Where does the time go? It seems like I just took down the Christmas cards, glanced out of the window five minutes later to see a few green buds on the trees, and now I'm already watching the summer fade away! Of course, I blame part of this 'temporal acceleration phenomenon' on the computer. You know how it goes: you spend 10 minutes working on a song project and then come out only to find it's past midnight, your dinner has started to fossilise on the table and four hours have passed. Why is that? After all, computers were designed to save us time, not to eat it!
The problem is that even if you'd like to run an all‑hardware studio, the majority of your potential clients won't let you, as they know all about the tricks you can do on a modern computer‑based system. They want to move individual notes and hits to improve timing, edit out tiny noises and tune errant vocal phrases. They also want to be able to revisit a project they started last summer and have you recall it exactly as they left it. Add to that the fact that a reel of two‑inch tape is rapidly approaching the price of a complete computer system (a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but for how long?) and it's easy to see why the computer rules, and why hardware‑based studios are now the boutique exceptions.
Of course, accepting computers means we must also accept their inherent problems. Most musicians can manage to get a reasonably stable computer system up and running, but there are exceptions who seem to call us all the time with obscure problems or mysterious clicks and bangs. Poor choice of computer or cracked software aside, I suspect that at least some of these problems are down to family politics; that the new studio computer has only been sanctioned on condition that the significant other can use it for their business spreadsheets, Facebook sessions, music downloading, kids' homework, and whatever else. All I can say is that if you do this, you're asking for trouble, and not just of the nasty virus kind.
Even the most expensive Mac Pro stuffed to bursting with RAM and extra drives costs less than a half‑inch eight‑track cost in the early '80s, so the 'Oooh, it's so expensive!' argument really doesn't wash anymore. Once that computer goes through the studio door, the only way to look at it is that it ceases to be a computer and becomes, instead, a dedicated machine that forms the cornerstone of your studio. Install only what you need, connect to the Internet only to locate and update software, and don't let the rest of the family within two metres of it, whatever they threaten! Treat your studio computer with respect and you might just find it does the same for you.
Paul White Editor In Chief