Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks? Cubase Home Tutor

Is it Possible to Teach this Old Dog New Tricks
with Cubase Training? 

I am not a technical person; computer- type things do not come easy to me. Unless I can get a grip of the basics quickly, my head wanders off to other places, places where twiddling with a mouse is the least important thing on the agenda!
So, the thought of sitting for days on end training on the computer in a stark grey room, fills me with complete dread!

Photo: Dale Dread : by Sink Swansea

And Dread is an apt word for my solution! I was on-line and Dale Dread, a musician face book friend from Swansea, sent me one of his tracks as a sound cloud to have a listen to. He messaged me in the little face book bubble pop thingy (which undoubtedly has a technical name that I will never bother knowing) and asked me what I thought of his tune.
‘Love the effect on your vox, what did you use?’
‘M8 recorded it on cubase’
‘I’d love to know cubase’
‘My m8 Mark does lessons’
‘Do you think he would come to my house and teach me one to one cos I’m a nightmare.’
‘Yeah give him a ring and tell him I sent you.’

And there we have it, the universe answering my call to become better skilled at music technology.

To be honest, I only learnt Magix Music Maker, Basic Edition because I was working with young people on a project called The Mix in the Heads of the Valleys, via Head for Arts, Funded via Reach the Heights and The Arts Council of Wales. My role was to recruit 400 young people who were not in education, employment or training, via music and the arts. Very quickly it became apparent to me that I would need to expand my repertoire of skills to be able to engage such large numbers of young people in a small space of time, so I taught myself Magix. It’s really very simple, it must be because I got to grips with it immediately.

With Fusion Inspire, I have the opportunity to expand those skills and do more creative things with music technology, offering a techno/acoustic fusion. I can either pay someone else to translate my ideas onto a more complex system, or I can learn that system myself! This old dog is going to learn some new tricks! (hopefully!)

Poor Mark, bless him, he had no idea what he was walking into! I’m bad enough at concentrating on things that are not really my bag, even when I am smoking! But 10 days into giving up, well, it wasn’t pretty!
First things first, Mark had to hump stacks of gear into my house, his computer, and bibs and bobs.

After wriggling around on the floor setting it all up (him not me!) he started the 4 hour training session.

We recorded a bit of ukulele and vocal nonsense to begin with, just to hear it back and very quickly the job was done. I have to say the sound capture was a much better quality than my old analogue set up in my studio, clear, crisp, concise as opposed to character, frayed and warm: More like a well-  ironed pair of new jeans, rather than an old pair of faded, crumpled cords.
Then we came to me having a go at the recording bit … which for me, felt a tad sterile. Sat at my computer desk, I just couldn’t feel the vibe, so if I do go for the upgrade of a Mac and Cubase then I will have to cwtch it into an atmospheric setting: patterned scatter cushions and candles maybe!
But technically, it wasn’t that hard to be honest, not once the wonderful Mark had showed me what to do. Bless him, he tried to draw me diagrams to show me how it worked the way it did, but that doesn’t really help me. If I ask a question I just want the answer, yes , no or like this. I don’t really want a diagram showing me the technical insights.
I remember when I was learning to drive one of the many instructors over the 11 years it took to pass my test, tried to explain the gear box to me, thinking it would help me with clutch control! Didn’t help at all because what happens to me during these moments, is that the person’s voice turns into the teacher from Snoopy ‘ Blah blah blah blah blah blah!’ and it’s almost as if I have metaphorically put my fingers in my ears.
So I explained this to Mark, who very calmly said, in his deep Tom Jones-esque drawl,
‘Yeah, but it helps me to explain, so  ignore the pictures and just listen.’  That told me! So I tried to listen!

At one point I asked him if he smoked. He did, so we went outside for his fag (not mine of course) and it was at this point that I realised how important smoking has been in terms of my time management, engagement with outdoors and escape from overload! I didn’t have one (honest) but I did feel better for having 5 minutes in the garden.

So,  back to the training. After I had recorded myself on uke and vocals, I wanted to see if I could get equally as good a product from Magix. I never use it for vocals only the soundpools, and I wondered if I needed to spend time exploring further what I have got already, rather than splashing out on shiny new (expensive) options.

My Individual Mainline Grant Funding from The Arts Council of Wales does not cover the cost of new equipment so if I want to upgrade I will have to pay for it out the money that is covering my time on the project in much the same way as buying stuff from your wages.

Although having said that, I think I will have a look again at the Local Initiative Fund. I was going to apply for funding from them before. They can help with up to 40% of the cost of technical equipment etc needed to enhance your business.
Here’s the link in Carmarthenshire/South West Wales but I’m sure there will be something on line for your local area too.

So, back to the chocolate voiced techno- wizard in my lounge. After the session I decided that:
  • 4 hours is too long for me!
  • I may be better learning on the job so I think I’ll ask Mark to come out and record on location with me then we edit together back at mine
  • I don’t want to spend this year agonising over new ‘technicals’ that fry my brains
  • I should have a look a more in-depth look at Magix before committing to new products because it is so easy and doesn’t cost me anything because I already have it
  • I need to think about an investment in a Mac?
  • Mark deserves a medal and is the most laid back and calm tutor ever! What a top bloke! Defo worth you booking him. He has a studio in Swansea if you’d rather go to his place, or he can come to you. If you would like further details then email me cherylbeermusic@gmail.com with your telephone number and I will pass it onto Mark, who will then give you a bell.

To Mac or not to Mac?
I put this post up on my Face Book and loads of responses from mostly people saying, YES MAC but some saying NO! DON’T DO IT! So what do you think?
My reckoning is that my current set up in my studio has been my back bone for 10 years but its fading and needs an upgrade. It’s not even computerised! Proper Old Skool! And although it’s a big investment it could be setting me up for the next 10 years … but I so don’t want to make a mistake! Mmmm will have a long think about it!


  1. I have always used a mac....but mainly due to art stuff...in general I find them less 'bells and whistles' than pc's...nightmare I know...what can you do!...carry on...px

  2. I might ask you to pass my no to Mark, just to hear that chocolate voice. I am greatly in favour of the Mac, Cheryl. If you are to upgrade at all, then try to find the funding to go with the Mac - despite the initial frustration of upgrading your own skills to match it.....not such an old dog when you can still go out clubbing x


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