Get it Down: Keeping it Real

As more and more songwriters set up Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) at home to demo their ideas or make full-blown recordings of their work, they find themselves face to face with a myriad of tools, options and choices they may never have encountered before. Today I’d like to talk about one of those tools: The virtual instrument.

Virtual Reality

For those who might be unfamiliar, a virtual instrument (VI) is a software program/plug-in (basically a sampler) that offers the user a virtual version of a real world instrument that can be played or programmed via MIDI control; there are piano VIs, drum VIs and so on.

These days, there are many VI software packages on the market, and even the most basic of DAW software comes equipped with at least a few VIs. As you can imagine, the benefits of these amazing tools can be great, but like all game-changing innovations, there’s also a potential for overindulgence.

Keep it Real

Now don’t get me wrong, I personally use VIs all the time. They’ve allowed me to do things with my recordings that would have otherwise been costly or impossible - When I needed an orchestra at 3am while working that TV ad deadline, my string VI was there for me. When only a rare, vintage Mellotron keyboard sound would do on a particular recording, my trusty M-Tron VI came to the rescue.  As you can tell, l really do love and appreciate my VIs although honestly, when it comes down to it, I have to say I love real musicians playing real instruments a whole lot more.

As songwriters we’re always striving to capture that little slice of humanity in every song we write. It’s ultimately that piece of real-ness that, hopefully, will allow our creations to connect with other human beings.  As such, when at all possible, why not strive for the same authenticity in the recording of our songs?

As good as that drum VI might sound, realize it can never truly recreate the subtle nuances achieved by a live drummer behind a real kit.  No matter how cool you think you sound playing your Hammond B3 VI, remember you’re still no match compared to a master sitting behind the real thing who’s dedicated his whole life to making that box howl.

So the next time you reach for that trumpet sample, if budget and time allow, stop and ask yourself if you know a horn player. Chances are you do, and if not, your band-mate probably does. Why not give that player a call, have him come by and breathe some real, non-virtual life into your tracks.

-Posted by Mark

A recurring feature on IVC, “Get it Down” will cover subjects related to capturing our songs/song ideas and the tools we use for that purpose. Posts on recording, gear, etc will all be fair game.


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Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also a contributing writer for Guitar World as well as the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com

Get it Down

Welcome to another recurring feature on IVC called - “Get it Down”. Here we’ll try and cover subjects related to capturing our songs/song ideas and the tools we use for that purpose. Posts on recording, gear, etc will all be fair game.

In this piece, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a few really simple tools I personally use on a regular basis to capture my song ideas.

Let’s face it, inspiration doesn’t always strike when we’re sitting at home in front of the piano. The muse may call in the car, the plane or the Laundromat. As such, I find myself relying more and more on the only tool I always seem to have in pocket; my smartphone.

These days the iPhone has become my default songwriting assistant of sorts. If a new melody comes to mind, rather than hoping I’ll remember it when I get to a guitar, I’ll quickly pop open the “voice memo” app that comes stock with iPhone and hum my idea into the phone for posterity. I have to say it’s a pretty affective way of remember song ideas and really, you don’t need an iPhone to do this. Most all smartphones and even basic cell phones have some sort of voice recorder built in. You might look insane singing into your phone on the street but hey, people think musicians are crazy anyway.

Another smartphone tool I find myself using is a free app called ‘Dragon Dictation’. If a song title or lyrical idea comes to me out of the blue, I’ll pop open Dragon and just dictate a verse or chorus out loud while the app transcribes everything I say, instantly converting it to text on screen. From there, Dragon allows me to send my (already typed up!) new lyrics to my home computer via email or even share them via text to a collaborator I might be working with. Pretty neat.

Do you have any hacks that help you get your ideas down when inspiration calls? Let us know.

-Posted by Mark


Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com