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Getting started in garage

The very basics of what you need to know to get started in garage music.

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Garage Music typically consists of a characteristic light and bubbly drum track supporting a strong vocal line. In the middle comes a subtle blend of 'pad' sounds, filling out the mix yet still leaving it light and airy. You need to know where you can get sampled garage loops, if you're lazy that is. Or you need to understand the very precise nature of the individual elements of Garage drum sounds. Don't think that this is easy. You also need to know how to get the very best out of your vocalist. The sparseness of a typical Garage track doesn't allow the possibility of using a second-rate vocalist, or even a first-rate vocalist who isn't absolutely on top form.

You need to know how to manipulate drum sounds into something suitable for Garage. Don't expect to get everything ready prepared for you on a sample CD. You're making music not warming up a TV dinner. You also need to understand the timing of a drum track. In Garage Music, not everything falls exactly on the beat or an even distance in between. Hey, the 1980s are over now!

You need to know how to use your computer sequencer to 'massage' the rhythm into shape. The subtlety of Garage Music is often such that mere quantization won't do it. You have to get into the edit page and shift the timing of sounds in tiny amounts to get the right feel.

The equipment you need...

You need a sampler for your drum sounds, and source material for you to manipulate in a variety of ways, if you intend going beyond ready-made drum loops. You need a computer sequencer - a hardware sequencer won't really allow sufficient rhythmic subtlety, although you could get by if you are content to work within a limited range of possibilities. A filter is a great tool for manipulating drum sounds - make sure it has a sharp 24dB/octave cutoff and a resonance control, otherwise it's just EQ. You'll need a noise gate too.

You need an audio recorder of some shape or form for your vocals, unless the vocals are so brief they can be done as samples. Since a fantastically wonderful vocal is almost obligatory, you'll need a good editing system to combine the best bits from various takes. See the equipment pages for more info.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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