard sound engineering stuff like EQ and mixdown is either done automagically, or is incredibly easy to tweak. It has allowed me to concentrate on producing my music rather than spending inordinate amounts of time learning how to use the recording software. The net result is that where it used to take me a couple of weeks to get a song close to a finished state, it now takes a couple of days; or in the case of You Stir My Soul, I produced the mostly-finished recording in a matter of hours! I can finally see the end of the tunnel to create my spec recordings and get my demo album out!

I used to scoff at GarageBand as not being “real” recording software. But the the sheer quality of the recordings it produces rivals any recording software I’ve used in the past. It may not be as full-featured as “Pro” recording packages, but for what it offers and what it can produced, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution for home recording.

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All I can say is WOW! GarageBand is absolutely OFF THE HOOK!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was going to be using GarageBand to create song foundations for performing live. But to get myself more familiarized with the application, I decided to lay down a groove for a worship song that I wrote to see how easy it would be. I was not at all disappointed. I first auditioned a bunch of drum loops (BTW, I went out and purchased both iLife ’08 and the Rhythm Section Jam Pack today), found a fill, then inserted the loop into a new track. I then found a decent bass line, and dropped that in as well.

Software instruments such as the bass in GarageBand are actually software MIDI instruments. GarageBand makes it so easy to work with software instruments by providing a MIDI grid to adjust note pitches, duration, velocity, etc.. So once I selected a bassline, I could move notes around to fit to my song. Then it was a simple copy/cut/paste affair to get the bass “measures” into their proper places.

Once I had those two things laid down, I recorded my Strat for the rhythm track. Now here is where things got interesting. For my home recording studio, I use a DigiDesign MBox 2. It turns out that DigiDesign provides a Mac driver for the MBox 2 that you can download from their site. So now, I have my trusty MBox 2 hooked up to my iMac through a USB port, and I can switch from guitar to vocals or add some keyboard tracks with ease.

A totally cool new feature in GarageBand is the ability to loop record; that is, selecting a region in a song, then play several takes while looping over the same region. This is an awesome feature that I’ve appreciated in ProTools, but it’s here in GarageBand! With multi-take loop recording, you can dial in a section until you have it perfect. This saves so much time in the recording process because you don’t have to get to a spot, record, then splice the end. You just keep on playing that section over and over again until you’ve got it right. It also allows you to approach a particular phrase in different ways.

I’m really jazzed right now because I’ve finally found a music production tool that is incredibly easy to use. It’s so easy, it’s almost scary.

BTW, I need to put in a plug for GarageBand ’08. If you’re already a GarageBand user, YOU NEED TO GET iLife ’08 now! It is head and shoulders far more powerful and feature complete than the previous versions of the software. For a mere $79.00, it’s a cheap investment.

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I’ve been a gigging musician for several years, playing in all sorts of venues. 90% of my gigs are just me singing and accompanying myself with a single guitar and keyboard, which has worked for me for a long time. But as of late, the artist in me has yearned to stretch his wings and produce a more sophisticated sound when I’m solo. It’s frustrating to play songs that have a lead in the middle of the song, and I’ve just got to strum along, or if it’s on the piano, I’ve just got to stick with the chart (I can’t improvise very well on the keys). So what to do?

Since I’ve made the switch to the Mac, I’ve discovered a wonderful little program called GarageBand that allows you to record music on your Mac. But interestingly enough, it also includes audio loops of all sorts of instruments, so you can literally create a song using just loops. The ramifications are clear: I finally have a way of easily creating song foundations for when I play solo. All I have to do is move the songs to my iPod! So begins my latest journey of creating song foundations. It’s very exciting to me because it’ll allow me to arrange songs for a wider genre of music than I’ve been playing. Talk about having a “band in the box.”

What inspired me to start doing this was seeing a guy at Downtown Disney a few months ago using an Akai MPC1000 Music Production Center for his background stuff, and playing guitar on top of his laid down tracks. I don’t have an extra $1000 to spend on something like that so it has been difficult getting started down this road. But with GarageBand, I should be able to lay down tracks really easily. Oooh I’m excited!

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For those of you who’ve known me for a long time, I’ve been a PC devotee for as long as I can remember, and used to scoff at the Mac as being a toy. But a few months ago, I decided to try out a MacBook Pro at my previous job, and what I thought would never happen happened. I fell in love with the Mac. I have to say that it really boils down to falling in love with OSX, which is an incredibly usable operating system. Anything before that, I’d still be scoffing at the Mac as being a toy. There were lots problems with OS9, and I just didn’t like the interface. But with the new version of the OS, it’s just incredible! But I digress…

To make a long story short, my former company closed its doors 3 months after I arrived – yikes! But the fortunate thing for me was that I had to opportunity to get some equipment in the company’s fire sale. I ended up with two G5 iMacs, and real nice Dell laser printer.  Included with my iMacs is a nice little music composition program called Garage Band. I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of days, and I just love it! It doesn’t have the features of my ProTools, but for spec’ing out songs, it is incredible!

Central to Garage Band is the ability to drag and drop loops onto the workspace to create the foundation for a song. It’s a very easy process. You can drop guitar loops, organ loops, percussion and bass loops – there’s lots to choose from, and within minutes you can have a full song constructed on your workspace. Then you can add your own instruments by plugging direct into your Mac, or using the built-in microphone (not really recommended as it’s a very sensitive condenser mic and it picks up EVERYTHING).

For instance, this evening, I got an idea for a new song. I browsed around the loops till I found an acoustic guitar, bass, and percussion loops that I liked, dropped them onto my workspace, and arranged pitch and tempo as needed. Then I plugged my ES-335 directly into my iMac using a 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter cable. Now here’s the cool thing about plugging directly into your Mac: Garage Band comes with built-in amp modelers and effects such as a noise gate, reverb and even delay. There’s even two manual slots available to add distortion and specific types of amp models. As to the amp models, they’re not all that good, but they get the general idea across. I wanted to get kind of a Tube Screamer effect on top of a clean amp, and with a couple of clicks, I had it.

The great thing about Garage Band for me is that I now spend less time getting the foundations of a song laid down, and can concentrate on my compositional ideas. Looks like I’m going to have lots of late night dates with my iMac… 🙂

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