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From a Composer's perspective - how important is it..... Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 11th April 2018
  #1
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
From a Composer's perspective - how important is it.....

for YOU to own a studio with tangible NON-SOFTWARE tools for making music.

No judgements, no right or wrong, but this is GEARslutz after all. I'm just curious here. I've got a bias on what's right for me and how to do it better, more creatively and more efficiently, but I'm curious in all your perspectives. I'll share mine later....

I'm not talking about a computer, DAW, software libraries, hard drives, plug-in's, headphones and the like - we all need those.

I'm talking about :

- Backline - guitars, piano, keys, percussion, drums, synths, other instruments
- Microphones - how many mics do you own to capture real instruments?
- Mic Pre's - do you use hardware or the ones in your interface(s)
- Outboard Gear - compressors, EQ's, FX, Reverb, Delay's, etc.
- Monitor Controllers - like the Grace, Drawmer, Dangerous, etc..
- Control surfaces - like the S3, Artist Mix, etc..
- Traditional Mixing Console?
- And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally - CRM, Live Room, etc..

OR - do you just stay inside your laptop / desktop apps, and export sound files?

Do you traditionally spend large amounts of cash to build up a legit room that facilitates making music?

Where do you feel like you get the most bang for your buck when you start spending cash on your business?

Will you spend money on traditional studio style gear to increase the quality of your musical output?

Thx guys. Happy and productive music making to all of you!
Old 11th April 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Sam Watson's Avatar
I have a lot of instruments. I want more. My wife recognizes that I will never stop wanting more. She knows it is bonkers but accepts it. haha Stacks of guitars & basses, two cellos, a mandolin, ukulele, full size digital piano. Used to have an upright that we sold when moving cross country. Same with the drum set.

I miss the piano most. I will buy another piano. Nothing sounds & feels like the real thing. Yes, all the plugins are impressive and work in a track pretty well. But it isn't as expressive as the real thing. I will eventually rebuy some drums too. I feel like I could make a track where every instrument just plays the same pitch over and over and it swells up and down it would actually be a musically valid and expressive track so long as it was all live instruments. So much control that is hard to get with MIDI. (Hence my stated interest elsewhere in the Roli as a controller - I want to try to get more immediate performance control over my VSTi's.)

I have guitar amp plugs. But I almost always mic up my Mesa. It is versatile and sounds like the real deal. The plugins are always too sterile/upfront/earpokey.

I use an external tube mic pre with hardware limiting for everything I mic up. I don't like it for bass. I do that DI a different route.

I've experimented with reamping all kinds of loops, tracks, and VSTi's with satisfying results. I would do more of that if deadlines allowed it. I am as guilty as many people of turning in sterile mix straight-out-of-the-library tunes. They don't sound like an album that way. I was listening to OK computer this morning and marvelling again at how alive even the simplest elements sound.

I have 24 channels of Mackie control. Speeds up mixing and helped bring my VSTi's and final mixes to life.

Things I want to spend money on and eventually will:
A real piano.
Room treatment.
Some ribbon mics - I have the other category mics pretty well covered for my needs. (I have maybe two dozen mics.)
I wish I had a separate tracking room. Not in the cards right now.

Rambling post, but the short of it is this: I find that the tracks I most like all have real playing in them. The ones that are all in the box I mostly find to be imitation music - even if well done - and I don't care about hearing them later.

Best,
Sam
Old 11th April 2018
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I've got a bias on what's right for me and how to do it better, more creatively and more efficiently...
Then - who? Me? No.

When I started out, I was 100% ITB. Did it work? Yes. Did I make money? Yes. But I come from the analog world - one that when I started recording in bands and then working in studios, dig audio was non-existent. It was literally right around the corner (I am not that old ) but growing up in the LFAC and outboard gear world makes me want to retain at least part of that. So, I slowly added HW as time went on, and I found that the end result was better. Partly b/c I got better, sure, but more b/c I had to do things a little differently to infuse the HW. Which made me think a bit more, and pay a little more attention to what I was doing, to details, etc.


- Backline - guitars, piano, keys, percussion, drums, synths, other instruments

Guitar - check. Been playing almost my entire life, and find that guitar adds something to much of my work, that would be lacking w/o it. My current sit. dictates that perc is out of the Q, but when I buy a house in a few years, that is on the list. Piano and synth are ITB (Zebra, Omnisphere)

- Microphones - how many mics do you own to capture real instruments?

See previous answer re: perc. My guitar is recorded through a Torpedo, so no mic there. Again, perc and some other acoustic instr will happen someday, but not yet.

- Mic Pre's - do you use hardware or the ones in your interface(s)

On the rare occasion I need a mic, it's HW.

- Outboard Gear - compressors, EQ's, FX, Reverb, Delay's, etc.

Verb, comp, EQ, tone shaping.

- Monitor Controllers - like the Grace, Drawmer, Dangerous, etc..

Avocet. A good and accurate signal path to the monitors is crucial, IMO.

- Control surfaces - like the S3, Artist Mix, etc..

None.

- Traditional Mixing Console?

None.

- And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally - CRM, Live Room, etc..

No - mix space only.

Do you traditionally spend large amounts of cash to build up a legit room that facilitates making music?

-and-

Will you spend money on traditional studio style gear to increase the quality of your musical output?

I will spend as needed, but not unnecessarily. If I feel that X-gear can add something (w.flow/sound), I will almost def go for it. #taxdeduction

Where do you feel like you get the most bang for your buck when you start spending cash on your business?

Sound quality.
Old 11th April 2018
  #4
All of that is important.
Old 11th April 2018
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
Arcana's Avatar
 

I do think hardware - especially instruments, adds to the overall sound, but the most important thing to me now is workflow and speed, cause I just don't have that many hours available in the day, and I'm not particularly fast either, so hardware generally slows me down.

Besides, my 'studio' is a corner of my living room, so it's rather limited what I can actually fit into my space.
So currently the only pieces of hardware I have is a strat guitar - that I can't really play anyway and a control surface - BFC2000, which doesn't get used much either.

When (if) I get to a point where I get a dedicated studio I definitely want to add some more instruments like acoustic guitar/mandolin/ukulele and various types of percussion.

I have zero interest in substituting my plugins with outboard though, and I have even less interest in a physical mixing console. I would like something similar to Softube console one, that could integrate 100% with my plugins.

The hardware I'd be most interested in would be something that complements my setup - my Kontrol S61 is a good example of that. It integrates well with the NKS plugins, allowing my to see keyswitches in sample libraries and allows me to adjust ADSR, filters etc. in synths like Diva.

At the end of the day I guess the need for hardware boils down to what types of music you do.
I couldn't see myself attempting to make Blues or Country using only virtual instruments, but Crime drama tension, Pop, Hip hop or Quirky kids tunes, sure.
Old 12th April 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
 

1. Backline - guitars, piano, keys, percussion, drums, synths, other instruments: I have 22 guitars and basses, most of which fill a particular need but in some cases, like Les Paul's and Charvel Clones that I've built are dedicated to specific tunings of Standard and Dropped D. I don't like stretching the strings, going back and forth, so this is a perfect solution for me. I've modified each instrument to my exact specifications including Grover Locking Tuners, bone nuts and Tone Pros bridges and stop tailpieces, along with specific pickups like Duncan JB's in the Charvel's and Lollar's the Gibson style guitars. I've done the same with my basses as well, upgrading the bridges to either Gotoh, Badass or Hipshot along with pickups.

Unfortunately, even though I have a nice sized room (15'x19'x9'), I don't have any "real" pianos, organs or synths but I do have all of the latest UVI, Native Instruments and Arturia emulations. I'm generally satisfied with the end result, although I still think the best Hammond plugin was the B4MkII, which NI replaced with Vintage Organs, and IMO, pales in comparison.

2. Microphones: Mojave 201's on guitar and bass cabinets, U195 for Vocals and acoustic guitars, a 57 (which comes in handy more often than not) and an i5. I used to have so many more but found that I wasn't using them so I sold them and invested the money elsewhere.

3. Mic Pre's: Outboard. Vintech x73i's, Vintech 273's. I've had them since 2006 and I'll never part with them and use them everyday. I can't imagine using the mic pre on my current interface, a MOTU 828es. That seems blasphemous.

4. Outboard Gear: Three FMR PBC 6A's, which are great for everything and a dedicated Klark Teknik 1176 clone for tracking bass through a Sansamp Geddy Lee preamp. Classic tones.

5. Monitor Controllers: I used a Presonus Central Station for more than 10 years but when I purchased the 828es last Fall, I switched over to using the Cubase Control Room feature. Not only should I have been doing that all along, the MOTU's D/A directly to my Focals is clearer than ever.

6. Control surfaces: Nope. Mix in the box with a mouse.

7. Traditional Mixing Console: Not since selling my Mackie D8b in 2007. I used a Neve 8816 from 2007-2014 and I'm much happier ITB.

8. And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally - CRM, Live Room, etc.: Kind of. I have a cabinet closet, which doubles as my guitar closet, as I have 12 feet of slat wall for the guitars and basses to hang with the cabinets on Auralex Great Gramma's covered with Producers Blankets to eliminate phasing. There's also bass traps in the closet for the cabinets.

9. Do you just stay inside your laptop / desktop apps, and export sound files?: I render files in Cubase, do any conversions in Wavelab and do all the Metadata in iTunes.

10. Do you traditionally spend large amounts of cash to build up a legit room that facilitates making music?: I'm pretty much done with that, although I'm sure I'll continue to add guitars, basses and more modular preamps for my Randall RM100. I currently have six modules but at one point, had more than a dozen.

11. Where do you feel like you get the most bang for your buck when you start spending cash on your business? : Converters, which these days, sound incredible in regards to price point and orchestral libraries.

12. Will you spend money on traditional studio style gear to increase the quality of your musical output?: Anything that helps me to achieve the sounds I hear in my head, I'll gladly purchase. The Geddy Lee bass preamp and KT 1176 were revelations to me and I haven't recorded my old Ampeg V4BH (which is a 100 watt version of SVT) in nearly 2 years. Plugins like Disto and Kush Audio UBK changed the sound of my mixes (IMO, for the better).

I despise sounding stale. After doing 60-70 tracks, I've generally thrown out my template and started from scratch because I get tired of the way that I "sound". Creating a new template, using different compressors, reverbs and EQ's is refreshing and inspiring, even if I'm the only person that can truly hear the difference.
Old 12th April 2018
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
#taxdeduction
Man, isn't this the truth?!

It seems like each November and December, I'm scrambling around trying to figure out gear to purchase as tax writeoffs and every year, it seems like I'm at the end of the road.
Old 12th April 2018
  #8
Gear Nut
 

1. Backline: guitars, piano, keys, percussion, drums, synths, other instruments: Fender Tele with Nashville setup, cheap PRS, mid-level Martin acoustic, Fender P-bass, a cheap ukulele, egg shaker, tambourine, djembe and a cheap guitar tube amp that I occasionally use, but it is a one trick pony and not a very good one. But it's fun sometimes!

2. Microphones: CAD M179, Gauge ECM87, and Shure SM58.

3. Mic Pre's: Built-in on Focusrite Saffire Pro DSP.

4. Outboard Gear: none

5. Monitor Controllers: volume control on Focusrite interface.

6. Control surfaces: none

7. Traditional Mixing Console: none

8. And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally: single room with (6) 2" x 24" x 48" acoustic panels.

9. Do you just stay inside your laptop / desktop apps, and export sound files?: export from Logic on iMac or MacBook Air.

10. Do you traditionally spend large amounts of cash to build up a legit room that facilitates making music?: nope

11. Where do you feel like you get the most bang for your buck when you start spending cash on your business? : the iMac was a fairly recent purchase. Plugins are bought on a semi-regular basis when I find something I think will be especially useful, or is especially discounted. I'll probably look to upgrade the Focusrite in the next year or so.

12. Will you spend money on traditional studio style gear to increase the quality of your musical output?: I'd consider it, but I'd have to weigh the anticipated ROI vs cashflow, which is very limited as I'm still at the part-time stage of building my business.
Old 12th April 2018
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

I have:

A Yamaha C5 (conservatory grand), which I maintain and record regularly.

Several mic's (around 15, I think), but I tend to use the same ones for similar tasks.

My room is well treated acoustically; I have two rooms, but I end up mixing and tracking in the same space most of the time.

Several guitars: 1998 Les Paul Classic with Seymour Duncan 57's, 90's Tele (Blade Delta), Rick 360 (stereo 12 string), 2005 Heritage 550, 1999 Takamine Haradi, 2000 Taylor 710 C, a $300 Yamaha acoustic, an old Brazilian "lady's classical" , a Lakland bass.

For amps: Maz Jr18 by DrZ, Little Laneli (1/4 watt tube amp), 1972 Fender SF Twin (first year of the master volume), 1964-65 BF Princeton NR (transition year), 1970 SF Champ. I usually record with amps, but lately have been recording direct, then reamping too (for flexibility). Cube 60 Keyboard amp, early 80's.

A LOT of guitar pedals, i see them as part of my guitar AND keys rig: Lots of vintage stuff I've had for years, including my script Phase 90, Boss Chorus, MXR 7 band graphic eq, Boss graphic eq7, new A/AD flanger (repro), , pigtronix echolution, and a bunch more I can't recall.

For keys, in addition to piano: 1979 Rhodes Mk2, Prophet 8 (10 years old now), DSI Desktop Evolver, Korg Oasys, Moog Sub37, Prophet 12 (arriving Friday ), Arturia Drum Brute (analog, so it qualifies as a synth), currently not in use are a Triton Rack, a Kurzweil K2500, a Roland JD990, and a couple of those Yamaha VM70's from the physical modeling era.

Lex PCM90 and 80 - not in use (reverbs and delays via software these days).

I/O is Omni interface with an API 3124. I use an Ashly line mixer for all the hardware synths. Outboard is 2 Summit MPC100a's, Avalon VTp747, Joe Meek SC2.2

I'm ITB, no mixer, no control surface (i'm good with pro tools shortcuts), as a composer, I like to draw automation in. Running PT12.8 HD (now called "ultimate") with lots of plug ins and soft synths as well. Monitors are Dynaudio BMa15's.

Oh yeah, and a big Gretsch 5 piece maple drum kit with K zildjian cymbals - and a whole bunch of misc percussion stuff - bells, mark trees, rain sticks, pipes, mallets ... the like.

I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff, but this is an ideal setup for me and if I need to - I can track a small group of 4 - 5 players, if I need space, I go to another studio.

I'd like to engage in two new things: a small laptop setup I can travel with, and possibly, I'm toying with it at the moment, starting a small eurorack ... the latter, a possible rabbit hole! lol.

I think that's about it.
Old 12th April 2018
  #10
Lives for gear
 
charlieclouser's Avatar
 

I've had a lot of gear over the years... a LOT. But most of that was accumulated while making records, and since then I've kept the best and ditched the rest. Most of the crusty vintage gear is gone (thankfully) - really the only vintage stuff I kept is synths, guitars, and pedals.

1. Backline: Sort of. I still have 20 or so guitars and basses, a dozen or so synths, about a van-load of drums and assorted percussion, and a few custom-made exotic instruments. A couple of guitar amps that I rarely use. Lots of pedals, and I mean LOTS - 40 of 'em powered and wired to patch bays, plus a few milk crates full in the closet. A few Pods, SansAmps and stuff like that. The cream of the crop of 30 years of synth collecting, maybe a dozen or so - Prophet VS's, Xpanders, 2600, Model D, MS-20's, stuff like that - plus the never-ending EuroRack wormhole. But no traditional "band style" backline rigs anymore. Used to have the whole shebang - JD-7 driving multiple guitar heads in the control room with multiple cabinets permanently installed with multiple mics in multiple soundproofed isolation closets. But that's for making records. I don't need that anymore.

2. Microphones: Maybe 20 that I've accumulated. Neumann, AKG, Rode, Oktava, Shure, some weird but fun stuff like Audix drum mics and Earthworks stuff. Nothing special. No vintage mics. I'll rent those if needed.

3. Mic Pre's: Neve 1084's (reissue), Cranesong Spider, UA 6176's, so that's twelve outboard plus whatever's on the audio interfaces. That's plenty. Plus two Avalon U-5 direct boxes. No vintage. Used to have the full monty - API's, vintage Neves, etc. Something was always out for repair. All replaced with current stuff.

4. Outboard Gear: Kush/UBK modified Fatso, some Distressors, UA 6176, etc. Maybe 8 channels worth of compression, a couple eq's. Some weird but useful stuff like Roland SN-700 Hum+Noise Reducer, etc. Nothing too crazy. No vintage.

5. Monitor Controllers: Built in as part of the Dynaudio AIR system. Been using monitors with AES inputs for 15 years and not going back. I dislike analog cable runs and monitor control boxes.

6. Control surfaces: Had 'em all, from Radikal SAC 2.2 to HUI to 32-fader ProControl to Mackie Controls to Euphonix and some others I've forgotten. All gone except for one PreSonus FaderPort. A single fader is plenty for me these days.

7. Traditional Mixing Console: Never again! I love mixing ITB. I prefer absolute precision and control over old-school room-heating "mojo".

8. And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally: Nope. There's a dozen great rooms within 20 miles that are begging for clients. So cheap to book a day if needed, which happens basically never. Once a year if that.

9. Do you just stay inside your laptop / desktop apps, and export sound files?: I mix inside Logic, and bounce 64 channels via MADI to a separate machine running ProTools. All mixes and stems in one real-time pass.

10. Do you traditionally spend large amounts of cash to build up a legit room that facilitates making music?: Not any more. I have done that, but eventually you have to take it all apart, and while the next one is being built you wind up doing just one gig with the bare minimum of gear propped up on card tables in the spare room and it comes out just fine (sometimes better!). I do select my houses based on how much asymmetrical concrete-n-glass space they have for tracking though. Best drums I've ever recorded came out of my living room - but to be fair it's 26 feet high and all concrete and glass, so that's no surprise. I only need to do that a couple times a year though. That said, I do spend plenty on this stuff, but it's not like I'm building out fully-floating rooms and installing wall plates in live rooms anymore. I've sent too many custom-engraved wall plates and Elco snakes to the e-waste recycler over the years!

11. Where do you feel like you get the most bang for your buck when you start spending cash on your business? : Computers, data storage, displays, audio interfaces, software and Kontakt libraries, and speakers. I do not scrimp on these, or even look too hard at the price tag. This stuff is the engine of the whole operation - and so freaking cheap these days compared to when I started. All the rest is more like chrome trim and plush seats; makes the journey more fun but not critical for getting to the destination. But if the computer side isn't on stun then I can't go anywhere.

12. Will you spend money on traditional studio style gear to increase the quality of your musical output?: I would if I thought that I needed to, but I don't, so I won't. But I already have enough of that stuff. If I was starting from scratch I'd probably end up right back where I'm at right now, gear-wise. I've pretty much found what works for me.
Old 12th April 2018
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
Best drums I've ever recorded came out of my living room - but to be fair it's 26 feet high and all concrete and glass....
See ya all later. On the way to Charlie's to record some drums...
Old 12th April 2018
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Troy Engle's Avatar
 

Here's my list in my personal order of importance:

- Backline - I've spent my whole career and musical life, searching out the finest sounding vintage and handmade instruments I could find (and afford), and I think it's a major part of my "sound". I have a friend that says I was smart by investing in great instruments, instead of in more recording gear, and I tend to agree. You can make an incredible instrument sound great through cheap gear, but it usually doesn't work the other way around. I also think any instrument you can find that is different or funky, sets you apart. No one in the world will have the same set of instruments, unlike like VST's, and therefore you'll have a unique sound. Of course, my music is 99.9% live instrument based! I also have some nice amps and pedals. The more real and analog I can get before I get into the DAW the better.

- Mic Pre's - interface pre's are good, but have recently had my eyes and ears opened to how much better things can sound though a great analog pre. I intend to buy more!

- Microphones - I don't think you have to spend a fortune these days (there is so much great inexpensive gear), but I like to have enough to mic a drum kit, and have a few different flavors, SDC, LDC, ribbon, etc. I've got 10 or so. Pairs are always handy.

- And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally -Don't think I need a trad studio, but I have a decent sounding room, that has everything setup and ready to rock at any moment. Big studios are moot if it's just you tracking, or even just overdubbing one instrument at a time.

The rest I don't use at all, but I am jonesing for some analog comps, and eq's, but the plugins will get you close.

- Outboard Gear - none
- Monitor Controllers - none
- Traditional Mixing Console-none

Thanks dr.Bill for starting this interesting thread!
Old 12th April 2018
  #13
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Great thoughts guys. THANKS! Much more detailed than I thought you all would be. This will be a cool thread......

In one way, I'm very similar to most of you in that I need to work fast, need recall and depend on computers.

On the other hand, I think I may be a freak. I'm hardcore into analog gear. Big time.

I've got 96 i/o on my HDX system, and it's all hardwired vie Elco TT bays into my outboard. Inserting any piece of my outboard into my PT mix is as easy (and actually faster most times) than inserting a plugin. And the i/o is used up with more needed. (Yes, I'm quite aware I could have spent $100k + less and owned virtually every plugin I know about with the baddest ass computer system on the planet. I know, until recently, I've been driving a beat up old car because of "gear upgrades" LOL.) The patch bays and wiring alone were astronomically expensive.

I mix hybrid ITB/Outboard. I keep all my outboard locked in it's sweet spot for recall, rarely making changes, and insert it via hardware inserts into Pro Tools. If it needs tweaking, I'll move on to a different piece of outboard. There are exceptions like the digital verbs, etc. that I can write patches to - and of course EQ's - although I try to use easily recallable ones like API's.) This hybrid mix approach has changed my world. Flipped it upside down. I know I'm still improving with every project, but the difference between mixes done now and just 5 years ago are like night and day to me.

This workflow is the reason I created the Silver Bullet with Brad McGowan @ Louder Than Liftoff. Getting "analog" back into my mixing flow has slowed things down a TAD, but it's brought so much joy back into my workflow. AND - I still get to keep the best stuff about computers and the DAW way of life.

Recent additions that have been life shaking (for mixing) : the Grace m905 monitor controller has rocked my world and I'm scared to even go back and listen to mixes done with a previous (popular) controller for fear I'll be remixing them yet again. That, and the new Miad LCPQ 4040 EQ's are literally shaking my thoughts on mixing - and especially mastering. There is no plugin in the world that can do what these do so elegantly and quickly. Adding another 2 1176 Splices is going to make life a lot faster and easier and I should have them next week. Yes, I COULD do all this with plugins. But it doesn't sound anywhere near as good. And for me, at this stage of life and career - IMO, my music is worth every penny I can spend on it as long as I still have enough to live.

t could list stuff out, but it would take me all night. The basics :

70-80 mics. Lots of vintage neumann's and gefell's.
30+ mic pre's of various genders...
Full blown studio w/ Acoustics designed by Jeff Hedback
5 Silver Bullets and 4 Chroma's (gotta have those, and they were the first step for me in abandoning ITB plugins....)
A dozen vintage to Bricasti hardware verbs
30-40 channels of compression
30+ channels of hardware EQ

A whole boatload of back line including a ton of vintage guitars and new ones, cheap ones, and specialty ones. Much like Mike P - I tend to tune them all differently and use them uniquely. And like Troy, I believe in the quality of an instrument. Vintage Martin's are my passion, and old Fender Electrics. And with all that, I can't even play guitar. Hahahaaaa! Well, just barely. A leslie 122 & 120 and blackface fenders and Emery amps are what gets used to make em loud. I need more pedals like Charlie!! LOL (Luckily I have a buddy with tons of em.)

I've still got a wall of vintage analog synths that are worth a fortune in todays market that I can't bear to get rid of. They will stay. But sadly, my 120 input D&R console is going. I will miss her.....


The outboard gets used every day. The backline as needed. The mics and the pre's are my safety blanket so that I can handle virtually any situation.

Yeah, it's an addiction, but there was a REASON I asked the question.

I get sent briefs all the time these days from publishers asking me to write a specific style like "this piece, or that piece". Some of the music is really cool. Some is very creative. Some is spot on in terms of picture.

But almost all of it SUCKS from a mixing and production esthetic. I can't help but wonder if it's all young guys who don't know the difference or if music has become so disposable that the older guys no longer care.

Most of what I hear is 2 dimensional, smashed in a bad way, murky, and has that digital mucky sludge thing going on. Yeah, I know it's possible to mix great ITB. I've done it for years. But I never want to go back. Life is too short, and mixing with real gear again is too special.

And virtual synths / instruments. Oy!....have we forgotten what real instruments sound like. Playing my old beat up baby grand almost makes me cry after playing the best sampled piano's out there. Strumming one of the Martin's is such a beautiful sound that I hardly hear in film/production music anymore.


It seems like most of the guys who responded have been doing this 2-3 decades. I know I have been. A large portion of my career was mixing for other composers, so fidelity, sound, 3D dimensionality, width, depth, etc are very important to me. Honestly, being 100% digital robbed the joy and sonics of the music so much that I ended up hating writing. But the analog dimension that's added my the hybrid approach that I use has made music fun again. It's funny, because after employing the techniques and workflow, other composers have been asking me to mix again. But I'm past that part of my life.....

Yeah, I spend 10's of thou a year on gear / instruments / etc.. But as Jeff mentioned, it kills a huge portion of my tax burden - and it's essential for how I work. My wife (probably like Sam's) has just gotten used to it.


Next up? A nice piano like Sharp11 is sporting (looking for a C6/7 with Disklavier if/when i can afford it and IF my wife will let me. That could be a battle....) and a B3 to go with the 122. Found a nice one local, but can't quite pull it right now after the m905 and EQ's.

I'd love to hear from guys rocking it on laptops who thing I'm crazy too!!!! Haha!

Last edited by drBill; 12th April 2018 at 08:09 AM..
Old 12th April 2018
  #14
Gear Addict
 

- Backline - guitars, piano, keys, percussion, drums, synths, other instruments

2 electric Guitars, 1 acoustic, 1 bass. 2 guitar amps. Bits of percusion

- Microphones - how many mics do you own to capture real instruments?

2 mics. one for vocal/acoustic instruments...one for guitar cabs

- Mic Pre's - do you use hardware or the ones in your interface(s)

1 mic pre

- Outboard Gear - compressors, EQ's, FX, Reverb, Delay's, etc.

Nothing outboard

- Monitor Controllers - like the Grace, Drawmer, Dangerous, etc..

Very basic monitor control for my Genelec speakers

- Control surfaces - like the S3, Artist Mix, etc..

Nothing..all in the box

- Traditional Mixing Console?

Nothing


- And lastly - a fully functioning studio that's set up traditionally - CRM, Live Room, etc..

Well, this is the biggest expense. I have an external studio in a studio block about 20 mins from my house. It's been properly acoustically designed and treated.
This is the single biggest expense. In London, these studios are the same price as flat rent, so it mounts up.

Same as a lot of people here..If i need a bigger live room, il hire one for the day. But most of the time I can do what I need to do in my own studio.
I use a lot of sample libraries/VSTs and record guitars live if it needs it.
If it's a paid production or film, il use lots of remote musicians..Iv got a great drummer I use and brass players. Il go record the strings somewhere. (I normally attend the sessions..as it's mainly London musicians I use)
And if it's a bigger project, il try and get someone to mix it.

So the way it's gone in the last few years..my studio has mainly become a writing/production room and a place to edit and put everything together for a final mix. So im not too bothered about collecting mics or pres...I have a very streamlined system that I like and can work very fast on.
Basically my day to day set up is...Nice speakers..Treated Room..Very fast stable computer..lots of Sample libraries and VSTs..Nice controller keyboard..and a couple of guitars here and there.
Old 12th April 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
 

There are two considerations for me...

- I'm increasingly disappointed when I can identify which sounds, especially drums and strings, were used in someone else's track. I'm hearing it more and more and it makes me want to work harder to get interesting sounds. We all use the same samples.

- Inspiration and enjoyment are becoming more important. I write tons and tons of music and I have zero interest in hearing myself execute the same ideas in the same way day in and day out. I have fun and learn something every time I track live instruments...makes me feel like I'm improving as a craftsman.

So, it's exciting to use as many live instruments as I can and to use other players whenever the budget allows. There are a bunch of good players but not many good studio options in my town so I'm considering building my space out to be a one-room studio with enough room to track live drums, string quartet, horn section, etc. More fun + fewer samples + collaborative effort = my idea of a good time.
Old 12th April 2018
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
sleepingtiger's Avatar
 

I've enjoyed this thread a lot...

I have a small commercial studio in a mid-size US city. It ain't Ocean Way but I have some nice gear and I get to work with artists I love so I feel fortunate. If you want to see my gear list it's on my website which I believe will show up at the bottom of this post.

I've also worked as a composer for the last 10 years. I've written directly for a handful of cable shows and have quite a few library albums and tracks circulating. I use live instruments as often as possible and have library albums that don't incorporate sample libraries or VIs at all. I also have a nice collection of sample libraries and VIs when needed and appropriate.

Here's the funny part: last year I did a full album for a very well regarded library that I never thought I would be able to get into and a majority of the sounds on that album are heavily manipulated recordings I made on my smartphone while out and about - all that fancy gear just sitting there at my studio with me out walking around pointing my phone at things and thinking about the possibilities. When it started turning into a nice opportunity with a cool library and I thought about how I wasn't using most of my gear I found it oddly satisfying and disappointing at the same time.

So, my whole thing now is to try not to get bogged down too much with any of it and just go with whatever is engaging my enthusiasm at the moment.
Old 12th April 2018
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

hey hey Dr. Bill,

Will break my long GS silence to chime in.

I have a decent mid-sized studio, full backline, drums, pianos, guitars, hammond, synths etc. etc.

Have solid mic-locker, plenty of pres/outboard, EMT140, 2" machine.

In the past 4 years I've transitioned from a mix of engineering, record production, scoring and producing to primarily scoring/writing.

95% of my work these days is ITB with good samples. I'll play guitars and bass. Obviously will sing or record a singer as needed. The only outboard I use these days is my Bricasti and I'm strongly considering getting another.

I'd love to use real pianos, musicians, outboard but generally the budget and more importantly timeline doesn't really warrant. Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about this and he makes a habit of trying to use something new/different/unique for each project just to keep from burning out and also to differentiate from using the same libraries as everyone else. I'm trying to pick this habit up.

On the other I hand I had a call to score the opening sequence for a cable tv show and I got it all done handily on my laptop from 2012 with computer speakers.

I'm going to be relocating my space soon and I've been thinking pretty hard about this sort of thing. I'm leaning towards having the same sort of situation as I have now with enough room to track a string quartet and then a booth or two. I will be culling through my gear and only keep what I absolutely love to have around, looking forward to having less stuff around.

Mostly so I can have fun and make my own music if life/work ever allows !

-j
Old 12th April 2018
  #18
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ehrenebbage View Post
There are two considerations for me...

- I'm increasingly disappointed when I can identify which sounds, especially drums and strings, were used in someone else's track. I'm hearing it more and more and it makes me want to work harder to get interesting sounds. We all use the same samples.

- Inspiration and enjoyment are becoming more important. I write tons and tons of music and I have zero interest in hearing myself execute the same ideas in the same way day in and day out. I have fun and learn something every time I track live instruments...makes me feel like I'm improving as a craftsman.

So, it's exciting to use as many live instruments as I can and to use other players whenever the budget allows. There are a bunch of good players but not many good studio options in my town so I'm considering building my space out to be a one-room studio with enough room to track live drums, string quartet, horn section, etc. More fun + fewer samples + collaborative effort = my idea of a good time.
Hi Ehren! Some good thoughts here. I agree on hearing the same samples over and over every time I turn on the TV. I've spent the time to develop some personal sample libraries that only I use, and it's been a worthwhile investment of my time I think. Some friends have suggested I market them, but I don't think it's worth the money. I'd rather have something uniquely mine.

Also, I agree about wanting to change things up to not get stale in our writing! It's hard to do when your'e cranking things out day and night, but I find that having my gear at my fingertips, with the patch bay well configured and at my fingertips helps alleviate that. It invites experimentation. Nothing kills a groove like having to search for the right cable, or having to crawl behind your racks just to hook something up. In addition, I'll always have a mic plugged in and ready to go.

For me, the ONE most significant workflow changeup in the last 10 years has been having all my outboard normalled through the patch bay into my Pro Tools interfaces. Being able to insert hardware into my workflow with a mouse click was a game changer for me.

Fewer Samples + Fewer Plugins = better music and superior mixes for me. But then again, I'm probably representing the dinosaur generation -- on the way out.
Old 12th April 2018
  #19
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhamburg View Post
hey hey Dr. Bill,

Will break my long GS silence to chime in.

......

Mostly so I can have fun and make my own music if life/work ever allows !

-j
Glad you did!! Good luck on making your OWN music. Like Ehren mentioned, inspiration and enjoyment are way more important for me at this stage of my career.

For me, life and career got so much more fulfilling for me when I stepped back from the Hollywood rat race, moved out of LA and started focusing on MY music for MY purposes. Oddly enough, doing that increased my bottom line as well. Weird. I was prepared to lose all clients and go into subsistance living after moving, but things are busier and better than ever.

Have Fun!!!
Old 12th April 2018
  #20
Gear Addict
Didn't read all the posts. Im a hobbyist composer. I now have a lot of hardware. However, the best songs ive written were with edirol orchestra vst, cubase, simple speakers and a 79 key midi controller. Keybed did matter. All the rest is clutter. I am eagering back to bedroom composing. More creativity. Very personal obviously
Old 12th April 2018
  #21
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
So......

Is the general trend to be trimming and DOWNSIZING?

Or are you guys in an upward trajectory - adding more PHYSICAL gear to the arsenal?
Old 13th April 2018
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 

Backline

- Guitars (Strat, Line 6 Variax, steel and nylon string acoustics, more 'mojo' type guitars in next few months, that's more for me though...), 2 hardware synths that just stay in the box going up in value hopefully. Then things like a cello bow?

- Microphones - No.

- Mic Pre's - No.

- Outboard Gear - Got some old 90s rack reverbs in my eBay watch list (SPX90, Quadraverb). Then I have a few nice pedals (Infinite Jets, Avalanche Run etc).

- Monitor Controllers - No.

- Control surfaces - No.

- Traditional Mixing Console? - Never even seen one in the flesh. I have zero traditional studio knowledge. All I know is Logic.

For me my main thing is a stable fast computer so that I can duplicate tracks for mixing purposes (instead of relying on lots of automation) and never be slowed down. Good samples, lots focused on very organic sounds to make hard to place pads etc. A very streamlined selection of plugins. Soundtoys mostly, big fan of the stock Logic plugins. Compressors all sound the same to me. Not even really keen on Omnisphere these days. Much prefer Kontakt instruments where they've sampled hardware synths. Big Reaktor user. And lastly, is a well backed up system. Each drive in my Mac Pro is cloned and ready to be swapped out within minutes. Boot drive is cloned to two drives and everything is backed up on Backblaze.
Old 13th April 2018
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
So......

Is the general trend to be trimming and DOWNSIZING?

Or are you guys in an upward trajectory - adding more PHYSICAL gear to the arsenal?
I see a couple of things emanating from this interesting thread; both support what I see in my professional work and teaching life: older composers are downsizing (and extolling the freedom it brings), and younger composers, lacking a history with large consoles and outboard, are entering the work-force already downsized - with one exception, here in the NYC area at least, young people are grabbing onto eurorack with quite the fervor.

As a 40 year veteran, I've downsized and adapted well to ITB, but I keep hardware synths, love those.
Old 13th April 2018
  #24
Backline: Lots of stringed instruments of all sorts, a few synths, a slowly evolving modular. Someday I'd love to get a piano in here.
Microphones: 8 - nothing fancy, but all functional and covers all my needs. drBill, your variation (between 70-80) is more than I even own LOL!
Mic Pres: ToneBeast, Silver Bullet, Audient ASP 880 (sadly non functional ATM)
Outboard Gear: Silver Bullet, Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph, (2) SSL 611 EQs, Bricast M7, WA-76 (for tracking only). I read about all sorts of other pieces, but I'm quite happy with what I have right now.
Monitor Controllers: Dangerous Music - why on earth a banana shaped controller?!?
Control surfaces: I flip flop between Artist Control and Faderport due to space.
Traditional Mixing Console: No interest anymore.
A fully functioning studio: I have everything in a single room right now - I'd love to have a small tracking room though.

I'm pretty much a ITB guy until final mixing; then I use the analog chain on my master (except when I work in surround of course). I've read about others who render each VI track through an analog chain, but haven't quite made that move yet... maybe on my next mix I'll give it a shot.

I had a summing gear but found it really didn't do that much for me with the way I work so off it goes.

Interesting thread!
Old 13th April 2018
  #25
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
So......

Is the general trend to be trimming and DOWNSIZING?

Or are you guys in an upward trajectory - adding more PHYSICAL gear to the arsenal?
I'm adding more gear just to have the hands-on tools. But I have this other thing in my head, im not sure if its perfectionism (which is all but perfect). And I tend to want my studio "finished" before I "can start" which is insane, but hey.... :-)

So my hardware consists mostly of synthesizers, a digital piano (that's my love, since i cannot have a real one). Control desk (bcr2000 + mackie mcu + cmc AI), 3 guitars, hurdy gurdy and some other stuff (oh, hardware fx,... because I want fx to be a part of the initial sound, not as an after thought)
Old 13th April 2018
  #26
Here for the gear
 
G.K.'s Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
So......

Is the general trend to be trimming and DOWNSIZING?

Or are you guys in an upward trajectory - adding more PHYSICAL gear to the arsenal?
Well ,
actually I started downsizing ( which means going more and more - and then nearly 99% - towards mixing ITB ) because I had to recall/recreate more and more (own) stuff from previous years/seasons . Nearly impossible with my outboard gear. (At least for me , which might be also related to my own limited skills, of course.). I also abandoned a dedicated recording room. I rather rent a recording room if necessary .
( However , downsizing does not include Mics , Guitars , Basses .)

I decided to invest and experiment with all the UAD stuff (hardware/software), trying to simulate analog sound ITB , knowing that this of course is not really 100% satisfying ; however diving into this experiment one can at least disguise the "digital sound" to a certain ( but quite high ) degree , especially when you include UAD's "Unison" technology . And , you can escape the "sound-like-everyone-else" trap , even when using samplelibraries .

Currently I own several UAD interfaces and eight UAD2-Satelite-8Core Units , and the more I work with this setup, the more I enjoy mixing again. ( No , I don't get any money from UAD for this post . )

Still , reverb is something that is definetely worth to have as outboard gear , no matter how "good" the currently available software reverb emulations might sound .


Best,

G.K.
Old 13th April 2018
  #27
Lives for gear
 
charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
So......

Is the general trend to be trimming and DOWNSIZING?

Or are you guys in an upward trajectory - adding more PHYSICAL gear to the arsenal?
I was speaking recently with Peter Grueneisen of top-shelf studio design and build firms Studio Bau:Ton and NonZero Architecture about a potential build-out in a house I was looking at. (Peter and his firm have built a significant portion of Remote Control among other big facilities.) The house in question had two giant 32x40x18 all-concrete rooms underneath, and you could put a massive live room alongside a control room the size of a small dub stage. Tasty! So Peter came and checked out the place with me, and his reaction was:

"You could build a ridiculous facility in here, but do you really need all this space?"

My reply was, "Need? No... but it would be fun, right?"

We looked at a few of his recent builds, both commercial rooms and "guest house studios" at residences, and it was clear that the trend was towards more compact and efficient setups - and the ones that felt the most inviting, the most like spaces I wouldn't mind spending long nights in, were about the size of what I've got now. Nicer and more finished, sure... but not really much bigger.

He had recently completed a ground-up build behind / below a house out in Malibu for someone I know, but I had only seen pictures and didn't have a good idea of the square footage. I remarked that the pictures looked great and that I'd be interested in something about that size. His reply was that it was only about 200sf bigger than what I'm working with now, and that extra 200sf was basically a mini-lounge area, separate to the main room.

Here I was, looking for an excuse / justification for either buying a way-too-huge house and spending big buck$ to float a couple of rooms, or doing a long and expensive ground-up build, and I'm speaking to the guy to whom I would write the checks - and he's talking me down off the ledge!

So, yeah... I think the smart money is on "just enough" space. It's one thing if you need to deal with outside clients who might need to record a full band, then a string quartet, then a horn section, then a small choir, etc., or if you need multiple separate rooms for your legion of minions, but.... with amazing rooms like The Bridge and many others, you can just walk in with your ProTools session and walk out with amazing recordings - and you don't have to worry about whether all 24 of your vintage mic preamps are working that day.

Check out the Harry Gregson-Wiliams video on the Spitfire "cribs" page - it's pretty compact compared to the massive setup he used to have.

The trend towards less square footage appears clear. The gear trend (and spending), on the other hand, seems to never end!
Old 13th April 2018
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 

The idea of working in somewhere that looks like it's close to being a facility sounds a bit weird if I was on my own all the time. I like the idea of isolation and not worrying about noise, but there's still part of me that likes the idea of a house looking like it's half lived in and half set up to do what I do day in day out.

It's a long way off, but your space Charlie especially (and a few other guys in Topanga such as Nick South) are my 'space' inspiration for my plan to move to LA from London. I like lots of concrete, minimalism, but nice views and sun hitting walls through windows. I'm never gonna find a live/work space like that in London. Detached properties are rare and I'm awake at all sorts of hours.
Old 14th April 2018
  #29
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
The trend towards less square footage appears clear. The gear trend (and spending), on the other hand, seems to never end!
That's it in a nutshell Charlie. When I built out my current room, Jeff Hedback (acoustician/designer) and I started with a ground up separate building as I had purchased property with 2 acres expressly so that I could build a free standing studio. After a lot of soul searching, we downsized and built inside the existing structure - into the guest suite wing of the house. Even with the gear conundrum, I passed on putting in my LFAC and went instead with a mastering style desk from Sterling Modular.

With my hybrid approach to mixing, I actually like it better.

Smaller is good. Up to a point. I do wish my room was a bit larger. I have a bathroom, a machine room, and a control room which is really all I need. But I wish I had more storage, an amp closet, and maybe a vocal iso room. I do have a nice live room in the "dining" area of our house with tall ceilings that sounds phenomenal for drums and/or smaller ensembles, but it is a disruption to everyone else in the house when I use it. Luckily, I can get by with most recording in the CRM. I've worked that way for years, even though I prefer a separate live room.

Pics below of the studio when I finished the buildout - as it appeared in the Mix Magazine "rooms of 2016" layout - less the custom acoustical shutters Jeff designed and built for me which were installed almost a year late due to technical (wood cracking) difficulties.

It's waaay messier now, and there's a few more racks of gear in it now. LOL I think my wife is glad I downsized the room, as there's not much space for me to grow out.

Little does she know of my secret plan for a C7 and B3 in the "dining" / live room. And like you, I fear the gear spending has no end in sight.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
but nice views and sun hitting walls through windows.
I hear ya Amber, and beyond wanting a facility with superior acoustics, my primary concern was for LOTS of natural light - and it was a thing that several acousticians shut me down on. Then I found Jeff H. Once I clued Jeff into the reason I bought this property in the area it's in, my view out the windows, etc., he totally "got it" and now I have tons of natural light and sunshine about 280 days a year. And for the other 70 or so, I get to watch the monsoon lightning storms or snow showers.... Something I lived without for close to 20 years in my last room in LA. It's exhilarating! A joy to work in the studio now.
Attached Thumbnails
From a Composer's perspective - how important is it.....-bill-studio-6.jpg   From a Composer's perspective - how important is it.....-bill-studio-7.jpg   From a Composer's perspective - how important is it.....-bill-studio-8.jpg  

Last edited by drBill; 14th April 2018 at 05:24 AM..
Old 14th April 2018
  #30
Lives for gear
 

What a great environment to work in. Sophisticated and simplistic at the same time.

After testing literally hundreds of software emulations the only ones which truly generates this analog vibe in software land are the processors from Acustica Audio. In my opinion, of cause.

Have you tried them and if yes what's your experience with them?

Thanks.
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