Our Brave New Digital World ...
I must be feeling a bit nostalgic ... today I find myself thinking back to the past and how I used to make music in the good lo' days ...
When I started making music in 1990 the best tool we had was an Atari 1040ST and a copy of Cubase software that (and this still boggles my mind) fit on a 1.4 MB floppy disk. Of course, back at that time all Cubase did was let you sequence a few tracks of MIDI. It was more or less a glorified player piano using digital 1s and 0s in the place of holes punched in a scroll of paper. And of course, you could use it to trigger any MIDI synth you wanted ... revolutionary!
As the 90s progressed, companies like Steinberg (through Cubase) and Digi Design (with Pro Tools) began to dramatically change the way the music game was played. With the introduction of Hard Disk Recording in the mid 90s, it suddenly became possible to actually record music onto your computer and manipulate it with digital tools inside the box, so to speak.
This was a game changer. I remember my excitement when I got my first copy of Cubase software with Multitrack Recording in 1996. I was suddenly able to record up to 8 tracks of glorious digital audio onto my computer ... and I could even apply some basic DSP effects like compression and reverb to my sounds! It changed the way I looked at the world. Even with only 8 tracks of audio at my disposal, I could see the future:
As computers became more powerful, it was obvious that all music production, from recording to tone generation (through software synths) to the final audio mastering process with DSP effects ... all music production would some day occur inside the computer. Goodbye outboard synthesizers, hello our brave new digital world ...
It took 10 years, but now it's obvious this vision came true. When I make music now, it is 100% inside Logic. I use Logic's software synths and sampler to make all my sounds. I use the built-in DSP effects to EQ, compress, distort, delay, and mix my music. I output the track to an MP3 and put it out on the web or on my iPod or wherever.
My music begins in the computer and it also ends in the computer, the only time it ever reaches the outside world is when the track is played through speakers or headphones. It is a glorious world we live in, because I can do ANYTHING with music as long as I have my Mac and Logic.
I do fondly remember my old synths like the Sequential Circuits Multi Track and Tom Drum machine ... such awesome sound modules. Or the Korg SH101 that had no memory so I had to program it every time I turned it on ... but as a true analog synth it produced such phat sounds. My first sampler had 8 seconds of sample time. I would sample beats off records at 45 RPM and then slow them down to 33 RPM inside the sampler just to save a few seconds of sample time. These were all amazing pieces of gear.
But all these external synths and samplers had drawbacks too ... for example the Korg SH101 needed to warm up to sound good, and actually it sounded a bit different every time I turned it on. Happily, my songs in Logic sound exactly the same every time I load up a song, the perfect studio in a box ... all the effects are set, the sounds are programmed, and I'm ready to go (something we used to call "total recall" back near the turn of the century, though the term has since faded into the digital dust pile). I loved my old synths, but they slowly became dust collectors.
In 2003 I sold my entire studio on Ebay ... over $100,000 worth of gear went out the door for about $20,000. Who cares ... I never looked back. From that point forward ALL my music was made with a simple controller keyboard and Logic. I call it RISC processing for music (RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing). With less gear to sidetrack me from my production workflow, I'm making better music now than I ever did before. It's a better world we live in ...