I spent the weekend getting all my packages up-to-date and trying to familiarize myself with Ardour 3 beta 5*. I then spent the last three days recording MIDI keyboard parts and vocals for my upcoming EP.
I got a lot of my information from a video tutorial I found on Ardour’s website. It was made back when Ardour 3 was still in alpha, but I did find it useful as far as getting proper signal flow between various programs using JACK. Upon opening Ardour 3 beta, I did notice that there were quite a few changes to the program since the video was made, but I would still recommend the tutorial, especially if this is your first time recording using MIDI. Unfortunately, the demonstrator is using a USB connection for his MIDI keyboard (guess he did not have a MIDI cable?) but I was able to translate that into what I would need to do to use a MIDI connection with a little thought.
I found that constantly opening a new session and forcing myself to establish those connections again and again was the best way to solidify the process. Sure, I was slow at first, but now I just open all my programs and connect them with out thinking. In the end I used Ardour 3, JACK, QjackCtl (a JACK GUI) and Qsampler (a Linux Sampler GUI) to record my keyboard parts and vocals.
I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the changes to the newest version of Ardour. Here are a few of the things that I loved:
- Having just come from several months of using ProTools 9, then 10, I see that some of my favorite little details from ProTools are now integrated. I love that there is now a “smart tool” that changes your mouse icon into a different tool depending on where you are in the track. It really saves time when you do not have to keep going to the tool bar to change to the select/move object tool or the select/move range tool.
- If the way QjackCtl is presented is difficult for you to visualize, I really like having the alternate, more graphic interface that is available right in Ardour. Click on the “Window” tab, check the boxes for “Audio Connection Manager” and for “MIDI Connection Manager” and it shows those same JACK connections between hardware and software, but in a different way. In the beginning, I referred to both just to double check that I had everything set up correctly. In the end, I used the QjackCtl interface more, but I like them both.
- The dialogue window for exporting makes it a no-brainer for those who might not know about sample rates etc. Want to make a CD-ready track? Select the option for CD in the edit window and it automatically sets your parameters to a 44.1kHz, 16bit WAV file. Want to amend that? All the other options are clearly marked and easy to see. You can even add dither at this point. I think it is nice to be able to just click one button and go if you are not trying to do something unusual.
- One of my favorite little surprises was something so small and yet it is one of the things I was the most excited about. I was trying to edit one of my vocal tracks. I didn’t like how I sang a phrase, so I wanted to replace it with another take. When I went to line up the preferred version in my working track, I placed the new take on top of the old one and it was translucent. It was SO EASY to line up the takes because I could see one wave form through the other. If you are zoomed in, lining them up takes literally a second or two. I love this feature. So simple! So intuitive!
I will be sure to post more of my thoughts as I continue to record additional songs and play more with my MIDI options. I plan to try to program a very simple drum part for one song that will not have a live drummer, and I will mess around with some ambient sounds as well.
*I am currently running Ardour 3.0.0 svn13084 on 64 bit Ubuntu Studio 12.04
I had two really fun shows this week. Monday’s performance was in Annandale, VA, and it was my first show in my new home state. I received a very warm welcome and had a blast with the other 4 acts: Snidget, The Blibbering Humdingers, Leth I. Fold and KwikSpell. It is not very often that a show lends itself to a round-robin format, but it really worked for us. It allowed for some cool harmonies and I got to do a really fun, impromptu keyboard solo on a Blibbering Humdingers song.
The next night The Humdingers and I took the show on the road up to Mount Kisco, NY and were joined by Swish and Flick and The Gringotts Grrls. Swish and Flick are so amazing live and I was ever so grateful to be able to plug into their system. My keyboard is just too bass-heavy and a little muddy coming out of my amp and man, did it sound crystal clear. I had a great time and I was so thankful for all the folks who took the train out from the city in the rain. Such troopers!
These shows reminded me of the importance of translating a few more songs to just piano. I really like playing live music, so relying less on my iPod for backing tracks would be a good thing. The issue I have is that the songs that really rock-out would take on such a different vibe live if I did them exclusively on piano. That is cool if people are familiar with the songs, but if not, it does not give an accurate picture of my sound. It is a trade-off that I need to reconcile. What I really need is a full band!