Going Straight Week 5: Live vs Reaper

At the very beginning of this endeavour the most important question was asked right at the very start: What DAW?

Having used Ableton’s Live for three or four years and Cubase for a year before that, Live was certainly the obvious choice. Sadly this genius software comes in at £300 so the knee jerk reaction no. A quick shout goes out to the Fwonk* collective and Heskin comes back with the suggestions of Reaper.

Cockos Reaper has been going from strength to strength in recent year from an (apparently) fairly simple and iffy start it has from a large and enthusiastic following as a fully fledged MIDI and audio handling DAW. Top of its selling points is its price, $60 (with a couple of stipulations that mean that if you are Madonna or Simon Cowell then it costs $225.) The other great thing is that the 30 day trail that you can download is actually the complete and unrestrained version of the DAW, not a limited and annoying half arsed version of it.

I used it to put together a couple of tunes for my Perniciem project and it works really, really well. I didn’t attempt anything fancy with it to be honest, purely programming midi via the piano roll, chucking in the VSTs and automating various elements. The problem I had was the ‘flow’ of things. This isn’t entirely Reapers fault. At the moment 80% of my music making is done on my laptop at work during lunch. After I’ve made and eaten my Marmite crackers and given my lady-wife a ring that gives me exactly 37 minutes to get on and make some noise.

What I don’t have time to do is figure out a brand new DAW. Especially as I have trained myself in the way of Live, i.e. point at some thing and right click it and make it happen. This isn’t the Reaper way, I suspect Reaper has more in common with ‘proper’ DAWs like Cubase and Logic and FL Studio which I’m sure is a good thing if that’s the way you like to work.

I however like the Live way of working, it just kinda ‘works’.

I am not in any way knocking Reaper, I reckon it must be the best ‘My First DAW’ around, it looks great and I am told is capable of everything the big boys are (minus the massive lump of bundled samples) and if you learn its workflow as the work flow defacto then all would be well in the world.

But for me, to unlearn all I learned in Live was not ideal.

This got me looking in to the availability of second hand Live Licences and in three weeks of looking I only found one. It was on Sound on Sound’s ‘readers ads’ bit. Well worth a look actually quite a few bits that you won’t get on eBay there. But the chap was selling it as a bundle with some other stuff I didn’t want or need. I think the general consensus is that once you have Live then you stick with it and just upgrade.

Next step was to look at Live Intro, the cut down version. At £89 it had me sold. Okay so you are limited to 6 VSTi per project and only 6 VST effects per project but there’s always work arounds, the freeze function is still enabled and so worst ways, bounce down the track and load into a new project, no massive hardship I reckon. And so it was that as I when to click on the add to basket button I spotted something good. Something very tempting..

Ableton 7. Old stock. £189.00… Hmmm..

I spent a week trying to make up my mind, 200 quid is a LOT of money to spend in one go for me. But then I got to thinking about this properly. The DAW is the hub, the epicentre of your potential musical magnificence! By the time one has finished buying mixing desk, VST and VSTi, stomp boxes for guitar, leads, keyboard, synth and all the other extra gubbins you can get then it’ll all have added up to more than £200. Surely it makes sense to spend the money on the thing that connects them all, even if it is to the detriment of the fancy extras you had your eye on.

There’s no reason why Live 7 couldn’t last me for years. If I don’t have to upgrade for four years then it’s still less than fifty quid a year, my old website and domain was 60 quid and I knocked that on the head this year! Decision made I dived back onto my new best friends DV247’s website and placed my order. And got the last copy available!

It arrived last week. It’s a big box, nice thick manual (maybe I can finally learn the right way to do things) and stickers. Stickers! Woohoo!

So in conclusion: I think I would say that while I could have been very happy with the really quite brilliant £30(ish) Reaper had I had the time or inclination to change, I got lazy n spunked an extra £150. Glad I did it though, have been smiling all week.

Also that patience is a virtue…

NEXT WEEK: The cheapest Analogue Synth out there (hopefully with audio clips).

[Tutorial Thursday] Learn to Live Vol 3 Ep3: Capital City DJ Olympics Postmortem

Ok, so that happened!

First, I want to say thanks for sticking with me as I blog about my entry into the Capital City DJ Olympics. This will be the last post on that topic. Returning readers may remember that 2 weeks ago I was freaking out about entering the DJ competition, and was scouring the internet for tutorials. Then, by last week, I had pretty much set up my Live Template for DJing, in preparation for my first DJ performance on 10/23/2011.


It went well, I think. I – along with the other DJs in the competition – owe some thanks to the guys at Boxcar Management for putting on a great event. Lots of people came out, and it was a great time.

Live footage of my set:

(SPOILER: the camera never turns away from the goofy looking DJ guy)

… and a recreation of the set on Mixcloud:

(I forgot to record the set at the event itself, but based on what I remembered about the set and the live footage I could recreate the set pretty well.)

Anyways, yeah. As promised, here’s this week’s tutorial, on warping tracks in a way that will make your DJ life more convenient:

See you next week! Leave some comments if you have any questions!

[Tutorial Thursday] Learn to Live Vol 3 Ep2: My DJ setup

Welcome back! Clint, aka DJvsComputer, of Bachelor Machines here.

For those of you who are following along, we are in week 2 of the saga entitled “Clint Learns To Be a Laptop DJ OR ELSE” due to my impulsive and possibly insane entry into a local DJing competition despite my lack of any DJing experience.

As you may remember, last week I was frantically watching and rewatching DJ tutorials from Abletonlife.com. UPDATE: At this point I feel like I am ready to perform, the internet saved the day again! YAY CLOUD

I wanted to discuss my DJ setup a bit. I’m using a PC laptop and an Akai APC40 controller… I’ve taken on a lot of the points that Ryan from Abletonlife recommended, and I’ve also gone and created my own custom DJ FX rack for this performance. Check out the video below (18 min) to see how it all works:

One of the things I was particularly interested in was which of the two library tracks was the “good one” that I ended up using when things were rocking. The answer is: the one that groups tracks by type is the one I use exclusively. If I were recreating this set I wouldn’t even bother with sorting them by key. In my opinion, the best way to sort them would be by type and THEN by key.

On that topic, one of the things that was recommended in the Abletonlife tutorials was to assign these kind of goofy 1A, 2B signifiers for musical keys to the tracks instead of just saying what key they are in. Two points about that:

  • It is most DEFINITELY a useful thing to put clips’ keys into their clip names. It’s a huge help in making a great sounding mix.
  • I think that if I used a crutch like that 1a, 2b thing to relate keys together, my music theory professor would burst through the wall of my studio like Kool Aid Man, revoke my degree, and possibly end my life.

Music theory is fun, guys! It’s not that hard to understand what keys work well together.

Another thing that AbletonLife discusses which I took issue with was this notion of putting in a warp marker every 4 bars. That, friends, is crazy talk. I’ll go into more detail next week about how I warp tracks for DJing – I found a useful tip that will help you if you’re a DJ.

EDIT (10/27/2011): I reread this and I think I come off like I think you need to learn a ton of music theory to be a good DJ. I definitely don’t think that’s required. All I’m trying to say is, I think exploring a bit about the relationships between keys will help make more cohesive mixes and will be fun at the same time.

[Tutorial Thursday] Learn to Live Vol 3 Ep1: Wherein I become a laptop DJ

Hi folks! This is Clint again, of Bachelor Machines.

Unlike previous Tutorial Thursdays, this week’s featured videos will not be of my own creation. I’m going to let the Internet tag in on this one because I am currently busy warping tracks, practicing sets, and having a nervous breakdown by turns.

About a month ago, my good friend DJ Rachael P talked me into submitting a demo for entry into a local event here in Lansing, MI, USA called the Capital City DJ Olympics, about which I made two assumptions:

  1. I would probably not get in, and if I *did* get in that meant that most of the people that were in it were at around my skill level.
  2. Since this thing is on Sunday nights, no one was going to be there.

Both of these assumptions turned out to be false. This is a HUGE event for Lansing. And the DJs are legit. Scarily legit:

DJ Lee JMore expert DJ

The guy on the left there is DJ Lee J, aka the house DJ for the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers. o_O

So here’s a thing: I’ve never DJ’d in a club in my life. My entire DJ life up to this point consists of one (1) work event wherein I played some background music while people ate dinner.

Here’s a picture of me going into cardiac arrest at the Capital City DJ Olympics:
Clint has heart attack.

So yeah. I’m not the teacher this week. This week, I have been watching stuff and learning things, specifically these DJ tutorials brought to us by Abletonlife.com:

How To DJ In Ableton Live Part 1: Setting Up Ableton And Preparing The Songs from Ryan on Vimeo.

How To DJ In Ableton Live Part 2: Working With Clips, Setting Up Effects, Blending Songs from Ryan on Vimeo.

Dear Ryan at abletonlife.com:
You are rad.

Next week might be more of the same kind of thing, we’ll see. I gotta get back to practicing if this whole “underdog success story” scenario I am hoping for is going to work out.


Learn To Live Vol 2: There’s More Than One Way To Rack

It’s Tutorial Thursday here on fwonk.com. Once again, I’m going to talk a bit about Ableton Live; specifically, this week’s set of tutorials is about Racks.

Ableton added the Rack concept in Live version 6, and then added the Drum Rack feature in version 7. They are, in my opinion, one of Live’s most powerful features. In the videos below I’m going to explore the basic usage of each of the three Rack types:

Drum Racks:

FX Racks: (with a quick discussion of the difference between serial processing and parallel processing):

and finally, Instrument Racks (wherein I discuss how to construct a big polysynth sound using only simplers and simple sawtooth waves):

There’s a lot more to discuss regarding Racks, so I will definitely come back to this topic in the upcoming weeks.

Other topics in the queue for Tutorial Thursday:
-the 100% legal way to get permission to post a cover version of a song online
-film scoring in Ableton Live (with some discussion of the music concepts used in developing a film score)

Let us know what you think!
Clint (Bachelor Machines)

P.S. What else would you like to know about?

Learn to Live Vol 1: Simplify Your Live

This is the first in a series of Ableton Live tutorials that Fwonk* will be providing for free, here on the blog. I intend to make this a weekly* feature, so if you have any Live topics you’d like to learn about, post about it in the comments, either here or on Youtube!

Clint (Bachelor Machines)

*no promises on what day of the week we’re talking about.

This week, I’m going to start out with a pair of tutorials that might help aid you in organizing your sessions.

First, this tutorial shows how to create a default session template…

… and this tutorial discusses why it might be a good idea to throw out the idea of even having a default session template:

Coming soon:
-a three-part tutorial discussing Racks within Live
-a series of tutorials discussing scoring for film and video within Live (with some additional discussions regarding general film scoring techniques)

Let us know what you think!