(How much time do you have?)
The Early Mysteries
In high school and early college I had never really considered programming MIDI. Sequencing always seemed like a mysterious process that was only available on those fancy synthesizers with the 3.5″ floppy drives. The college where I studied commercial music had a synthesis lab but it was always dark and had lots of lights and crazy-looking equipment. It looked like a mad scientist’s garage so I did not go in there. I. Did. Not. Go. In. There.
A Clue to the Puzzle
In 1999 I started playing in a band where the lead singer programmed backing tracks that the band played along with. He broke it down for me to a certain extent but it was still somewhat confusing. I was intrigued though.
Later in ’99 I moved to Nashville for a music business internship. I spent some time in studios and learned a bit more. After a couple of months there, I took the plunge and bought my first recording rig:
- Alesis QS 8.1
- Cakewalk Professional 8 (the pre-cursor to Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio, which I still use)
- Steinberg USB-2 MIDI interface (I had tried to connect the synth to my computer with a serial cable but did not get very good results)
- Cables, stands, pedals, etc.
Let’s just say that my first efforts at programming/recording were dismal at best. I dabbled for a bit with the multi-timbral synth, learning how to play back multiple patches at once. The sounds weren’t great but I managed to produce a few tracks for my own music as well as for friends and family. I got my first real (yet non-paying) assignment when my uncle wrote a song. I programmed a track for him using only the internal synth sounds. I didn’t even know how to output the project into something that he could play in his car. I ended up borrowing a DAT machine (remember those?) from work and mixing 16 tracks down to a stereo output from my synth and recording a performance track. I thought it would be a good idea to give him a vocal demo as well, so I borrowed a handheld vocal mic from a friend and recorded the tracks on the left channel and recorded a vocal demo on the right channel, making essentially a split-track. I took that DAT back to work and burned a CD. Instant classic!