In the four weeks since my last post I haven’t done a whole lot of musical things. I certainly am not ready to publish My Jesus I Love Thee. I’m actually not a whole lot further along on it, primarily because I’m still not totally happy with the cello sample.
What I have been doing this month is spending my Christmas bonus. It’s the best bonus I’ve gotten in my career, and I negotiated $800 for spending on musical equipment and software. My shopping list was much longer than $800, but hey, we’ll take what we can get. (Some items on the list that didn’t make the cut include an external hard drive for sample storage and real studio monitors – maybe I can finagle the hard drive from the tax refund).
First up was computer memory. Upgraded to 2 gig.
Next was a new audio interface card – the Emu 0404. It seemed like a logical step up from the Sound Blaster that came with my computer. It has native support for soundfonts (no CPU overhead) and a number of on-board effects (still on CPU overhead). I didn’t need the digital outs, yet, but they may come in handy in the future. Also bundled were lots of cool software.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t install it. When I powered up the computer XP asked me to install the drivers. I obediently by-passed that screen and used the install program provided with the card. The install software, however, couldn’t find the card. After several e-mails back and forth with E-mu tech support, I concluded that it wasn’t compatible with my computer, and maybe my money could be better spent elsewhere.
My goal in getting a new card was improving the performance of my DAW, Power Tracks. A good program for $50, but it was beginning to have trouble keeping up with my mixes. The extra computer memory wasn’t helping. So, I posited, maybe a new DAW was the way to go. I decided to trade the Emu card for Sonar Home Studio, the XL version bundled with some neat extras. Turns out that did the trick. A vst that ran 30-40% CPU under Power Tracks was now running, literally, 2-3% under Sonar. Unbelievable!
Of course, I’m still deep in the learning curve, but so far there’s only one thing I’ve asked Sonar to do that I haven’t been able to figure out. It’s pretty simple (delete the first second of empty space from a song and close up the gap), so I’m sure it’s just a matter of figuring it out. The Sonar forums have been every bit as helpful as the Power Tracks forums were, at that.
The other huge selling point for switching to Sonar, rather than Cubase or one of the other mainstream DAWs, was that my best friend and musical collaborator also just recently switched from Power Tracks to Sonar (the Producer edition in his case). So, we can learn together and still collaborate.
So, back to my cello problems. I had decided that may Garritan’s Gofriller Solo Cello would answer my problems. I still believe that, but they’ve discontinued the product (thus no link). They are replacing it with a more advanced string library, that will hopefully not be out of my price range.
I took a shot at buying it before Christmas – Garritan had a big sale where one product came up at a time at an incredible discount. When that lot was sold out, the next title came up. This went on for three days, and most titles came up more than once. Unfortunately, I never caught the Gofriller. Didn’t think much of it since I didn’t know it was going away.
I did manage to pick up the Jazz and Big Band library for half price. Way cool, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Most of the fun coming through the largest of my purchases, a Yamaha WX-5 MIDI wind controller. I’ve been having a ball with it, and just last night successfully reprogrammed a soundfont to respond to breath control. Look for a post describing that process coming soon.
The last item hasn’t been purchased yet. I’m going to pick up a budget ribbon mic. It should complement my best friend’s large diaphragm condensers quite well. I haven’t decided for sure on a model, yet, but here’s one I’m leaning toward.
Well, that’s all for now. Next time, programming soundfonts!