Archive for November, 2007


Filed under: — George Petersen @ 9:26 am

By George Petersen

AFTER WAY TOO MANY YEARS, APPLE FINALLY did a real makeover on Logic, its flagship music/audio production software, now offered as the “Logic Studio” bundle of production tools. It’s sort of the Final Cut Studio approach, which includes FCP, Soundtrack Pro 2, Compressor, DVD Studio Pro, Motion and more–pretty much a script to screen package.
And there’s a lot of good news here. Gone is Logic’s clunky look, instead Logic 8 uses a single-screen interface that’s streamlined and fast. The surround mixing is elegant and there’s a vocal comping feature that’s just amazing. Also in the bundle is Soundtrack Pro 2 (the same version from the FCP Studio bundle), Studio Instruments, Studio Effects (with some 80 plug-ins) and Studio Sound Library, with 18,000 Apple Loops and 1,300 sampled instruments. At $499 it’s almost stupid NOT to buy this package—whether you own a Mac or not.
But what really floored me was the not-so-lowly MainStage. Intended to simplify using software instruments onstage, this standalone app provides a live performance rig for guitar/keys/bass. Virtual keys instruments and guitar/amp/effects modeling is nothing new, but what’s the big deal?
First of all, ya gotta wonder why this is in a studio production bundle anyway. Someday, Apple might wise up and include this with its iLife software, but that’s not the point. I was absolutely amazed by the keyboard setups and their ability to do splits. Again, no biggie—I even have left/right-hand organ/bass splits on my vintage ’60s Farfisa organs. Custom splits are nothing new and nearly any decent keyboard controller can store/recall different split presets for different songs. Yet the real trick with MainStage’s split keyboard mode is its ability to do intelligent splits.
Many of us have experienced the frustration of playing a bass line that as it moves up the scale, will eventually start playing piano notes. But playing left-hand bass/right hand melody parts on a keyboard that can move the split as you play, keeping you in range is pure magic. Evidently MainStage runs some algorithm that tracks your hand movements and moves the split point accordingly. It’s awesome and is probably worth the program’s $499 bundle price. Of course, once your include all the other apps—Logic 8, Soundtrack Pro 2, etc.—this is one amazing bargain.

When not working on Mix stuff, George Petersen records and performs with the SF Bay Area-based rock band ARIEL. Click here and check ‘em out.
What do YOU think?


Filed under: — George Petersen @ 8:57 pm

By George Petersen
WITH THE AUDIO EDUCATION FOCUS IN THIS MONTH’S MIX, I figured I rant about the learning process. When I was a high school kid back in the Paleolithic 1960s era, I wanted to learn electronics. I experimented a lot (destroying a few radios along the way), assembled Heath and Knight kits, and regularly built DIY projects featured in Radio-Electronics and Popular Electronics magazines. In-between splattering solder on my thumb and digging into these articles to figure out how to adapt the circuits to 220V/50 Hz operation (I was living in Europe at the time), I couldn’t help but notice some ads featuring a stern-faced guy who said, “Get more education or get out of electronics!?
The pitch was to promote a correspondence school’s learn-at-home electronics course. These days I can’t even recall which school it was from, but that man’s message was clear and very relevant. Today’s systems—live or recorded, analog or digital, virtual or actual— are more complex than ever, and keeping up with changing technologies requires continuing education.
However, textbook and in-class training alone aren’t enough — actual hands-on experience can make all the difference in the world. For example, changing a diaphragm on a high-frequency compression driver isn’t exactly rocket science. All you have to do is select the right replacement part (with the proper impedance), remove a few screws, match the polarity of the wires, plop the new one into place, and tighten things down.
However, there’s one detail that shouldn’t be overlooked: the procedure should be done with a nonferrous screwdriver. Unless you’re using a brass or an aluminum screwdriver, the powerful gauss field of the driver’s magnetic structure will yank the tool out of your grasp, attracting it into the center of the driver, instantly shredding the fragile, and very expensive, diaphragm. When it happens in the real-life, non-textbook world, it’s not a pretty sight and hardly a lesson that’s soon forgotten.
Other lessons aren’t so technical. Once, while walking through an audio school, I noticed a leather couch in the back of one of the facility’s control rooms. I asked the instructor if he felt the material was the right choice for a school, where students—carrying a pencil (or even a screwdriver) in their back pockets could damage the upholstery. The instructor replied that if this scenario did occur, it would be better for a student to learn the lesson at school rather than on the job. His reply was simple, but spot-on.
For me, that decades-old message from the mean-looking guy in that electronics magazine still holds true.

When not working on Mix stuff, George Petersen records and performs with the SF Bay Area-based rock band ARIEL. Click here and check ‘em out.
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