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What Do You Use Your DAW For?

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I use a DAW for two things:

  1. I'm in a duo. I make my own backing tracks mostly from scratch but sometimes I use Band-in-a-Box for some of the backing comp tracks. Since I play drums, bass, sax, wind synth, guitar, flute, and keys I can make the tracks in our key, and our arrangement.
  2. I make aftermarket styles for Band-in-a-Box. I sequence MIDI parts in the DAW and then import snippits into the StyleMaker app for Band-in-a-Box

I'm mostly MIDI because MIDI is hundreds of times more editable than audio.

But there is more than one right way to make music, and currently this is the right way for me. That could change as technology evolves.

Insights and incites by Notes

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I had an old version of Biab. Maybe I should have played with it a bit more. TBH having Ableton probably already made my choice for me. Not that CbB wouldn't do it.

I kind of had this notion about Biab that was likely all wrong as a program for someone who doesn't play instruments and needs backing tracks.  I know that probably isn't completely true. You use it @Notes_Norton and you are quite the musician.  It can be difficult trying to play some music with only two people, or to try and round up band members who will commit.

Edited by Starise

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I use Studio One 4 for making music and Bitwig for sound design work. Sadly I was compelled to leave Sonar on a backburner with the Gibson debacle as I could not rely my professional work on a software that may not work on a new computer.

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2 hours ago, Starise said:

I had an old version of Biab. Maybe I should have played with it a bit more. TBH having Ableton probably already made my choice for me. Not that CbB wouldn't do it.

I kind of had this notion about Biab that was likely all wrong as a program for someone who doesn't play instruments and needs backing tracks.  I know that probably isn't completely true. You use it @Notes_Norton and you are quite the musician.  It can be difficult trying to play some music with only two people, or to try and round up band members who will commit.

I think BiaB is not for people who don't play instruments if making backing tracks is the desire.

BiaB could make a backing track simply by entering the chords, but the interface isn't for non-music people, and is rather awkward even for music folks at first. But that can be learned like any app. However IMHO the output from BiaB is "not ready for prime time".

First of all, the tracks are good but quite generic. And they should be. I had a customer ask for a style to make Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" so I made one for him. The problem was, as soon as that signature guitar lick came in, it stated "Don't Be Cruel" and if you tried using it on another song, it still shouted "Don't Be Cruel". So it was a one-song style. I could have sequenced the song from scratch easier than I could have made the style.

On the other hand BiaB has some very good things going for it. I've written aftermarket styles for BiaB and as work-for-hire for other auto accompaniment hardware and software apps. BiaB has by far the  potential to make a much more musical accompaniment. The 'handles' are there in the StyleMaker so you can have special patterns for exact musical situations. For example: The ii of a ii V7 I progression or the V7 that leads to a I at the beginning of an A or B section. There are more.

But like I said, BiaB isn't ready for prime time. Because the styles are generic, if you need song specific licks (like Don't Be Cruel) you have to add them when the song is over.

Some of the oldest BiaB styles use quantized drums, and could use some kind of groove filter to bring them to life. BiaB eventually got rid of the drum grid and allowed drums with a resolution of 120bbm, but the early styles have never been converted. As a drummer (it was my first instrument) quantized drums don't work for most forms of pop music. The exceptions would be some Disco, EDM, and so on.

I like writing BiaB styles because it gives me a chance to learn new things, use my schooling in theory and arranging, and there is a puzzle/challenge/game to overcome the limitations of BiaB to get it to do more than it was designed for and hide what it cannot do yet.

For example, BiaB only allows 4 chords per bar, but I invented a work-around that allows up to 8 chords per bar, I call them EXPANDED styles. They also double the ppq resolution of BiaB.

I write styles for BiaB more than I use it, but I do use it from time to time.

For my own duo's backing tracks, I use BiaB for what I call the 'mule work'. That is if there is an appropriate style.

Mule work? Say I've entered the drums, bass, and signature licks in a song in real time and those background comp parts like piano comp or rhythm guitar are close to a BiaB style --- I just put the chords in BiaB, extract the comp parts and put them into my sequence (I'm still all MIDI at this point).

For fewer songs, especially if there is an appropriate style, I can even use BiaB for the drums and bass. Latin Salsa, Rhumba, and Merengue come to mind immediately. Some rock, jazz and blues too. Even then, I'll touch things up in a DAW/Sequencer before recording it.

But for some songs I just need to get to the sequencer/DAW and play the parts in one at a time, starting with the drums and bass and adding the comp parts. I had to do that for "Blurred Lines", "Uptown Funk", and James Brown's "I Got You - I Feel Good".  I'm thinking about Rascal Flatts' version of "Life Is A Highway" next (we had a couple of requests) and offhand I can't think of an appropriate BiaB style. But I did "Your Mind Is On Vacation" by Mose Allison pretty much 90% BiaB a couple of months ago.

Also, BiaB has a harmonizing feature that follows the rules I learned in the Berklee Correspondence course many years ago. I can put the chords into BiaB, play the top note of the horn, string, or whatever line and have BiaB put the lower notes in for me. There are dozens of harmonization schemes to choose from. This can be a real time saver without any sacrifice of quality. It saves me of playing each part separately.

BiaB now comes with "Real Tracks" but I hardly ever use them. The Real Tracks are audio styles, which are non-editable for all practical purposes. What PG Music has done is genius, but if I wanted to even simple things change a drum roll, use a ride bell instead of the ride edge, change the LP sounding guitar to one that sounds like a Strat, change an acoustic piano to a Rhodes, or more advanced edits like take out a generic pattern and insert a song specific lick, or change where the accents are, even exporting into Melodyne won't do most of what I want to do.

But then I like PLAYing music and PLAYing with my tools. If I wanted to just play someone else's music, I'd pop in a CD, a flash drive or stream. I want the music to have my touch in it. They don't call it PLAYing music for nothing.

It's not for everybody, but if you like playing with your music, BiaB can be a good tool for many of us.

Insights and incites by Notes

PS, about musicians who don't commit. I've played in up to 7 piece rock bands, and even was the warm up band for headliner concerts many years ago. But there were always problems with the musician who got too high on the job, didn't show up on time, spent a too long break chasing some sex relations, and so on. Before the duo I was in a 5 piece, the bass player quit and we replaced him, the drummer quit and we replaced her and I was out of work for a total of 3 months while we worked in the new members. Then I realized that I had to depend on us if I wanted to work steadily, so Leilani and I left the 5 piece band in 1985, started the duo, and we haven't been out of work since. We don't play in as glamorous rooms as we did, but we take home more money per gig (the price people pay doesn't go up that much with each additional member). Anyway, if I want live band kicks, I go to a jam session  - that is as long as I know the house band is making decent money to host it.

 

Edited by Notes_Norton

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The first DAW I used was Voyetra  Digita Orchesrator Pro - and, yes, I still have the box and the software.    I compose with my synths, a combo of midi and audio. 

Edited by aether.roots
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6 hours ago, Wibbles said:

Cakewalk is the only DAW I use.

I'm not sure that what I use it for is entirely legal ...

Admit nothing. Stand on the 5th. :D

Notes

Edited by Notes_Norton
typo

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I use my DAW to write and record my own music.

From there, it's distributed to the usual streaming/sales sites where it sits ignored.  Floating through the internet like the ghost of your creepy uncle that everyone wants to forget...

 

Along with a couple of original albums on the go, i've also got a dozen or so covers that i'm trying to work into an album that'll just be for me to hear.

Edited by Slugbaby
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I write mostly art-music.  one offs as it were.  I wouldn't say I enjoy it because a side effect of my anti depressants is anhedonism.  Surprisingly, on the old cakewalk site I didn't write a single bad note!!!

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Posted (edited)
On 12/27/2018 at 7:54 PM, Notes_Norton said:

I think BiaB is not for people who don't play instruments if making backing tracks is the desire.

BiaB could make a backing track simply by entering the chords, but the interface isn't for non-music people, and is rather awkward even for music folks at first. But that can be learned like any app. However IMHO the output from BiaB is "not ready for prime time".

First of all, the tracks are good but quite generic. And they should be. I had a customer ask for a style to make Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" so I made one for him. The problem was, as soon as that signature guitar lick came in, it stated "Don't Be Cruel" and if you tried using it on another song, it still shouted "Don't Be Cruel". So it was a one-song style. I could have sequenced the song from scratch easier than I could have made the style.

On the other hand BiaB has some very good things going for it. I've written aftermarket styles for BiaB and as work-for-hire for other auto accompaniment hardware and software apps. BiaB has by far the  potential to make a much more musical accompaniment. The 'handles' are there in the StyleMaker so you can have special patterns for exact musical situations. For example: The ii of a ii V7 I progression or the V7 that leads to a I at the beginning of an A or B section. There are more.

But like I said, BiaB isn't ready for prime time. Because the styles are generic, if you need song specific licks (like Don't Be Cruel) you have to add them when the song is over.

Some of the oldest BiaB styles use quantized drums, and could use some kind of groove filter to bring them to life. BiaB eventually got rid of the drum grid and allowed drums with a resolution of 120bbm, but the early styles have never been converted. As a drummer (it was my first instrument) quantized drums don't work for most forms of pop music. The exceptions would be some Disco, EDM, and so on.

I like writing BiaB styles because it gives me a chance to learn new things, use my schooling in theory and arranging, and there is a puzzle/challenge/game to overcome the limitations of BiaB to get it to do more than it was designed for and hide what it cannot do yet.

For example, BiaB only allows 4 chords per bar, but I invented a work-around that allows up to 8 chords per bar, I call them EXPANDED styles. They also double the ppq resolution of BiaB.

I write styles for BiaB more than I use it, but I do use it from time to time.

For my own duo's backing tracks, I use BiaB for what I call the 'mule work'. That is if there is an appropriate style.

Mule work? Say I've entered the drums, bass, and signature licks in a song in real time and those background comp parts like piano comp or rhythm guitar are close to a BiaB style --- I just put the chords in BiaB, extract the comp parts and put them into my sequence (I'm still all MIDI at this point).

For fewer songs, especially if there is an appropriate style, I can even use BiaB for the drums and bass. Latin Salsa, Rhumba, and Merengue come to mind immediately. Some rock, jazz and blues too. Even then, I'll touch things up in a DAW/Sequencer before recording it.

But for some songs I just need to get to the sequencer/DAW and play the parts in one at a time, starting with the drums and bass and adding the comp parts. I had to do that for "Blurred Lines", "Uptown Funk", and James Brown's "I Got You - I Feel Good".  I'm thinking about Rascal Flatts' version of "Life Is A Highway" next (we had a couple of requests) and offhand I can't think of an appropriate BiaB style. But I did "Your Mind Is On Vacation" by Mose Allison pretty much 90% BiaB a couple of months ago.

Also, BiaB has a harmonizing feature that follows the rules I learned in the Berklee Correspondence course many years ago. I can put the chords into BiaB, play the top note of the horn, string, or whatever line and have BiaB put the lower notes in for me. There are dozens of harmonization schemes to choose from. This can be a real time saver without any sacrifice of quality. It saves me of playing each part separately.

BiaB now comes with "Real Tracks" but I hardly ever use them. The Real Tracks are audio styles, which are non-editable for all practical purposes. What PG Music has done is genius, but if I wanted to even simple things change a drum roll, use a ride bell instead of the ride edge, change the LP sounding guitar to one that sounds like a Strat, change an acoustic piano to a Rhodes, or more advanced edits like take out a generic pattern and insert a song specific lick, or change where the accents are, even exporting into Melodyne won't do most of what I want to do.

But then I like PLAYing music and PLAYing with my tools. If I wanted to just play someone else's music, I'd pop in a CD, a flash drive or stream. I want the music to have my touch in it. They don't call it PLAYing music for nothing.

It's not for everybody, but if you like playing with your music, BiaB can be a good tool for many of us.

Insights and incites by Notes

PS, about musicians who don't commit. I've played in up to 7 piece rock bands, and even was the warm up band for headliner concerts many years ago. But there were always problems with the musician who got too high on the job, didn't show up on time, spent a too long break chasing some sex relations, and so on. Before the duo I was in a 5 piece, the bass player quit and we replaced him, the drummer quit and we replaced her and I was out of work for a total of 3 months while we worked in the new members. Then I realized that I had to depend on us if I wanted to work steadily, so Leilani and I left the 5 piece band in 1985, started the duo, and we haven't been out of work since. We don't play in as glamorous rooms as we did, but we take home more money per gig (the price people pay doesn't go up that much with each additional member). Anyway, if I want live band kicks, I go to a jam session  - that is as long as I know the house band is making decent money to host it.

 

Thanks Bob for that info on Biab. 

I can see the advantage in midi construction over audio work and why you choose to go that route.

 DAW makers have made  great strides in recent years adding the ability to stretch audio without changing the pitch. Lots of cool midi tools now too.For all practical purposes any DAW that can make midi and audio loops should be able to do a similar thing to Biab. I can understand the benefit of working in a medium we are familiar with, and probably why you like Biab as your go to. Biab has advanced chord recognition/construction. A few of the old time Cakewalk users were or are making extensive use of Biab in their studios. One in particular, anyone remember Herb?  Was using it big time in country music. I have been impressed with the quality achieved using Biab on some mixes I've heard. As you say, there are some limitations to the audio loops. 

I have been increasingly using backing tracks at my church. Mostly because we don't have enough people to do everything sometimes. I've been kinda lazy because I  buy the multitracks and use them with an iPad. I keep telling myself I should simply make them on my own, because frankly much of the time the bought tracks need an edit or two. Too much time between parts occasionally, or in all the wrong keys. Usually way too high. And sometimes, just bad compositions. If it happens to be a popular cover, the studio sends the exact tracks from the master. This can sound very professional, however it can be a 5 minute track with lots of instrumental fill in. That works great when listening. Not so good when people are standing in participation waiting for the next verse. 

I've tried all kinds of things in the past Yamaha style files and keyboard backup. Not real enough for me. Sounded like, well...............a keyboard playing cheap sampled backing parts. 

I seem to have no trouble making songs in a DAW. The process is somehow different for me when attempting to make something others will participate in. in making the right mood for it and in trying to get it to sound like something that doesn't stick out in a cheesy way and is relevant for them.

Edited by Starise

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On 12/22/2018 at 3:56 PM, Bapu said:

I use my DAW(s) to make music for my enjoyment and the boredom of others (you know who you are).

same here...

 

So glad to be in good company 😎

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3 hours ago, synkrotron said:

same here...

 

So glad to be in good company 😎

+2

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I use mine for studying music. I use and make backing tracks on the subjects I am working on. I've found the process of playing drums, bass ,and keys for the backing tracks help very much on how music works and how to manipulate it to whatever I'm doing. 

It's enjoyable to me and if I find the time I will posts some of it

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Posted (edited)

Nowadays, mostly for Gaming. I've been struggling with a creative block from some years now. So, whenever I do use  it as a DAW is to revisit old tracks (own or friend's trakcs). Yeah, I know, kinda sad.

Edited by Logan_4600

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1 hour ago, Logan_4600 said:

Nowadays, mostly for Gaming. I've been struggling with a creative block from some years now. So, whenever I do use  it as a DAW is to revisit old tracks (own or friend's trakcs). Yeah, I know, kinda sad.

Have a go at creating some mind numbing ambient drone stuff... Worked for me 😀

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I use mine for the custom metronome.  I have a wave file of a yodel that I like to help me keep time when I play my kazoo. 

Bought my Sonar DAW 4 years ago for $400?  Best money I ever spent.

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On 1/1/2019 at 12:22 PM, Starise said:

Thanks Bob for that info on Biab. 

I can see the advantage in midi construction over audio work and why you choose to go that route.<...snip...>

Until the editing features of audio approach those of MIDI, I'll stick with it. Good sound modules can get 90-95% "real" and I can do so much that I can't do with audio that it makes for a more expressive output.

I'm going to quote Craig Anderton from an old Keyboard Magazine article extolling the virtues of MIDI:

You can edit every characteristic of every performance gesture: dynamics, volume, timing, the length and pitch of every note, pitch-bend, and even which sound is being played. MIDI data can tell a piano sound what to play, or if you change your mind, a Clavinet patch. With digital audio, changing the instrument that plays a given part requires re-recording the track….but MIDI can do much more…

Craig, if you're listening, thanks for putting the way I feel into words.

I just sequenced an old song for my duo. I have about 30 different MIDI guitars in my synth modules, the one with the Telecaster Rear Pickup patch did the trick. It's a GM patch with a LSB bank change option.

I also sequenced the backing vocals. I used Syn Vox for some and "Hamming" for others, so I get the backing vocal parts without human voices making what we do sound like karaoke. It took a lot of different patches to come up with that combo.

And these are just the simplest of edits.

Insights and incites by Notes

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1 hour ago, Toddskins said:

I use mine for the custom metronome.  I have a wave file of a yodel that I like to help me keep time when I play my kazoo. 
 

:P That reminds me of something Andy Summers said in Guitar Player Magazine back in the 80's I thought was hilarious:

Quote

I went to see a well - known, nameless jazz guitarist recently who played guitar synthesizer, and he spent at least 45 minutes of his concert making his guitar sound like a harmonica. I found it rather odd that with $100,000.00 worth of equipment, he was making a guitar sound like a $5.00 instrument. It’s very strange to watch somebody doing that. It’s not as thrilling somehow, and it’s a little disturbing. ~~ Andy Summers

 

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Posted (edited)

And he has a point, but perhaps because he never played MIDI. Also we all have a tendency to look at other performers through musician's eyes, and forget about how our audience looks at us.

As a sax player who doesn't play trumpet, trombone, harmonica, concertina, clarinet, flugelhorn, and a dozen other instruments, I enjoy playing different sounds on the wind synth and it gives our duo tonal colors and variety that they wouldn't get if I only played sax and guitar on stage.

Speaking of guitar, it's my 7th instrument (8th if you count vocals) and I can still do some thing solo-wise on the wind synth that I'm not able to do on the guitar yet.

Also, there is an art to emulating other instruments with MIDI. If you play that sax patch like a piano, no matter how good the tone is, you won't convince anyone that it's a sax. You have to recreate the nuances of sax playing, which are partially governed by the advantages and limitations of that instrument. If you play a piano patch like a sax, it won't fool anyone either.

Not to say that these are wrong things to do. If you want a piano to have sax-like qualities in your song, go for it. It just might work fantastically.

Learning to emulate other instruments with MIDI, including my own primary instrument, the sax, also taught me a lot about coaxing expression out of 'pure synth' patches that don't emulate anything specific.

For those of us who make their living playing music live, we must remember we are in show business and we must also remember to see ourselves through they eyes of whatever audience we find in front of us at the moment. If I thought making my guitar do a nice kazoo solo and it would please the audience, I'd do just that. And once you have the audience on your side, they won't mind at all if you occasionally throw in something that is exclusively for yourself, as long as it doesn't stray too far away and/or is at the right moment.

Insights and incites by Notes

Edited by Notes_Norton
Spell check turned my And He into Andy (probably because of a typo on my part)

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