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All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

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All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby Compressor61 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:58 am

Hello all. First post as a new member here.

So I'm pretty much an all in the box kinda person, using Logic mostly. I do everything from writing to mixing there. So the idea of a traditional process of tracking in a studio, then mix, then master, etc. doesn't apply to what I really do. I write in multiple styles, not much EDM type stuff, so I don't use a lot of loops. I do use a lot of virtual instruments and hire out the vocal work. As I work thru my projects, I find myself pivoting back and forth between what might be considered the "writing" mode and the "mixing mode". I find myself needing to get great sounding parts to be inspired to flesh out the rest of the song. It's almost like production is it's own kind of instrument and is vital to the process of creation, it's not a refinement of something that's already created. I also find myself constantly evaluating the balance of "real instrument" sounding parts vs "synthetic/software generated" parts. Both are important to my work.

Anyway, does anyone else work in this type of model and if so, have you established any kind of process or approach that you can share? Lessons learned, advice, dire warnings....Maybe we can get some good thoughts flowing on this thread around this....sorry for the rambling and thanks for reading this.
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby The Elf » Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:08 am

Welcome!

Compressor61 wrote:So the idea of a traditional process of tracking in a studio, then mix, then master, etc. doesn't apply to what I really do.
Yes it does! It's just that you aren't seeing it as such.

If you're recording a new part then you're 'tracking'. If you're working on those parts to fit into the mix you're 'mixing'. If you're working on the resulting mix to create a target-ready product then you're 'mastering'. I think what you're saying is that you don't complete these broad processes in strict series - and I think it's fair to say that most of us don't, and maybe never did, even in the days of tape. I've never followed a linear process in all the time I've been recording - I just react to what feels right at the moment.

So I don't believe that you're as alone as you think!
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Apr 05, 2020 10:37 am

I agree with both of you! :)
Most of my recording is my solo stuff, so it's very much a case of putting down the core of the track and then adding bits as required. Well, generally more than required and i'll then go back through and delete stuff. But it's definitely an iterative, cyclical process.
But it's actually been much the same when I've been in a proper studio. I or we would lay down the core tracks, then we'd listen to the faders-up mix and work out what was missing or needed cutting.
But is that the last stage of composition or the first stage of mixing? ;)
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 05, 2020 12:50 pm

blinddrew wrote:I or we would lay down the core tracks, then we'd listen to the faders-up mix and work out what was missing or needed cutting.
But is that the last stage of composition or the first stage of mixing? ;)

I'd call that 'arranging' :blush:
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby Compressor61 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:54 pm

Thanks for the replies everyone. I am glad to hear that others work in similar models. DAWs give us the ability to go back and forth between all the aspects of writing and production, mixing etc. I have even been at what I thought was halfway through a mixing process and realized there is a part or track that needs to be re written or even removed, or done with a different instrument, virtual or otherwise. Sometimes it isn't until I get a song sounding overall decent that I discover pieces that don't need to be there or need to be redone. Maybe there's something just not working with the drum groove and I add a different percussion topper, then it sounds great.

But one thing I do struggle with is getting virtual instruments to do my bidding as I hear in my head. Especially guitar. I use the Native Instruments stuff like Sunburst Session and Strummed Acoustic, also Ujam Iron, but these are still basically pattern generators and looping software. I'm getting better at getting decent parts out of these with editing but would really love to hear from others who use virtual guitar plugins and what they have done to get good at that. Thanks!
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby desmond » Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:42 pm

In the old says these processes (writing > demoing > recording > mixing > mastering) were largely separated by gatekeepers, mostly because of access to gear and expertise, getting the necessary people together, and the money required.

These days, those gatekeepers are more or less gone (for most people), people are taking on more roles in the process, and everyone has good enough gear and resources (to various degrees), so the processes have merged a little as required by workflow.

I think these days, for most folks operating below the upper tier of established acts, writing, recording and mixing in particular tend to be a more merged process - mixing as you go, recording new parts as needed, changing the structure after things are recorded, adding new sections and so on, adding buss processing and so on.

From what I see, people tend to even master in the same projects, by ultimately slamming the mix buss into hard limiting right up at -0.3dBFS.

Ultimately, I think whatever best works for your process, workflow, projects is fine, unless dictated by other things outside of your control, and the flexibility we have in this day and age is wonderful, for the most part! :thumbup:

As for virtual guitars - getting a guitarist, or just learning how to play, makes the world of difference. Leave the virtuals for the demo stage, or maybe very undemanding supporting parts. Even if they have the sound, they have no character unless they are played like a guitarist would play, with the necessary performance techniques and so on - and if you don't play guitar, you certainly won't understand them well enough to program or play them in.
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby The Elf » Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:11 pm

Compressor61 wrote:I'm getting better at getting decent parts out of these with editing but would really love to hear from others who use virtual guitar plugins and what they have done to get good at that. Thanks!
I use virtual guitars and amp simulators all the time. Not once has anyone noticed!

Essentially it's about choosing a good library of 'straight from the pickup' guitar samples and getting it into a decent amp simulator. But then it's all in the playing - and for that there's no shortcut, at least not one with which I've ever been happy. Play a part that a guitarist would play and you'll get away with it - stray a touch away and you're into 'uncanny valley'.

I keep my 'guitar' parts very simple - if you don't notice it you'll never know...
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby Compressor61 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:53 pm

Hey Elf, what are the Gtr sampler
plugins you use and/or recommend?

Thanks
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby The Elf » Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:36 pm

Ooooh! You want my trade secrets, eh?! ;) :lol:

I'll give you one steer: https://www.orangetreesamples.com/products

I do a bit of jiggery-pokery of my own to add to these samples, mainly to beef up the tone and harmonics where needed.

I put my guitar sounds mostly through Line 6 Helix Native, but I have other options. Sometimes I dip out of the DAW and into a pedal or three. I also use teensy-weensy mini-amps too, including my beloved 1980s Tandy bench-test amp - instant Marshall stack.
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby Compressor61 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:15 pm

[quote="The Elf"]Ooooh! You want my trade secrets, eh?! ;) :lol:

Hey thanks haven’t tried these but I do use Sunburst session by NI as well as Strummed acoustic. Also Ujam Virtual Guitarist Iron. I’ve tried Strategy from Acousticsamples but found it too cumbersome to work with. I put them thru Amplitude amp plugins as well sometimes. And then chop up the audio after I bounce sometimes.

Appreciate the tip.
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Re: All in The Box Creator Thoughts?

Postby DC-Choppah » Mon Apr 06, 2020 4:18 am

Compressor61 wrote: I find myself needing to get great sounding parts to be inspired to flesh out the rest of the song. It's almost like production is it's own kind of instrument and is vital to the process of creation, it's not a refinement of something that's already created.

The DAW is a musical instrument. That's how I approach it anyway.

If your instrument sounds good it can inspire you to make music you otherwise would not have. That goes for the DAW instrument too.

The more immediate you can make your skills on the DAW the more it will fee like an instrument. That's why everyone is trying to refine their 'workflow'. It's like an early musical instrument where all the technical stuff has not been worked out yet, so there are a lot of improvements being made to make the instrument easier to play.

This means you have to set aside some time to practice the instrument. That means learning all the 'workflow tricks' and features that are in there. Brush up on the fundamentals, and keep your chops up. Then when you are making music with it, do it like a performance. Get a vision for what you want to create and then use the DAW to make it come out of the speakers. Then when you hear it, it inspires you and moves things in a different direction. That's what it feels like to play an instrument!

The lack of immediacy in the DAW can be very frustrating - like playing an instrument that is not working correctly. You crave for it to be effortless. That's what instrumentalist strive for.
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