Music Technology

Do It Yourself Home Recording Studio

Just to clarify things, putting together a home studio is my first attempt at any musical recording outside of recoding on a hand held tape recorder, I am not a professional. The way I’m approaching it is to look at my influences, see how they recorded, and try to reproduce it in my budget and using the latest technology. This my list and shouldn’t been seen as a guide. I am writing this both to record to myself as well as help others in my position of wanting to record music, but not knowing how to go about doing it. I set up this list of things I must remember when setting up a home studio, acquired from different books and online articles.

  • Your recordings are only as good as their weakest link (Basically this means that even if you have a $2,000 guitar, if you plug it into a crappy amp it will sound crappy)
  • Buy the best equipment you can (an economy in quality, is always a false economy)
  • Always look for affordable alternatives (this may seem the opposite of the above statement, but it isn’t. Sometimes you may not be able to buy the best equipment and some lower priced alternatives may be there if you look)

To start with I needed an audio recording and mixing device. Back in the days it would have been a huge reel-to-reel recorders with huge mixing boards and teams of engineers in lab coats pushing little light up buttons. In the professional world today they use huge digital recorders and mixing decks, behind glass with millions of dollars of equipment. In an amateur home recording studio there are many different approaches from analog tape mixers, digital deck mixers, to computer based recoding. I chose to edit on my old Apple laptop using software which takes up the least space and allows for maximum quality and maximum edit-ability over all the other amateur formats, for this I am using a PowerBook and a copy of GarageBand to record and mix. GarageBand also has virtual amps which utilize DI (Direct Inject) which sound great, cost a fraction of real amps, are post-production friendly (can change amp’s sound later in the mix) and save a huge amount of my limited urban living space.

(Direct Injecting is a recording term used when you don’t mic up a guitar’s amp, but rather plug the guitar directly into the mixing board. It is often seen by professionals as cheating because it does not allow for an artist’s individual amplifier sound to be captured, but then again the same was said about digital photography 5 years ago.)


My New Garage Band

“GarageBand,”: the latest and, hopefully, greatest new application from “Apple”: arrives on Friday and promises to be a hoot to play with. The basic premise behind GarageBand is that you can create music on your Mac without any musical training at all. The concept has been around a while, but Apple always seems to deliver while other manufacturers always seem to botch it up (Mixman Studio).

As I said back in “November,”:/archives/031103_52_pickup.html I intend to record my musical ramblings for you guys to see what you think… I’m thinking of it as writing music like a blog. I would post a new song, you guys would take a listen and I would repost a revised edition, unless I thought that your comments sucked… like somebody out there says Barry Gibb isn’t the king of disco. It would be a big experiment, that will probably self-destruct but it’s worth a try.

GarageBand is basically a program to supply anybody with a backing band for their musical expressions. You can even record into the thing using a microphone, or guitar! I am totally stoked. I have already started looking at new electric guitars for recording these compositions.

* “Fender Stratocaster”: (American Made)
* “Epiphone Casino”: (Lennons guitar) (No, not the dictator)
* “Epiphone Dot”: (Like Chuck Berry’s guitar only cheeper)

The best part of GarageBand is that it costs a measley $49.00 with 4 other great iLife applications (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD). The only question I have, is why didn’t they call it iBand, or iPerform, or iMix? GarageBand seems like a strange move in their naming strategy.


Apple, iPod Mini, and HP

So, everybody else is talking about it, why don’t I enter the fray and publish my opinions about the new “iPod Mini”: and the seeming disapproval of many diehard mac enthusiasts.

Contrary to popular belief, the iPod Mini is priced perfectly in the “MP3 player market.”: Sure there’s people who are saying that a $250 price tag is too high to compete with the junky players offered by other companies and I agree. That doesn’t, however, mean that Apple has ever tried to get enter that market or should.

*Jaguar cars has never offered a low end car because they want to compete with Honda.*

Apple’s original iPod was not marketed from it’s low price. It was, and still is, the top of the line in portable digital music players. It costs the most and sells, why? Because Apple’s strategy is not to create the lowest price digital players on the market, there is enough competition already, instead they created the best MP3 player in the world.

People still don’t quite understand that when you buy an iPod it’s because it is the best player that money can buy, not because it’s a cheap product. I’ve had this conversation with a few people so I shall post it here. People say…

“I wouldn’t buy the 4GB Mini for $250, when I could have the 15BG iPod for $300.”

So, where’s the downside for Apple? Instead of shelling out $250 you’ll shell out $300 and think you’re getting something even better. What Apple do, extremely well I might add, is up the ante ever so slowly that before you know it you’ve bought the $400 model because you wanted the remote and sleeve. The scenario is this you go into the Best Buy to buy a MP3 player and see the iPod Mini. Wow, you say to yourself it’s only $50 bucks more than that other player that holds 1/16th the amount of music. Wow, you say to yourself again for $50 more I get 3 times the amount of storage!

You have just added $100 to your purchase, in small increments and before you know it Apple has you as a customer. It’s simple and brilliant. The best part is that it’s a win win situation, Apple gets you as a customer and you purchase the best MP3 player in the world.

“Then there’s the fact that later this year HP will be producing their own iPods thanks to an agreement with Apple.”: So all those PC people out there who don’t get it, will buy one and marvel at it’s ease of use and the thought will creep in “maybe I should try a mac.”

_Or maybe that’s wishful thinking._


Mirazon’s Cinematize 1.0

So, back in college you created your own adaptation of _The Lord of The Rings_ on a film camera you borrowed from the AV department. You were so proud of your gem that you paid the exorbitent price to get your movie burned onto a DVD, so eventually you could send it to studios to be optioned. Unfortunately, no one shared your vision, and your DVD sat on your living-room shelf collecting dust instead of royalties.

Years later, during a late night bout with insomnia brought on by a _sea-food_ burrito, you found your movie and watched it in all it’s glory. Although dated and terribly edited, you saw promise that a little modern day editing could uncover. Here is the problem, the footage was shot on a camera that you no longer have access to and all you have is the film. You check around and getting your film digitized would cost a small fortune. Dejected, you lie awake at night imagining the fame that awaits you.


iTunes For You Guys

If you haven’t heard already, Apple has just released a windows version of “iTunes,”: free of charge. It’s filled with the same great features that made it an instant success on the Mac platform.

Did I mention it’s free?

It makes MP3s and AACs (MP4) free of any charge.

What are you waiting for?



Today I got a new computer and I am very excited by it’s arrival.

A G5 twin MHz top of the line do-hickey.

It even makes a noise when it starts up. I will be the fastest TextEdit user EVER!


5 Inches of Pure Pleasure

I’m a media junky. I love to horde CD-Rs and burn my life onto plastic. Back-ups, custom audio mixes, projects, drafts, masters, you name it I burn it onto cd.

Unfortunately, most of my cds look like I have terrible penmanship and live on a boat riding turbulent waters. “My Pictures of Pepper” written on sharpie just isn’t good enough some times… enter Now you can buy artwork that’s already printed on the surface of your CD-Rs. No more crappy looking default looking discs, now you can impress upon your friends your true wild side.

As a designer, I rarely find any pre-printed designs I would call nifty, but these are *Nifty.*


* “Bikini Club”:
* “Satellite”:
* “Sushi”:


The Art of a Soft Launch

This website is an example of a soft launch. A “soft launch”: is a public design, or redesign of a website. It is a upgrading the look and feel of a website, by updating as you go. It is, unfortunately, not favored by many graphic designers for good reason; it’s not good for their clients. But it is, however, great for the graphic designer who can never commit himself to a design.

*Enter Me.*

I’ve redesigned this site six times. Mostly updating the HTML or CSS back-end, but still I had to start from scratch and fix problems, other times I actually rewrote the look of the site to appear how I had intended it. I refer to Up the Tree is a soft launch, because if you were to poke your head around, you might notice that there are inconsistencies in the look of the site that are simply because I haven’t gotten to them yet.

What I’m trying to say is that I just noticed what my _Archives and Individual Entries_ look like and I realize I need to fix a few holes in my graphic user interface. They will all be fixed. Don’t you worry your pretty little head over it.


iPhoto Slowly

I have been using iPhoto on my Mac to organize and store my photographs. It is extremely simple and intuitive as far as interfaces go and allows me to see my photographs by icon to quickly find, modify, and export them.

However, being the digital photographer I am I have amassed a collection of 2,550 photographs and now iPhoto is slow, cumbersome, and takes longer than Photoshop to open. Other people have also reported similar problems regarding iPhoto, siting their XML back end is not efficient enough to organize collections of more than 1,000 images.

Apple have really got to fix this major quirk, especially if they are including it with iLife and charging $50.

It seems that this problem does have a fix. You can find it here “MacDev Center”:


Web Design… Feh!

I am a graphic designer and as one I accept all kinds of jobs. I am currently pretending to be a web designer for a client and I have to say, web design still really sucks. Although the browser wars have temporarily issued a ceasefire, the tools in which enable people to create web pages are barbaric. It’s still like building a house with a measuring tape that has missing numbers and uses both inches feet and millimeters.

It has definitely gotten better.

Before starting this sadomasochistic process I picked up a copy of Jeffery Zeldman’s Designing with Web Standards and found it fascinating. It was a surprisingly entertaining read and very well written for real people who want to use it in everyday applications…. However, even with the new “standards based” tools, the process of web design is terribly technical and best suited to people who received high marks in algebra.

I am a visual person!

Not only am I a visual person, I also have dyslexia (as Naaman often points out my horrible spelling errors). Trying to remember the syntax of hand coding is an exercise in futility. I don’t want to play the game anymore. I want to draw on screen where my text will go and then quickly apply rules on how my text will look and that’s it. The process in web design is completely different, in order to create a box and then make it a certain size, you have to use a set of rules you keep in the back of your mind that will effect it’s position, height, width, etc.

It’s still clumsy.

Hand coding is an archaic approach to any kind of design. This isn’t the same thing as taking out a pencil, because a pencil quicker than drawing on a computer! No, it’s like chiseling into stone with your finger nails instead of using your chisel, because your chisel is big and clumsy.

Web tools are big and clumsy.

Somebody out there should create a web design tool that uses an actual browser engine (Gecko, Mozilla, etc.) to inform the design process. What you would then see on screen wouldn’t be a facsimile of your design, but your actual design rendered as it will appear. Right now Dreamweaver and GoLive both have pitiful html renderers. It’s impossible to see what your design looks like without switching to a browser to preview. This not only takes time, but also requires your computer to use more computing power to complete a design.

When all is said and done, the designs I’m coming up with are 10 times more interesting than they were 5 years ago because of these new technologies, but sometime in the future someone involved in the new web spec should consult a designer and find methods to make the process more design accessible and accessible for future non-programmers to author content.

(and yes, there may be spelling errors. So sue me.)