We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! – Part I

As I was mixing down a song the other day, I had a good laugh about how far I’ve come in the past two years. That was followed by an even bigger laugh about how far I’ve come in the past ten years.

(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!


About Toby Baxley

I am a songwriter, artist, home studio owner, and BBQ chef. Hang out a while and let's have some fun and make some music and food.
This entry was posted in Audio, biography, home studio, MIDI, Recording, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! – Part I

  1. Pingback: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! – Part II | Song Demo Tips

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