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Docked and iLok’ed out of my comfort zone

twin-monitorsJuly was a trying month, one way and another, featuring more than its fair share of computer problems.  After my Vista PC finally stopped trying, I quickly tired of plugging all the bits of kit into my Windows 7 laptop that used to be permanently hanging from the Vista tower, so I bought myself a docking station.  Theoretically, this had a triple benefit – only one USB cable needed to plug everything in, I’d have more USB ports so I could set up my external hard drives permanently and I could use the now-redundant monitor as an extension to the desktop.  Where was the downside?

The words “plug and play” now evoke something of a hollow laugh. [Read more…]

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Hasta La Vista, Baby

windows_vista_logoFor a while now, I’ve been running two computers – my main “home” computer has been a tower system and I’ve had a laptop for making music, as the tower wasn’t up to running much in the way of music software any more, being  7 years old and, more pertinently, as it was running Windows Vista 32 Bit. However, it was still perfectly adequate for running Office, casual surfing of the net and reading e-mails, (although my Outlook file had grown to such a size that any new e-mail took more than a few seconds to open).   A couple of weeks ago, it wouldn’t boot at the first time of asking, throwing a DOS disk error, but like a fool, I ignored this harbinger of doom.  Well, not quite – I did something worse and, with hindsight, something that could have been monumentally stupid.

[Read more…]

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Spotify – comparing oranges with Apple?

spotify_logo_smallThere’s been a lot of press in the last few days over Taylor Swift’s decision to withdraw her 1989 album from Apple’s iTunes, due to the non-payment of royalties during the trial period of their new streaming service.   Given the preponderance of her fanbase amongst the younger, more IT savvy generation, (and I know, I’m taking two of them to see her in Manchester tomorrow), that must have been a decision that hurt Apple, so fast was their about turn.  And I can see where she’s coming from with that – non-payment of royalties due is definitely wrong.  But that got me thinking about a previous decision of hers that also hit the headlines, her decision to withdraw her catalogue from Spotify.  And I don’t think that decision stacks up. [Read more…]

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It’s March? Already?

YouTubeLogo300It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, as I’ve been distracted by real life and other projects, but I’m hoping to catch up with myself this month.  The big thing, (for me, at least), is that the YouTube channel continues to thrive, with the number of views having gone through 100,000 during February and, as I post this, I now have over 900 subscribers.  Compared with some, this is definitely small beer, but I’m happy that it continues to grow and that I am getting positive feedback on what I do.

One of the things that’s kept me busy has been climbing the learning curve from Cubase 7 to Cubase 8.  I’ve upgraded and am currently working through the process to drag the standard installation back from the “dark side” to my preferred colour scheme.  I’m almost there and, once I am satisfied it’s up and running and that everything is going well, then there’ll be a few videos to chronicle the process for those who take even longer than me to upgrade to the latest version.

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Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, George Harrison… and EZKeys?

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There was comment on one of my YouTube videos a few weeks ago that got me thinking.  The video was about using the Cubase Chord Track with Toontrack’s EZKeys, and the general thrust of the comment was “that’s fine for people who can’t play”.

One of the things I’ve set out to do with the songs I’m recording at the moment is, for the most part, to avoid my own clichés and to try to think, (and play), outside the constraints of my comfort zone.  For a guitarist, I’m a passable piano player, but I’m no Rick Wakeman, so EZKeys gives me the ability to record a higher quality piano part than I could achieve on my own, either by playing or simply writing in the notes. [Read more…]

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Adding a Solid State Drive (SSD) as an audio drive

mx100-2-5-ssdOne of the main upgrades that you can do to improve the performance of a computer is to replace the collection of spinning metal plates that make up your hard disk with something that has no moving parts at all – a Solid State Drive or SSD.  Although my PC is well specc’d for a laptop – 6GB of RAM, 750GB hard disk and Core i7 processor – that drive is a 5,400rpm model.  Which, for most things you’d use a laptop for, is fine, but not for audio, as the normal recommended speed is 7,200 rpm, which is not that common as an OEM component.  However, my laptop also comes with a spare 2.5” drive bay, so I installed a 512GB SSD drive as a second drive yesterday.  Normally, people install an SSD as a replacement for their primary drive, to get fast boot and load times for programs, but I had different priorities.  I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for Cubase to load, but it’s once I open a project that the hard drive really starts to get stressed.

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On not paying the price

UltrachannelScreenshot3As something of a prelude to Monday’s video on YouTube, (in which I will show how to build up a sound selection of legitimate plugins without the necessity of paying full price), I wanted to highlight a couple of current offers that weren’t available when I recorded the video, but are time limited:

Native Instruments summer upgrade – I talk in the video about how NI sometimes have sales, well here’s proof. Available for the next week, existing users of NI software have the opportunity to upgrade to the latest version or crossgrade their product to Komplete, all for 50% off. The prices are still a bit on the eye-watering side, but if you’re in the market for an upgrade, now is your chance.

At the other end of the scale, Eventide are offer their new UltraChannel channel strip, (which will retail at $249) after the offer ends, for FREE, until July 8th. You will need to have an iLok account, (although not an iLok itself), in order to download the license key, but that’s a small price to pay for such a well-configured plugin. It’s available in VST, AU and AAX versions for both Windows PC and Mac.