Learning To Fly

We started sheltering-in-place about 3 weeks ago, a bit ahead of the curve. Under non-pandemic situations, I’ll head out to my coffeeshop when I first wake up. Knowing this habit would be a hard one to break, I set up a ‘coffeeshop’ in our previously-underutilized sunroom. Now when I get up, I make a nice cup of joe and head out into my coffeeshop.

I’ve become interested in a new piece of recording software called Ableton Live. Ableton has turned the electronic music world on its head, with its ease of time & pitch warping, as well as letting DJs and other EDM musicians play their works much more fluidly in live shows.

My main focus is the recording aspect. I’ve used different software (namely, Cakewalk Sonar) for over a decade, and starting with a new program is challenging to say the least! I know I’m on the right path here, although I feel I haven’t had to learn anything new in a long time. It’s a good thing.

I have the first verse of a new song going in Ableton called “Autumn Moons”. I started writing it a couple months ago, and it was eerily prescient. My intention was to write something about embracing mortality. I don’t think you can live fully unless you do. The lyrics have taken on greater meaning now that our whole society seems to be crumbling. (I did say ‘seems’.)

The absolute best way for me to learn anything new, is to have a project I need to realize. Tutorials are helpful, of course, but if I have a song that’s burning to get out, that’s a better way. And it’s happening with Autumn Moons and Ableton. I *really* want to get the song done, so I have no choice but to hack through the weeds and figure this out. Same with most of the other software I’ve learned, be it audio, video, or web technologies.

I mentioned that I’m doing this in the coffeeshop (read: sunroom), and not in my regular studio where I use a desktop, and have a larger keyboard, a bunch of instruments, and a good microphone. Tonight, I felt like putting a guitar track down on my song, and my acoustic was sitting next to me. Rather than go and grab the gear I would usually use (microphone, mic stand, tube channel strip, and audio interface), I just used the basic microphone that’s built into my Mac. It’s a little tempting to just run with it. Record all the audio with this very-subpar microphone as an aesthetic.

These are all things I have to figure out, but it would be hasty to make a full plan without simply putting in a few more hours and really figuring out what my new workflow will be. I’m learning both the new software, as well as the Akai APC mini, which is a remote controller for Ableton. There’s no debate that I’m taking the very first steps on a long journey here. I expect to get somewhat comfortable with everything within a few weeks, if I commit to putting a few hours in every day. To get to where I want to be with the software, it will probably take a few years.

Are you leaning something new during quarantine? Please tell me about it in the comments section!

Be well, and talk soon.

-WS