The Making of GunGirl 2 OST: pt. 4

Let’s talk Gear, ya know?

But before I do that, I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve got limited edition GunGirl 2 Soundtrack CDs on sale for $8!  I’d really mean a lot to me if you’d stop by and pick one up to support future endeavors of mine, or as a “thank you” for reading this blog.  It’s got some incredibly sexy artwork by Amanda Appiarius along with a photograph of the team taken by Lauren Walsh.

But, okay, enough of that… let’s get on with it, read on for the equipment I used in creating the GunGirl 2 soundtrack…

First, I’ve chosen “No Looking Back” as the example track here because there are no live elements whatsoever in the track, it’s all done through my sample-library and synthesizers.  As a side note, nearly every single track contains some sort of live element of some sort, be it manipulated vocals or even my own guitar playing (Kyrie Immanis and Dies Irae).

The picture of my studio on the right dates back to 2008, but the core setup is still pretty much the same.  This also is good evidence to my argument that an effective home music studio can exist in a dorm-room, but that discussion is for another time and place.

The following items represent the core studio seen here:

  • Two M-Audio BX5a Monitors that I love dearly.  These give me a very accurate frequency response and are pretty good bang-for-their-buck.  They are self-powered too, which is good for someone who doesn’t want to worry about having a pricey amp.  I feed them through my…
  • Behringer XENYX 1002 Mixer, my minimal does-what-it-has-to mixing board.  I route my soundcard into this and control volumes on the mixer rather than having to use volume controls on the computer.  I don’t suppose I really even need this, because I don’t route inputs through it, but I do often use the line-in support to plugin my laptop.  This is a good time to note that I use a…
  • Barebones Windows XP 64x System.  This is probably the most important piece of equipment I should describe.  I keep an ABSOLUTELY-CLEAN system by never installing games, accessories, or any program that is not directly related to audio production work.  I even have internet and network connections disabled.  That’s right – I cannot access the internet directly from my computer, which means I never have to worry about installing anti-virus software or taking up any valuable resources.  I think this where a lot of home-musicians run into trouble – they try to let their music-computer be their everyday machine, a task which I rely on my MacBook Pro for.  Update: After I finished this soundtrack I finally migrated to Windows 7 64bit – and it was ACTUALLY a pretty painless process.  Just had to reinstall my VSTs and DAW – the only hiccup I guess was authorizing all the plugins on a no-internet system.  Reason #1 I actually LIKE the iLok.
  • M-Audio Audiophile 192 is my low-latency PCI audio interface, which sports 2 mono-inputs, 2 mono-outputs, and some other stuff I don’t use, including otherwise handy Monitor outputs.  I’m not sure there’s much to say here other than I use the ASIO interface religiously.
  • M-Audio Fast Track Ultra is my backup and portable audio interface, sporting more power than my PCI interface can probably even handle.  I didn’t actually use this at any point when recording the GunGirl 2 soundtrack, but I thought it’d be nice to mention I had it, and it could have easily served as an alternate audio interface to my Audiophile.
  • M-Audio Axiom 61 has got to the prized possession in my setup.  This 61-key midi controller is ideal for a keyboardist as myself (I never use the piano roll when initially writing a line of music, I stick to playing most everything on the keyboard – so I need my octaves!).  The huge range is also VERY handy for those nasty keyswitches, where I’ll have to hit C-0, play a line in the fifth octave, and then hit Eb-0 to switch articulations.  I’ve got a preset setup on the keyboard that splits the lowest octave to play in the 0th octave regardless of the transposition setting, which is VERY handy for solo instruments where I spam articulation-keyswitches like it’s nobody’s business.  I’d like to point out that I am not an advertisement for M-Audio, I swear.
  • AKG K-240 goldy-love headphones.  I bet my neighbors wish I used these more than I did – these were primarily used for recording, when I had to have the monitors off, obviously.
  • Cakewalk Sonar 6 is my DAW of choice, but it’s really just my preference.  For The Spirit Engine 2 I also used Renoise, because I love trackers.  Gotta respect my roots, yo!
  • Sibelius 6 was used to score Libera Me.  I put in all those notes by hand and approached it as I approach classical music.
  • East West / Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold Complete is the crux of my sample collection.  Besides the core library, I have all mic-positions, essentially giving me the 16-bit equivalent of the platinum edition – for half the investment.  The real trick to this program is understanding how to appropriate use the articulations.  But if I were going to give you any one suggestion on how to use ANY orchestra library, it’d be to take a break from the computer and read a book on orchestration.  Study it and be one with it – listen to examples, see what works and doesn’t – and then go and listen to an orchestra in person.  And do it regularly.  Don’t stop.  That’s how you’ll know how to achieve a real sound.
  • East West / Quantum Leap RA, Voices of Passion, Symphonic Choirs and Ministry of Rock are other core sets I’ve got in my library.  The pro tip here is to skip Voices of Passion, because it’s very easy to tell where these samples come from, and Symphonic Choirs will take a very long time to achieve a realistic sound (in GG2 I only used it in limited flavor on staccato samples, as you can hear in Dies Irae and Heartless Abyss).
  • Guitar Rig 3, because I’ll never in my life carry around an expensive amp collection.  Also substitute in a Line 6 Pod XT if you care to… same effect.  Professional guitarists, go ahead and groan at me… (again, I’m about getting the job done).
  • Audio-Technica AT2020 Studio Condensor Microphone paired with an ART Tube MP Preamp for inhaling all of those audible sweets.
  • A bountiful collection of VSTis, namely Zebra 2, Rob Papen’s Blue, and a large, large handful of others.  I’ve also got a LOT of samples collected from the days when I tracked, self-made, and some libraries I’ve purchased over the years.

So, there you go – I hope you found this helpful.  Don’t hesitate to ask my any questions in the comments section.  Oh, and maybe buy that CD on your way out! (;

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  • I bought the disc on my way in, am I doing this right?

    That’s a very nice collection of gear, both hardware and software. The neat thing to me is that there isn’t really a whole lot there that doesn’t need to be there – while I like to collect random music goodies, it sounds like you’ve kept it pretty focused.

    How does that M-Audio FTA work out for you? I use one myself but I run into a lot of pops and trouble if I try to do anything low latency (256 samples or so), I’d like to know if it’s just my computer or not.

    Keep on making awesome tracks so we fans can keep nerding out about them 🙂

    • Thanks for the purchase!

      To be honest, my Fast Track Ultra is actually a ‘lil defective and the power supply is broken on it. I can use it normally powered only through USB, but I have to quickly turn it on and off to get it to boot properly the first time – and when I have it wall-powered it’s heinous and pops unusably. This is why I’ve been sticking to the PCI for now. I’ll probably send it in sometime next month to get it replaced, but it’s been reliable for live shows so I wanted to make sure I didn’t send it off when I might get booked. (: