Gear: Homebase and Mobile

My equipment for home recording and composing has been diminished to the bare essentials that allow me to create music quickly with a solid sound.

I have put aside the Protools, Cubase and Ableton stuff for now, although they are all excellent examples of music making software and probably used by most artists both pro and not.

I’m not sure if I’ve taken a step backward or sideways here, but I’ve gone for something that allows me to plugin my guitar, keyboard and microphone, hit record, and just go track after track, overdub after overdub until I’ve finished recording the entire song without opening a user’s manual, switching pages or searching for extra plugins or add ons.

I have found this in one of the simplest D.A.W.’s out there today.  Mackie’s Traction 3.  Everything and I mean, everything is there on one single page. Just drag and drop, midi or wave files, VST effects and instruments, then mix it all and save. Simple and effective. I love it

Once again, my mastering has been taken to it’s simplest form. We all know that this final act is probably one of the most crucial for any musical recording. If you really want to get this right, you should take your files to a pro, because more than the software or the hardware, you need the “ears” that understand where to take your sound.

Quite frankly good mastering is very expensive. Don’t be fooled by those adverts that say they’ll master a song for $20 dollars. That’s a no can do!

They will master your stuff with generic auto presets. You can do this at home by yourself.

I do!

Using T-Racks 3. It has all the presets you need to get the most out of your sound, quickly. And then if you feel you have the ears, this software has enough little knobs, sliders and effects to make you master like a pro anyway. But let me repeat…you need the ears above all else!

My official guitar at the moment is the Epiphone Goth G-400. A lovely little guitar that weighs nothing and makes a big fat sound. It’s an SG copy made for a real rockers and some may in fact find it to be not very versatile for other types of music.

Epiphones are made by the same people who make Gibson (in fact they’re owned by Gibson), they only have smaller price tags. I drive the guitar sounds using GTR3 or Guitar Rig 4 on recordings, depending on which sound I’m looking for. If it’s live playing, I use whatever’s in the house. Beggars can’t be choosers.

As for other electrics, you more or less know what I’ve used on older recordings. Yes those two. The famous ones.

I still use my 6-string acoustic made by Arrow on recordings, which I’ve had for about 20 years now. I think Arrow has since disappeared. The guitar which is an Ovation type design is still in perfect shape and keeps in tune like no other!

I also use a midi keyboard by Pro Keys to drive Steinberg’s Hypersonic 2 software for all piano, synth and string sounds.

I mic up the vocals with either a Behringer B1 or Shure SM58, good all round microphones. I monitor sounds using AKG Headphones, specifically the K77 budget model.

For mixing I use Empire and Philips monitor speakers to get a grasp of the all round home sound.

Ultimately I mix specifically for headphone sound, as today everybody listens to music on iPods and such like.
Stereo systems for cars and homes are all but obsolete. So keep that in mind when mixing and mastering other than dance hall stuff.

In fact sometimes my music sounds quite wierd through home hi-fi speakers, and I have to remind myself that it’s not been mixed for that!

At the end of the day all this stuff is driven by a simple Focusrite Saffire interface to a Hewlet Packard Pentium Dual Core CPU 2.20GHz with 4 giga ram and a 22″ monitor.

Lastly, through all my software changes, which have been countless in the last few years, there will always be a place for Steinberg’s Wavelab, a utility that’s almost always on my desktop.

So as you can see the setup is very simple and cost effective. But it gets the job done quickly…anywhere! At home, on the bus, in a hotel room and live!

These are real musicians tools…not a producer’s technical dream ( or nightmare, depending which side of the desk you occupy!)