The Calm Before the Panic

In a couple hours, the 5th annual RPM Challenge will begin.  Last year, I participated for the first time without much of a plan.  At the end, I sort of vowed to do better this year.  Well, it's upon us and I'm only marginally better prepared.

Previously, I thought that the challenge involved writing and recording the whole album in the month of February.  This year, it's different.  Apparently, we are allowed to write in advance but not allowed to record in advance.  As somebody that uses the computer and heavy processing as an integral part of the composition process, this rule change (clarification?) doesn't change much for me...  but it did mean that I actually wrote down (yeah, on paper!) a few things that would normally have been the seeds for tracks in January.  Long story short, I actually have 4 track ideas already.  This is light years better than last year when I found myself in the Denver airport working on my first track...

But I'm kind of lucky.  Musical ideas come easily.  The areas that I wanted to improve on this year were not musical per se.  They were in other areas.  Cohesion.  Artwork.  Packaging.  The latter two might seem quaint and old-fashioned in a time when "real" musicians are having trouble...  but that's not the point.  The point is to explore other kinds of creativity.  Hopefully, having a bit of a head start on the tunes will afford me some extra time to fret over the quaint.


Ahhhhhhhh That's Better

I recently bought an Airport Extreme Base Station for various reasons that aren't important. This afforded me the opportunity to rejigger things in my studio office. And in so doing I got to switch off an old computer...

Wow. Holy crap. Wow. Duh!

I didn't think of my cave as an ideal acoustic space but I didn't think that the ambient noise was very loud. It was fine. Until now. Now the quiet is almost oppressive. I can hear my laptop and it's a little annoying, actually.

So the lesson here for recordists is if you don't need it in the room, maybe it should be somewhere else. And if it can be switched off, do it. Your ears will thank you.



I may have figured out my recording latency problems.  I could try to invent a big story and explanation but here is what's working for me.  There might be some useful generalizations to be drawn.  Whatever, I'm still suffering a little from the New Year's Eve stupidity.

My guitars plug into my Boss GT-10.  The GT-10 plugs (via SPDIF) to my Focusrite Saffire and that, in turn, connects to my computer via Firewire.
The control software for the Saffire has a little button for sample rate which pops up a tiny window:

That little EXT at the bottom locks the Saffire's clock with the digital in (SPDIF).  Seems to be important (and of course, I didn't have it set before).

Additionally, using Audio/MIDI Control (Mac stuff) I selected "Device" for the Clock Source (per an Apple support web page).  And finally I set Ableton to record 24-bit by default (I theorized that this would remove the need to downsample audio its way to the disk).

These new settings allowed me to quarter my sample buffer setting. Previously, I could only set it as low as 256 and often ran at 512 when the tracks started piling up.  Now I can set it between 64 and 128.  This reduces my round trip latency to 11ms in the worst case (down from over 30ms).