Who's Making Music?!


Does anyone else enjoy laying and mixing tracks of music to just experiment and play with how different instruments interact with each other? I began taking the B2B course so that I could play bass lines to the drum tracks that I create on the Alesis, and also the rhythm tracks that I lay using one or more of my acoustic or electric guitars. I’m not even close to being what most would consider ‘good’ at any of it, but hey, I’m retired and the only competition I have to deal with is “Myself”…

One of my latest ‘finds’ during a Saturday of Garage Sales around the Macon Georgia area (Home to the Allman Brothers) was an entry level interface. What I was doing before using an interface was plugging my instruments directly into the USB port on my MBP. So, for a single ‘Jackson’, I picked up an M-AUDIO M-TRACK C series interface. It didn’t have the software, and does show a little use, but hey,… it works like a charm!

Recording has now become even MORE fun, and being able to lay simple clean clear bass lines makes it even better!

I haven’t had this much fun since 1972 when I pulled R&R liberty in Kaoshiung, Taiwan!

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My best friend from college and I are passing Audacity tracks back and forth. He’s actually kept our band alive this whole time. It’s super fun to get back in to it.

Back in the day I was probably the main sound engineer and software guy for our band (I was the keyboards player so it made sense, all my stuff was deeply intertwined with Master Tracks) and so I am actually fighting the urge to go deep on gear now. That said I do have a nice DAI and also an inexpensive but workable effects processor.

I want to turn him on to macs because GarageBand is just so much more capable than Audacity. The instruments alone make it worth it, and for simple stuff the robot drummers are easier than doing the drum machine programming yourself because a lot of the generated riffs are close to what you wanted anyway.

Might have to go with Cakewalk if he wants to stay PC only.

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You’ve got a nice little set-up there @Lanny - I especially like that you have a window onto a lovely garden. Very tranquil looking.

I’ve been thinking about something like this recently. My pal is only 30 miles up the road but we only see each other every other week, though we chat/text every day. He’s quite the acoustic guitar player and has a lovely voice, so I thought we could do some writing between us at a distance. GarageBand would be my choice too but he doesn’t have access so he’d have to lay down his track for me to incorporate then send back a sound file.

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I love this kind of stuff. I must say I’m much more motivated musically by studio work than live playing (even if I like live playing too :slight_smile: ).

I have a bunch of songs that I would love to record (mostly post-metal), but my problem is the drum machine. I don’t play real drum (I tried but I suck) and I never managed to find a convenient and efficient way to program a drum machine. As I’m almost a bass badass now :laughing: I guess my next learning subject will be about drum machines.

a little bit off-topic : @Lanny I like your P/J Yam. I’m not much into modern instruments (don’t know why) but I like this one !

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You might want to check out the drummers in GarageBand/Logic. Its drum sequencer interface is also one of the better ones.

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I’m on PC/Windows :roll_eyes:

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Agree with @PeteP - very nice setup you got there, @Lanny! Still, it looked a bit “weird” to me on first glance, but that is because I always expect to see a keyboard (the one with the white and black keys) in such a setting - for me, it just seems “natural” to have a keyboard as one of the main input sources… but, of course, if you are a guitar or bass player, you don’t need that…

I want to go back to recording more music again, and with all the tools available today, it should be a breeze. Inspired by @howard’s Audacity file swapping, I tried to get my old music buddy interested in starting something similar. Unfortunately, while he is a killer keyboarder and composer, he’s got some issues with his eyes, and working in front of a computer screen for more than an hour straight is not possible for him anymore.

So, I might have to do what others also hinted at: play all that I can myself and then use help from modern software to fill in those parts I can’t play. That’ll probably mean I’ll have to compromise to some extent, but it beats just consuming other people’s music :smile:

Btw, there is a German guy, MSM Schmidt, who has a dayjob at an insurance company (so, almost the definition of “a bit boring”), but likes to compose fusion stuff in his spare time. He composes all his music on a workstation (Cubase or the like) and by chance got a German jazz drummer to play the drums for a few of his tracks and then helped him to get in touch with other US/European top musicians, who chimed in with providing smoking tracks to the various compositions. Anyway, quite inspiring to see an amateur composition project being supported and brought out to shine by pros (http://www.msm-schmidt.com).

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Thats kinda what I’m doing with one of my Old Navy buddies who plays lead that I’ve played with for years, and with my brother in law who plays drums. Just pass tracks back and forth between each other.

I have to agree @howard, that it’s a ton of fun recording, and it actually helps keep all of us (we’re all retired) active with our music.

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I do want to add a keyboard down the road @joergkutter, just not sure what I really wanna get right now. I’ve been through several and they pretty much all eventually ended up with either my kids or grandkids. Right now ‘space’ is a key factor for me since the room I use to play and record in also doubles as my gun and ammo build room (I also build custom guns and reload ammunition). I do have some ideas though, one of which would be to incorporate a sliding shelf under my workbench that a keyboard could sit on, be pulled out when needed, and just pushed back in when not in use… Hmmmm. Maybe I need to fire up the table saw…

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Thanks @PeteP… Country life… I live at the end of a red dirt road out in the country, no neighbors, and have plenty of space to do as I please… Tranquility is certainly a key component into creativity… at least it is for me… Not to mention that sometimes when some of my music buddies visit and we decide to do a little ‘Outdoor Jamming’…

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Thanks @terb… The 174EW does have a little wider neck - in fact, it’s 1/8” wider then the 304. I’ve got the 174 set up with a Babitz bridge and 105-45 nickel round-wounds, while I have the 304 set up with a Hipshot Kick-Ass bridge and 100-45 half-rounds. Two completely different bass sounds… Love it…

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I’d like to try a Babicz bridge on my Precision. In fact I’d like to try a lot of different bridges, because this birdge-upgrade-thing is very murky to me.

These times, several friends asked me to create and record basslines for their songs. That’s cool, I always accept (even if I don’t like the songs) because it’s studio work and I love studio work. But sometimes I feel the P lacks sustain. don’t know really if a bridge swap would help. the thing is I like an instrument to be as resonant as possible, and there is something on this P that doesn’t make it resonate as much as it could. I don’t want to change the tone, I want my P still sounds like the P it is … but I want it to resonate ! the more the better !

I even ask myself if it would be a good idea to convert it to string-thru body. (I don’t mind drilling holes in a USA-made Fender, if it makes it better)

Anyway those modern Yamaha basses are really cool. I don’t like the body shape very much but it’s OK. I own myself an old Yamaha bass and it’s amazingly cool. I also used to have a Tele-like Yamaha guitar, it was more than decent. I think this brand makes really great (and possibily underrated) instruments.

Nice choice !

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@terb, know what you mean… I went with the Babicz because that’s the bridge I use on all my Telecasters. They’re great bridges (with a price tag to match), but I wasn’t as impressed with it on my 174 as I wanted to be so went with a less expensive Hipshot that I really LOVE on my 304. If I were to do it all over again, I’d go with the Hipshot KickAss on both. For me, full contact bridges seem to work well for resonance, but then again, (IMHO) there are several other components that also contribute to the mix. Unlike the Babicz, the Hipshot allows for side to side saddle adjustments for each string - something that I do believe helps for a cleaner transfer of sound and resonance from the string to the body - just my opinion…

I’ve noticed that on both of my Yam’s that I did have to spend quite a bit of time setting them up - even fresh outta the music store. Since we all play a little different, I’ve never really shoveled out the coin to have someone else set my instruments up and always elected to do it all myself. Hell, there’s always a couple small Allen wrenches within reach for me to adjust (fine tune) string height at any time. I do get a little better resonation from my round wound strings then my half rounds, but then again, we all pluck strings a little differently when we play - the true diversity of a the bass.

At least on my Yammies, the action is set a little different on both - but then again, both use different pickups, strings, and bridges, etc. Also both have a little different setting on the truss along with different settings for string height. Since I’m a bit light fingered on my strings, I typically set action a bit on the low side (especially on the 304 with half rounds) and instead of using any ‘gauge’ to set any string height or neck bow, I simply use the lowest settings I can get by with without causing that annoying string buzz.

Oh, I’ve also had to adjust pickup height on both Yams and do just a tad bit of jeweler file work on a couple spots on a couple of the frets which allowed me to get a more consistent string height setting across the entire fretboard. Guess I’ve rambled on enough… Time to do another B2B lesson…

Good Luck!

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Yeah Bill, totally agree, I also did a full setup on my P. In fact I totally disassembled it (for the custom color paint job), changed the pickup, modified a bit the electronics, reassembled, changed the string gauge, setup everything.

Currently the bass is setup with light strings (40-95 stainless steel round wound) but I will change very soon for 40-100 (nickel round wound). The action is intentionally set up a little bit low, I don’t mind having a bit fret noise as I play mostly with a pick in slightly saturated amp setting. In fact I like this subtle fret noise. It’s freaking raw and wild, and it matches well with what I play.

The bridge-thing is a rabbit hole for me. As we’re both Telecaster players we can talk about that. on my #1 I love the stock steel bridge with 3 steel saddles and obviously string-thru. Again, that’s not the best absolute bridge but that’s raw and wild (and my #1 Tele is sooooo raw and wild !). I tried high-end Tele bridges like Calaham and things like this, but I’ve always returned to the stock steel thing. I also tried 6 saddles bridges but, no, they don’t work. too shy. I want it raw and wild.

Don’t know what to do with the P. I love the way it plays and sounds. well again I like it raw and wild : the Precision is the bass equivalent of the Telecaster, it’s good for me. But there is this little something, I would like this P to be more “living”. Not to say it doesn’t resonate ! but the more the better. Raw and wild, I said ! :grin:

Don’t know what to do, and I don’t have enough money left to buy and try a lot of bridges.

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@terb,… Here’s some close up photos of both bridges…

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thanks @Lanny ! I don’t like the look of the Babicz but that’s not my primary concern. I might give a try with the Fender Hi-mass.

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So, getting back to the main topic here… :grinning:

I think the trickiest part will always be the drums! Programming drums is cumbersome if you want to make it feel “natural” or “human”. But, it might be the only way, if you have lots of breaks, odd meters, meter changes etc. Garageband is awesome, but it is limiting, creatively.

I could play the drums myself (that is one of the instruments I used to play in a band a while back), but honestly, recording (real) drums is a nightmare. So, then, it is pads and other similar input devices for drumming. When I tried them 20 years ago, I wasn’t convinced, they just didn’t feel natural in their response and feedback. But, maybe things have changed significantly since then - maybe I should check them out one of these days…

In any case, I’d be curious to hear how others tackle in particular the issue with drums when recording/making your own music?!

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Couldn’t agree more @joergkutter. GarageBand IS limiting in that you really have no control over incorporating various other sounds into specific areas of the track. I ran into this awhile back when I heard cowbells in a small section of a song and couldn’t do anything about it within the application… Frustrating - especially when you know it’s in the song but can’t do anything about it as far as recreating…

What I started doing most recently (and why I picked up an interface) was to plug my Alesis drum machine into the interface, then into my MBP. I load a copy of the original song into GarageBand as it’s own tack and then use the built in equalizer filters to filter out as much as I can in order to get to some raw drum sounds. I then try to match what ever single sound I plan to record (I always start with the Kick), and then lay one track with just that one drum sound. I continue to do this for the Tom’s, Snare’s, HiHat, etc one at a time on individual tracks. Kinda time consuming, but it’s all I got to work with and it does work pretty well - at least for me. Most times I’ll have at least 4 - 5 tracks that are nothing but individual drum tracks before I lay my Bass and Rhythm guitar tracks. Since my old Navy buddy plays lead guitar WAY better than me, I send him the track and he then works his magic…

I guess I’ve found that looking at a drum kit as several “different instruments” and recording each as such makes it much easier to build songs - besides, I don’t play drums either, however,… I can certainly push a button on a drum machine…

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Wow, that does sound very time-consuming, @Lanny!

I am, however, not quite sure, I completely understand… So, you are re-creating the drum track as it was originally played on a recorded version of that song?? I presume, it is a song you played (with your band) many years ago and now you want to re-create, re-record it? Is that what you are doing?

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thanks :sweat_smile:

yeah, that’s freaking tricky :grimacing:

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