Mon, 20 May 2019

My First Real Digital Studio

I just sat down to recall my first studio and as I did so, I remember my first studio wasn't at all my first.

My very first was a portable tape casette recorder.

After that, the record mechanisms on toy synthesizers.

At some point, a Tascam 424 Portastudio MkII showed up, which produced some pretty fun recordings for sure. One for the difficulties for me was timing, especially triggering drum samples and patches from keys. As good as I was at it, a perfect take with perfect timing was out of the question. But I remember how hard it was to learn MIDI! That was probably because my first attempt at using a sequencer was Voyetra Sequencer Plus GOLD software that came with the original Sound Blaster. Totally unintelligble to a 13 year old kid!

So my first real studio came along once Cubase appeared for me, because that was when I figured out MIDI and I could start creating sensible, listenable music.

I didn't even know Atari existed. My first Cubase was on Windows 98, Cubase Score 3.05. It had a printer port dongle. The MIDI interface was a MOTU Pocket Express parallel port. I think I needed some kind of parallel port hub to use both at the same time. I had no idea about MIDI timing or anything, and I think with the parallel port, I hadn't yet come across the ill-fated timing issues that were to come with USB, although I know that soon after realizing I needed more MIDI ports, I dove in head first to the horror that is USB MIDI devices.

I know my first sequences were stored on floppy disks. I doubt I have them anymore. I know I did a few things in 1998, more notibly the music and sound effects for a college skit. There were tracks made in the summer of 1998 in Berkeley, with MIDI mostly recorded live (and sometimes unquantized, go figure) into Cubase and recorded into the 4 track. I don't think I had figured out multitimbral mode yet. One track, Sanskrit, is extant from that time. The tape version sounds much better than the edited, quantized version I worked out later.

After I graduated college in 1999, I remember buying a top of the line Micron computer that cost about $5,000. With this big purchase came my first "real" studio running Steinberg Cubase VST/32 running on Windows 98, with the aforementioned MOTU Pocket Express handling the MIDI and outputing to an Alesis QS8 and a Roland JV-80, eventually recording audio into a Mackie 1402 VLZ Pro with the direct outs half-patched into a MOTU 2408 Mk II PCI. I soon figured out how to plug the ADAT outputs of the QS8 into the 2408, which then started my obsession with digital audio. The difference between that and the poor, noisy analog output of the mixer was undeniable.

Yet, stability on this system was far from achievabl with Windows 98. Getting thorugh a 5 minute recording without the system crashing was a miracle sometimes.

The last version of Steinberg Cubase VST/32 appears to be Steinberg Cubase VST/32 5.2 PB1.

Note to self: there is an Initself archive housed in Z:\Documents\Cubase\Techno (Pitch 07) that contains Rhodes Bitch Golfer, which you thought was lost. Check it out!


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