Enough with the complaining about hosting, while I am sure I will again blog about the sad state of affairs in that realm, today I want to talk about something fun.
I have been a guitar player since 1983 or so. I got a late start, in my last year of high school, so I wasn’t a child prodigy or anything, but I had long wanted to play, and guitar was the cool thing.
Many stepping stones, lessons learnt, and gear came and went, but one thing I always wanted, but never really pulled the trigger on was recording gear. I remember the wonder of working with my guitar instructor who had borrowed one to record a demo for his band, and just how cool it was. A standard cassette tape, two sided, each side had a stereo recording, so by the magic of electronics, if you had the right gear, you could record 4 distinct tracks separately on a single, commodity cassette tape.
If I recall, the Tascam Portastudio was dope, and the Fostex was the affordable (ha ha ha) version. It was $600 or so in 1988 dollars, and since it didn’t make sound, tone, or big noise, I never pulled the trigger.
I always regretted that decision to not splurge, to not whip out the plastic and buy.
Fast forward to May 2015. I received a most generous gift from my sister and her spouse for my 50th birthday, a $300 gift card for Guitar Center. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with it, as I have had plenty of guitars (and lately I have been trimming the collection to a more reasonable size), and my two trusty amps are well aged, but still quite serviceable.
Do I buy some stomp pedals? Look for a smaller wattage practice amp (I will admit that the Fender Super60 is a bit loud in my man-cave)?
Then it dawned on me. I never did get that recording gear that I so lusted over.
Of course, today, you don’t use magnetic tape, and analog signals, you record to your computer, and do all your mixing there.
With 300 bones burning a hole in my pocket, I went to Guitar Center in San Jose, and bought a Presonus Audiobox 44VSL, a USB based digital IO box that does a damn fine job getting my sound into the recording software, and came with good software.
Of course, I could have just gotten an 1/4″ into 1/8″ cable, and plugged right into my Mac and used Garage Band, but it appears that the external converter is the way to go, and provides great flexibility.
Much playing around with it the first couple of days, avoiding reading the manual, and just turning dials, and adjusting the inputs, I learnt some good things.
- This digitizer has something called VSL, that lets you listen to the signal and the other tracks. In studio parlance, it is a monitor, so you can hear your tracks, as you are laying down new material. Not sure if this is unique (probably not) but it is super helpful. I can mix the instrument in, with the monitor out, and balance it with a twirl of a physical knob. Cool.
- Using headphones for your monitor sucks. A couple of days of this and I sported down for some powered studio monitors. As the Donald would say “It’s yuuuuuuuuge”. Takes some getting used to, as unlike when I am jamming with my amp, volume isn’t your friend, but balance is.
- Both the bundled software (Studio One) and Garage Band have tons of signal processing capabilities. Amp models, effects, etc. are a palette with which to color your sound and tone. I am still experimenting, and enjoying the game. However, I would bet my last dollar that I will end up going back to my Line 6 Pod for the tone.
- My internal time keeping is, uh, rusty. Yeah, early on, I played with a metronome, and got pretty good of keeping time, but when my daily practice regimen disappeared, my sense of time and pace quickly went to hell in a hand-basket. I need to begin some disciplined practice again.
- I am having a lot of fun playing again for the first time in a long time. Yes, the cobwebs are there, and the arthritis is a painful reminder of my youth, but this is giving me hope to continue.
I don’t yet have anything that I want to share, as I sound awful, but in a week, I have been able to tell an improvement, so with some more elbow grease, and head’s down practice, I am hopeful to lay down some simple tracks. Perhaps take some of the tunes I have written, and noodled over the years (decades really) and turn them into full pieces.
I do have some additional items I want to add:
- A good Shure microphone and stand to capture the acoustic guitars.
- a simple synthesizer, to do some keyboard noodling. I always wanted to do some keys, but never had the space or the time to do it.
- Better line 6 gear. I think my Pod is from 2004 or so, and I am sure the newer stuff is better. 🙂
While at first I wasn’t sure what to spend the gift card on, the outcome has been a pleasant surprise. It is like going back to 1988, but not having to live with crappy cassette tape, and primitive electronics. The world is a great place now.