A few weeks ago, I went to a Dave Weckl drumming clinic. He had a lot of interesting stuff to say, but one thing I noticed was how he does almost all of his session work by playing along to pre-made tracks. Usually the recording workflow works the other way around, laying down drums first or second, but since this guy is one of the most in-demand studio drummers in the country, they record the rest of the track and e-mail the files to his home studio, where he records his part.
Personally, I learned to play drums by listening to and playing along with CDs. It’s definitely a good way to get up and going, since a pre-recorded band isn’t going to be mad that you’re a bad drummer, but as you get better, it does less for you; there is little room for creative expression, no interaction with other musicians, and no potential for disaster if you don’t keep good tempo.
So I decided to start messing around with some backing tracks of my own, sans-drums. That would open the possibility to work my creative muscles, which are honestly several steps behind my technical abilities.
So I bought FL Studio 7 Producer Edition, a professional digital audio workstation. It has everything I should need to record, notate, synthesize, or generate any kind of music. It’s very powerful and expandable, so if I later decide to build a more complete home studio with mics and stuff, I will have that ability.
I chose FL Studio (previously known as Fruity Loops) over some much more expensive competitors, like Cakewalk SONAR and Sony ACID Pro. The truth is, FL Studio is just as robust, but at a fraction of the price, and the developer actually seems human. For example, my purchase entitles me to free updates for life. It’s a per-user license as well, so if I want to install it on another computer of mine (gasp!) it’s fine. There’s an active forum community, flash video tutorials, and over 2GB of audio samples available for download.
There is a steep learning curve with any of this software – I have a lot of work cut out for me before I can even complete my first real song. It’s slow, but interesting, so I enjoy it. Once I figure it out, I might share some of it here.