Hardware Fixation?

Browsing forums, all over the internet there seem to be a fixation with hardware among producers, musicians and composers. Is it really that important to have all the gadgets (and expensive plugins) to make good music? Using a tracker I never really felt I needed anything else. rather than a decent audio interface for recording decent quality vocals and instruments. Even a midi keyboard is a bit overkill for me since you can use a regular keyboard to play and program notes.

Isn’t the whole idea of tracking based on simplicity and needing as little as possible hardware to make tunes. and isn’t using samples the main thing with tracking rather than midi and vst plugins? I’m very curious about upcoming releases and improvments to RNI, multilayer sample support etc.

Anyone else feel the same or is all the gadgets and plugins really necessary to create cool good sounding stuff? I’d like to think that less is more. Although I guess some people really need all that stuff to be creative. Or to have a workflow that suits them. When I walk in to a big studio packed with stuff I wouldn’t know what to do with all of it. Maybe it’s a big difference if you’re a songwriter or producer. To create a good song i guess you could manage with a pen and paper and some vocal skills and maybe a piano or a guitar. But making a good production you would need quite a lot of stuff to make it stand out and make it original and pro sounding. Or do you?

“Gadgets” are the things that produced the samples you’re using.

Every musician has its own way to work, further discussion will only be filled with pointless “my opinion is” posts.

No offence believe me, but this debate has been done to death in every corners of the internet.

my opinion is: he says it all.

;) just wanted to see to se what other people who use trackers felt about it. Mostly becouse i feel tracking originally doesnt have it’s roots in a studio enviroment i suppose.
I know gadgets are behind the samples i use, but that doesnt mean that i need them all to create my own samples. Mainly because I use a tracker instead of anything else.
Just got me wondering when i watched the pictures posted by other people using trackers in the “show me your home studio” thread. Some people have very minimalistic setups, and some have mountains of hardware.

Let’s say you work as a producer professionally. Could you manage with a minimalistic setup using renoise, och do you actually need all that stuff to earn the title, professional producer? Or let me put it another way. Can you make a career as a producer using a very minimalistic setup? Just curious.

Laurex: What works for you works. That’s what matters. And yes, you could make a professional career with a minimalistic setup.

Whats written below is just my thoughts and opinions based upon my own experiences…
As there was a few questions, i’ll waffle on :D

It comes down to whats acceptable as ‘good’ within a given culture/scene, also maybe at a given moment in time.

If you want to make a record with Britney spears or Maddonna (or do that sort of thing) -To make music sounding like what other mainstream producers are doing right now, you’re probably going to need a similar setup or it will take you a hell of a lot longer to get the same results. If your incredibly talented or lucky, you won’t need the gear to sound like that.
-Especially if you consider that the sound of cutting edge production in Pop music has generally been influenced/copied from less mainstream more ‘underground’ sources… such as ‘bedroom musicians’.

Two things that i feel hold back many computer based musicians is the Soundcard and Monitoring Speakers/amplifier.
They are worth spending a debatable :dribble: amount of money on.

But nowadays a lot of music is listened to by 14 year old kids on their mobile phones. :(

I’ve spent a lot of money on some pretty cool stuff over the years. Nowadays most hardware is DSP based, and exactly the same results can be achieved with a computer.
If you have a lot of gear though, the large amounts of knobs and buttons can either aid you or hold you back.

Listening back to some tunes from the times when genuine independant record labels were at the top of the charts, the production (although inovative) wasn’t always that crystal clear but it didn’t seem to matter at the time and those tunes still get played now. So do 50 year old Elvis recordings, some of which sound really shit. :w00t:

In recent months, i’ve ditched Windoze and reason/cubase etc, and im enjoying flicking open a tracker and making some tunes.
But not too long ago, i dont think trackers were up to making the sort of music i like to make without me using some of my favourite pieces of gear. (but i cant be sure, as i wasnt using one… but did occasioanlly look at them).
But then i used to be quite anal… and i know people have been making fantastic entirely computer generated music for as long as there have been things that compute.

But lets face it, a new peice of kit is always fun to play with and can often be inspiring.
So. fuck knows whats best.


Some gadgets are just a distraction but some are quite handy.

The most useful piece of hardware you can buy is probably a decent mic, and maybe a portable recorder for taking it on the field. Sample acquisition is a high priority for a true tracker. Or a synth that you really enjoy using, not necessarily one that makes really good or interesting sounds. This very well could be a plugin but it’s nice to have someting by your side, something not dependent on a computer. Also controllers offer a much more natural way of inputting notes and parameter data than QWERTY + mouse.

From there it’s down the rabbithole. Flashy shiny synths and processors aren’t everything. For example, I’ve found an old cassette deck to be handy for lifting bizarre samples from forgotten children’s tapes and the like, and it offers a leg up from the ubiquitous turntable because I can record to it for sweet saturation. The choices beyond the basics are all about the subjective and often nebulous variables like goals, methods/techniques, aesthetics, tastes, minutae, hopes, dreams, fears, curiosity, etc. Maybe yours dictate using only the computer. That’s cool! That works great for lots of pros (Proem comes to mind). Less is certainly more to a point but I think that any artform suffers when purism is the rule.

IMO it’s important to remember that you will interact differently with every device. It’s a much different experience to hack away at a tracker than it is to lay down a track at a time on a hardware synth with a sequencer or multitrack. Some differences are obvious and some are subtle or unexpected. That’s certainly not to say one is better than the other, but knowing more methods gives you a bigger vocabulary and may give you access to a richer palette.

Old man using trackers for a long time rant follows…

Trackers as we know them have been around since 1987.

Back then, if you were using machines in a studio it probably meant you had a setup that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars i.e. out of the reach of the average joe. In contrast, composers using trackers pioneered the use of personal computers as the “studio-in-a-box”.

Before internet access became common it was regional networks of BBSes that provided message and file exchange. As tracker files were self contained modules it was not uncommon to get these files from BBS systems. Digital distribution of music? Yeah, trackers pioneered that too.

The rest is history. Computers became more powerful. Networks became more accessible. The “studio-in-a-box” became the norm. New sequencers changed the paradigm, but trackers have been in it for the long haul.

Gadgets are like cars. Depending on your lifestyle you may or may not need one. And for no reason at all you might want to drive a Porche or Lamborghini or a Classic from the 1950’s because you think it’s awesome and want to make other car enthusiasts envy you.

On the other hand some of us don’t care about cars. But we still manage to get from point A to point B.

My point of view from coming out of the tracking scene in the 1990’s:

I’m tired of lofi. I’m tired of budget sounds and budget mixes/masters. I love audio as much as I love music, so both deserve my best application within my means. I really do expect no less from anyone around here.

On the other hand: I know plenty of people who have utter gear fetishes and get NO songs done at all. They just play with stuff, and it piles up like a junk yard. I do think that on a whole this community doesn’t put enough development time into musicianship and having rich melodic composition (minimal or maximal).

But yes, there are whole subcultures that have ‘lofi pride’. You’ll see it here often.

Well put. Great metaphor. Think that sais it all :)

Check out Tom Dowd, and if you can, watch the documentary.

I try to go to as many public gatherings on engineering. In those gatherings, the majority of mixers and engineers ages 40 and up were bashing plug-ins, but some we’re quick to say, after bashing them, that they themselves bought and used plug-ins because cost is low and profits are up. Some we’re saying that their million dollar console is collecting dust. Some admitted that they we’re spoiled by record label money.

I guess one could say that the division and argument lies in the technology used. Zero’s and ones vs. analog. It helps to know what science your using to get the maximum output of that technology.

A friend of mine has somewhere between 30 and 40 hardware synths. And that’s not counting the numerous samplers and outboard gear he’s got. This guy is a collector, so for him it’s not so much a need for synths production-wise.
Personally I’ve slimmed down my setup, so now I have 3 hardware synths & some fabulous softwares, such as Reaktor. I like to keep things simple, so I’m gonna let one of the hw synths go.

Trackers are limiting as fuck. They are sequencers. They are not instruments. They play them. A tracker is as limited as the sound it triggers, so what it comes down to is it has absolutely fuck all to do with wether you use a tracker or not; it’s about your samples and instruments.

This is possibly flamebait but what the hell; software synthesis sounds, for the most part, like dried shit. Unless you go for really highend stuff like Native Instruments (FM8 or Absynth for instance) you’re going to stumble into the cesspool of garbage that is Synthedit and its demon offspring. There’s just a staggering amount of really, really terrible softsynths out there that get “airtime” mostly because they’re free or have presets that satisfy an initial requirement. I didn’t realize this at all until i started playing around with hardware. It’s a subtly staggering difference. There’s “crunch” to a professionally engineered synthesizer that most softsynths simply cannot touch. Of course this comes with a price tag in convenience and $$$, but, i’m sad to say, that’s the price you pay for quality.

I think it’s a pretty fantastically arrogant statement to say you don’t need external gear to track music. Trackers are so dependent on external sound sources they’re completely crippled without them. So who are you; A sampler who effect and sequence, or are you sound designer who wants to create the whole package from scratch? Personally i’d like to be the latter and remove myself as far from relativity as possible.

I’ll go out on a limb and say you won’t be making professional movie soundtracks or even produce for high end artists with Renoise without the assistance of external gear. You simply won’t.

My favorite example is italo disco, which has had a resurgence in the recent years. You get kids saying damnit they can’t make this sound right! What are they doing wrong! What they’re doing wrong is thinking because a song was made with old technology that technology wasn’t the cream of the fucking crop at its time, and a thing about hardware is that it is often timeless.

You go online and pick up a free softsynth with 2 oscillators, detune, an lfo, bandpass filter and drive, and you STILL can’t make it scream like an MS-20. What the fuck is going on right?

Some things require the idiosyncrasies of specifically designed hardware solutions not easily or commonly replicated in software. I think it’s actually sort of sad how so few softsynths attempt to be individuals and instead try to meet the basic fucking requirements over and over again. FM8 is still a DX7 wannabe at heart, and the furthest softsynths seem to want to go is to make The Greatest Korg Wavestation Of All Time.

Don’t misinterpret this as tracker hate. Trackers are awesome. But they are not instruments.

it’s not hardware fixation, it’s hardware love.

@Sunjammer: you post seems kind of black and white. “Either get hardware for $$$ or don’t bother making anything. You will end up with crap noone want to torment thier ears with.”
I agree with the flooded VST market and of course the SynthEdit/Synthmaker stuff. But if choosing some acclaimed VSTi’s in the £150-200 range you get decent stuff (no, not compared to hardware real stuff).

I too have friends with heaps of gear (I mean a LOT) but gets nothing done but wierd analog swirls, boings and other wierd arp-sequences. No music people want to listen to, just “good real analog sounds with the right punch, crunch and bottom etc”. He is more of a collector than a musician.

Lareux asked if it was possible to make “good” music with minimal setup and that pretty much depends on tastes/genre, personal standards etc. as stated in some other posts. And with good samples and a couple of decent softies he will probably achieve some nice results. Not timbaland/Max Martin or whatever but good enough to get satisfied by his efforts. And get the hardware when he feels the softies can’t really get the job done and have saved some money.
A MIDI controller is actually nice to jam on and insert notes with, so that would be about the first purchase. Monitors and soundcard will help a lot too if you are much into mixing and mastering. Or you WILL be into it if you are concerned about your sound.

Hope this thread doesn’t turn out to be a h/w vs. soft flamewar. You can read all about it at KVR - and don’t get any wiser…

Hardware fixation and Expensive Gear.

If you want commercial success with a major record label., you will almost certainly have to go into a very expensive studio to “Tidy up” your music.
This will be chargable and come out of your royalties (if any).
The record labels tend to own the studio you would use. And they wont charge you mates rate either.

This is a clear example of controlling the means of production.
Sony even bought audio software companies.
If they cant own the music, they own what its made from.
This could be a danger of using proprietary software in the future…
You made it with MegaStudiosSequencer Pack, you to pay them royalties for each track you sell.
That is the exact situation you are in when you walk into thieir studios.
They own the studio, they get a cut of your music.

If people can make music with cheap gear, and also burn cds, and distrobute mp3s with it, do online trading…
It becomes apparent that record labels have very little to offer nowadays.
So they may not be keen on siging lofi acts. They will sign acts that are expensive to produce.
People will try to copy that, and generally fail without the labels help/financing.

Fear, uncertanty and doubt is spread from the top of the chain downwards.
Top artists/producers/studios try to protect their position by asserting their expensive gear and mysterious skillz are the best.
Some gear is sonically superiour, but its no use to you if you cant hear the extra 6db sub bass cos your rooms the wrong size and shape.

Thank heavens there is a world economic slump and we will have to make do with budget gear again.
We might come up with something exciting again. (no offence!)
here in the Uk, rave music was made ilegal by the criminal justice bill 1994. People were muntered all night long and the policing bill was expensive.
Large gatherings of people dancing to beats of a repetitive nature is no longer allowed. (it still happens, but not on the same scale)
And they made that music with 303s and 909s that the studios all threw in skips to make way for the latest fm and digital s+s synths in the mid 80s. Thats how it happened.

So Looking to history, you dont need the latest or most expensive gear to make music.
And now is a point in time when you dont need to bow down to a major record label either.

For me, it’s mainly about change

I find it so easy to get in a rut, musically, so changing my setup/environment regularly helps keep things feeling fresh - it’s like hormesis or something, where you do your best when you’re constantly forcing yourself to adapt…

Yesterday I spent a few hours working on my laptop with headphones, and later on, about an hour on my sampler and modules using a workstation as a sequencer… And functionality/sonic differences aside, what I wind up doing and how I work on both of these setups couldn’t be more different - and that’s really significant to me…

You get that to an extent with different sequencers too, but sitting with a piano or an analogue synth, you’re exploring completely different aspects of yourself as a musician… Time seems to pass differently, your mind leads you down different avenues; I think time spent on a piano or simple polysynth is much more valueable, musically/creatively, than any amount of time spent with a sequencer…
(Having said that, to me, trackers do almost crossover into being instruments in their own right…)

People have been using trackers to run studio hardware for years… Loads of the old Hardcore/Jungle tunes were made with Octamed controlling an Akai… Guys like Paradox still work like that, with Amiga and all.

What is REALLY still missing from software is that feeling you get from using a great piece of gear.

I just got my first Emu sampler the other day - (an original E6400 w/ built-in harddrive - ebay, cost almost nothing) - and in minutes I could see why people get so devoted to these samplers…

There’s something really special about the sound.

I can get carried away just sampling breaks into it and seeing how they sound… That’s something you just don’t get using a tracker or Kontakt or antyhing… And then the ways you can manipulate the sound in the sampler are fascinating… The filters, and the way you can bump up the gain and have it distort internally, it just sounds like a thing of beauty…

Really makes you focus on and appreciate simple things - the way a break sounds cut up; the way a synth sounds through a filter… With software I’m always clocking up 30+ tracks, but then I do discover different things working like that…

i bought a melodica finally…
quite surprised at how loud it is.
i will probably learn to play it just good enough to “sample it”! :D

it’s true though, 99% of my external-non-inside the box of computer. collects dust, regularly.
have been thinking it’s nearing that time to remove some clutter.

is it a bad thing to save the boxes??

Some say saving boxes can help ward off the devil.
But once you have saved them, you can never dare throw the boxes away or your gear will break next week.

That’s not what i was trying to say though. I was trying to say there is a point where you have to realize that there IS such a thing as paying more money for more quality, and that while you can make really good stuff in a tracker there is always going to be things you won’t be able to without external assistance.

Another thing is, and i really believe in this personally, that hardware inspires affection in a way software can’t. I’ve got a fair share of softsynths but i don’t know any of them near as intimately as i know my hardware, so the level of quality i can get out of my hardware is just immediatly better fundamentally because i know how to use it. I think hardware carries a stronger incentive to treat it as actual instrument, not just something that makes a sound.

You’re right tho, that obsession also comes with a price; Since i started using more hardware my output has drastically dropped. I spend a LOT of time learning and playing and just fiddling with the stuff. As a result though, i can make really simple things sound far more powerful than you’d think possible, and it gives me a lot of insight into how audio works. It’s the hands on thing really. You feel more connected to the sound.

But i don’t think there is any real discussion out there wether a midrange softsynth can outdo something like an Oberheim OB12 run through a tape machine in terms of warmth and color. That’s really all i have to say.

Also hardware doesnt have to be expensive. For instance you can get classics like a Juno 106 or a DX7 for a really fair price these days