Now I am getting into the purchasing of equipment to get the job done. I mentioned in the last post that I ended up using Reaper for my digital audio workstation but it wasn’t my first choice. It all stated me looking for a digital interface. I knew I needed one of these devices if I were to ever hook up anything to my computer plus it just acts as a much better sound card in general. I sold my PlayStation 3 and some accessories for cash to start up my project. I started my search at Best Buy hoping for a discount from my wife who was working there at the time. Not the best place to get this gear but I need to use funds that I have available. This is where I found the M-Audio M-Track. It’s a 2 channel interface and will accept either 2 mics or 2 instruments PLUS had a MIDI input (which I wanted for my next purchase). Here is where I learned of Ableton Live as a workstation. The interface came with a lite version of Ableton Live 9. I started figuring out how it operates from the downloadable demo and I liked the native dual screen view it had. One bad thing is that it limited me with only 8 tracks. Some may say that is enough and I was able to work in the MIDI editor to make drum parts but I was starting to think bigger picture. I looked at upgrading but that was a few hundred dollars. The difference in versions was mostly virtual instruments that I wasn’t really interested in. The search continued for a new DAW.
I ended up purchasing that interface through a buddy at Guitar Center who supplied the discount I needed. I played with Ableton for about a week before I research some more and found out about Reaper from a YouTube video from Ryan “Fluff” Bruce. It seemed intriguing and exactly what I was looking for. Full featured DAW, full demo to try it out and only $60 for a license. Oh yeah! I began to fall in love with all of could do. Very customizable and can handle just about anything.
I had an interface and a DAW but I was still tracking MIDI drums with a mouse. A cool feature about Reaper is that it does have a virtual keyboard that you can use your computer’s keyboard to play notes but I wasn’t feeling it. I needed a kit. My cousin had an old Alesis electronic drum kit just sitting collecting dust and sold it to me for $50. What a steal. I got it hooked up via MIDI cable to my interface and began to get it to work. A couple down things about this now was the pads were not very responsive, very loud when being hit and I couldn’t map pads to specific drums with EZDrummer 2 (you need Superior Drummer for that). Now what!?! Back to the drawing board. Luckily I was able to sell them off and turn a profit at the same time. I took my cash earned and invested it right back into my project with the purchase of a pair of Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones (another recommendation from Fluff). I needed something that sounded good, were comfortable and make it quiet at night when working on tunes. Great investment in my mind. I don’t know if they are the perfect fit for mixing or monitoring but it’s better than the crappy ear buds that came with an old phone.
After a few months of working with my DAW and playing around with MIDI while wrapping up the original music project that sparked all of this, my old band mate came to me with an idea. He wanted to record some of his tunes he has compiled over the years and he wanted me to lay down more drum tracks. I accepted as it kept me involved with music. Being the swell guy that he is, he sent me a piece of gear that was just “laying around” his house. An Akai MPD26 MIDI controller. This was closest thing to what I would need to work at night that I could think of. 16 pressure sensitive pads, faders, knobs, all programmable…just what I needed and for free. I got to spend some time playing and programming it with my DAW for maximum work flow. I was able to track some original drum tracks for him to use on a project that is still in the works.
My makeshift studio was starting to shape up in a way. I was still missing out on what I really wanted to do though. I needed more. Not just gear but material to put together. I still need a mic of some sort to get a decent recording of vocals and instruments. I don’t mind programming MIDI drums and I am getting better and more efficient in creating decent parts. I wanted to record a full piece of music and put it all together to make it sound like a song. Until I get the gear I NEED, I will have to wait and learn in the mean time.