Thursday, November 26, 2009

Review of Toontracks Electronic drum software.

What is this fun new product from Toontrack ? If you think that You are not one for Electronic music, than do not judge this book by its cover!

This is a “refill” sort of package for the EZ Drummer and/or their Superior Drummer software. Once uploaded, you use either of these drum software interfaces to open up Electronic.
First off, I must add that as a rock and roll guy I was skeptical at best. Would these Electronic type of percussive sounds even peak my interest? The answer is a loud and proud “Yes”. The samples included in Electronic are just as welcome in any and all rock music as they are in hip hop, electronica, r&b, and the list goes on and on.

I found that with Electronic from Toontrack it is simple to dial up beats and sounds that sound and feel very close to industrial music, like, let's say Nine Inch Nails. The wide range of samples included will satisfy everyone from the dark industrial music lovers to the sound effect seeking Foley writers in us all.

Truth is that within only a few demos of the supplied midi files, I was hooked on Electronic. I was hearing more than I thought that I would out of this software. As I played through the tons and tons of midi loops I was finding good uses for them in my head. I can already tell that some of my previous works will need to be revisited, in order to add some files from Electronic.
Lets dig in to Toontrack Electronic, shall we?

Just like all of the products from Toontrack , Electronic loaded extremely fast, and without any problems at all. In no time at all Electronic was up and running in Pro Tools 8 LE, and Electronic runs without any trouble. This means a lot to me as I like to write music and not perform “trouble shooting” tasks all day. Let me say that I was indeed up and running in minutes flat.

Toontrack Electronic runs in conjunction with Toontrack EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer software, as a sort of “refill package”. You must first purchase the EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer software in order to load Electronic into the entire package. Toontrack makes many other awesome refill packages, which if you are not familiar it might be worth a few minutes of your time to make the jump over to their site now and check them all out. There is a product for everyone on their site.

In order to start using Electronic, I first opened up a new song file in Pro Tools 8 LE, and then created two new tracks. One track was an audio track, and the other a midi track. The audio track “holds” the Toontrack Electronic software while the midi track is where the midi loops are dragged and dropped, and then perhaps altered to taste. Once you have worked with any Toontrack products, you will “get it” with in seconds, and all of their products work in a similar manner Electronic is a snap to work with, and a blast too!

Electronic ships with 33 kits to choose from, or you can make your own kits choosing from the 33 samples available per trigger. “Wow”, this is a ton of kits! They have included a screen shot image, in a PDF file, that details just what equipment was used in order to obtain all of the samples found in Electronic.

There are an amazing amount of triggers too, on the Electronic interface, with 41 to choose from! This, along with some other goodies, is why the mixer in Electronic appears to be a lot wider than the one in Toontrack EZ Drummer; it is a lot wider! All of the triggers on the interface are numbered so confusion is not possible.

Since we are speaking about the mixer, Toontrack has given us all a lot more in Electronic. What do I mean by this? Well, if you take a look to the right hand side of the mixer you will notice some extra sliders that do not appear in EZ Drummer. These extra, and new sliders are effects dubbed “Tape, Attack, Bias, Sub Tube Echo, and Chorus”. They all sound great too!

These sliders add their specified effects to the kit as a whole, or to each piece of the kit that you choose. Adding different midi tracks to your DAW will help to isolate just which piece of the kit gets their own effects, instead of “effecting” the kit as a whole. Simply writing a piece on a separate midi track, and then adding effects to it as a whole seems to be the easiest to me, but I am new here.

One little item that shipped with Electronic (that I found to be a great idea) was the included PDF file image for your midi keyboard “key map”. It shows where all of the samples and related midi information lives on a midi keyboard. This PDF file could easily be printed out and placed near your midi keyboard for an easy reference. Maybe other companies do this too, as I am not sure, but I thought that this was a nice little extra.

To wrap up this review, Toontrack has become the industry leader when it comes to realistic samples of classic and unique percussion, in easy to use software applications. The supplied midi files in Toontrack products are written, played, and supplied by some of the best musicians alive today.

Toontrack products load fast, are easy to use, and simply sound amazing. This is the stuff that we all want to hear, right? I mean, who wants to work all day with hard to use interfaces, writing our own midi, using crappy samples? Well, Toontrack is to the rescue! Go out and start your own collection of the many diverse Toontrack products today.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reason Record versus Pro tools 8

This post is once again brought to you all from recent reader interests. Quite a few folks are looking into, and looking to learn about the subtle differences between
Propellerhead Reason Record and Digidesign Pro Tools 8.

If you are setting up a small budget home recording studio, using either one or the other of these two great software driven DAW's, than you have excellent taste. These are the only two choices (as far as my tastes go) if you are looking for easy to use, great sounding, professional DAW software. First time users will quickly notice the differences in just the interfaces alone. We will go a lot deeper than that, but it is a good place to start.

I must approach this posting as the people that might wish to read this. If I were to start all over again, and set up a new home recording studio for myself, or a friend or client, what would I do? This is a great question, and a great topic for a post. I must stick to pointing out the differences between the two, as much as possible, as this is the best way to do this.

To begin, these two D.A.W.'s are very different. They are both very awesome at what they offer and what they can do for you. Lets take a look at what the packages come with, what they do not come with, and then the little things about the two that might help you to make up your mind. The bottom line is that they are both very, very good at what they do, and they can help you to make music quickly, easily, and professionally.

Pro Tools 8 is the newest offering from Digidesign. This piece of recording software is the industry standard. What sets this apart from so many other DAW's out there is its ability to get very deep into even the most minute details of the music that you are writing or creating, easily.

Getting things just right with Pro Tools 8 is a synch partly on account of their easy to learn and easy to use tools, such as the “Beat Detective”, “Elastic Pitch and Elastic Time” tools, and the all useful time stretching tool; just to name a few.

Pro Tools 8 ships with a ton of great (and top notch) effects all built in. The effects found in Pro Tools 8 include reverbs, delays, EQ's, limiters, and compressors. They are are not overly draining on CPU's, they sound amazing! All home recording enthusiasts (new or old) will not “want” or “need” for any effects other than these.

Let us not forget the amazing
plug ins that are available and/or virtual instruments that come with Pro Tools 8. Here is a link to just two sound samples of their virtual instruments, Velvet and Expand. These virtual instruments and plug ins are easy to use and they simply sound awesome.

One thing that I say about
Pro Tools 8 in general is that it is set up more for an engineer, and not so much for musicians. Pro Tools 8 is for making music so do not misunderstand this part. What I meant by that is that most of the settings and adjustments for things like volume levels, panning, effect settings and the like are usually displayed in digits, and not with actual dials. Everything in Pro Tools 8 seems to be adjusted in numbers (like from 1 to 100) and this takes time to get used to.

The ability to edit midi in Pro Tools 8 has recently been upgraded and made a lot easier thanks to a new and exciting overhaul. Making tweaks in your midi, like velocity and volume, has become a snap. Digidesign has included so much new stuff that that they have compiled a PDF file for us all, and I suggest that you take a few moments and read this.

There are just a couple of minor things that you will want to take into consideration before purchasing Pro Tools 8 . One of these things in the rather steep learning curve. Pro Tools 8 is a powerful multi-track recording system. Coming with a powerful editing and recording system comes some amazing tools and concepts that you will need to master. There are a million different online video blogs and Youtube video sites that will aide you with learning how to master Pro Tools 8 , so you are not alone out there. After one afternoon spent watching “how to videos” you will understand it enough to get started.

A separate issue that you will need to sort out is just which version of Pro Tools 8 to purchase. Let me explain. Pro Tools 8 comes in a few different sizes, or editions. Pro Tools 8 “LE” is the “limited edition”, but do not be fooled by this name. You will have the ability to enjoy rather high track counts and multi-effects across many of said tracks. You will not notice a lack of their famous editing features either just by using Pro Tools 8 “LE” edition, but the price is a lot lower. However, where this is for your home and not a huge studio setting the “LE edition” is a great fit. Many pros have a “LE” studio in their home.

Pro Tools 8 “LE” ships with a digital interface that manages many tasks for you. The digital interface manages your midi ins and outs, converts your analog audio signals (vocals, guitars) into digital signals (ones and zeros) and then routes this into your computer. Think “M-Box” and you will know what I mean. The pre amps are very good, and the sound that they produce can be amazing. You can also apt for a “M-Audio” version of Pro Tools 8 just for a M-Audio interface, but why?

There are other editions of Pro Tools 8 available that are a lot more professional in nature so I will not go into any detail about these.

Proprllerhead Reason Record has been a long time in the making. Believe me, this is some serious software too. There are some major differences between the two DAW's and some minor differences between the two. Let me begin with the most obvious first.

In order to use Reason Record you will need to purchase some sort of Digital interface. You must turn your analog signals into digital signals so that Reason Record can edit it. At this point in time Reason Record does not ship with one. However their a some great choices out there. Tascam and M-Audio are perhaps two of the more popular choices for Digital interfaces.

A big difference is the actual concept and way that Reason Record is set up and how it “works”. Reason Record feels as close to working in an actual studio environment as you can possibly get. Just like Pro Tools 8 the user simply toggles between the mixing board screen and the editing screens, but the differences in looks between Reason Record and Pro Tools 8 are profound.

Reason Record is set up like the real thing, when compared to Pro Tools 8 . You will find actual dials in Reason Record instead of numbers. You will see actual effect units instead of a few sliders with titles and number values. You will notice that the input section (mixing console) looks like what you would see in a studio setting. I like these simple features a lot as that is what I am both used to seeing and working with. It is true that Digidesign is getting better at designing things in this like fashion, but they are not quite there as of yet.

Reason Record has a complete section of effects also, and this is what sets it apart. If you are familiar with Propellerhead Reason software then you might know that it is the back bone of Record. Record uses Propellerhead Reason to perform the sound editing chores and such tasks as adding effects. “Drag and drop editing” has always been a breeze in Propellerhead Reason , and when coupled with Record , it now treats analog audio just like it would midi. Moving sections of audio around in Reason Record is a snap.

Let me boil it all down for the new home recording studio enthusiast right now.
If you are making your first move into home recording and you wish to use a software based DAW then do your homework first. If cost is of a concern, then count your pennies and write out a complete list of parts that you feel that you will need. Ask yourself if you prefer working as a musician might (with real looking effect units, actual dials, and mixing consoles) or if you can understand the number system. Ask yourself if you need the finished work to be sent to other folks in order to finalize. That will require a similar file type as theirs, so do keep such things in mind. Both of these systems will allow you to audition the changes that you are making to your audio in real time; so either way it is just a question of “how do you like to work”.

I must warn you one more time that both Pro Tools 8 and Reason Record will take you some time to learn. If you already know either Pro Tools 8 or Propellerhead Reason, than that just might be the deciding factor for you. If you are green to both of these systems, than it might boil down to a simple formula of cost, your comfortable work flow style, and just what type of file it is that you are working on. What type of music/score you are writing might just be the final factor, so think about that too. Pro Tools 8 has a wonderful upgrade available for editing film/scoring film.

Do your homework, and then make the plunge!

Friday, November 13, 2009

10 famous Guitarists and their guitars that made us envious.

1) The
EVH Kramer “Frankenstein” guitar is number one on my list. The kid from sunny California that had a mischievous smile sure had one cool guitar. I had a job where I had to wear a name tag at the same time that EVH was doin' his thang with "ole Frankie" and it was painted just the same as this guitar on the back side of the tag. I would flip it over for inspiration while the days at work dragged on and on.Eddie Van Halen is on this list of ten twice, and this is no mistake. Heck, I wanted to be him. Imagine the long days full of Valerie and his choice of guitars.... Check them out all here, on this EVH fan site!

2) Slash and his Gibson Les Paul collection is the envy of the world, but lets look instead at his use of a very different sort of guitar. What else does Slash play? Lots! The B.C. Rich Mockingbird guitar was first spotted strapped on the guitar gurus back while in the “You could be mine” video. This stuck out like a splinter in my eye, this is the same band, but what is this...... a different guitar? No whiskey bottle? Slash can play, and he can play whatever he wants.

3) Steve Vai and his Jem of an Ibanez 777. Since the time of 1980, Steve has been hard at work. He was in Frank Zappas band back then, but would go on to help create a guitar revolution. While even more fame and time in the spotlight came around 1985 while Steve was playing for Diamond David Lee Roth, and this is where the Jem process started. Jem guitar company made several guitars for Steve to play while on the Roth tour, and then Ibanez made some copies of these guitars along with Steve's demanding specs. The rest is Rock and roll history. Here it all is, on this great site. Check out this site if you truly love these guitars.

4) The unmistakable Washburn N4 guitar, namesake of Nuno Benttencourt.
This guitar stood out for being a stripped down monster. This axe had Nunos blood and sweat sunk way down into it. This was a mans guitar. Nuno himself perhaps “single handedly” put Washburn guitars on the worlds map. These guitars were sold out all across the U.S., and getting one meant getting put on a waiting list.

5) The EVH Ernie Ball Music Man guitar. This guitar took the world by storm for its balance and playability alone. Forget the endorsement, this guitar rocks! I can hear Sammy singing the “C'mon babey”....and even the spinning Floyd Rose wah bar still comes to mind as seen in the video for “Finish what you started”. What a fresh sound that was. We can all purchase our very own classic EVH Ernie Ball Music Man guitars by visiting this site . Be warned, they are not cheap.

6) The amazing Eric Clapton Stratocaster. The first version of “Layla”, in Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes days, is pure Strat. Not the “slow hand” applied to the MTV acoustic shows of last decade, which was played on his now famous Martin guitar. Although the default color is black, as is the nickname of “Blackie” applies, they are available in other colors too. Just as long as you like the maple necks, you are in good company.

7)Lita Ford's BC Rich Warlock “kissed us all deadly” back in the day. I can recall some very dirty thoughts as I watched Lita have her way with that B.C. Rich Warlock in that very video. No keg party was complete without one or two plays of that golden song. Then, as the night became drunker and drunker, you could always find a “hook up” while the song “Close my eyes forever” played. What a pairing of voices, that is Ozzy and Lita....

8) The David Gilmour Stratocaster. Just because of the melodic solos that this man and the best rock band in all of recorded time has composed with this type of guitar. The tone is all Fender and given up to us all by David.

9) ZZ Top and their Dean guitars caught my attention as they spun their “fuzzy explorers” around in some great music videos. Ah, the age of MTV, back when it was more than just hair product commercials. I lived on the Canadian border, and they were known as “zed zed top” over their, but that is just a side note for you all. Visit this site to see a ton of their custom instruments.

10) James Hetfield of Metallica and his arsenal of Gibson Explorers. Once more, a guitar is just a tool. It is what an artist does with this tool that creates art. It is with great fondness that this mans art, along with his pals, came into my life. No other band was as unique as Metallica at the time. At the beginning their “metal head” followers stood up to much ridicule, but stood up none the less. Hind sight is always 20/20 in such cases. These folks were on to something. Out of all of James's white Gibson Explorers, the one that had “more beer” written on it was the one that jolted me to attention. Do you suppose that touring Germany had an influence on that slogan? Here is link to a great site featuring all of his equipment.

And not on this list of ten but defiantly one guitar that was perhaps my defining moment was a unique Gibson Les Paul. I knew a little about guitar quality but it wasn't known to its fullest until I saw the Gibson “blonde beauty” Les Paul. With gold tossed all over this guitar, I couldn't help but to fall in love upon the sight of this piece of art. This guitar was the same ole Gibson, but yet not the same at all. Read all about it beloe the image.

This stunning Blonde Beauty guitar featured a AAA flame maple top in a natural finish that lets you see the beauty of the wood, and an exotic 3-piece flame maple neck. It has all the great sound and features of the Les Paul Standard, like Burst Bucker Pro pickups, a tune-o-matic bridge, trapezoid inlaid rosewood fretboard and single-ply neck and body binding, but with upgraded gold hardware. Well done!

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