I’m bored. Entertain me.

Well, I mean, help me out, please. I was just kind of channeling Johnny Rotten, there. And really, this is to help me to entertain myself.

Oh, wait. First some good news. Asshole colleague #2 has moved to Singapore! Yessss!! I mean, he’s closer to Steve, but way farther away from me. Sorry about that, Steve (although you are probably safe in Adelaide). Asshole colleague #1 is feeling increasingly marginalized and paranoid, because a number of his fellow assholes are either leaving or are in a limboesque state in which no one knows what the f*** they are doing. But this is making his behavior worse, in a sort of Freudian loss-of-parental-figure way. It’s kind of fun watching him unspool, as long as I’m not in the middle of it.

On to the entertainment. For a long time, I’ve been trying to get back into playing music. I played guitar as a teenager for about seven years, until I was so overcome by depression that I couldn’t do it (or play piano) anymore. Depression is like that. First I didn’t feel like playing. Then I decided that I had never really been any good at it, anyway. Then, if  I did  pick up my guitar, I’d be overwhelmed by feeling like I had lost whatever interest I ever had in it, as well as any ability to be good at it, and I’d wonder why I’d ever bothered. And then I’d put it down and feel even more depressed. That lasted for twenty years.

Now I want to try again, but I’m kind of freaking myself out about it. So I thought that if I started out by only trying to play some simple things, for myself, without worrying about doing anything complicated, that would be a good way to start. And – here’s where you can help – I want to be able to record myself, to play around with some sounds and just enjoy the fun of the *sound*. I have Garage Band on my Mac, but I don’t know how to set up my guitar/amp to record. And I don’t have a mic aside from what’s on my laptop, so I can’t record my voice. And – I’d really like to get a keyboard of some kind and record that, too.

So, I know that at least two of the people who read this blog have some experience with studios and recording: any recommendations on set-up for Garage Band, or on how to record myself otherwise in a small-scale way? On a type of mic to buy? On keyboards? I’ve got guitars and a small amp, but I’ve never really known anything about electronics or sound systems, so I’m totally lost. And I really, really need more ways of procrastinating on doing my work. So if anyone can help, I’d really appreciate it. And yeah, I guess You-Tubing “Garage Band for dummies” or something like that would be a good place for me to start.

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10 Responses to I’m bored. Entertain me.

  1. k- says:

    I just used GarageBand for one of my band’s recent recordings. We used an 8-channel mixer and ran all the mics through that. The mixer had a USB output, so it went into GarageBand from there. We did the usual layering of tracks: drums, bass, guitars and then vocals. It was pretty easy, but it did require some high-end headphones because you need to listen to the playback while making your own ruckus. All that said, I’ve also used GarageBand for some really basic demos. I just have a USB mic plugged right into it and I record each track (guitar, bass, vocals; I steal drum lines like Steve does) like that. I’ve got a basic $40 USB microphone and it is fine for that level of recording. I’ve even used the built-in mic on the MacBook and it worked OK in the low-fi capacity I was going for.

    All of this reminds me that Steve had talked about doing a collaborative effort. What ever happened to that?

  2. Great Southern Steve says:

    Hello dearest,

    I don’t know anything about GB. I use Cubase. And, it basically took me about two years of trial and error to figure out how to get any decent sounding stuff out of home studio software. I recently did an album with my folk duo and it sounds about 95% professional, so I am glad I invested the time to learn the ropes, but I gotta say it is a lot of work.

    I have an external sound card unit called a Tascam (144) which allows me to plug a guitar or microphone and record it direct. If you are using your computer’s internal sound card you will still need to have some kind of interface to allow you to plug stuff in. You could probably get a decent card for about $100 second hand.

    Unless you are heavily into the natural valve amp sound, I would plug the guitar straight into your interface and get a basic sound, then use effects to simulate an amplifier.

    For cool guitar sounds, I use a free version of this: http://www.peavey.com/products/revalver/

    It’s great. You can simulate all sorts of guitar amp styles with it.

    If you can be bothered, get some drum samples off CDs you like and muck around with the click track until you get the sample in time and matched up with the bar lines. I am currently doing this with the drum intro to “Janie Jones” by the Clash. Import the file into your editor and then cut out everything except the drum break you want, then muck around with it til you get it in time. It’s kind of a hassle.

    If you can’t be bothered doing that, go to somewhere like Betamonkey or Big Fish Audio and get their free samples which are already cut to size, and have the BPM (the speed) noted on them. Then just copy them into the bars for as long as you want, and play guitar along to them on a separate track.

    A few classic newbie mistakes to avoid:

    Make sure you name all your .wav files carefully. Otherwise you end up with a shitload of “audio01.wav,” “audio02.wav” etc, and you can’t tell what anything is.

    Make sure you decide what folder your song project is going in, and don’t move it. If you move project folders, your software will not be able to find your audio files. Work out a system for filing and stick to it.

    Pick a single folder for plug-in effects and don’t move it. Put all your effects in that folder. Otherwise you will not be able to use a lot of your effects.

    And, what happened to the virtual band thing? Nothing. No drum loops ever arrived. That was supposed to be the first step.

    But, seeing as there is some vague new interest, what I will do is put up some drum samples of my own on my website in the next few days. Then maybe Janet and K can get them, import them into Garage Band, and record something over the top.

    Anyway all the best with the recording.

    ❤ Steve.

    PS I might be in Singapore next year so if you tell me where AC2 is at I can go and put honey in his petrol tank, block his exhaust pipe with a potato, etc.

  3. Alex says:

    You should be getting a mix soon! Hopefully that will sort of entertain you for a good 40 minutes or so.

  4. janet5 says:

    Thanks for your ideas (sorry it has taken me so long to check in). I think to this point I’ve been really hesitant about investing in interface hardware because whenever I peruse manufacturers’ websites and read product reviews, I tend to see that (say) 70% of people will tell you that Product X is great for doing Y, and it’s perfect if you’re just starting out, and it’s easy to use, etc. Then the other 30% will say that Product X sucked worse than anything they could have imagined, that it ruined their computer’s ability to do Y, and they’re sorry they ever tried it. I guess I will just have to take a little risk. And you’re right – there’s a lot of basic equipment that is a lot less expensive than I would have imagined, so it probably isn’t much of a risk if something doesn’t work out.

    Steve – thanks for the advice about files and folders. I tend to have a lot of documents called things like Draft1.doc, Draft2.doc, Draft2.2.1.doc, and so on. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, at this point. And I appreciate the vote of confidence that you think I might be able to do something interesting with a drum sample! I basically have NO experience doing anything like this; it is all new to me. But. . . damn, the more I think about all this, the more appealing it sounds. I’m vaguely concerned that I will enjoy all of this so much that whatever work I am supposed to be doing in the Real World will suffer, but since I’m not getting much work done anyway these days, it can’t hurt.

    By the way, wasn’t Mack going to record some drum tracks?

    Alex, thanks! No hurry. I’m still in a pathetic mood. Hence one reason I was hoping to get myself in gear to play some music. Mostly I am just watching a lot of baseball. Did that tornado touch down anywhere near you??

    Thanks again, guys. And Steve, if you do find yourself heading to Singapore, I will certainly pass along some details about AC2 (rubbing hands together in anticipation of long-sought revenge. I have actually known AC2 since 1993).

  5. steve says:

    Yeah Mack was gonna record some stuff but, you know. He sucks ass.

    I said I would put some stuff up on my site soon.

    Still not done.

    Let’s remain alert to the possibility that I, also, suck ass.

  6. janet5 says:

    Hi. That is not at all sucky-assy. In fact, it is very helpful. Again, my main obstacle is FEAR. But hey, at least you have all convinced me that I’m not likely to blow up my laptop by accident. Not likely. And yes, I basically just want to mess around and make pretty noises. Like when I got a Casio keyboard back in high-school and spent weeks experimenting with every possible combination of keyboard sound and drum rhythm (church organ played to a beguine!). I am such a simple soul. Thanks, Mack. If I wind up accidentally sounding like Lily Allen, I will definitely e-mail you for help.

  7. steve says:

    Seeing as I am movig and my folk band is on the back burner I might put some more work into home studio collaboration thigies.

    you still doing this janet.

  8. janet5 says:

    Yep. I am still going to try. The long complicated story behind it has to do with my depression and not really being able to play music for more than 20+ years, but finally – for the first time in a long time – wanting to and not quite knowing how to (re)start. Hence the mental hurdles to get over.

    In May/June I’m moving, too (admittedly, only a twenty-minute walk from where I currently live, but it will still be stupidly disruptive), BUT I will have a lot more space, and then some time in summer when I can start to get myself set up.

    But I was thinking yesterday that it must be hard for you to move away from your “real” collaborative friends. But that maybe some virtual ones could help out? So yes, I’m up for it. Even if there will be some sucky-assy stuff on my part.

  9. steve says:

    ok cool.

    i actually will put together some drum samples this time.

  10. janet5 says:

    The Janie Jones sample is bad ASS. I am getting a really strong punk surf goddess vibe from it. Dammit, I wish I could play around with this NOW. Thanks, Steve.

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