Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

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Too often today I see many musicians, magazines and web sites telling you about some amazing new piece of software or hardware thats going to magically make you into this amazing producer/sound engineer complete with this amazing new sound it can produce. Basically adverts trying to sell you equipment and I think a lot of musicians fall for this and buy into products they don’t really need. Too often I see musicians who have used vast amounts of kit to get a specific sound, they have hard drives full to the brim with plugins and VSTis or rooms filled with hardware. Every other day some new software is out and you see people on internet message boards more concerned with having the latest piece of kit rather than actually getting down to creating music.

Yet when I listen to some of todays music even though the newest equipment is being used it still doesn’t sound any better than music that was produced 10 - 15 years ago. One of my favourite bands of all time is The Prodigy and Liam Howlett’s production skills are amongst some of the best I have ever heard. Take the Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation album for example, it is now 13 and a half years old, yet it sounds as if it could have been made yesterday. Now this doesn’t seem to fit in with what these adverts seem to be telling me. For years of improvements in equipment the benefits in sound quality seem to me to be incredibly small. Maybe it is not what you’ve got to produce music with, but rather how you use it?

This led me on to thinking do musicians and sound engineers (electronic music based) rely on too much equipment? What would happen if I reduced the amount of kit I use? what would my music sound like?

I then thought the best way of putting my point across in this post would be to actually make a track. So I created a list of kit I will use for a track to really limit myself in what I could use…

  • One Shure SM57 Microphone.
  • Audacity (A free open source, sound editor)
  • A Sampler (I used the NN-XT within Reason).
  • A Drum Machine (I used Redrum within Reason, this is basically a sampler like above).
  • Only the basic effects/processing of Reverb, EQ, Delay, Compression and Distortion.
But that’s not all, I also decided I would limit myself in the sounds I could use…

  • NO samples, samples CDs, or any that I have created before.
  • NO sounds other that what I can create with my own mouth.
This basically means no synthesizers, no recording of any intruments or other objects, no other body parts like hand claps. Just the oldest sound creation device us humans have, my mouth and voice (And I’m not a singer or a beatboxer). So basically I was limited to my voice, a microphone, a sampler and some basic effects (To me that is extremely limited set of tools).

And here is the track I produced

Download MP3 from EdwardCufaude.com

I have to say, I had loads of fun producing this track and it came together quite quickly (I only spent about 8-10 hours including recording the samples). I believe that considering the way I limited myself, I was amazed at the wide variety of sounds that could be produced, I was also amazed at how I made it so electronic sounding. Using this method has made me rethink about the way I produce music for the better. I will never again say or think that I don’t have the equipment to produce a sound I like.

I do think that yes a musician can have too much equipment and I would advise anyone to have a go at limiting yourself, you might be pleased with the results. Too much equipment may actually hinder you rather than help you. It will make you a better producer and if you can make the music you want by limiting yourself, when you un-limit yourself again you may just find that your music has taken a giant leap forward.

And I have also released all the samples I used which are available here.

Download from RhythmCreation.com

Copyright Info For Music and Samples
Track provided free under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported Licence. For the full terms of this license click the image button below.

Creative Commons License

Samples are released under the Creative Commons NonCommercial Sampling Plus 1.0 Licence. (Free to use and change for non-commercial uses). For the full terms of this license click the image button below.

Creative Commons License.

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Every computer musician needs to have in their collection of tools a audio editor to be able to see and edit the waveform of their sound files as well as record straight in via their soundcard from an external source. Audacity is an open source/free piece of software developed by a group of volunteers and distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

When you start Audacity you will see that it doesn’t look amazing and whilst some of the paid for alternatives have more features, Audacity has some amazing features which can certainly be a benefit to musicians and what Audacity does, it does well. Check out their feature list. Audacity is certainly a great add-on application for users of programs like Propellerheads Reason as they can then go and edit, cut-up and tweak samples. It may not have all the features and plugins of programs like Soundforge but it certainly can do the everyday stuff and I would certainly recommend it to musicians on a budget or anyone who doesn’t need those extra features.

What is good about Audacity
  • It’s Free/Open Source Software
  • Its fast (at loading, editing, zooming etc)
  • Easy to use and simple layout
  • Multiple operating systems supported
What is bad about Audacity
  • I’m not keen on the look of the interface (Not that it matters)
  • It is missing a few features of paid for applications (But it’s free)
You can download Audacity from The Audacity web site.

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