The old tools are the best tools...

music studio

It´s funny how one´s musical aspirations become all frisky when you take on board the potential offered by a new leap in computer performance. Loads more number-crunching power means I can do loads more things more quickly. That´s the usual mind-set. And yet, while prepping a remix of a client´s heavy metal tracks the other day, I found myself reaching for the same old tools and using them in the same old ways.

I recall, way back when, the excitement generated by such programs as Cubase for Audio and Cakewalk Pro and their simultaneous audio/MIDI-handling capabilities, as mentioned in a recent FM retrospective on issue 7. And there was a new buzz to be had every time developments at Intel or Apple led to more powerful computers becoming available. This, accompanied by each new version of such programs as Logic, Cubase, Reason and the like, was enough to keep one´s ambitions continually ramping up, with ever more outrageous musical concepts becoming ever more feasible.

I´ll confess that I reached a fuse-blowing moment a few days ago, what with Cubase 4 to master and Live 6 to shake down in the usual magazine-deadline-looms-so-get-them-sorted-quick kind of way. That, along with porting all of my plug-ins from my now dead PC to my Mac and updating them to the latest versions, started to hurt my brains. Then came word of Apple´s plan to not only incorporate 3TB of storage into its next-gen MacPro workstations, but to use eight-core processors. Not dual or quad core - they´ve been and gone and done that already. Eight cores? Much as I like technology, things have been getting a little heavy lately.

Hence it was refreshing to dip into some heavy metal, all rendered as wave files, give it some light EQ and a splash of ambience, then just compress the shit out of it. No samplers, virtual synths, mixer automation or nowt, just straight-ahead rock music that uses a mere fraction of the Mac´s capabilities when mixing.

The metal client said “cor” when he saw the amount of technology I could deploy and I didn´t have the heart to tell him that I was planning to use only a wee bit of it for the session. It did make me think, however. Often, the old tools are the best tools because they´ve been proven to work. The greater flexibility offered by many updates is sometimes not needed, although enhanced stability is always welcome. And one doesn´t always need an extra 2GB of RAM, a certain ROMpler library, the latest capabilities of a sequencer or the fastest processor available to adequately realise a musical idea. Keeping up with the latest technology is part of my job as a journalist, but as a musician I can afford to slow down and smell the roses. Technology, or rather the lack of it, need not hinder one´s aspirations. It´s a case of getting on and doing it with what you have, even if it does take a little more time and effort. News of new tech does create a sense of anticipation, but it shouldn´t be an excuse to put things off until you can afford to buy in.

Right, how much for another PowerCore?

Written by Karl Foster