JoPo: Thirty years ago, I played drums, percussions & sax but we didn't record, just play. I didn't have enough money to buy a CD player or even to buy all the music I wanted to have. So I went every week in a public media library to take vinyl & CDs and record them on my music system on magnetic tapes. This allowed me to discovered so many music : I didn't like what there was on the radio ! So I'm really happy to live at the time where the technique allows that and mainly to MAKE music at home like Mike Oldfield did by himself... But a numerical studio is not the same price as the Mike Oldfield Analogics one ! Viva el computers !
Garyb: My first studio used a Tascam 80-8 1/2" reel to reel. I bought the deck with a Tascam model 1(i believe) mixer. later I upgraded to a model 15 full-frame mixer and a Tascam 30-8. eventually, I moved to a 2" 24track highly modified Scully and a SoundCraft 1600, modified for 24track use. the tape decks sounded great, but, especially the Scully, they needed to be maintained constantly and only about 15 minutes could be recorded to a 10" reel. tape was expensive. the last reel I bought for the Scully was about $140. that was before Ampex went out of business. I also recorded my first "band's" album at home on a rented Otari 1/2" 8 track. when I first for Scope some 15-18 years ago, it was quite a revelation. it sounded darn near as nice as the Scully and was much easier to work with and a lot less expensive to operate. I haven't looked back. I still use the Soundcraft 1600 for microphone pres and for it's monitor section and the TT patch bays in it's frame are still used for outboard.
Ronnie: At first I had a Sony 2 track 1/4 inch which I used basically live for my analog equipment. (Rhodes 73, Mini Moog, Arp Odyssey, Solina Strings and Alpha Syntauri in an Apple II-e). I recorded myself live with Drum-Drops on vinyl. The band sessions were done live with two Sony electret condenser microphones. No compressor, equaliser, only whatever came out of the amps. Gains were set via sound checks. Those tapes sounded pretty good for what they were and I still have most which were done on good tape. One of my never gotten around to projects was to master them in my computer. I have no idea if they would play today even though I picked up a nice TEAC 2 track for the task. There are some great artists on those tapes who later went on to do amazing things, Reuben Hoch and Leslie Ming on Drums, Rick Howard, Dave Lavender and Ira Siegel on guitars, Kashif on keyboards and vocals and (not so great me) on piano, Rhodes and synth pads, leads and bass. No overdubs and since we knew that the takes were really good as I remember. Many originals that I would love to redo one day.
When MIDI happened, about a minute later I also had a Tascam 4 track Portastudio. I used 2 tracks for audio, skipping one track away from a track which was used for MIDI sync back and forth from my PC which was running Texture (or Sequencer Plus). Kept the sync track away from the audio because of the crosstalk with a suitably gained sync-signal. The sync went through an OP- 4001 MIDI card and JL Cooper PPS-1. The tape transport was controlled from Texture and everything was MIDI through outboard gear (JX-3P, Casio CZ-101, CZ-1, Yamaha FB-01, Korg Drum Box - no sequencer, just sounds, Korg M1, Korg DSM 1 and EMU racks all controlled by a Roland MKB-300. I forgot the mixer I had but I think it was a Peavey 8 channel through which I patched various Alesis Micro thingies. Reverb, Compressors and a Digitech DSP-128 with an upgraded ROM. These effects also had some MIDI controlled parameters. The MIDI was handled by the PC and did most of the mixing (with hand-made automation!). Occasionally I would bounce on the Portastudio and send the "master" to a rack-mount TASCAM cassette machine. I also want to one day re-master those tracks. MIDI was freedom to compose, master other instruments in their playing techniques and registers. Before sampling, spending hours to perfect strings, horns and whatever, coming up with new sounds. MIDI opened up composition and harmony, orchestration and arranging for me like nothing could. It added afterburners to traverse the entire musical universe at will.
Then I got a SCOPE. Luna II. Blown away, I quickly added a Pulsar II and then a Pro. My outboard gear became mostly Roland XV's, A Korg Triton and Yamaha Motif. Sonar and Cubase were the DAWs but everything else was SCOPE for synth, mixing and mastering. The DAW hosted very few VST synths and effects with a Yamaha OV-1 with ADAT basically as motorized faders for SCOPE mixers and a 16 track ADAT interface and some good mikes. A Radikal SAC 2k controlled the DAW (still does) and the Motif and Triton also had ADAT. So here I am, still traversing, with SCOPE still the core and center of my MIDI/studio world, pretty much replacing everything. Measured in years, SCOPE has outlasted everything else by a long-shot. Now with more powerful computers and better VSTs I have some awesome synths (like Diva and PianoTeq and some others from NI, etc.) and convenient effects although SCOPE handles 95% of that without breaking a sweat, especially the reverb, equalizers and mastering. Pretty good VST's have come out like the Korg M-1, CZ-1 and EMU racks, which can load my whatever old patches I still have, along with the Texture and SQ+ MIDI files I still have on that old homebrew 286 Turbo-Tower (8MHz!!!!!) which still boots into DOS and can MIDI in and out and sync both ways with the OP-4001. The original SCOPE Dell Pentium machine lasted over 10 rock-solid years, with 2 CPU - 2.5 and then 3.0 - and RAM - 2 MB and then 4 MB upgrades (for the DAWs) until the boot drive crashed. That machine went from SCOPE 3.1 to 5.0 32 bit. Course now I fondly look back but besides the Roland XV-5050, Motif Rack (and for nostalgic reasons, an EMU-B3, and a Korg DSM-1 which is waiting for the upgrade from jhulk!, I have no outboard gear. No effects either. SCOPE 5.1 does it all on a humble HP XW-4600, Win7 64 2.53 GHz, 16MB RAM with Sonar on top. The OV-1 is also gone (replaced by a BCF2000 for faders) and the SAC 2k still sits on Sonar. The SCOPE cards and SAC 2k are going into their 16th year. The Portastudio went for almost 20 with maintenance but as far as the sound is concerned, there's no comparison. SCOPE can sound like a quarter million dollar studio, but the Portastudio will always sound like, well a cassette - a great cassette with the right tape (and some weed?) but... still a cassette! If I want, I can make SCOPE sound exactly like a Portastudio but never the other way around. (Don't get me started on Dolby!).
Jksuperstar: The absolutely hilarious thing about tape, is that a VERY small percentage of the audio production population has heard a tape played on an actual tape machine in the past 10 years, so emulations and comparisons aren’t based on anyone’s real experience, just long term memory.
Wouterz: Since the early 90’s (I was 16 years old at that time) I own a Kenwood KX-7030 cassette deck (which uses a 3 head system), a Memorex SCT-407 cassette deck and an Akai 4000 DS MK II reel to reel tape recorder which I got for free J I think it’s from the 70’s, you can still buy new tapes for it. It also uses a 3 head system so you can use it as a tape echo. I have recorded a lot of (about 200) cassette tapes from the Dutch radio in the 90’s. There was this radio show which played electronic music like the Warp stuff. I digitized most of them I which was a lot of work. In the mid 90’s I recorded my early projects to the Kenwood cassette deck because my computer could not play back MIDI and record audio at the same time.
Nestor: In 1984 I got a Tascam Porta One, extremely famous little unit in those days. I had it, but did not have a clue of what I was doing when recording, I used it mainly for studying and simply playing around, but trained musicians could achieve pretty amazing masters with the Porta One. It was something everybody wanted to have. Here it is, this is the exact model I had:
Dawman: I had more fun with old 4 and 8 tracks. One had to learn to bounce properly or record more instruments simultaneously. I guess buying software is easier and more flexible. I must be getting old though. I notice on Gear Sales threads there’s mostly software instead of hardware…? Never imagined selling used 1s and 0s would be so mainstream. I guess the numbers maintain their fidelity over the years…
Bud Weiser: Well, since I have SCOPE PCI and XITE-1, I rarely used the AKAI DD-1000. But it's MOD is also a good and save storage media for (AKAI) samples I decides to keep it for the time being. And in just only THAT rack, it's still a great master recorder with DSP functionality. Operation is still complex and can be cumbersome compared to Wavelab and such.
The MX508 is also a great front end for XITE-1 feeding it's analog stereo inputs. I had a Mackie VLZ 1604 before which showed issues caused by age, so I ditched it and use the Ashly. The difference in sound quality is night and day. With the Ashly and XITE's DI-In section,- I get 10 channel down mix to XITE, enough for any multi output drum machine or hardware sampler normally offering stereo-out and 8 individual outs.
Sometimes I still use AKAI S-1000, S-1100, EMU E64 and Roland R-8 drum composer,- the latter is great for quick programming of some patterns and without launching the complete DAW setup. I have all the PCM cards made ever and the machine outputs MIDI notes with velocity on dedicated MIDI channels per pad. 16 velocity sensitive pads and 5 banks make a big range of MIDI notes thus a cool MIDI controller even the sounds may not satisfy in the end.
Transfer of MIDI data to DAW alone is cool while recording a pilot track with the internal sounds which are replaceable later. When I owned a older AKAI MPC, that would be ice on the cake though. It's sequencer and swing/shuffle features are unbeatable. Ashly MX508 with 2 auxes only, but no biggie for a front end mixer. You get at least a reverb or reverb/delay combo from hardware FX in the cans of vocalists. Each Aux send can be jumpered internal and individually per channel, pre or post.
For live (keys etc.) and PA you need more channels and more auxes. I don't have much love for native plug-ins. The Fostex R8 reel-to-reel isn't a pro machine, in the past I bought it for doing demos, but it's way better than any compact cassette machine and also way better than the former Fostex A8 and A80. It's 1/4" tape only, but with quality Ampex 456 you get good sound with everything except real low end. I never used the by Fostex recommended Ampex 457 because it's too thin and unreliable and even the locator points became somewhat inaccurate when not using Ampex 457. Real drums and bass need more space,- 2"-tape is the king. I loved the MCI 16 track machine for that.
IMO electric guitars, where you double rhythm tracks, with different inversions too, then mix equal tracks left and right, then bounce to a stereo track, so crosstalk doesn't matter much, that's cool with the Fostex and in a home studio where is not much room available. Transfer to DAW and it sounds right.
Electric guitars recorded directly to HDD sound different IMO. In the real studios, we worked with 2" tape always, no question. MCI and Otari were the ones until the half inch digital SONY DASH machines appeared. By the way somewhere late 80s, I did a cinema advertising clip for Marlboro just only with the Fostex R8 and my MIDI keyboard gear triggered by ATARI Notator running directly into the mix/master and it sounded great.
When ready, I had to go to another studio doing a copy making it available for sound-on-film system. I came with a DAT master I had done on a tiny Sony DAT-Walkman and when the engineer listened to it he wanted a private copy because he liked it so much.
I think I won't get that result again when redoing the production with today's toys. It's not only the gear, it's also the idea, the taste, the ears and the mood you're in at a time.
The “Computer Music” magazine when it first started, advised like this: “A computer is the most powerful musical instrument in the world”. It is true, it is the more powerful, but it is not the best. The fulfillment a single natural instrument can give you may be bigger than the whole lot a PC has to offer.
Of course software is amazing, and it is every time more and more overpowering-inspiring as computers get bigger and bigger over the years, giving time to programmers to polish all these inventions that are available for us, like the heavenly-mighty MIDI I am so grateful at, with its already 30 years of existence.
My only complaint against computers is the luck of musicianship, the lack of instruments being played: guitarists, bassists, drummers, pianists, brass player and so forth. I mean, people playing with sample-loop base sounds create most of all boring music. This machine like style of music is everywhere to top it all, and they all sound pretty similar too. Big Fish Samples anyone? Instead of learning to play some cool staff, young guys seem to prefer more RAM or a bigger processor, and this is uninteresting. In this regard, real good players are becoming scarce and so, more difficult to find than before. There is much less people able to play any style of music in the proper way, like it used to happen 20 to 30 years ago. New players tend to derivate into a smaller scope of musical styles, perhaps because there are today many more styles of music than ever before, this is true.
Anyway, despite the use many people give to computers, overusing plug-ins for instance, I am so very much grateful to all this technology, for allowing me to compose at home. In the other hand, Jimmy, yes, :P you are getting older by now, but if this makes you feel better, so am I... :D
Hubird: I only hear mainstream when I go out for a pant or T-shirt :wink: Try good and sensitive electronic music :-) Like: http://www.di.fm/psychill/
Choose Tune in, or sign up (free). or, less spiritual, but as groovy: http://somafm.com/groovesalad/
(Down tempo, ambient groove, trip-hop, chillout and world beat, also free).
Nestor: There is great electronic music out there, no doubt about that. I am not really referring to any specific 'kind' of music, but rather to "musicians" who are not really musicians, but mouse-oriented-crafters. Now, even in this realm there are of course, great composers, you don’t necessarily need to play an instrument to have great ideas that can be recorded in a computer, through a mouse. I am referring to the lack of musicians that can actually play real instruments in a comfortable and professional way, which is something so beautiful. I am referring to people that hide behind computers but do not really have the talent to play neither “to compose” music for real, they hide behind the offered tools in the market to build music that comes, ultimately, already composed. Most of these guys are lost in what they do, and they could be in music, or fashion, or marketing, or anything, they want to shine, but they have nothing from their heart to offer others, they only want fame or self-importance. They do music that other people have built in blocks and pieces with ideas of their own, that these guys put together and call “my song”. I don’t like the lack of honesty and intimacy that there is behind many of these new songs and PC music, because they are not genuinely giving us any real human EMOTION other than the emotion of selfishness itself, trying to pass in front of others like musical heroes when they don’t have a clue about what music is all about, they don’t LOVE music, they are after something completely different, under the disguise of fashion. This is what computers have given to the world, the opportunity for absolutely everybody to build “a song”, but not necessarily because of that, being a musician. Quality is important, honestly, the transition of real human emotions is what this is all about! Otherwise, it is not!
Bud: Many, I mean, many if not most so called "musicians" of today’s PC music, would not be able to entertain nobody, not even for 20 minutes, if they were required to play an instrument live, without electricity, like in a black out day for instance. This is my only complaint, as I have already said, in regard to the computer world of music. I’d like to see musicians using computers, and not the other way around. There's not only mainstream (pop / rock) and electronic music. There's classical music and jazz too, both the most demanding for players,- at least for me. The art of programming truly exists too, but comparing it to playing real instruments in real time is comparing apples & oranges. For me, it is a difference listening to recorded music or live music.
I enjoyed listening to Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze and others on records already in the 70s, but I'd never go out for a live performance of these. They used backing tracks always, may it be from 2- or multi-track reel-to-reel and/or hardware sequencers, later computers, laptops running DAW software, then playing/improvising along with that. Well, they play some simpler lines or some chords/pads and turn knobs and combine with visual effects, but that doesn't require real playing skills. I'm not talking about the overall result here, it might be good, but it doesn't interest me because when visiting concerts, I marvel virtuosity, attitude and appearance,- not gear handling. Your mileage might vary ...
This is my general statement, I didn't listen to the music you linked - will do later. But there's a definition of "professional way" too. Even someone can play a real instrument, has technique, knows the scales and chord progressions etc., that might be to no avail. Everyone playing an instrument has to learn a lot 1st, boring stuff too, theory, read music and have to practice a lot just only not to lose what he already learned weeks or month ago. On a violin, they need 2 hrs practice a day to keep just only the level they already have. Then when the musician all that really did and thinks he's good,- others find out he has no timing. End of story.
Steve Morse once said, timing is the most important factor and I agree with that,- and phrasing is the next step. I've seen musicians in studios trying to play to tape rolling and they lost even they were good musicians with great knowledge. They were simply in front of the beat always and even playing laid back was the demand. They couldn't. I'd say there's something you cannot learn because it relates to your inner clock. You have it or you don't. Singers ... There are many out there who sing perfect,- you might use them in the backing vocals when their voice fits the sound of the others,- but obviously and unfortunately they were not born with that voice a tune wants for lead vocals. You, as a singer, cannot practice much to change that, it will never sound like yourself and you will never be a great lead vocalist. To me, some charisma and magic is kind of god's gift too and there are musicians out there who have it and others don't.
It really requires some special taste being entertained by performers standing behind laptops with tiny controller toys and pushing "play", "pause", "ffwd/rwd" and "stop".
Not to forget to mention, that task doesn't require timing and phrasing at all (see above). Well, I know Kraftwerk does, but I hate such performances. But I always understood their message was never related to being real musicians,- there were different targets. So, I accept their success and what they do, but it's not for me (which doesn't matter). Playing electromagnetic instruments or any other electronic instrument, the way real musicians do,- using the frets, strings, keys, is playing a real instrument to me,- it doesn't have to be acoustic. IMO what they really play matters. When there are loops or slices, pre-programmed licks, riffs, lines and chords they trigger let's say from pads, buttons or whatever physical switch type controller, or start/stop arpeggiators and/or step sequencers,- that's playback of prerecorded material to me and not playing the stuff in real-time note by note at different tempos non quantized. On the other hand lots of these textures were unplayable on real instruments and would possibly never been heard when people won't program stuff.
I salute composers of electronic music with background of the traditional music styles and kind of knowledge all serious composers have. You hear it. Like every other music, it can sound stupid or intelligent,- I don't have better words, sorry. Maybe it's the difference of striking and complex or such. Typical radio/TV format music, even composed and produced the traditional way, to me and in most cases is striking as well as is most techno-dance, most rap I ever heard and some club/disco style stuff too. In opposite, I listened to some goa-trance, ambient, tribal and such which I liked as much as other traditional way music because it was quite colorful and complex, thus intelligent enough to be interesting for me.
I think it's very hard complaining music because it depends so much on taste and individual preference. So, I think it's good it all exists and finds it's audience. It's all part of musical or probably cultural progress, so what ... Mixing styles was most interesting for me always, the crossover stuff ... Technology gives us the unbelievable amount of colors to make it shine when composed and produced right.