So, I’ve got a bunch of projects going on. And lately I’ve been making good progress on two of them.
The electronic/metal project is going well. It’s looking like it’ll be an EP. I’ve worked out a workflow where I compose and record with Maschine and then edit and mix in Cubase (starting using the new version this year).
I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Maschine over the years. I love the hardware and integration with software. The more I use it, the more I appreciate how well designed it is. The sounds are superb – the included samples, the drum synths and the integration with Massive, Reaktor, etc. And it’s really fast and fun to start working on a track. But each time I start using it, I also get frustrated with a few things. Integration with a DAW feels clumsy because there are two timelines going on, or I have to insert MIDI clips in Cubase to trigger Maschine scenes. And while the pattern-based approach is great for starting a track, it’s got it’s limitations. It’s fiddly to do one-off edits or variations (such as drum fills or buildups). It’s even more fiddly to add or remove individual bars from sections. It really resists melodies that start before the beginning of a section. And while recording live performances works reasonably well, editing them is… Let’s just say you don’t want to do that.
So as much as I’d love to use Maschine for a lot of the vocal electronic/pop work I do with other artists, it just doesn’t fit with my workflow. I usually do preproduction with the artist/vocalist on a keyboard, acoustic piano or guitar and record a demo linearly to a click. Everything else gets built up around that demo recording. Sometimes that includes adding or removing bars or sections. But very often the very first recording for a project is the full length of the song. A lot of the composition is done before getting anywhere near a computer.
This time, however, I’m working differently. I’m doing the composition using Maschine as the instrument (in stand-alone mode, instead of a keyboard or guitar). I’m not working with a vocalist. I can choose to restrict my melodies to exclude anacruses. I’m also recording guitar into Maschine. No, I can’t edit my performances, but it’s my own project so I have the luxury of taking extra time to practice and record as many takes as I need. And I can come up with a well-developed instrumentation and a pretty good skeleton for the song structure. I then render the multitracks and bring them into Cubase, where I can do detailed edits and mix.
I’ve also entered the final stages of writing my book. It’s written primarily for artists – musicians who write, record and perform their own music. It’s about making art that matters and connecting with a supportive audience. The book itself is based on several years of talking to artists every day and helping them with understanding their place in society. The conversations I’ve been having with artists have steadily been becoming more complex and nuanced, and so I started to realise that what I have to say requires a medium with more scope and consideration than a blog post, email or verbal conversation. The book will be fairly substantial – approximately 15,000 words. And I’m aiming to have it released at the start of February. It’s a pretty big undertaking and I’m looking forward to getting it out.