But at the time Reason didn’t have audio recording capabilities. You could pull an audio sample into the NN-XT sampler but that was it. So I did some researching, and found out about DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations), and how Reason could be Rewired into these applications. So the DAW could handle all the mixing and audio capabilities, while Reason ‘plugged’ into it. So I had to decide on two things: a DAW to use, and an audio interface to allow me to record audio sources into the software.
So I started off with ProTools (I think it was on version 5 then), as you got the audio interface with the software. And my first interface was the legendary MBox1. And I have to thank my wife as she helped me purchase it and, like we did with all the stuff we bought together, we gave it a name. So it was christened ‘Mindy’ and to this day I still have fond memories of Mindy.
It was only a USB1 interface with only 2 inputs and 2 outputs, but it changed my whole perspective on music production. Now, I could record my guitar and vocal parts straight into ProTools, have a visual display of the audio, and jump in and edit the ideas.
I think I stuck with ProTools for about 2-3 years, but then my ‘Gear Envy’ started to wander and I kept hearing good (great!) things about Logic. First things first, I needed a Mac. My introduction to the Mac world was the Mac Mini.
The Mac Mini was aptly nick-named Lunchbox, as…it was the size of, and looked pretty much like, a lunchbox. So Mindy & Lunchbox gave me the platform to start running Logic 7 Express, and then eventually Logic Pro 8 and so on….. I’m still an avid (no not Avid ProTools) Logic user. I think I’ve been using it close on 11 years now. That might be giving away my age. But what I have always liked about Logic is the bundled instruments and effects that come with it. Sure I’ve acquired much better synths and sample libraries over the years, but I still keep jumping back to patches in the ES2, EXS24 and using the bundled EQs and Compressors as my go-to tools in mixing.
Through the years I have also jumped through other DAWS: Reaper, Ableton, Sonar and Tracktion. But I seem to have settled on 3 of them now: Logic, Studio One, and Cubase. All for different reasons. Mainly because of their varying feature sets. Familiarity brings me back to Logic. But my interest in exploring other tech options takes me to Studio One and Cubase.
So I’m a firm believer that working in different DAWs makes you compose in different ways because of the feature sets and workflow methods in each DAW.
- Getting a MIDI Controller
Another thing that also completely changed my perspective on music production, was when I got my first MIDI Keyboard Controller. It wasn’t very fancy, I think it was an entry level Evolution 49-key. And all it had was a Pitch and Mod wheel. No other controls on the device. But being able to bash out drum beats on those keys, and lay down pads assigned to the ES2 and EXS24 in Logic was crazy! It had come such a far way from when my band and I had to book studio time, go spend a couple of hours in there recording to tape, and being limited by the clock and budget. Music producers today are really lucky now that they can get a Macbook, Logic, and a portable MIDI controller and compose and record on the go and have top-notch sounding recordings.
Even though I haven’t gone back to ProTools or Reason, those initial pieces of software gave me a great start. Those memories remind me how far music production has come, and keeps me appreciating what’s possible, but at the same time excited to see what music tech tools and productions come in the future.
So what is coming up next in music production and its tech tools, and how will these tools shape the future of music creation? Will iPads and other mobile devices become more prominent in music production? Will VR gear work its way into our productions as well? Who knows, but all I can say is it’s exciting to know that the way things are now are not the way they will be in a decade. Appreciate your roots but also keep up with the new tech and see how you can incorporate it into your setup.
Now it’s your turn! Take a look back on your music journey and see how things have changed. How has the software changed? How has this shaped the way you do things? And have new instruments and effects expanded your music palette and allowed you to write things you may not have considered before? With each application or plugin I have learnt something new and it has taken my productions further. So take a look back and see what you have learnt over the years. Go through the software and plugins you have used and see how they have helped you. Also take a look through your older songs, and then compare them with newer ones, and hear what you have worked on and how things improved with your productions. Looking back allows you to see how much you have improved.
One way I stay on top of things is to keep learning. If that means learning new production tips and tricks, checking out new styles, learning new music production software, Whatever…
Take the time now to learn more. If you’re new to music production or want to brush up on tips and tricks, maybe take a look at the following courses: