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Equipment for a true newbie.

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Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Versius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:40 am

First of all, thank you for any help. I am trying to figure out what I really need here. I currently have an isolation booth, a Scarlett 2i2 interface, a newly built totally fanless i7 processor based PC with 32GB ram, solid state drives and 2 touchscreen monitors running Windows 10. I'm using Cakewalk as my DAW. I have quite a few mics, including 2 Rode NTKs that I'm doing the RK12 capsule upgrades on from microphone parts and I bought a selection of NOS tubes including a Telefunken 6922 white label, 2 USN 7308s and a Mallard 6922. I also have a selection of focusrite, Shure, MXL and CAD mics, but have really been using the Rodes more than anything. I have an Akai MPK mini (but am hopelessly lost on it so far). Basically, I'm at the point now where I can record vocals without too many issues (although I don't really do anything much to them except for cut and splice). I did voice overs for commercials back in the 90s and I do ebook narrations now and I'm sure there are things that I could learn to do better with that, but I'm actually not all that displeased with the way it's going. I have good cables: ie Mogami gold XLR cables, etc. I have decent studio monitors and several decent headsets. I also have a Boss VE-20 vocal processor, though I don't use it much either. What I'm wanting to do is play around with recording some songs finally. I don't honestly feel like I need to do a lot of tweaking on the vocals themselves, but I'm hopeless at playing any instruments, so I have been trying to figure out virtual instruments and I'm frankly just not getting anywhere. Nothing I do sounds even remotely like a real instrument. I'm willing to buy hardware or software (within reason), but I just can't figure out which would be the best. I also play around with a theremin sometimes, mostly making recordings for haunted houses and just ordered an electro Harmonix talking machine to use with the theremin. Again, I can't actually play any instruments and let's just say that I've been told that I'm on my own rhythm, lol. What I would like is something that I could write the music into and have a virtual instrument play that music and have it sound at least reasonably like the actual instruments or, well, just not like utter crap. Any hints, ideas, recommendations? If it matters (as I know it does with mic choices), my voice is deep and I'm going for warm sound. Sorry for the rambling and thanks.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:59 am

Welcome.

All the musicians I know have spent years learning their craft, acquiring musicianship, but it sounds like you’re looking for a short cut to making music without having the knowledge to do so. Forgive me if I read your post wrong.

My advice would be to actually learn an instrument - piano or keyboard - from a reputable teacher. It’ll be a long but worthwhile journey if you want to make real music.

Bob
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:31 am

What Bob says is good advice, but how old are you? and how much time are you willing to invest in learning an instrument?
It's also OK to be a "non-musician" and still get good results with no traditional musical knowledge or skills, and you often hear this approach lauded a lot in some circles, but it's not that easy. The people that have made incredible music this way normally have a fantastic knowledge of studio techniques, and electronic instruments that more than makes up for their lack of formal music education.
You either learn an instrument "properly" like Bob suggested or you learn the studio.
I often hear it said that after a couple of weeks of owning a mixer or a synthesiser etc someone isn't getting very far, this is the problem, you'd never hear a violinist complain of having to spend 25 years plus learning his instrument!
If you don't go down the traditional route, then immerse yourself in your studio, and that means a lot of time, choose your instruments very carefully, and don't get distracted, it's better to be a master of one, don't spread yourself too thin.
People can give you general ball park advice, but there isn't a right or wrong way in all of this, there are many ways to skin this particular cat.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Wonks » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:44 am

Have you considered teaming up with someone else who's good at making and recording music (of a style you like) but can't sing themselves? You'd get somewhere a lot quicker.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Moroccomoose » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:51 am

Hi Versius,

I'm in a similar boat in so much that while I do play guitar to a reasonable level - well enough to con non players into thinking I'm quite good, but not quite good enough to fool proper players! :headbang: - but I am currently getting interested in MIDI orchestration. I have zero music theory background so lets say the curve is steep.

However, there are loads of technique articles for writing realistic MIDI peices with virtual instruments, starting with this one, No.1 in a whole series:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/sampled-orchestra-part1

There are others in SOS and youtube etc.

Even if classical orchestration is not what you want to create, I think there might be a lot of read across with the techniques for getting realism into other genres.

Currently I am simply going through the articles and re-creating the techniques and example pieces they have and trying to apply it to my own. In doing so I am exploring the virtual instruments I have and getting to know them and working out which techniques work with them and which don't etc.

But in echo to what has already been said, try to work with what you have.. and master it rather than throw money at it.

Stu.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:52 am

Versius wrote: What I'm wanting to do is play around with recording some songs finally. I don't honestly feel like I need to do a lot of tweaking on the vocals themselves, but I'm hopeless at playing any instruments, so I have been trying to figure out virtual instruments and I'm frankly just not getting anywhere. Nothing I do sounds even remotely like a real instrument.

You can't buy instrumental skills, but you can hire a lot of online session players who can help realize your ideas. So long you can whistle it, or sing it, or make a bass line with your mouth, or a rhythm feel hitting a surface with your hands, you're set: record that stuff and send it to good musicians. Start with drums, then add bass, then the rest. Add a guide vocal if it's useful. Use a metronome (there's one in any DAW) to make then session men job easier. Finally you can record the vocals yourself over that base.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby jaminem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:59 am

Hi, difficult to this without any musical knowledge or rhythm but....

Doesn't Cakewalk have a selection of virtual instruments that you can practice on?
and a chord arranger (sorry not totally familiar with cakewalk but the DAW I use Cubase has one) and an arpeggiator?

This would give you a chance to try 'making' music without the knowledge.

You could also maybe try cutting up samples as an alternative.

Finally some virtual instruments are built up of musical phrases that you can tune and string together to make original(ish) compositions. I know that some Native instruments Kontakt stuff does it - George Duke Soul Treasures for example...
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:02 am

Or you could just buy "Band In A Box" https://www.pgmusic.com You are not going to get anything original but the arrangements/styles are ok, if generic, and the instruments do sound like instruments. You do need to understand a little about chords though, even with BiaB.

But I agree with everything that has already been said, it's better to make the effort and learn to play something, even if it's only Ukulele to a three chord standard.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby jaminem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:04 am

P.S without wanting to judge you too much (!) i'm not sure what a 'true newbie' is doing changing capsules and tubes on a mic?? surely that time is better spent learning stuff what you already have?

The kind of minimal improvement you'll get doing that is insignificant compared to something way simpler - like learning some chords!!
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Zukan » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:15 pm

There are lots of tools available to help you to construct songs, lay down rhythms and instrument lines but TBH learning how to play the desired instrument will yield far better results than 'winging' it with these tools.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby paul tha other » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:22 pm

i dont know of any of the virtual instruments things to be realistic straight out the box but with a bit of tweaking ,it can be done..ez drummer and ez keys are a good place to start..tbh though i think you at least need to know a bit of theory to get them sounding anything like the real thing...nothing compares to the real thing though...also i think that they only sound kinda real when placed with real instruments and players..ie ezdrummer can sound convincing if you can play bass guitar and keys along side it

ive had a few people fooled with ez keys..
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:26 pm

Paul makes a good point, if you don't know how a pianist constructs chords or phrases then you'll struggle to make a virtual piano sound real. For example if you took a midi file of a guitar part and assigned it to a piano sound it would still sound more like a guitar than a piano.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby elliep1996 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:26 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Welcome.

All the musicians I know have spent years learning their craft, acquiring musicianship, but it sounds like you’re looking for a short cut to making music without having the knowledge to do so. Forgive me if I read your post wrong.

My advice would be to actually learn an instrument - piano or keyboard - from a reputable teacher. It’ll be a long but worthwhile journey if you want to make real music.

Bob

Hi Versius. I actually agree with Bob here! Learning the absolute basics of piano would be massively helpful for you. You don't need to be 'good' at it, but just knowing the basic theory and knowing which note is which will honestly help you out so much.

Yes, many top producers these days don't play piano, but imagine how much better they'd be if they actually understood the theory behind the music they were making? Just a thought.

Keep your options open anyway :)
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:09 pm

A lot of the work I do at local studios is for people who have the ideas and inspiration, but lack the musical skills.

I'm sure many other studios are making a living from similar projects, so shop around and see if you can find someone to help. If you're near Sheffield/Worksop I can give you some specific pointers.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Versius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:59 pm

Okay. First of all, thank you for all the replies. I think maybe I wasn't as clear as I should have been about some things. I played the Alto Sax in school for several years, but never got good at it. I tried to learn the guitar for a couple of years and I've come to the conclusion that I just don't have the dexterity for it. I have a 73 Les Paul Custom that I would kill the be able to play. Ive tried videos, lessons... It just isn't going to happen. I'm not new to microphones. I record for a living.... But just voice. I can, slowly, write the music that I want and am more than willing to work on that side. My situation is this: I'm in my 40s, I live out in the middle.of nowhere (literally) and I have maybe a couple of hours a day that I can dedicate to what I'm wanting to do. Its not something that I ever expect to be truly great, but I wouldn't mind if it wasn't complete junk. Learning an instrument is out I'm afraid. I honestly just don't have that as a skill set. My schedule is insane. I guess I did want to take some shortcuts if possible. I was hoping there was something, maybe some plugins, that would let me basically arrange/compose the music and have it play out decently. Oh well: I just wanted to record some of the songs I've written over the last 30 years; I'm not even sure why, lol. Maybe I'll just have to wait until Im retired and have more time to hire a few people. Thanks again.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Versius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:04 pm

CS70 wrote:
Versius wrote: What I'm wanting to do is play around with recording some songs finally. I don't honestly feel like I need to do a lot of tweaking on the vocals themselves, but I'm hopeless at playing any instruments, so I have been trying to figure out virtual instruments and I'm frankly just not getting anywhere. Nothing I do sounds even remotely like a real instrument.

You can't buy instrumental skills, but you can hire a lot of online session players who can help realize your ideas. So long you can whistle it, or sing it, or make a bass line with your mouth, or a rhythm feel hitting a surface with your hands, you're set: record that stuff and send it to good musicians. Start with drums, then add bass, then the rest. Add a guide vocal if it's useful. Use a metronome (there's one in any DAW) to make then session men job easier. Finally you can record the vocals yourself over that base.


This honestly sounds like the best idea. I hadn't thought about doing it that way. Is there a good place to link up with people like that? Thanks a ton!
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Versius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:12 pm

The Elf wrote:A lot of the work I do at local studios is for people who have the ideas and inspiration, but lack the musical skills.

I'm sure many other studios are making a living from similar projects, so shop around and see if you can find someone to help. If you're near Sheffield/Worksop I can give you some specific pointers.

I don't have a problem spending some money on what I'm trying to do, but to be honest... I don't ever expect it to be a money maker. It may sound strange, but I've just had the words in my head too long and I want to do this more for me than anyone else. So, a few thousand dollars or more over time isn't a problem, but it would be infinitely better if I could do at least some of it myself. I'm in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Versius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:15 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Or you could just buy "Band In A Box" https://www.pgmusic.com You are not going to get anything original but the arrangements/styles are ok, if generic, and the instruments do sound like instruments. You do need to understand a little about chords though, even with BiaB.

But I agree with everything that has already been said, it's better to make the effort and learn to play something, even if it's only Ukulele to a three chord standard.


Hey; I must have missed this before. Thanks. I will try this out. The description, at least, is exactly what I'm looking for and maybe if I can find some of those session giggers online I would at least have more than a hum to give them.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:21 pm

Many years ago I did a series of backing tracks for couple of Christian singer/songwriters to augment their acoustic guitars using Band in a Box. It worked well for that purpose and meant we could get them up and running in two or three afternoons and for a few tens of pounds. It would have been nice to produce full live tracks but neither the time or the budget was there, BiaB got the job done sufficiently well for their needs.
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Re: Equipment for a true newbie.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:34 pm

Versius wrote:This honestly sounds like the best idea. I hadn't thought about doing it that way. Is there a good place to link up with people like that? Thanks a ton!

There's really a ton of people at all levels, the best is simply to google online <insert instrument here> session player or something like that.

There's also Fiverr where all kinds of services are sold (almost all kinds), including, I guess, session playing.
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