Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Music Media Portables Hardware

The Incredible Shrinking Recording Studio 433

what_the_frell writes "Wired has an interesting article on the increased use of laptops as a replacement for a recording studio. The article touches on how music schools are requiring the purchase of a Powerbook and software for this very reason, and also highlights artists like Steve Vai who are moving over to the more portable platform. Does this mean I can finally record that rock opera I've always dreamed about?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Incredible Shrinking Recording Studio

Comments Filter:
  • by The Gline ( 173269 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:47AM (#7113421) Homepage
    I've been doing PC-based recording for some time now using digital equipment that doesn't cost very much. My mixer and recorder are my PC, as are many of my instruments. You can now do stuff with a $1,000 PC that you used to need a $20,000 console to do. And it's only going to get cheaper, as the laptop angle implies.

    It's a pretty good time to be a music creator.
    • What software packages are you using to achieve this?

      I've wanted to do something like this for some time. Do you have any resources you can point a beginner to?

      • What I use (Score:5, Informative)

        by The Gline ( 173269 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:55AM (#7113511) Homepage
        I work on a fairly tight budget, so my software of choice is FruityStudio (just go to It's not very flexible in some respects, but it honors almost all the industry-standard plugins for audio and I've been able to do some really wonderful things with it. Cheap, too: the full version of the product is only $99.
        • Re:What I use (Score:3, Informative)

          by MunchMunch ( 670504 )
          Exactly what I use most of the time. I've been using Fruityloops for over 5 years, and its a great program for the holistic-minded musician. You have more control over your work from conception, i.e. assembling beats and melodies that actually sound how you want from scratch, than any other program I've seen. It has an interface that doesn't try to be a piece of hardware (like Reason) but instead offers the same and more features in a much better designed-for-PC package.

          It really depends on what kind o

        • Re:What I use (Score:3, Informative)

          by spankenstein ( 35130 )
          Don't forget the M-Audio equipment. I've been using a Delta 1010LT for abotu a year with Cakewalk software and it's been great. Also... M-Audio has linux drivers for the Delta cards!
          • Re:What I use (Score:3, Informative)

            by racermd ( 314140 )
            Good point! I use the OmniStudio (it's their 2496 card with a breakout box instead of the pigtails for other external connections). I've been using it for getting audio off of my psudo-studio's Emu Darwin primarily, but since it's in my main system I use it for gaming, too. Damn clean sound (balanced outs to a Mackie 1402, main outs to 250w RMS x2 Carver amp, to a set of passive Event 20/20s), but there's no option for EAX or other hardware environmental sound processing for games.

            As for software, I gen
      • by blinder ( 153117 ) <blinder DOT dave AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:56AM (#7113519) Homepage Journal
        I would recommend the Digdesign MBox, it comes with Pro Tools LE and the MBox itself has two mic pre's, all interfaced via USB into your PC.

        Of course, if you need more inputs... the Digi 002 may be an option. Of course M-Audio (if you don't want to go the pro rools route) makes some damn fine USB/Firewire interfaces.

      • Well, you can't just buy a PC from Walmart and start recording 'Tommy' in your basement, one of the caveats is that you still need a decent audio interface, and an Audigy, while possible, is just not how most people go about it. I mean technically, you could plug an amp straight into your stock sound card 1/8" mic input and load up CoolEdit, but you'll be *seriously* lacking in quality.

        If you're serious about digital mixing, Mark of the Unicorn [] makes some pretty affordable interfaces, an amateur producer f
      • by dougsyo ( 84601 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:33AM (#7113887)
        Assuming you're on the Windows platform, I would suggest you check out FLStudio [] - it comes with some decent software synths (FLS calls them "generators") and also host many free virtual instruments ("vsti" and "dxi"), as well as shareware and commercial ones.

        There are other choices as well - Orion (PC), Muzys (PC & Mac), Cubasis VST (PC & Mac) Tracktion (PC, Mac in beta), Massiva (PC), and Cakewalk Home Studio 2004 (PC) for example. A bit higher up the chain, you have Cubase SE (PC & Mac), and Sonar Studio (PC), Logic Audio big box (Mac) or the self-contained Reason (PC & Mac).

        If you want to go beyond synth presets, soundfonts and GM sounds, then you'll probably want to understand analog (subtractive) synthesis - see Analog Synthesis for Beginners [] for an introduction.

        The "definitive site" for this is KvR-VST []. Go there and read a bit, then sign up to ask questions. It's a friendly crowd. Just don't go here [], that guy isn't very helpful.


    • They say... (Score:2, Interesting)

      ...Kraftwerk's lastest album was made on a laptop.

      • It's entirely possible. I know that Japanese noise artist Merzbow now uses laptops almost exclusively, in conjunction with some homebuilt electronics (he's always been a do-it-yourselfer), and he loves the way you can just pop open the laptop and start work anywhere. Audio engineer Roger Nichols does almost all his mixing and mastering on Mac laptops, and takes his work on the road with him -- mixing 15 tracks at 40,000 feet is a blast!
    • What about 24/96 audio cards though? I use a PC for recording at home, with 3 Lynx2's (4 balanced/unbalanced inputs for 12 realtime channels), all PCI inputs. Can you stuff that into laptops? I'd like to add 3 more cards, and will soon, for 24 tracks at a time, all 24/96.

      Is it just the notion that you can do more demo quality recording and be mobile? I just wouldn't think you can get the same quality and the same full feature with a laptop.
      • by The Gline ( 173269 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:00AM (#7113561) Homepage
        The unit I use does 24/96 for up to four channels (two balanced, two unbalanced), and since it's 1394 you can chain as many of the inputs as you like into the laptop. It's mostly a matter of how much you're willing to lug around and how many channels at one time you really need. I don't need more than two channels live at any one time, so I don't need to carry very many of these!
      • by barleyguy ( 64202 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @11:34AM (#7114577)
        Why did you buy 3 lynx 2's? A single lynx 2 is expandable to 12 channels (20 channels if you go down to 48k) using a Lynx ADAT (or TDIF) module and external convertors. And you don't have to worry about all those PCI slots, getting the cards to co-exist, etc.

        Obstacles to serious mobile recording:

        1. Sound cards. This really isn't a problem. One option is go firewire; almost every prosumer sound card manufacturer has a firewire solution. Another option is PCMCIA, RME is a popular choice in that camp. You can use the same outboard interfaces with PCMCIA that you can on a desktop.

        2. Hard drive speed. Most laptop hard drives are 4200 RPM, which really isn't fast enough for serious recording or mixing. I have a desktop/rackmount DAW, and I'm running dual 7200's on RAID 0. That's about where you want to be for hard drive speed.

        3. Microphone preamps. Most small interfaces don't have very good mic preamps. So you'll need to either have a mixer with better preamps, or outboard preamps.

        4. Microphones. Choosing the correct mic for an application requires having good mics, and possibly a fair quantity of them.

        4. Engineering skills. Are your mics placed well placed and in phase with each other? Is your gain staging good? Unless you are extremely lucky, it takes years of learning and practice to be a good audio engineer. A good engineer can do a lot with cheap equipment, but you can have great equipment and still be a crappy engineer. Of course, this in true in a home studio as well, but I had to mention it because it's the real barrier to most bands that try to record themselves.

        Other than that, a laptop works just as well for recording as any other computer. And all of these issues are solvable. But really, for the same amount of money, you can build a rackmount PC that's almost as portable, and has better performance and features.
    • by seosamh ( 158550 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:58AM (#7113539)
      From the article, [Mike] Caffrey said "People are paying for my skills and expertise, and get the studio as part of the package."

      Just having access to the hardware and software isn't going to do it. How many new "van Goghs" do we have since the advent of Photoshop?
      • Just having access to the hardware and software isn't going to do it. How many new "van Goghs" do we have since the advent of Photoshop?

        I dunno.. some of the stuff that the Fark photoshop contests turn up is pretty cool looking. :)

      • We have lots of van Goghs since the advent of photoshop. We also have lots of amazingly bad artwork, but the percentages are probably similar to before. If 95% of all self-titled artists are terrible, 4% are good and 1% are amazing, then a tenfold increase in the number of people with the tools to create great art means that, although we might have a lot more bad art than before, we also have a lot more good art. Have you ever seen a Fark photoshop contest? There's a great example of this phenomenon.


      • Apples and Oranges (Score:3, Insightful)

        by splateagle ( 557203 )
        Just having access to the hardware and software isn't going to do it. How many new "van Goghs" do we have since the advent of Photoshop?

        This really isn't a very valid comparison: you're quite right that having creative software on a computer doesn't make you any good at "being creative", but we're not talking about making the music, we're talking about producing professional qiuality recordings of it.

        Preparing a great work of art for display was undoubtably a skilled process if done using traditional me
        • by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @11:35AM (#7114589) Homepage Journal
          I'd like you to listen sometime to the difference between well mixed computer produced music and poorly mixed, poorly sequenced computer produced music. It is UNCANNY. The former is a seamless creation which allows each instrument to express itself without overpowering the others, while the latter can be quite horrible. Just ask my buddy, whose lack of skill in using Protools lead to the downfall of his studio venture after only three sessions. Not that I mind, I got his effects boxes when he liquidated ;).

          It is a fallacy that using better tools eliminates the need for skilled labor. What you're talking about is nothing more than an advanced form of recording, which artists have been doing since the advent of a four track. "Professional" recording, getting the music into an editor, is only the first step of making a "recording" of a song. The talents that make a great audio recording technician -- the ability to turn recorded audio into something that is meaningful when played back by muting overpowering sounds, enhancing important sounds, and seamlessly combining multiple takes -- do not appear merely because your soundboard is a digital. It is a skill that has a MASSIVE impact on the end product. Take a listen sometime to an unmixed digital demo and compare it to a studio version of the same song. They won't sound anything NEAR the same, and the difference can be the killing point of an album. My favorite band, the Screaming Trees, released an album mixed by Chris Cornell that was mixed completely wrong. The songs were better written and performed than those on their commercial "success" Sweet Oblivion, but the grunge dynamics did not play well, and killed the sound for a mass market.

          However, the simplicity of LEARNING the new digital tools means that a lot of people who would be very good at old style mixing are getting the chance to hone their skills without going to school for them. That's the real promise of cheap, uniquitous audio: it allows the amateur to try his hand at musical skills that are otherwise reserved for $100/hour technicians. And perhaps new "bare bones" styles of production will be adopted, resulting in the end of overproduced albums (like last year's Audioslave disc, check out the "Civillian" demos for some REAL rock & roll).
      • How many van Goghs were recognized as such during the time the man was alive? You'd think at least one, but it was, discounting the opinions of his family and Gauguin, zero. Bad example, friend.
    • Ditto (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tangurena ( 576827 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:58AM (#7113546)
      My last girlfriend was a singer, and she liked to record disks to send back to family in Russia. We spent less than $300 to turn my computer room into a recording room to record and burn discs. Mind you, I already had a synthesizer and a musician grade sound card for the PC. All we had to do was add a reasonable mixer board, upgrade the software and wait for the neighbors to go out (you might be suprised at the stuff a good microphone can pick up through the walls in a building). Record everything to the HD, then burn the disc, and viola, home CD recording.

      Notes for those who wish to do similar: the sound quality of the cheapest sound card you can buy at a music store is better than the sound quality of the most expensive sound card at the computer store. The music store cards will be meant for sound reproduction, where as the ones from the computer store will be meant for sound production.

    • It's a pretty good time to be a music creator

      Except that, back in the days of the $20K consoles, music creators were known as "composers" and focused on rad concepts like composition and melody. Like a creative writer who spends too much time selecting the "right" word processor and focusing on page layout, I can't help but wonder whether some "music creators" (and their listeners) would be better served if they concentrated more on the muse of music and less on the toolset of the recording engineer.
      • Whatever, troll (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mekkab ( 133181 )
        The biggest hurdle to getting your music listened to by the general public was that "HISSSSSSS", that background noise and sibilance which was the mark of the un-professional. Despite the inde "low fi" artistes, crispness in sound is something that is valued the world over- from style to style. Even your beloved "composers" preferred to have their compositions played by good musicians on world class instruments.

        Now-a-days, I can quickly knock off some stuff, burn to a cd, and throw it in my car. And
      • I agree with you totally that the progress of studio technology has diminished the importance of traditional music writing skills.

        And what's with this new trend of having instruments play accompaniment during mass? The human voice used to be considered the only instrument worthy to Sing to God with, not like these new-fangled lutes and ophecleides...

        a Gregorian monk
    • You can record it with a Walmart PC. You have been able to for 8 years now. You can use the computer your Grandomother is throwing out. I worked for a music software company for quite a few years.

      Want details? Ask me.

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:48AM (#7113424) Journal
    That's why the RIAA has roving team of "detectives" whose job is to scour neigboorhoods to find "clandestine" (that is, "homemade") recording studios in people's basement, then they denounce them to municipal zoning authorities.

    After all, only RIAA members have the right to record music...

  • More proof... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkBlackFox ( 643814 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:48AM (#7113430)
    This is just more proof of the reducing costs of producing professional quality audio, and more evidence of price fixing and extortion of the major record labels.
    • Re:More proof... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by I8TheWorm ( 645702 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:01AM (#7113571) Journal
      Actually, professional recording studios still cost quite a bit to build. Isolation booths with different kinds of hardwoods for different timbres, extremely high end consoles, seperate mixers for each musician in the grandroom for their own monitor mix, etc... all adds up. If I were to show up for session work in somebody's garage, I would expect garage quality, and be pleasantly surprised by anything better (which is what this article eludes to). But if I were to pay $85+/hr for a studio, and $85+/hr for an engineer, I would expect an extremely professional studio with all the trimmings. Just expereince talking...

      That being said, there is still no reason for the high price of CD's these days, but this article isn't justification to lower them.
      • Re:More proof... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blinder ( 153117 )
        You are absolutely correct. There will (probably) never be a replacement for a finely tuned commercial recording facility. The amount of work and art that goes into the design, construction and operating of a world class recording studio does indeed pay off in the final product. I mean, sing vocals into a Neumann U47 versus a Shure 58... yeah, there's a BIG difference. Use a classic Neve console versus a Mackie or a "virtual" console. There's a big difference in the sound.

        These things cost huge amounts of
        • I did like when the articled mentioned using the laptop for edits. Of course, the tracks are already recorded at that point. Having gone to both UNT and Belmont (although I didn't finish at either) I wouldn't say Berkely in Boston is the forecaster of things to come in studios.

          One brag, we've decided to sell our house and have one built... so I finally get my own room (large enough too) for a studio. I've already started picking out woods for the isolation booths.
          • One brag, we've decided to sell our house and have one built... so I finally get my own room (large enough too) for a studio. I've already started picking out woods for the isolation booths

            Heh, when we built our house, I staked out the basement as my territory :-)

            I have my studio down there, its a dual purpose area though (home theater) but it gives me the room I need to have a full blown (or at least my attempt) studio. One thing I have learned is... no matter how big the space is... it shrinks! Which i
        • but to think that your laptop will suplant something like a Record Plant, um, probably won't happen.

          But does it need to happen? Songwriting and playing talent is a lot more important than what mic you're using.

          • Re:More proof... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by blinder ( 153117 )
            Songwriting and playing talent is a lot more important than what mic you're using.

            Um, to some extent yes... but my point is, if you want need to get a sound, simulating it, isn't always the way to go. If you need that beautiful warmth that a vintage Neumann gives you, you can't duplicate it (accurately). I would argue that yes, the gear *does* matter, I know its popular in the home recording arena to believe otherwise... but I disagree with that concept.

            • Re:More proof... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by matt-fu ( 96262 )
              If you need that beautiful warmth that a vintage Neumann gives you, you can't duplicate it (accurately). I would argue that yes, the gear *does* matter, I know its popular in the home recording arena to believe otherwise... but I disagree with that concept.

              Are you saying that if you were casually listening to the radio or a CD and would be able to tell the difference between a vocal recorded with a Shure and a vocal recorded with a Neumann? With a full band behind it, after the ridiculous amount of compre

        • I did a little sound work with some bands in high school, the one thing i learned was that mics, in terms of size/price, are hands-down the most expensive items in the studio. makes sense, anyway - you can get ok results with shitty gear and a great mic, but the best studio and hardware in the world ain't gonna help if you're using a cheap 57 or something (not that 57s are bad, those things can take some ABUSE...).
    • Re:More proof... (Score:2, Insightful)


      As the article and an earlier poster mentioned, you still have to have the talent and experience necessary to transform all that sound into a coherent experience conveying a desired effect.

      That's still an expensive skill. You could completely remove the record labels from the equation and the Steve Albini's/Brian Eno's/Butch Vig's of the world ain't gonna get any cheaper.

      And as the article mentioned, you still need a performance space with certain very specific characteristics to do the recordi
    • This is just more proof of the reducing costs of producing professional quality audio, and more evidence of price fixing and extortion of the major record labels.

      Insightful? Insightful? How is the fact that production costs are coming down evidence of extortion? Furthermore, studio costs are merely one part of the expense of an album. You still need a competent producer, you still need marketing, you still have to pay the lawyers, agents, radio stations (!), and possibly even the artists. Not to mention
    • Sure...and the high-end super-expensive video cards that gamers buy are over-priced and unnecessary.

      The article is talking primarily about the editing software -- but you still need to get the sound recorded. That requires professional (read: expensive) microphones, isolated booths, a full rack or three of processing equipment, someone who knows how to mic up the acoustic drums (notoriously difficult) if you're not using electronic drums, etc., etc., etc.

      I've done some session work, and an insane amount o
    • This is just more proof of the reducing costs of producing professional quality audio, and more evidence of price fixing and extortion of the major record labels.

      Definitely. I've been using a laptop and/or desktop PC to do recording for over a year now. It's cheap, easy, and I get good results without having to spend a lot of money. Aside from the computers (which I already had), my only hardware investment was a firewire card for each machine, a firewire drive, and a firewire-capable audio device, in th

  • by Ravagin ( 100668 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:49AM (#7113444)
    Does this mean I can finally record that rock opera I've always dreamed about?

    Maybe, but you still need talent.... :)

    • "Maybe, but you still need talent.... :)"

      Or at least a whole lotta drugs...
    • Despite the funny moderation, that's actually exactly the same thing that I was thinking about when I read this headline. As the fixed costs of creating music decreases, more and more people will able to jump into the bandwagon, saturating the market. It's great for people who just want to make and distribute songs for fun, but for musicians who want to make money, they're going to have a harder time selling music since there are so many other alternatives out there. As with Usenet or web hosting in the

    • Maybe, but you still need talent.... :)

      Seems to me that it is the lack of talent that sells today... so I think you should just go ahead and record your rock opera :)
    • Does this mean I can finally record that rock opera I've always dreamed about?

      Maybe, but you still need talent.... :)

      ...or just an excellent concept [].

  • Digi 002 (Score:5, Informative)

    by blinder ( 153117 ) <blinder DOT dave AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:52AM (#7113470) Homepage Journal
    Heh, this is cool, as I am about to pluck down $2,200 for a Digi 002 and run it off my PowerBook 17" Eventually, within the next few months I'll probably be upgrading to the Control|24, as I like to have more than just 4 mic pres... and well, the idea of having 16 Focusrite pre's really gets me drooling.

    I've been into home recording for almost 10 years, and have been pretty weary of going the PC-route, in that I've always thought of it as being "toy-ish" but now, with Digidesign getting into the more project studio market, its getting more "professional." This migration to PC-based production has been slow for me, in that right now (pre-Pro Tools) I am just doing "mastering" on my PowerBook (via T-Racks), but I've really become a believer in this PC production thing... especially when you have gear that is lacking.

  • by InterruptDescriptorT ( 531083 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:52AM (#7113472) Homepage
    If you thought hauling around a portable studio in a laptop was pretty cool, there are already recording devices from the likes of Fostex [] and Korg [] that incorporate four- and eight-track multitrack recorders into handheld packages. About the only thing that keeps these things from getting smaller is the size of the jacks required to get audio in to and out of the device.

    With CF and MMC media becoming smaller and cheaper, to the point where you can now get 256MB for less than $50, combined with advanced adaptive audio compression techniques like MP3 and MP4, are going to make these things as powerful as a Sonar-equipped laptop in a couple years' time. I like to take it with me when I go to shows or open-mic nights and get a 'hard copy', so to speak, of my performances. If I like them, the quality is high enough that with a little mastering compression, EQ and reverb, I've got an instant live recording.
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:52AM (#7113477) Homepage
    Does this mean I can finally record that rock opera I've always dreamed about?

    I mean music has been going downhill a bit lately (or I'm getting old).... BUT this is a dread scenario of open publishing, file sharing and the end of labels. Sure there are some good points, but will they be weighed down by the bad ?

    Think on it this way.... this will allow the musical equivalent of an AOLer to blast music at us. Some things shouldn't be open to all, or at least they shouldn't be able to subject people to such torture without lots of filtering. Steve Vai doing something.... good and cool.... your average Slashdotter.... yeeeh gags... there is probably a reason that highschool band never took off.

    Dude... most people suck.
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:53AM (#7113479) Homepage Journal
    ... I can say that things are getting smaller, cheaper, lighter and faster. Duh. Of course.

    The days when a pro recording needed a 24-channel mixing desk, ProTools TDM hardware, a quiet room and a team of engineers are ... say it after me kids ... OVER!

    With my tiBook and a Firewire Audio interface, I can record any band, anywhere in the world, produce their tracks live at the gig, and by the end of it have some polished material ready for distribution.

    The whole "pro studio" machine is well and truly facing the same reality that "computer rooms" once faced from the PC onslaught.

    Most of the reasoning for big-studio budgets these days is just dick-waving. Fact is, you can do with a $2000 collection of gear what most 'pros' would've charged $15,000 to do 'for cheap' ... in their big haughty studios.

    Amen, I say. There are far too many good artists out there (every single human can write a song) and its high time a lot of them were heard. The current 'music industry' is too elitist.

    RIP, Pro Tools. Long live CoreAudio! :)
    • So you can record professional tracks anywhere, huh? You don't even need a "quiet room"? Give me a break.

      I'm guessing your work is quite shoddy quality and and/or that you're not any kind of professional at all.

      You fooled the moderators good though.
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:53AM (#7113482) Homepage Journal
    but I think one of the reasons artists turn to the RIAA companies (in addition to promoting/distributing their stuff, ofcourse) is that the RIAA helps finance their sophisticated and expensive recording and on-stage equipment.

    Eliminating the need for expensive equipment, combined with an online music distribution and micropayment model would pretty much kill the need for expensive contracts with the music industry.

  • I have been recording "ambient collections" for a couple of years now.

    a laptop with a good recording pcmcia or usb recording device, a small mixer (battery powered if possible) and a couple of me66 shotgun microphones and I get incredible results.

    the most important thing is a sound recording device that is quiet (electronically) and can handle at least 48K recording rates. The external soundblaster audigy is OK for this use. (dammit why no XLR inputs???)

    the hard part is finding a good external soundcard
  • Yes!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:54AM (#7113492)
    You too can be a spotty bedroom boy and churn out identikit UK/Speed Garage, drum and bass and techno!!

    And starting with Booyaka BadBwoy v2.0, you no longer even need to be able to speak basic english, as your `masterpieces` will be given names automatically!

    You can now go from idea (well, the idea that you want to have written a song, anyway) to annoying the neighbours with loud boomy noises coming from your car (or bedroom) in under 15 minutes!
  • It seems that slowly, the power that these large organisations had over what can be accomplished is moving into the hands of the average user. We are seeing the revolution of this not only in music, but also in the recently accounced Fanimatrix []
    A wonderous use of special effects were used in this, which were simply created by an end user, without a multi-million dollar video editing studio. It seems this end user power is also moving to the music industry. Is it possible that big recording studios and H
  • Apple has information on how Bruce Hornsby has done live shows using Powerbooks, and PARIS pro workstation... Its goes into more detail about why and how they are doing this type of recording and mixing... sby/audio.html
  • One of the only reasons I ever boot into Win XP is to make use of my PC DJ [] software. Being a former old school DJ (Techniques 1200's), I've got to say there is a great allure to just bringing a laptop to a gig, rather than crates of LPs or even cases of CDs.

    This article is surely interesting, but none of it should come as a great surprise to anyone ...

  • This is news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lane.exe ( 672783 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:58AM (#7113544) Homepage
    Being an electronic musician, I've been recording with various different pieces of software since I was sixteen!

    Fruity Loops [] is a good starting point because it teaches the basics of step sequencing (beat-box style programming) and lets people start making good tracks right out of the box.

    Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge and Acid [] are also good programs for loop recording arranging -- the best I've seen in the low-end home user market.

    Reason [] is the ultimate in soft-synth sound generation. I don't know a single producer who uses software who doesn't love Reason. It's pricey, but worth it.

    There is also a lot of good high-end music production software out there, many of it with great MIDI controllers like the Oxygen 8 or the Ozone. I use a combination of direct-recording hardware tools (a nice, high-end sound card, Line 6 direct recording equipment) to hook up my instruments (guitars, synths, beatboxes, etc) and a combination of Sound Forge and Reason to generate my loops. I can then arrange and mix them in Acid or Fruityloops. Fruityloops serves as my backup generator for certain drum and bass parts, but overall, my setup is pretty stripped down.

    But if you really want professional studio quality digital recording, MIDI sequencing and mixing, get ProTools. It's like God.

    • Correction:

      The home of Reason is []. The company is based in Sweden, land of infinite hotties. (And plenty of tasty beats, too.)

      Reason is amazing software. It's the most satisfying bit of software I've ever used, in fact. (Including Mac OS X and any flavour of Linux.) There are plenty of great articles and ReFills on the Properllerheads' site. Definitely worth checking out if you have Reason, and if you don't have it, worth checking out for the demo.
  • by tessaiga ( 697968 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:59AM (#7113556)
    It used to be that one of the reasons artists would sign away their soul for a recording contract was because they needed cash to finance the high up-front cost of studio time, recording, and editing to put out an album. With cheap digital studios on the rise, and as artists become increasingly computer-savvy, they'll be able to do more with less up-front capital, and be able to release songs more easily on their own. All this will let them sit down at the negotiating table with a bit more bargaining leverage.

    (Of course, the next part of the story is promotions ...)

  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:00AM (#7113563) Homepage Journal
    Oppenheimer said this:

    "It used to be that hardware synths sold like crazy, but those guys would kill to make decent sales on hardware synths today. The sales of hardware aren't what they used to be, and they're not going to come back. It adds up to big trouble for hardware manufacturers."

    I take issue with this (but then, I would, consider where I work), and here is why:

    There is *NO* profit in software synthesis.

    There is not a single mainstream producer of software synthesizers who currently has drawn profit from sales of those synths.

    The reason: cracks.

    It is a very, very, very tough business to be in, when 90% of your primary users are simply stealing your product, not buying it.

    Soft-synths is one market that may benefit from the whole "Trusted Computing" initiative, but in my opinion - being a hardware synth developer - the only truly "trusted computing" platform is one I built myself.

    Hardware synthesizers will *still* be around, and there will still be a huge market for them (we do okay, thanks very much) ... its just that they have to evolve into better and better musical *instruments* and not just computers-in-boxes-with-knobs-on. Software guys don't ever get a chance to know what its like to be held and played, heh heh ...
    • Buddy, Emagic Logic 6 [] is out for 9 months now and has not been cracked yet. It's not only a sequencer, but also contains software synths, which all are not cracked either. Obviously, it's possible to create crack proof software. Your point is moot :-)
    • While I agree with your general belief that hardware synths are not going away I don't believe software cracks are the reason. Generally speaking the people who crack their VST plugins and audio software are people who can't afford $300 for each and every plugin they use plus $500-$800 for any other software packages (Logic Audio, Pro Tools, etc) and therefore they are not lost income. If someone is doing music professionally they will more likely have the money to invest in the software for their busines
  • BBC (Score:3, Informative)

    by dubbayu_d_40 ( 622643 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:01AM (#7113574)
    Radio1 has a great primer and overviews of the major software packages.

    I recommend flstudio (aka fruityloops).

    • Where exactly is this "overviews of the major software packages". I do see a lot of great things there (free software, 1000 free samples, etc.) but not this review.
  • Laptop studio (Score:5, Informative)

    by pesc ( 147035 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:02AM (#7113586)
    Using a laptop studio is not exactly new. For computer studio news, you should check out the Computer Music [] magazine. If you buy it in a newsstand you get a CD with lots of free studio and synthesizer software.

    They also have an old article about laptop studios here []. While using a laptop is cool, using a fast desktop system brings you considerably more power for your $$$. For serious music production, you need lots of performance, a large screen, and a good soundcard. All of which is more expensive when using a laptop.

    Too bad this is one area where Linux is seriously behind Win or Mac :-(
  • by tigeba ( 208671 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:05AM (#7113622)
    It is true that many of the steps of music production can be performed on increasingly small and portable platforms ( BT, who was mentioned in the article uses Logic with Digidesign TDM hardware incidentally). Much of the editing and mixing can be accomplished in this fashon. This is especially true if the type of music you are creating is fundamentally electronic. However, when you need to record musicians you still need analog gear: Microphones, mic-preamps, compressors, a good room to record them in. Just to name a few of the things. Computer based recording has driven down the price of some parts of the recording chain while raising quality.

    Until human musicians that play acoustic instruments are eliminated entirely, the need for analog gear and recording studios will remain.

    Also, when you hire a producer or recording engineer you are paying mostly for their time and expertise, not their mountain of cool gear. Top mixers do their work on in wildly different enviornments ( SSL9K Pimped out room -vs- laptop ) but they charge you for the finished product.

  • Not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:05AM (#7113624)
    Rolling Stone published a similiar article [] where Butch Vig of Garbage shows the reporter how easy it is to build a studio and create music. Hopefully this will lower the requirements for a new act. Before they were at the mercy of large studios most of which were owned by the record companies. Not only do most acts get small royalties (as little as 4%), they were also charged for studio time. Some acts like TLC went bankrupt despite selling millions of records because of the high studio costs. That's why most artists who get a little foothold open their own studios.
  • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:06AM (#7113632)
    Just to add to the anecdotal evidence: I work for an Apple Store. I get questions about this sort of thing every day. Setting up a true equivalent recording studio can still cost an enormous amount of money. You can replace a lot of the typical studio equipment with a single computer and a couple major pieces of software (like Digidesign's Pro Tools and Propellerhead's Reason). However, high-end plugins can cost thousands more. And you still need a proper physical studio to insure a high-quality recording. Not to mention an old truism: "garbage in, garbage out." Most of us aren't really talented enough to make music other people would bother to listen to. :-) And these programs are not particularly easy to use. You need the same set of skills as before. The only advantage of all this technology is that once you've done any live recording you require, you're done paying studio fees and you can work on your project whenever and however it's convenient.

    Don't get me wrong -- this is revolutionary for small-time operators and independent artists. But it's a lot like innovations in self-publishing in the book industry. Lowering the barriers to entry for the most part means a lot more mediocre material will get into ciruclation.

  • I had a friend who, in the middle of the night, got an idea for a song. All he had was a PowerBook, an acoustic guitar, and a copy of Audacity (free - opensource). He recorded his new song on the internal mic of the PB and FTP'd me the song in the morning. I was amazed at the clarity and the quality.
  • This will be another hit to studios. Part of their efforts have been to restrict the output of artists so as to not flood the market and theoretically devalue music in general. This was a significant factor in Prince's disputes with the various studios he has signed with over the years.

    Also, labels have always liked the studios because it facilitated their keeping physical control of the original recordings.

    Now, artists don't have to wait for the studio to advance them money to go into the studio (money th


    The best deal of the century, try before you buy. Why pirate Cakewalk? And yes, they take U.S. dollars, also.

    I am just a very satisfied customer.
  • The fact that recording costs are going way down is just another nail in the RIAA's coffin. In the golden days a band would sign with a record company that would give them money/assistence with:
    • Recording and Production
    • Packaging
    • Distribution
    • Promotion and Radio airtime

    The band would get this by signing a multiple record deal that would be heavily in favor on the record company, the band would only make good money if they were able to sustain their popularity past their intial record deal.

    What musicia

  • It's amazing how slowly audio/music software progressed in the 80s and early and mid 90s and then BANG! Over the past few years many companies have sprung up and made revolutionary software for audio production and composition. Why does audio/music always take a backseat in the evolution of computer software?
  • Apple's Soundtrack [] software (and plenty of others besides, I'm sure) lets you have a recording studio with pre-recorded instruments ready for mixing. Perfect for when you're trying to convince your drummer that his temper tantrums are not, in fact, an essential part of the creative process.
  • Does this mean I can finally record that rock opera I've always dreamed about? ...Please don't!
  • sound quality (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Savatte ( 111615 )
    having have made 5 albums by recording into my video camera, running that into the vcr, that into the tv card, and doing a sound capture, I can tell you that home-based recording will never take the place of studio recording, simply because the hardware isn't up to par. Not necessarily the mixing boards and such, but the microphones and locations. Modern setups may not be as ghetto as mine, but recording into a PC microphone isn't the same as recording into a 1000 dollar one used by a studio. And soundpr
  • by dubiousmike ( 558126 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:16AM (#7113726) Homepage Journal
    for the past few years, I can tell you that it has been cheap to roll your own studio for years now. the software is negligible. You have been able to get your hands on the software cheaply, if not free and all you really worry about is a decent sound card (plan on spending a few hundred if you need simutaneous in's/out's (and WAY lower latency) and about $80 to $100 per mic.

    You have been able to record 20 tracks at a time for 5 years now on most any computer, and you can get better performance with some OS tweaks.

    its been pretty aparent that the music industry has been doing creative accounting since the begining. I know bands [] that have used $2000 worth of PC, $300 sound card, free software and some less than awesome mics, record tracks in their basement and get weeks of national radio airtime.

    The thing to consider though, is that
    A] You still need to record good music people want to hear (to be sucessful,) and
    B] You still need to have a good ear to produce properly. Most bands can do neither which is why you get so many horrible contestants on a show like American Idol.

    A big label might charge a mint for an album, but they also employ expensive employees, spend crazy amounts on marketing and still would like to make money. While I can't justify as high of CD prices and paying bands next to nothing, they still have the people a band needs to become sucessfull (and of course have the ins with the radio stations, which an independant just can't match). Its not JUST equiptment. If it was, bands would be making it on their own BIG TIME from their basements.

    This isn't new news, its just a new article. I could record my own everything 5 years ago on a P1. With an old copy of software, you can record your own album on a computer that your friend is throwing out. Every PC can record two tracks simutaneously (with a stereo sound card and a 5 dollar plug from Radio Shack).

  • by Rai ( 524476 )
    I use Buzz [] for electronic music. It has tons of generators and effects...all for free.
  • Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by milesbparty ( 527555 )
    I think this article perfectly represents the sad state of popular music today:

    I did a lot of the vocal edits on a plane," said BT. "I cut and pieced the vocal together. There's something like 2,000 or 3,000 edits in that three-minute song, and I did that sitting on a plane.

    I think pretty much everyone knows that "bands" like nsync have no musical talent, but I think this quote proves it. Come on, the "band" can't get through a 3 minute song without thousands of edits on their vocals?!?!

    For years,
  • by YllabianBitPipe ( 647462 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:20AM (#7113774)
    So we've got the average joe recording albums in his bedroom. There is a trend towards amateurism in every field, enabled by the web and technology. Fan Films in the world of video, blogs in the world of literature, heck in the world of acting we got these reality tv shows. Soon there will be no need for professionals in the arts; we'll just find our entertainment in the flood of mediocre material and hope some of the cream rises to the top. And the best part: a lot of it will be cheap / free. Just the right kind of entertainment where nobody can get a decent job anymore since all the well-paying ones are moving to india ...

  • Well, the movie studios are doing the same thing, or what do you think this thing [] is used for ?

  • by FattMattP ( 86246 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:44AM (#7114035) Homepage
    "I did a lot of the vocal edits on a plane," said BT. "I cut and pieced the vocal together. There's something like 2,000 or 3,000 edits in that three-minute song, and I did that sitting on a plane."
    2,000 vocal edits? Wow, NSync must really suck as singers. Seriously.
  • Rock opera (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm@1[ ].ca ['889' in gap]> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:49AM (#7114100) Homepage
    A friend of mine actually did record a rock opera himself using a Powerbook, Apple's Soundtrack, his guitar and a cheap microphone. It was very odd, given that he played several parts all by himself, but the end result was very interesting. The CDs he sold have more than paid for the laptop.

    Of course, he's got a very wacky sense of humour that really kept the thing interesting. But hey, it's plausible I guess.
  • by adam872 ( 652411 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @11:15AM (#7114384)
    I have an all digital home studio, with a multitrack, Mac, synths etc etc. I love the freedom it affords me to make music how I like and when I like. However, if I were putting together a big album project, I would still use a studio for at least some bits. Here's why...

    1, You have a nice acoustic space for recording "real" instruments, like Drums, Guitars etc with nice mics (Neumann, AKG, B&K etc)
    2, You don't have potential noise abatement issues like you would in an apartment. If I want to crank up that 'ol Mesa Boogie amp, it's much easier in a studio.
    3, Studios usually have great monitoring systems and outboard equipment. The rooms are also designed to listen to music in, as opposed to the perfectly rectangular study in my abode. No standing waves!!!
    4, You have the expertise of a sound engineer. This has enormous value, IMHO.

    All these new tools are wonderful, and I make as much use of them as possible. They don't, however, replace experience and plain old skill. I didn't start playing with my own gear until I had been in a few recording studios and saw how it was done. I do love the fact that the entry cost of recording has come down dramatically with the advent of DAW's (Digital Audio Workstation).
  • by StaticEngine ( 135635 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @11:16AM (#7114389) Homepage
    Musicians have been using laptops for a variety of purposes for years now. Daniel Myer, otherwise known as German artist Haujobb, uses laptops live and in the studio. In fact, it's all he brings on tour, and relies on local acts and promoters for the rest of his stage gear. Tom Shear of Assemblage23 has a Powerbook Ti and a G3 at home, which he used to produce his last several albums, and a pletheora of remixes. Supposedly Kevin Cey of Skinny Puppy fame is working on new stuff entirely on a laptop.

    My whole equipment list is here: And that's toned down from the hardware monstrosity it used to be. The bottom list of equipment is all hardware I've sold since getting softsynths, Sonar 2.2, and Reason 2.5. More and more music production occurs entirely in the digital environment, because it just sounds cleaner and crisper. All those cables used to add noise. Now, it's just the CPU pressing bits. And that 2.4GHz P4 1GB RAM system that's my main music computer is VASTLY overpowered - I wrote, recorded, and mixed down a 40 track song entirely in Reason 2.5 (with imported vocal lines from the singer) and the CPU never once peaked above 30%.

    The bottom line is that software and fast PCs have made the days of lusting over large analog (or even overpriced digital, D8B anyone?) consoles a thing of the past. Sure, you may still need a mixer to route some signals and use outboard effects processors (the MOTU line of zero latency audio I/O boxes can even eliminate this need), but aside from having a good recording environment and a modicum of talent, there's very little barrier to entry for anyone with $2k lying around to become a professional sounding musician.
  • Don't be misguided (Score:5, Informative)

    by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @12:07PM (#7114903) Homepage
    Well, I'm late to the discussion as usual, but hopefully this comment still gets seen by those that need to see it.

    There's an awful lot of talk on /. about how it is now possible to build your own home recording studio on the cheap ($10,000 gets bandied about often). While this is certainly true, I'd like to point out that this doesn't mean professional recording can be done by the masses, just that amature recording is much more affordable.

    My friend is a professional sound engineer. The stuff he does just can't be replicated by a cheap computer program or a $10,000 setup. He has built several different sound rooms in which he records bands, each at enormous expense. He's got one room that is covered in egg shell-like foam that seems to kill sound the second you step into the room (at a cost of $10,000 just for the special foam I believe). Another room has special wood on the walls and floor to simulate a different recording environment (again, very expensive).

    Then there's the Mics. Even a single pro mic runs in the thousands. Don't think a little sound blaster mic plugged into your sound card is going to give you the same type of results.

    All of this is without considering the fact that he's a trained sound engineer while Joe Homeuser is probably not. Since most people probably will say that they could do it themselves, let me try to provide an analogy here: the pro sound engineer is like a Java programmer who is an expert in their field, while the home amateur recorder is the equivalent of someone who's just read "learn Java in 21 days." To someone who doesn't know anything about programming at all they probably won't see much of a difference, but within the field the difference would be easily spotted. For a band trying to move past the "garage" image and pose themselves as professionals, it's worth considering this.

    I think my friend bills around $80/hour now. At that rate you could probably record a few songs professionally for less than $5000. That seems like a pretty small amount of money in the grand scheme of things.

We cannot command nature except by obeying her. -- Sir Francis Bacon