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Take a chance and learn a real instrument

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday December 28, 2005
So you're hunkered down deep in your software studio and you are knocking out tracks by the dozen. The trouble is that you are having difficulty putting the 'soul' into your music. What can you do?
Take a chance and learn a real instrument

So you're hunkered down deep in your software studio and you are knocking out tracks by the dozen.

(OK, the reality is that you're still tweaking your system and getting everything prepared for when you're ready to start making music - I know a lot of people like that.)

Back to tracks by the dozen... The trouble is that you are having difficulty putting the 'soul' into your music. Machines don't have souls and it really is up to you to make your music human. The greats of computer-based recording can do that - thinking of the likes of the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Moby and others. Can you?

Without doubt the easiest way to put the human element into your recording is to incorporate 'real' instruments - guitars and the like. Whereas machines are always rock solid perfect, the random element in human playing - call it 'feel' if you like - makes a track that sounds kind of like music, into something that people genuinely want to listen to.

But real instruments are difficult to learn and hard to play. Where to start...?

What about the bass guitar? This has long been known as the instrument to play if your meager talent doesn't allow you to play anything else.

So grab yourself a bass, preferably a small combo amp as well (which doesn't have to be big or powerful for recording) and learn. Honestly, it won't be hard.

The hard part though will be playing in time with your track. Now that really is difficult - it's harder actually than playing with a band where there is some flexibility in timing. Playing against a machine taxes even the pros.

But what you can do to compensate is harness the power of your audio sequencer. If you have played all the right notes in the right order, then all you need do is make each note into a moveable region, then quantize the regions or align them by hand.

Now this may seem like a bit of a bother. But it wouldn't be too much trouble for a pro producer, if it meant getting the right sound. And you will be amazed how well it works.

You may worry at first that there are a lot of little gaps in the bass track, caused by moving one note forward and the next back for instance. This will sound pretty bad when the track is soloed, but in the context of the entire mix it almost certainly will not be audible. Make sure your software is set to put a short fade on the beginnings and ends of regions, which is pretty much standard practice anyway, or you will get clicks.

So, dare to try it. The least it will be is fun!

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday December 28, 2005 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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