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Gosh, I don't know where to start.


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Ok, so I've been making music for a couple of years now. The thing is, I still feel like I'm basically an 8/10 (being generous here) in song-writing and a 1/10 in production. Here are some examples:

http://soundcloud.com/andrew-nee

Now, when I listen to a lot of the stuff people are doing here the production values are way higher. I'm actually wondering if there is just something I'm missing from the start, like my core set of drum / synth / etc. samples are weak or who knows what.

Anyway, I decided that the best way to move forward is to go back to the basics. I want to start over. Right now I'm running Orion on Windows XP. But I've never really heard of many people using Orion... is there a reason for this? Is something like Ableton Live a better option? Why do so many people use Macs, are they actually superior? What drum and bass samples do you guys use? Synths? Effects?

Short version:

1. What computer / OS / music software would you guys recommend?

2. What drums / bass / synths / etc. plug-ins would you guys recommend?

3. What effect plug-ins would you guys recommend?

4. Anything other helpful information.

I think my eventual goal is to get my production values at least to the point where I can listen to music on here and not feel super far off from it.

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Why do so many people use Macs, are they actually superior?

Stereotypically, yes.

Technically speaking, depends on if you want to use Logic Pro and if you feel like paying double for minimal gain that only includes stuff like "stylish" and "stable" (the latter of which is subject to debate because I have had a Pro Tools Mac set up at school crash on me twice before). In terms of computing horsepower, no. They are not superior. If you're not rich but want a powerful workstation, PC gets you the most bang for your buck.

Short version:

1. What computer / OS / music software would you guys recommend?

2. What drums / bass / synths / etc. plug-ins would you guys recommend?

3. What effect plug-ins would you guys recommend?

4. Anything other helpful information.

1. It's not the software, it's how you use it. Exported sound files from different DAW's sound almost exactly indistinguishable (though I can think trained audiophiles with expensive gear can tell the difference). OS? 7 is the way to go because XP 64-bit (which you need for more than 3.2 usable GB of ram) is, as I hear it, complete garbage. Do not quote me on that, though. That's just what I've heard around here. As far as computers go, there's this really insane king of PC building here named prophetik. He can build you a quality machine for much less than what a retailer like Dell or HP would make you pay for em.

2. For acoustic drums, I've heard good stuff from Addictive Drums. Other good ones are Steven Slate and Storm Drum 2. If you want electronic drums, hit me up in a PM and I can send you some free packs that I've collected over the past year. As far as synths, you'll want to get your hands on the free Zebra 2 demo. It's arguably one of the most versatile out there and it gives insane results (and it's apparently the favorite of Hans Zimmer) if you play around with it long enough. You can export songs with it, but having it open for more than 15 minutes will cause glitches in the reading of the MIDI (because the demo times out). If you save and reopen the project, it'll be just fine on reopening.

3. The Fruity Juice Pack by Image-Line has great effects in it for a low price, but if you're going to buy something you might as well go big and get something like Izotope Ozone Suite or Waves Bundle. If you go with FL Studio as your choice music software, the juice pack is built into it, so you don't have to worry.

4.

Popular DAW's (doesn't mean you need them for good quality sound):

Logic

Pro Tools

Cubase

Sequel (a simpler Cubase by the same people, Steinberg)

Ableton Live

Cakewalk Sonar

FL Studio (my fav)

REAPER

Reason (you can not use any external plug ins with this guy. Only what's included)

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Anyway, I decided that the best way to move forward is to go back to the basics. I want to start over. Right now I'm running Orion on Windows XP. But I've never really heard of many people using Orion... is there a reason for this?

Some sequencers are more popular than others. Some DAW builders have bigger budgets for marketing than others. It's that simple.

Is something like Ableton Live a better option?

You've been using Orion for several years now. You're used to its quirks. You know the shortcut keys.

Essentially all DAWs (in the software realm) do the same: they offer you a sequencer, a mixer, a bunch of bundled synths and effects and the possibility to add 3rd party ones. The difference is in the interface. Virtually everyone adds 3rd-party plugins because it means a company can dedicate itself to doing one thing right, instead of having to be a jack of all trades.

If what you have is a lack of knowledge about engineering - e.g. EQ, compression, gain staging, effects usage - no new DAW is going to help you. Switching from FL to Cubase does not make you more professional; in fact, it sets your production back 3 months until you learn all the quirks of the new DAW all over again.

Why do so many people use Macs

Because some software and some hardware only runs on OS X. Because several audio-related educations offer only courses based on that platform. Again; it's that simple. If you're picking something that only runs on OS X, you need OS X.

are they actually superior?

When you're busy with the DAW, you're not looking at the OS. Or the sequencer. The choice should merely be one based on the software you want to run on it, because the Intel Core chips in there are 100% identical to a bog-standard PC. The packaging and overall handling is just nicer.

Short version: what is your budget? In hard numbers?

What do you already have? Do you have an audio interface? Monitor speakers or studio-grade headphones? Controller keyboard?

1. What computer / OS / music software would you guys recommend?

Is your current computer fast/recent enough?

2. What drums / bass / synths / etc. plug-ins would you guys recommend?

What do you already have?

3. What effect plug-ins would you guys recommend?

What do you already have?

4. Anything other helpful information.

Help us help you. Tell us what you have - in detail. Tell us what you've already tried - in detail. Rather write too much than omit information.

(one of the most frustrating things is that people say stuff like "well, I have this synth". WHICH ONE, DAMNIT. Even worse "well, I have this Korg synth". UGH - that's like saying "I've got a beige computer" when you want to know the system specifications.)

For DAWs, the trick is to download a demo. Ableton Live has a 2-week fully functional (with saving!) trial version; download it, install it, and see how quickly you can make a track. Take a week or two to do this so you're not giving up too quickly and focus on that alone so you're not bogged down in other things.

All decent plugins that don't rely on huge sample libraries have trial versions; download them, install them, but don't go overboard. Check them out one at a time and don't just browse through the presets - edit the sounds, and start from scratch.

What parts of your work do you consider representative for what you want to do? In your nerdcore songs I hear mostly issues with EQ and volume. These can be solved by simply learning what you can do with your existing DAW better.

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From what I can tell from looking at Orion's at its site and from listening to a couple of your tracks, the problem is you. ;) While working in a new environment might give you some new perspectives on things, you can do better in Orion. Read up on the stuff we tell newbs, read whatever guides and stuff you can find (I've got one in my sig, zircon's got a great one somewhere on ocr, etc..).

In other words, learn to use what you've got before throwing money around. :)

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Wow another Orion user? That was my first "sequencer" as well. What version do you have? My impression is that's its really a pretty decent step sequencer if you want to experiment with dance grooves but that's about it.

I don't know how much Synapse has changed it over the years but I found it to be horribly limiting and not much fun to use. How limiting? Well I couldn't subdivide a beat beyond 16ths, Velocity couldn't be adjusted, Only a piano roll to work with unless you imported midi from other programs like Finale or Anvil Studio, and even though it did support my midi keyboard I couldn't record anything with it which meant everything had to be moused in.

I didn't really get going until I took a class on Sonar which seemed loads more flexible than Orion, but that added flexibility meant there was more to learn before you started to create anything decent.

If you have a very limited budget you can do alot with Orion and it's friendlier to new users in it's ease of setting up projects and getting something that sounds like music faster. Eventually though, if you really get serious about it, you are going to need something along the lines of Sonar, Cubase, Reason etc. These DAWs aren't standalone software and they force you to think about your digital studio as a whole.

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Well, to clarify a bit I know that my sound won't instantly change by switching, but there are a few things about Orion that I just don't like. For one, it crashes a fair amount and runs sketchy even when it doesn't crash. But from a user interface standpoint, it just seems lacking. I was messing with Ableton on a friend's computer and in like 20 minutes I was able to do some stuff with volume and effects and the likes that on Orion is a huge hassle (at least as far as I know.) So maybe I'm mostly just looking for something that makes more intuitive sense to me.

I also think it would help to use something that is more "standard" because whenever I try to find help with Orion, no one I know is using it. I know a lot more people who use Ableton and Reason.

So basically, a large part of why I want to switch is to be able to get more support, both from people I already know and from forums. But I also think Orion is not the best DAW (and it seems someone here agrees with me.)

What do you already have?

Ok, let's see:

OS: Windows 7

DAW: Orion Pro ver 7.0

Preloaded VSTs?:

Monobass

Plucked String

Tomcat

Wasp XP

WaveFusion

XR 909

VSTs added by me:

Basic 64

EVM Bassline v1-3

Pro-53

Slayer 2

Spook Keys

Peach / Toad / Triforce

Triangle I

arcDev Mainliner X2

Arturia Minimoog V

Chip32

Korg LegacyCell

Korg MS-20

Korg Polysix

Korg Wavestation

mellowsound

QuadraSID

Moog Modular V2

Effects added by me:

Direct X WAVES - Um, like a billion of them.

Boss DS-1

Boss SD-1

dBlue Glitch V1.3

GCM900

Pro53-FX

PS1

Rednef Twin

Slayer 2FX

Tubescreamer

Univibe

ke_FIR V1

TC Native Bundle

Wagner Sharp

Probably missing some but that is the extent of it.

I should maybe also clarify that right now I'm doing everything directly off of my laptop, no external gear.

What parts of your work do you consider representative for what you want to do?

Hmm, probably the "New Video Game Nerdcore Rock project" but I'm basically still experimenting, no idea where this is all going.

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Well, to clarify a bit I know that my sound won't instantly change by switching, but there are a few things about Orion that I just don't like. For one, it crashes a fair amount and runs sketchy even when it doesn't crash. But from a user interface standpoint, it just seems lacking. I was messing with Ableton on a friend's computer and in like 20 minutes I was able to do some stuff with volume and effects and the likes that on Orion is a huge hassle (at least as far as I know.) So maybe I'm mostly just looking for something that makes more intuitive sense to me.

That is a good reason to switch; if you know that it's a huge hassle. The fact however that you managed to do that (did your friend have to help?) means that in some cases Live may be a better match in terms of intuition.

For me it was the reason to switch from Cubase to Live and I haven't regretted it since.

However, lots of people started with a sequencer or DAW because it was something they could afford, something they were taught or something their friends had - when you've got someone who can provide you with a little help, an afternoon of doing things with someone looking over your shoulder beats the hell out of reading a boatload of tutorials. That also means that you're going to get advice that is colored by people's preference for their own sequencer because they happen to find it the most intuitive to themselves.

Anyway, go test some demo version of the list Neblix gave you, try one at a time for 2 weeks, and then you'll find out what fits you the best.

Probably missing some but that is the extent of it.

I don't know over half of these but even then it seems that there's a bit of duplication in there ;-).

I should maybe also clarify that right now I'm doing everything directly off of my laptop, no external gear.

Not even a controller keyboard? Even if you can't play it's a good investment because hunting and pecking can still be faster than clicking in notes with the mouse. Plus, you get a bunch of knobs, sliders and pads for free, and it's mad fun to assign them to an instrument or effect in Live and play and tweak.

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My friend didn't help with Ableton, in fact said friend has never used it, they just happened to have it because another friend installed it on their computer. I'm still trying to decide between Ableton and Reason, I have friends who use both and I'm trying to decide which of said friends would actually help me out versus the ones that are too busy/etc. to help much, heh. It's true that there is probably a lot Orion can do that I never bothered learning, but I'd still prefer to get something that is more standard when it comes to people making electronic music, and no one I talk to EVER uses Orion.

So to clarify a bit more, I have done everything off of my laptop because I haven't really had spare time and money lately. Mostly because I have been in grad school for the last two years and paying out of pocket. But I'm almost finished and ready to get back into music! So I'd like to get a controller keyboard eventually and learn how to use it. I did play piano as a child and I still have some skills. Question: what do you mean by "hunting and pecking", I am not familiar with those terms.

As for software costs though, that isn't as big of an issue because my brother is a label owner / producer and he gets a ton of free (legal) software and often passes it my way. I'd have to talk to him, but I think he can get me almost anything I want, if not for free than at least at a discount.

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My friend didn't help with Ableton, in fact said friend has never used it, they just happened to have it because another friend installed it on their computer. I'm still trying to decide between Ableton and Reason, I have friends who use both and I'm trying to decide which of said friends would actually help me out versus the ones that are too busy/etc. to help much, heh. It's true that there is probably a lot Orion can do that I never bothered learning, but I'd still prefer to get something that is more standard when it comes to people making electronic music, and no one I talk to EVER uses Orion.

Keep in mind these are two radically different pieces of software. If you go with Reason, you can NOT USE 3rd party/external plug-ins. At all.

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Keep in mind these are two radically different pieces of software. If you go with Reason, you can NOT USE 3rd party/external plug-ins. At all.

Really? That's... interesting. And a huge knock against it, for me. How do people who use Reason utilize stuff that isn't built in, just build tracks separately outside of Reason and add them together later?

Hunt and peck is more common with typing - you scan the keys looking for the correct letter and then hit it; then you move on to the next. This does not apply if you still have some piano skills.

So... clarify something for me. I'm working under the assumption that with a MIDI keyboard you can record live. Which is fine, if you're a spot on player. But you can also use it just to help track in some fashion without having to be spot on?

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So... clarify something for me. I'm working under the assumption that with a MIDI keyboard you can record live. Which is fine, if you're a spot on player. But you can also use it just to help track in some fashion without having to be spot on?

That's right. You can peck away at a full beethoven sonata one note at a time with one finger then go back and fix it up. It will just be very time consuming to get it to sound like anything.

The ability to go back and fix the midi data is a life saver for me as I had a hand injury in college. Now getting that perfect take is less of an issue.

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Really? That's... interesting. And a huge knock against it, for me. How do people who use Reason utilize stuff that isn't built in, just build tracks separately outside of Reason and add them together later?

That's one option. The other option is to ReWire Reason so it acts as a insanely big software synth.

So... clarify something for me. I'm working under the assumption that with a MIDI keyboard you can record live. Which is fine, if you're a spot on player. But you can also use it just to help track in some fashion without having to be spot on?

If you know your chords, it's faster to just play one than to click the notes together. Plus, the aforementioned knobs & pads deal.

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