Capturing the Muse – Tips and Tricks

As songwriters, when inspiration strikes, we need some way to snare our latest germ of an idea. We reach for the nearest piece of paper, or Dictaphone to capture our moment of brilliance. Sometimes I have been gifted with an idea while walking down the street and have resorted to ringing myself up and humming my idea onto my voice mail! [Yes you can have that one]

So how do we ensure we can capture and record our musical ideas at home quickly and without fuss?

The easiest thing to do is to have a permanent plug and play set up. This could be as simple as a good old cassette recorder [does anybody still use these? $ 10 from the opportunity shop. Other choices are an mp3 player with recording facility [around $ 200] or a more complex Flash card recorder [$ 500 +].

If you have a dedicated digital recorder or computer based recording set-up at home, then a couple of mics plugged in and ready to go in the time it takes to boot-up the system is all that is required. Bear in mind that if you use a flash card recorder you have the capacity to transfer your ideas across to your computer workstation at a later time for further work.

In the past I have used recording gear from Fostex, always relaible and as simple as turning on the machine waiting about 45 seconds for the boot up procedure then selecting a folder to record to and go!

For computer based recording I use a program called Ableton Live to do most of my current projects. Within the boot template set-up I can save certain sets of parameters – in my case a vocal microphone and two acoustic guitar microphones which go to 2 tracks. Track one is for the stereo guitar and track two for the vocal microphone.I also have some compressors and equalization set-up on the replay channels, giving my initial idea some extra sparkle.

I know that within a couple of minutes of hitting the on switch of the computer I can be capturing my latest idea for later reworking. I also run Steinberg's Cubase and it is just as easy to have a dedicated template to make this happen. The same holds true for other Multitrack programs such as Pro Tools, Sonar and Logic Audio.

Another thinjg I have been doing lately is using an omnidirectionbal microphone. As a guitarist / vocalist I can sit this between the guitar and my mouthto get a reasonable voice / guitar balance for my rough idea without having to balance any sound levels. For this I use a Rode NT2 microphone, similar microphones from Neumann, Akg can do the same job.

The advantage of having your template and recording system 'Ready to Go' is that you should be able to stay on the right side of your brain! What do I mean by that?

You don't want to be doing left brain (Logical, Sequential, Rational, Analytical) activities in your creative moment. When we are in our creative space we are generally using the right side of our brain (Random, Intuitive, Subjective), which leads me to an interesting idea; As computer musicians we are often impeded from fulfilling our potential by the technology, I think it's because left brain and right brain activities are not mutually compatible! When you're trying to work out how to route a microphone through your sound card and onto a track you are using, well that's a left brain activity.

When you're connecting into the 'universal consciousness now moment inspiration flow' then your in the right hemisphere of your brain. The last thing you want when you're in your creative space is to be lumped with a left brain task- inspiration and the muse fades like the sun dipping into the pacific ocean for the night if you don't have a fool-proof method for capturing your ideas.

Glug glug glug.

So, get yourself 'ready to roll' at a moments notice to capture the latest passing idea from the muse.

Source by Paul Warren