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I am completely new to music remixing, but I was at my friend's house last weekend and he was using a software called Reason to work on a remix of the Donkey Kong Country underwater theme. I love video music, especially classic nintendo stuff. (I study with it playing all the time at med school.) I would like to begin learning how to remix and work with music software along the same lines as Reason. I'm not afraid of software with a steep learning curve, I just want to find software that will not limit me as I learn more. What is the preferred software used by members of OCRemix? (I have both Mac and Windows platforms if that makes any difference.)

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If you have both mac and win, GarageBand is a nice place to start. You should already have it, it's easily expanded with free Audio Unit components, and your GB projects can be loaded in its big brother Logic when the limitations start to hit you. On windows, Mixcraft is a good beginner's program pretty much like GB, and like GB it will likely limit you later on. It doesn't have a compatible big brother last time I checked.

Most remixers use FL Studio, which is Windows only. They all have their individual strengths and weaknesses, and are usually suited for different workflows. Cubase is cross platform, but will likely take a while to get into. Reason is more of an instrument than a DAW (digital audio workstation), but some remixers use it as their primary tool and make some decent mixes, Willrock's one of them. Other software ppl here use include Ableton Live, Sonar, Reaper, Pro Tools, and probably Digital Performer.

Check out more opinions about music software in this thread.

And welcome to ocr. :D

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Picking a piece of software is not obvious. It has to "think" the same way you do. FL Studio for instance assumes that you want to make music with patterns - repeating blocks of music. This works pretty well for a lot of music and makes composing fast, but it's harder if no part of your music is alike. Ableton Live assumes you have a set of musical blocks that you trigger in any order you wish and treats audio like rubber. Cubase assumes that you have a studio that you've carefully set up and has support for external devices. Thing is, when you start out you usually don't have more than just your computer - so not all assumptions that software make are warranted.

If your friend already knows about Reason and he's nearby and willing to show you the ropes, you could start with that. It'll teach you the concepts of how for instance synthesizers and effects are connected, and comes with a load of sounds right out of the box. Plus, lots of tutorials available.

Garageband is a good idea too, but it's probably a bit more restricted than Reason.

I generally advise to pick one, test the trial version for say, 2 weeks, and see how far you can get.

Whatever you pick, don't give up - but on the other hand, if you find yourself fighting against the software in order to make a song, it's time to look for something different.

Do keep in mind that lots of the folks also have a controller keyboard - a synthesizer without built-in sounds - which makes several tasks a lot easier (as opposed to clicking around with the mouse).

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Trying out demos is the best advice I can give. It does depend on what you're planning to work with primarily. Cubase and Protools for example deal well with audio files, such as those you would get from recording direct from a microphone or something, whereas something like FL Studio is a master at Midi (note data that can be changed at any time after it has been entered). Reason is a great platform to start on, but it's not expandable like other programs. What I mean by this is that Reason does not accept audio plugins to add more instruments or effects.

Everyone has their own opinion and preferred DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) I use FL Studio myself and it's served me very well. I tried the demo and understood it's workflow.

Here's a few to try out:

Garage Band

Reason

Ableton Live

Logic

Sonar

FL Studio

Good luck, shoot a message my way if you have any questions about FL Studio.

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I would actually start with MIDI, composing in notation using Logic, Sonar, Cubase or a notation program.

I would take 2 or 3 years to get better at the art of music before delving into the art of sound. That means -

1) Learning piano

2) Learning relative pitch

3) Learning notation

4) Learning midi through notation, not piano roll

That's personally what I would do in your position.

After you've gotten as good as you want to be in music, you can then get into the art of sound (mixing).

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I would actually start with MIDI, composing in notation using Logic, Sonar, Cubase or a notation program.

I would take 2 or 3 years to get better at the art of music before delving into the art of sound. That means -

1) Learning piano

2) Learning relative pitch

3) Learning notation

4) Learning midi through notation, not piano roll

That's personally what I would do in your position.

After you've gotten as good as you want to be in music, you can then get into the art of sound (mixing).

I know a lot of people who will strongly disagree with you on that one. Many of the remixers here don't know a thing about music, they just do what they think sounds good. Learning these things would certainly be an asset to a musician but I do not believe that they are necessary.

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I would actually start with MIDI, composing in notation using Logic, Sonar, Cubase or a notation program.

I would take 2 or 3 years to get better at the art of music before delving into the art of sound. That means -

1) Learning piano

2) Learning relative pitch

3) Learning notation

4) Learning midi through notation, not piano roll

That's personally what I would do in your position.

After you've gotten as good as you want to be in music, you can then get into the art of sound (mixing).

I played trumpet in high school and college, so I'm well acquainted with musical notation. I never really got into music theory that much other than on my particular instrument. Do feel that it is necessary to learn piano to be effective at mixing?

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If you have both mac and win, GarageBand is a nice place to start. You should already have it, it's easily expanded with free Audio Unit components, and your GB projects can be loaded in its big brother Logic when the limitations start to hit you. On windows, Mixcraft is a good beginner's program pretty much like GB, and like GB it will likely limit you later on. It doesn't have a compatible big brother last time I checked.

Most remixers use FL Studio, which is Windows only. They all have their individual strengths and weaknesses, and are usually suited for different workflows. Cubase is cross platform, but will likely take a while to get into. Reason is more of an instrument than a DAW (digital audio workstation), but some remixers use it as their primary tool and make some decent mixes, Willrock's one of them. Other software ppl here use include Ableton Live, Sonar, Reaper, Pro Tools, and probably Digital Performer.

Check out more opinions about music software in this thread.

And welcome to ocr. :D

Thanks for the welcome. Do you feel that FL Studio and Logic have similar capabilities outside of the obviously different user interfaces? I'm leaning toward first messing around with GB since I can then upgrade to Logic and I have a full year of private lessons on Mac software with staff at the Apple Store.

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You don't need anything other than a computer, especially when you're starting. Everything can be simulated on the computer as well as you'd need. Hardware is great for live performances and can make some tasks easier, but I'd recommend just staying away from it until later. One possible exception might be to look into getting a midi keyboard for easy note input.

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Oh, definitely, I agree that having fun and following what feels best is always always always the best path.

But I think it's important to know specifically what you want, and find a way to practically achieve that.

Many, if not most hollywood composers for example don't do the mixing or production work, or sometimes even the arranging/orchestrating of their music.

I personally have always wanted to just create really great melodies. So that's where I put all of my effort, and that's what I improved most on. Now, I'm great at making melodies, and I have a lot of fun doing it. I'm also good at arranging, I really enjoy that. But mixing, and production is my personal weakness.

I see other people that aren't as fluent at creating melodies, but have more fun focusing on the sound part of things, creating sweeping orchestral fx-like soundtrack music. It's all good, it's all equal.

It's just, there really really is a difference between composing (making melody+harmony), arranging/orchestration, and music production (dealing with the sound side of things), and sometimes it seems like a lot of kids growing up wanting to be composers don't know that.

For example, I had always wanted to be like Nobuo Uematsu when I was in music training. He, along with so many other composers, doesn't do music production. I always had thought that he did his own orchestrating, doing Liberi Fatali, and the FF9 Plus tracks.

It's like storyboarding in drawing. The composers do the outline, and the orchestrators and music producers do the rest.

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I played trumpet in high school and college, so I'm well acquainted with musical notation. I never really got into music theory that much other than on my particular instrument. Do feel that it is necessary to learn piano to be effective at mixing?

You don't need to learn how to play piano, but it's not a bad idea to be familiar with what it looks like, how it works, and so forth.

I personally found even 8 months of piano extremely helpful to remixing. I can't play live worth crap, but the basics of how to navigate a keyboard has stayed.

Learning music theory (which is much more than notation) is a good step to take to help you grow as an artist. Learn about scales (you probably know them), chords, and chord progressions at least. If you are familiar with those then it gives you two main benefits.

1) You can communicate with your peers especially if they offer you suggestions or when you collaborate with them.

2) You start internalizing the things that you hear not only as "sounds" but also visually. You can also use them as a base from which to "try new things" that increase your songs' variety.

I would NOT take any of those lessons that focus specifically on an audio program without first being somewhat familiar with somewriting. Since you've been playing the trumpet, you might find that it comes pretty naturally.

The reason I suggest this is because, for many people starting, it's not the sound quality or program limitations that stop people from making good music, rather it's being unfamiliar with how songs work, how harmony works, how phrasing works. For now simply play with the programs (and watch video tutorials and read the manual) to get familiar with the basics and lay down some beats and some notes and have fun!

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We're teaching newbs that synthesizer=keyboard?

No.

You know the difference, the newbs don't.

Please, think of the newbs.

Besides, the idea works pretty well. A synthesizer has both the engine that makes the sound and the keyboard that tells it which notes to play. A controller lacks the engine. A module lacks the keyboard. Voila! 3 concepts explained when they only know vaguely of one.

What hardware other than a computer is ideal for producing superior mixes?

That depends on how you define "superior". It's not going to be superior for quite a while when you are just starting out. Superior should also not be equated with "just as loud as on the radio", by the way.

A computer alone usually has an on-board soundcard. What's not superior about it? Well, the fact that the default drivers mean that you will experience latency; a noticeable delay between hitting the key/clicking the button and hearing the sound. The solution for this is an audio interface - a soundcard that is meant for music production. While there are ways to get low latency without one (ASIO4ALL for Windows, CoreAudio on OS X), it won't do anything about the fact that on-board soundcards have a limited number of inputs and outputs, which is an important issue if you want to record multiple instruments simultaneously on separate tracks.

Besides your computer, you need something to listen to. So, speakers or headphones. Thing is, usually most speakers will sweeten the sound (try putting the equalizer in your audio player on with full bass and high frequencies, and reduce the mid) and in the case of the 2 satellite speakers + subwoofer, even cut a whole swath away from it. So, if it sounds good at your place, there's no guarantee that it's going to sound just as good somewhere else. For that, monitor speakers have been developed; they don't color the sound, so if you can make it sound good on them, you've got a better chance of having it sound good somewhere else.

The controller was already mentioned; you can't play chords with the mouse, and before some smartass replies that you can use a menu to create a chord in FL's piano roll, you can't also tweak 2 knobs at the same time with just a mouse. Enter the controller keyboard; it's got a set of knobs and sliders that you can assign to the most important parameters on the screen so you can totally freak out like

(the knobs are used to control the effects with).

By the time you have that and feel comfortable with it, 6 months or so will have passed.

Do keep in mind that the experience - composition, theory, etc. is more important than what you use. You can always win the lottery and buy all the cool stuff, but you can't buy talent for yourself (you can only hire it).

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What hardware other than a computer is ideal for producing superior mixes?

If you can play guitar, a guitar will be useful. If you can play keyboards, keyboards will be useful. If you can play bagpipes, bagpipes will be useful, and for any of this, microphones and audio interfaces are also useful. "Superior" virtual instruments are either sold separately for a few hundred per instrument, or in packages for over a thousand bucks. And of course, you'll need hard drive space to store them, upper memory to load them into, and processing power to use them. And a compatible music program. Same with the effects required to process them "superiorly", except the memory part.

Then there's stuff like a well-built recording room, interference-free electrical wiring, real orchestra/band/choir. These things don't fit in my room, so I decided against getting them. ;)

But everything you need to do decent music can be found for free or cheap enough for most ppl to manage.

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Picking a piece of software is not obvious. It has to "think" the same way you do.

Maybe we're past this already, but I'd like to say that I second this statement.

That being said, I've really excelled with Reason. The added benefit of learning with Reason is that once you're familiar and comfortable with it, you'll also have a fairly solid foundation for how physical audio/recording gear works. I took a class in college on studio recording, and even though I'd never touched a soundboard before, I was already way ahead of everyone else. It's because "recording" electronic music with Reason is so darn similar to recording "real" music with physical gear.

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That being said, I've really excelled with Reason. The added benefit of learning with Reason is that once you're familiar and comfortable with it, you'll also have a fairly solid foundation for how physical audio/recording gear works. I took a class in college on studio recording, and even though I'd never touched a soundboard before, I was already way ahead of everyone else. It's because "recording" electronic music with Reason is so darn similar to recording "real" music with physical gear.

This. I started learning Reason a few years ago, I now do sound design for the Cambridge Footlights ;-)

The great thing about Reason is that it's really simple to pick up, but offers pretty much limitless possibilities once you're good with it. Many people complain about the lack of VST support, but it does encourage you to learn yourself some synthesis, and the fact that it looks like a rackful of gear is pretty damn helpful with regards to understanding signal flow and things like that. And with the advent of Record you can now record live audio into it as well, if that's what you're after. My only problem with it is the lack of MIDI out, but I think Record can do that as well (I don't use it myself, someone confirm?).

What hardware other than a computer is ideal for producing superior mixes?

None. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't look into other hardware. Ideally a computer should be the nucleus of your setup, around which everything else interacts. You can't beat the sheer visceral pleasure of dicking about with some proper synths, and hearing your mix coming together with everything working as one is pretty amazing. That said, it is possible (and often preferable) to do a mix entirely on a computer, especially given how expensive hardware can be. My advice: start with just a computer and Reason, get used to writing your own original music first, learn how synthesis works, learn how MIDI works, start getting some cheap second-hand hardware, get Record or another DAW you can ReWire Reason into and go from there. Most importantly, have fun with it! It is art after all ;-)

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Reason + Record has been the best for me personally hardware-wise. I own a slower computer and it works wonders. It's also a great thing that Record doesn't use any external VST effects, as it makes it more stable, it never crashes, it never dies or gets clogged up.

but I think Record can do that as well (I don't use it myself, someone confirm?).
I use Reason 4 with Sonar using MIDI Yoke. You just have to go to Advanced MIDI and select MIDI Yoke 1 as bus A. I can use Sonar's notation and sequencer in this way and not have to bother with the ever so slow and clunky method of using Reason with Rewire/VSTi.

If I were in your position, and I know a lot of people wouldn't do the same, I would take up piano/keyboard as your main instrument, and get really really good at it over the next 4-8 years. Everyone plays an instrument. If someone says "I don't play an instrument", that means they either use their voice, or they use the notes coming out of their music software.

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