The arrival of the personal computer as the primary recording medium for music ushered in a wealth of sophisticated editing and project portability. In 2016, myriad options exist for the music computer. Studios of any size, from Westlake to a guest room of a house, are centered around industry standard DAW’s such as Logic and Pro Tools.
One negative aspect of a computer as the primary recording medium is that it enables improper production techniques. The answer to professional functionality and sound lies in the approach to the DAW, rather than which DAW is employed.
One very common error is the improper application of time-based effects in a DAW. Many aspiring and mid-level producers apply time-based effects directly to a track as an insert, rather than creating a solo-safe’d auxiliary input and bussing a copy of the track to the aux via a send. Using this workflow when adding time-based effects provides two benefits: it maintains the wet-to-dry ratio and conserves valuable native resources and/or DSP.
Speaking of native resources, make sure to invest your dollars into upgraded processing and RAM rather than items unnecessary to the music production process, such as retina displays and upgraded video cards. Allocating funds to digital technology that is directly related to music production will result in a more powerful machine.
Another DAW production method used by professionals is to combine related instrumentation or vocals (a four-stack of harmonies or doubled acoustic guitars) to a solo-safe’d stereo aux as a subgroup. This allows us to process, compress and EQ these signals together and provide a sense of cohesion and “glue” that is unattainable by processing these tracks individually.
The presence of the 16 analog outputs on the Apollo and the 5059 allows us to take this method even further. Related vocals and instrumentation can exit the aforementioned subgroups in the DAW via the Apollo and hit the 5059 to be summed and glued together with analog circuitry. Since we have no shortage of outputs, this “stemming” process can be applied to individual vocals and instrumentation as well, resulting in a sophisticated production on a moderate budget.
Two major considerations when building a music production computer are plug-ins and soft synths. Manufacturers like Waves, SoundToys, IK Multimedia, Arturia and Slate make great products that are used in the professional environment daily. However, if your records aren’t crossing the professional threshold, purchasing a litany of plug-ins will not fix the problem. If your fundamental approach to tracking, overdubbing, DAW operation and mixing is flawed, make sure to adjust accordingly so these outstanding plug-ins can perform as they were designed.