Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Music Writing, and Perspective: Using What You Have!

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest gear (or softsynths), or checking out what your favorite artist uses, I’m going to give you folks some perspective… when I was first starting to write songs for my first band (Adam Hates You!), I was using freeware tracker software (Impulse Tracker) to sequence all my songs (1997 or so)… I didn’t even have a soundcard at the time, and listened to my tracks through the shitty mono, computer speaker… granted, it did sound like shit, but I was still writing and trying things! After I had gotten a soundcard, I borrowed a friend’s 4-track Tascam Portastudio… and connected my soundcards audio output to the Tascam line in, then recorded it. I wanted to do vocals for the first and only song from that band, but I didn’t have a mic at the time… so I got creative… I had an old pair of headphones from when I was a teenager (I think they were my Dad’s), and I figured out that you could use them as a mic, if you plugged them into the mic line-in on the Tascam Portastudio... so, I sang that entire song through the headphone earpiece. The song, and the vocals ended up being noisy as hell (the vocals were quite distorted as well)... eventually I ended up getting a mic, and my own Tascam Portastudio… (and that band didn’t end up lasting for all that long [2.5 years I do believe])… Even before this first band (probably 1994-95 or so), my best friend and I decided to make a tape of our own songs… we wrote lyrics and used a stereo tape recorder, and played guitar and drums and sang at the same time to get the songs down, granted, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, and I think this was before either of us had considered doing music seriously, but I think you know what I’m getting at… everyone has to start somewhere, you don’t need a bunch of expensive gear to start making music now-a-days… Fortunately, these days, you can get started really easily, for only a couple hundred bucks (that’s if you already have a computer, and now-a-days you don’t even need a computer… you can use a goddamn phone to write and record [Kendrick Lamar wrote an entire album on a phone, and several of the songs have been chart toppers])! What I’m getting at is, you don’t need a bunch of expensive gear to get started, you don’t need a fuckin Minimoog Model D to do all your basslines, you don’t need a Access Virus TI2 Synth to do all your fuckin lead synthlines and shit… Hell, you don’t even need a computer… You could record a fucking album on a stereo, and duplicate it that way. Make your album artwork with a photocopy machine… use the tools you have around you… don’t have drums… use fucking pots and pans… maybe you have a computer, but you don’t have any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software… use the Sound Recorder in your Windows> accessories folder... If you have the drive and motivation to do music, you will make whatever you have work! Not saying, you can’t save up your hard earned dollars and spend it on a new synth, or a DAW (which is the next step… or, better yet, find freeware), but if you really need to get something out, you’ll find a way to do it (borrow friends shit)! Twitch’s first self-titled album was no different… I wrote that on a PC with the DOS based tracker, Impulse Tracker… I didn’t have any synths at the time, and all I had were samples that I either created using the Sound Recorder in an old version of Windows (version 3.1 and Win95), or was the inbuilt instruments/sounds in the tracker program. I still had my Tascam at this point, and I also had a guitar (w/multi-effects pedal), and a mic. After the sequencing was all done, I bounced it down to the Tascam, did the vocals (used the guitar multi-effects pedal for vocal processing as well as guitar), and had a friend that did the guitars! Then I bounced it down to a stereo (Tascam speed is different than regular tape speed, so had to bounce it to a regular [stereo] tape deck speed), then copied the tapes using the same stereo… it was a slow process, being that the tape had to be played from start to end each time I made a copy, but I did it, and that’s what matters! After the tapes were done, I made a tape booklet (I used a piece of bristle board, a photo, printed out liner notes, and a painted piece of notepaper… to make the original design [it was much larger than an actual booklet], then used a color photocopier and shrunk them by 50%, so that they were tape sized [it wasn’t exactly the right size but we made them work]), put the booklets into the tape case, with the tape… and there you go, Twitch’s first release! I didn’t make many, probably a total of 13 or 14… but I took them with me on my trip to London, UK (that’s another story for another time, but I think you get the idea), and handed them out to various people! Of course, over time, I did acquire better computers, better software, an audio/midi interface, a synth… but I think you get what I’m getting at, use what you have, and make it work!

If you already have a computer (perhaps the one you’re using to view this post), here’s some suggestions to get you started doing music:

Free Stuff:

Jeskola Buzz (tracker style DAW):  (I used this software for writing 2 Twitch albums: “TCP/IP” and “Welcome”… of course it was an older version that I was using, but still functions the same! Use the x86 version, as from what I understand it’s more stable than the x64 version.)

Audacity (multi-track audio editor and recorder): (I’ve never used this, but if you are looking to make samples, this might be a good start)

Garageband (basic DAW that comes with a MAC):  (I’ve never used it, but I heard it’s a great option to start with, because of the relative ease of use)

Avid Pro Tools First (limited DAW): (I’ve never used this, but from what I understand it is a limited/try-out version of the full DAW, Can only store projects in the cloud, and limited to 1GB in size)

FL Studio Trial Version: (I use an older [full] version of this DAW, but I would highly recommend trying it out!)

Not Free but Budget Conscious:

Cockos Reaper (fully featured DAW): (there is a 60-day free trial version, but the full version is only $60 USD)

Renoise (tracker style DAW): (Full version is $75 USD)

Also check your app store on your iOS device! There a tons of options for phones/tablet/iPad/etc..!


  1. I love how you are determined to get shit done NO MATTER WHAT! You are a very resourceful and driven person (I love how you recorded vocals with headphones! That's fucking brilliant!) and this is very inspiring! You also made me like your first album even more!
    Thanks so much for the list of resources too - I really like Audacity, but I'll have a look at the others for sure!
    Keep sharing your mind and music - the world needs it all!

    1. Yeah, since 2013 I've been using FL Studio for my recording/sequencing/etc nowadays... I find it's very easy to pick up and use... so I would highly recommend picking up a full version, but I would recommend just trying other shit out, just to see if you like it or not!