black swan swimming towards moonlight black swan swimming towards moonlight

Black Swan


I do what I want,
when I want,
and where I want

said the ugly duckling

F lying on your own

I have always wanted to be an artist. But to allow your art to be expressed freely one needs a certain level of independence.

I will be gathering information here on how to fly on your own. Gear and deal findings, useful sites, forums, tips, and more. Although this is basically documenting my own learning process, and keeping me on track, if it helps you out as well, all the best, feel free to ask questions.

First steps in foreign territory

Ok, so you just unpacked, you got a roof over your head, a reliable car, a decent computer, and a crappy job to sustain yourself. Now what ?

Well, first you'd need some furniture, and in particular a desk for your workstation. The good news here is you don't have to spend a dime! That's right, you can find great stuff people are getting rid of on craigslist in your city all the time. All you need is a little gas money, and a car you can load furniture in.

TIP #1: if you're short on cash, be on the outlook for things people around you are getting rid of, use 20$-coupons for your oil changes, make your phone calls for free through google talk from your computer and get a 10$-plan for your phone. Prioritize very wisely (e.g. do I need a shoerack right at this moment ? no... do I need a studio mic right at this moment ? YES. Give things a second life (e.g. throw your shoes in a disposed cardboard box from the store).

Setting up your Home Studio

I'd say macs and some other laptops have pretty decent integrated microphones. However if you want to be plugging in your instruments and studio mics and stuff, you'll need a basic audiobox. Audioboxes have better delay times when you are recording, then the default on your computer, acting kind of like an external soundcard. From my experience, around the 200$ price point you can start getting quality it seems. I got the Komplete Audio box from Native Instruments. Tried several other audioboxes below that, that didn't work for some reason. I chose one that is powered by USB, so I could take my laptop and audiobox and perform anywhere without power supply, running on the battery. The best part about buying an audiobox is that it more often than not comes with some cools music editing and standalone instrument programs like virtual amps and beatmakers.

TIP #2: when you buy anything, always have a long-term vision in mind. You can save big by investing a little more right from the start in specific options in your gear that will open up your possibilities of use.

You can start mixing and producing with basic headphones if you have to, but at some point, getting great speakers becomes a necessity. How can you mix properly if your monitoring system washes everything down ? Kind of like a painter that would be painting with dirty glasses on. The best thing is to go in store and listen for yourself to a song you know from your mp3 player through several sets of speakers. I got Yamaha's successor to their famous NS10 : the HS50s, personally I found they had the crispiest sound, I could hear E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Same thing for microphones, you need to go and actually try them out to find the one that suits your voice (given that you are a vocalist). Of course you can find deals online but when it comes to sound quality, I trust my ears to decide for themselves before I purchase.

TIP #3: have your budget ready on specific holiday sale-days, stores usually have awesome discounts for Thanksgiving week, Veterans day, Easter, etc. I saved 100$ on my speakers.

Btw, if you're not a geek, you might want to know that for ideal computer performance, you should have at least 2 physical drives, one with your operating system and DAW installed, and the other one with your soundbanks, libraries, audio files, etc. You could also put your session files on a 3rd drive, but at this point, I have them on the same drive as the OS and DAW, only on a different partition.

Instruments and other soulful creatures

- My acoustic guitar Jampack from Ibanez, below 200$ came with an acoustic amp, bag, strap, picks. Perfect to start strumming and humming.

My 5-string electric bass, to get rocking those lo' killa' growling songs.

- For a classically trained pianist, a full-range weighted-keys synth was a must. My choice went to a Casio Privia, incredible soundbank for live performance, incredible possibilities for programming. And... I got to haggle the price in store to match an internet deal!

- Now I'll admit this last one was a luxury acquisition : a beautiful Romanian 5-string acoustic violin! I mean... when I went shopping for a violin, I didn't think I was gonna find myself face to face with a 5-string. So I thought why buy a 4-string if I can get a 5-string? I stared at it, counting the strings. It looked back at me and begged "try me!" That low C-string resonated like from the depths of the Transylvanian forests. Next thing I know, I was haggling and taking my card out for a downpayment.

TIP #4: go shopping in-store only after having done your research online and having gathered your budget, that way you can recognize and get a deal when you see one. Also you will know what questions to ask and will be in a position to bring the price down.

Your friend Google, online tutorials

With this internet era, there is an incredible wealth of information available to anyone everywhere. So much that it can be overwhelming at times. I suggest starting with some basic knowledge in working with your DAW, then when you have a specific issue, ask Google (literally you can now ask). For example, "how to create dubstep bass", "how to best use reverb and delay FX", "how to compress and mix your kick and snare drums". By searching for specific topics, you ensure you are staying productive, and tackle your production one step at a time.

Get feedback from peers on forums, from friends on soundcloud, etc.

I found also a great deal online I'm gonna share with you. It was as 40$-package that included several 1h-long tutorials on production made by an experienced producer from L.A. and came with several e-documents like a book called "30 years in 30 days". That book has been a treasure gold in terms of audio production secrets for the independent musician in the 21st century! Beside this, there was a free feedback session with the author of the book included in the package, wich was actually the number 1 reason I purchased it. Have someone of experience listen to your stuff and give you his invaluable opinion can seriously move you forward. Best 40$ I ever spent.

Spread the word

Whether it be through a website or handing out your music physically, you need to put yourself out there, no one's going to knock on your door.

If you are an antisocial geek, going with option 1 is probably a wise decision. Being a geek you could easily program you own website, especially if like me you have specific user-interface and badass design ideas, but if you rather spend your time doing music, go with a wix or wordpress template. You could even just stick with a facebook or soundcloud. Or ideally integrate it all together, with a twitter feed. Host 1,5Gb for free on 000webhost.

TIP #5: Have your tracks always ready to show on your mp3 player, as well as your contact information; you never know when someone will show interest in your stuff and what situation will lead to opportunities for you to better connect with the world and share your creations and ideas.

Now if you don't have a band that's tripping on your music and can play it with you, and you freak out at the idea of being on stage entertaining a drunk crowd by yourself, luckily you have other options to share your music with the world : licencing it for video production, or online streaming on youtube, making it available for download on iTunes, etc.

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