Punch-in for the rescue

Yesterday, I’ve watched a video by Joe Gilder – owner of HomeStudioCorner.com – on how to increase your workflow in Pro Tools, including all nifty shortcuts ‘n’stuff. A part of the video dealt with the Punch-In recording option.

Now what is punch-in doing? Well, when punch-in is active, Pro Tools is recording all the time. As a sound engineer, you can now quickly hit the record button while letting the performer perform, and adjust the bounds to the specific part afterwards. Since it’s recording all the time, you can even enlarge the part you’ve recorded.

Now how’s that useful for people like me only recording themselves. Well, with punch-in activated, Pro Tools even records during the pre- and post-roll. Now assume you wanna record a part not at once, but step by step. You set your bounds hit record and start playing during the pre-roll, to ensure you really hit the part. The problem about recording stuff in parts, is that you can get so popping sounds on the boundary. And since you only recorded the part you needed, you can’t easily fix that with crossfades, because you simply don’t have the audio material. If you’d had punch-in active, Pro Tools would have been recorded during the pre-roll, and you could have easily done a crossfade to blend the parts together.

And that’s just one possible scenario. During the last months of using Pro Tools, I had a lot of situations where I simply recorded not enough material for doing proper fades. Now I don’t turn out punch-in anymore, and therefore these days are (hopefully) over.

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There’s something seriously wrong with GTR Solo

Quite some time ago, I bought Waves GTR Solo. It’s only $18, and offers a nice collection of virtual amps and effects.


First time I tried GTR Solo, I used the stand-alone application. I’ve got no AMP here currently, so I used this for jamming a little instead of a real amp. It worked really nice, offered some cool sounds and setups to play with. But after first trying to use this in Pro Tools, the application crashed. Reproducible.

These days, I thought it was a problem with my setup. But recently, due to totally unrelated problems, I re-setup my whole system. Fresh installation of windows ‘n’ stuff. So today I thought, I’d give it another try. Well, Pro Tools didn’t crash, but it used the full available CPU power (that is, all 4 cores showed 99% workload), and windows got so bouncy that I had to warmstart my PC.

I really don’t know what’s the problem with GTR Solo. I’ve a fairly potent PC (Intel Q6600, 2.4Ghz Quadcore), and no problems with other “big” plugins like Melodyne or Miroslav Philharmonik CE. And since the stand-alone versions running quite smoothly, I guess wave has something messed up with the rtas plugin or stuff like that.

It’s only 18 bucks, so it’s not that bad, but it’s annoying…

EDIT: Ok, I checked the waves site again. GTR Solo officially only supports Pro Tools 7 (I’m using 8 here). Maybe that’s the reason why it’s so cheap nowadays.

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Some Pro Tools Tips for Beginners / Some Further Reading

Well, I wouldn’t consider myself a pro right now. Honestly, I’m quite far away from that status. But I’ve made some avoidable mistakes when I began recording I’m quite aware of, and which are easy to avoid. So here are some basic tips, which taken in account, will result in a way better workflow.

Name Your Tracks Immediately

This is really crucial. Whenever you add a new track to your project, the first thing you should do is naming it. Pro Tools automatically names any audiofile using the tracks name. So if you don’t want to deal with thousands of files named like Audio01_07_05, name your tracks.

Keep your Project Clean

After you’re done with a session, delete any files you didn’t need. Do this by going to the region list, use a filter to find your newly recorded files (in order to efficiently use a filter, you should have already followed tip 1), select the unused files, right-click and select clean->delete.

First advantage is, that you’re keeping your hard drive clean. Second advantage is that it will be much easier for you to find the right files, when you need them. It really enhances our workflow and keeps you from browsing through hundreds of files to find the right take.

Use Playlists (Reasonable)

Pro Tools got a decent feature named playlists. You can select them by clicking on the “waveform” icon in the track and select playlists. It allows you to record several takes using only one audio track, and then comping together the best takes. Again, you should name the playlists before recording, to keep things clear. But mind the brackets! I’d do a reasonable amount of takes for any part. I, for myself, keep it at 5 takes. Comp the best resaults together, and in case I can’t find any good take for a single part, record that part again.

I have made the mistake to take 20 takes of a part, using the Pro Tools looprecording feature. Finding the best was nearly impossible and a lot of rehearing. So, keep it easy, limit your maximum numbers of takes at the beginning, and stop after you’ve recorded that amount. It will safe you a lot of time.

Further Reading

There are a lot of homerecording blogs on the web. Many of them from professionals. My favorite are Production Advice, Homestudio Corner and Key of Grey as well as the AIR User Blog. If you’re interested in homerecording, you should check them out. I’ve learned A LOT browsing through their archives.

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Status update / Soundcloud

Status Update

Yeah, it’s been a while. I didn’t have that much time to work on my music during the last weeks, and therefore didn’t have much to write about. But the project is still alive, and I’m close to finishing a new song. Where “close” is kinda relative. I’ve got to do 4 bars of a rhythm section, and redo a few bars of the solo. And I’ve got to do a lot of mixing, which could take quite some time. So expect anything between a week and a month for me to come back here.

Damn Soundcloud

In case anyone really reads this regularly, you probably know I use Soundcloud as my main page to upload any new previews. Generally, I like Soundcloud. It’s easy, well-arranged, nice looking, etc…

Well, when I checked my stats today, I realized I had 20 plays of No Other Way on April, 20. Which is quite a lot, considering I didn’t do any promotion and compared to the 1 or 2 plays a week I get normally. Sadly, to see where the track was linked, you have to subscribe to the pro plan, which is 250 euros a year. So I guess I’ll never find out, where those plays come from… :/

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New Preview / Transcribing

New Preview: Emptiness

As promised last sunday, I’ve got a new preview available on my soundcloud account, listen to it right here:

Check out the lyrics on my DeviantArt account.

I put quite some effort into that vocals sound on the verse. First of all, I put some compression on the dry vocals, using the “radio” preset from Pro Tools. That is, high threshold (-28db), relatively high ratio (100:1), and relatively short attack and release (300 um resp. 10ms). If you don’t know these terms, checkout the compression tutorial by PrimeLoops.com.

Further, I’ve put an equalizer on the sound to generate the so-called “telephone vocals”. That is, a high/low pass filter at 100/10k Hz, and a boosting everything at about 1k Hz. Pro Tools has a 7-band eq preset for that sound, but I tweaked it a little to my own desires. Moreover, most howtos on telephone vocals suggest for the low pass filter to kick in at 5k Hz.

Last but not least, I used the free Izotope Vinyl plugin, to get that constant noise in the background.

The pain of transcribing

Well, I admit, I had forgotten what exactly played on No Other Way when I recorded it. So I had to grab my guitar and figure out the exact notes again, since I always wanted to re-record at least some of the parts (and work out serious vocal line).

So just some advice for everyone’s running a homerecording project: transcribe immediately. It saves a lot of time, and it’s not comparable to a “real” band, where you probably rehearse your songs every week. TuxGuitar is a very good, free tool for that purpose. Just btw.

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First Impressions of Pro Tools 8 M-Powered

I’m working with Pro Tools 8 M-Powered for a whole week now. So I think it’s about time to give some impressions.

Overall, I’m very satisfied and don’t regret the step switching from Pro Tool 8 Essentials to M-Powered. I’m far away from having discovered all the new possibilities, so I’ll probably give some more detailed review sometimes later. So lets start:

The Box Content

Pro Tools 8 M-Powered contains three discs: the installation disc, a bonus disc with sample songs, drum loops and other samples, and a Video-DVD which, which lasts about one hour and explains the basic controls of Pro Tools. Further you get an iLok USB stick, which has to be connected to the computer to run Pro Tools.

Sadly, there wasn’t any printed manual included, so you have to read the 1000 pages reference guide on your computer.

Lesser Restrictions

Now up to the software side. Pro Tools 8 M-Powered lifts a lot of the restrictions given in the essential version. That is:

(at least) 10 Inserts

The essentials version was restricted to 3 inserts per track. That is, you could only use 3 plug-ins to tinker your sound in real-time. This limit is quite easy to reach. Given a guitar track, using Sans-Amp for distortion, an equalizer and a compressor, you’re already hitting the roof. The full version supports (at least) 10 inserts per track.

External Plug-in Support

Using essential, you couldn’t use any third-party plugin. This restriction is lifted in M-Powered. There aren’t a lot, but there are even free plug-ins using the RTAS format. E.g. I’ve already used the awesome Izotope Vinyl.

More Plug-Ins in the Box

M-Powered offers much more tools and sound-modifying plug-ins than Essential. E.g. Two very handy tools for me have been TL inTune and TL Metro. The former one gives the possibilities to tune your guitar right in Pro Tools (not necessary, but quite handy and time-saving), the latter one is nothing more or less than a metronome. But opposed to the click track, it lets you define clicks on 8th or triads. Very handy.

Additionally, there are (for example) additional limiter, reverb, delay and distortion plug-ins.

Stay tuned for a new preview release and some notes on “vocals exiter” during the next week.


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The unpleasant stuff

Current state

Well, just a quick update, because I didn’t post anything for so long. I’m still working on a new song called “Emptiness”. Anyhow, it’s sadly still not in any presentable state. Moreover, the lyrics aren’t complete yet. There’s one line missing for the first verse to fit the music, and it just won’t come to my mind… :/

Scheduling / Practicing / Webpage

Further, I began scheduling. That is, every day I’ve some fixed dates for unpleasant stuff (like homepage programming/designing), practicing or songwriting/recording. That way, I will hopefully make more constant progress in all of these aspects. Today, for example,  I’ve finally made some progress in terms of homepage-design. You may have a look at the current wip-snapshot here. It’s still pretty basic though, with lots of placeholder content.

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