Making Music With My Laptop

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in making music. In fact, when I was a teenager I convinced a friend to let me borrow his guitar. You see, I was convinced that I could learn to play it on my own.

Unfortunately, I had underestimated how painful it is when you are pressing your fingertips into those steel strings to play the chords. Needless to say, my guitar learning did not last very long.

Another thing that I’ve always been interested in learning is the keyboard/piano, but that hasn’t actually happened either. However, I have recently learned that you can make all these instrument sounds on your computer with special music software.

So… I am thinking that I might actually give this a try. I already have a decent laptop that can handle the software. I figure a good cheap set of studio monitors (like these) is really all that I need to add to my setup right now. It would be cool if I could make some music without needing to learn all the instruments. And, if will be a super cheap little side project.

The only things that I need to learn now is how long it will take me to learn the software. And what particular software is the best for this. Granted, I do not want to spend a fortune on it, so hopefully I can find really great music production software that does all the instruments for under $200. Add that to the studio monitors under $200 and this entire project will (hopefully) come in at under $400. It would be awesome if I could spend no more than $300 on it total, but we shall see. I have no idea about the cost of the software, so that might derail this whole idea or at least put it over budget. Time will tell.

Laptop vs Tablet for Traveling

I am the kind of person who cannot do any type of traveling without taking a tablet or laptop with me – sometimes both! Lately, when I have been taking little short two and three day trips, I have been opting to leave the laptop at home and take my Kindle with me. I like that it has a larger screen than my phone, it weighs a bit less than my laptop and that I can use a web browser on it as well as read my Kindle books.

However, for the longer trips a Kindle is not a very practical option. Although, carrying around a laptop is also not a practical option. Basically, I have been trying to decide if it is a better idea for me to just suck it up and travel with the five pound laptop or get myself a tablet to travel with since it has an even larger screen than the Kindle and offers a bit more functionality than the Kindle or my phone.

Or, I could splurge and get myself a brand spanking new Macbook Air. Ah, the dream, right?

Now that I think about it more, I do think that something like the Mac Air or an ultrabook would be the ideal solution for me. Of course, that would be quite the expense – especially if I opted for the MacBook Air.

As it stands now, I have an old Macbook that weighs somewhere near five pounds. I can keep that and use it for travel or upgrade to a tablet that has a larger screen than my Kindle. But, if I get the tablet then I also have to get a wireless keyboard.

Unfortunately, I think the best option for me now is to keep my current laptop and make it my travel computer. And when it finally dies or gets destroyed on a trip, then I can upgrade to an ultrabook or Mac Air.

Part of what is preventing me from upgrading my computer right now is that I shudder at the thought of damaging a laptop that will cost over $1,000 to replace. But man, that Mac Air sure would be nice!

The First Time I Visited A Recording Studio

The first time that I went to a recording studio, it was one of those professional ones that real musicians and singers use. The building was a dedicated studio, it actually held several studios in it. And there was a really nice lobby, a nice kitchen and small waiting areas outside each of the studios and then there were the studios themselves.

Primarily, they consisted of a large room for the singers and musicians with a separate room for the mixing board and the producers. Of course, there was a window so that they could see between the rooms. But, of course, no one could hear between the rooms without speaking into the mics. I thought that was kinda cool since it was like you had to use walkie talkies to communicate between the two rooms.

The mixing board was almost the entire length of the room, which was kind of amazing. Until that point, I had never seen one of that size. I can only imagine how many thousands of dollars it must have cost. It was also a it intimidating watching the sound engineer use the thing. I mean, it was huge and he was turning nobs, moving sliders, flipping switches all like it was nothing.

Overall, it was really an interesting experience since professional studios like that are so much different from the smaller home studios. In fact, the studio that I was visiting was one that was actually used by the record labels in town to record albums for their singers and bands. So, this was a real deal studio here.

The thing about this pro recording studio though is that it did not feel very creative and I really think that it should have, y’know? Everything was very nice and very professional looking. It seemed like they had paid someone to come in and decorate all the common areas and to furnish it with some top of the line furniture. It was all really high end. Even the magazines looked like they were never touched – almost like it was all there just for show and not for actual people.

And of course the walls were lined with gold and platinum record plaques from the various singers and bands who had recorded an album in the place that ended up selling really well. But it was kind of a show-off kind of thing. It would have been much cooler to have a wall with candid photos of people while they had been there recording their stuff.

I get why people use pro recording studios – for the top of the line equipment and mixing and producing talent. But, maybe there is something to be said for the small studio built by someone who is actually passionate about music and how it sounds instead of high end furnishings and plaques lining the wall of people who have used the facilities.

If I was a singer or a musician, then I think I would choose to use a smaller, less polished looking place to record my music rather than the more pro places that look hospital sanitized.

Why I Love My Kindle Fire

I admit it, I was a bit late to jump on the digital ebook bandwagon. I was strongly in the camp of sticking with the look, feel, and smell of traditional books. And, I still maintain that the experience of reading a physical book is like no other when it comes to real books versus digital books.

That being said, I did get myself a Kindle Fire last year. Actually, I got it almost a year ago exactly. I remember because I bought it to take a on trip abroad to Greece. And the only reason that I bought it was because I wanted to be able to have some functionality similar to a laptop without the weight and size of a laptop. That is correct – I did not even want to read books on the Kindle when I bought it. But…I did download a few freebie Kindle books shortly after getting the device. Needless to say, being able to carry several books around with you all with the low weight of a single Kindle is very appealing. Especially for travelers like me. The device also offers the benefit of being a stand-in for a laptop when I am on short trips.

In short, that is why I love the thing so much! Granted, it is not without its shortcomings. I really hate the web browser on the Kindle Fire. It is very buggy and seems to freeze and lock up on a regular basis. I also am not a fan of its auto-correct type feature. It never fails that when I am trying to type out something that it thinks it knows what I want and changes it. Some of this may be user error, but it is still rather annoying.

I do find it to be a fun little device though and would recommend that anyone give it a try, especially if you are traveling and do not want to take actual books with you.

Goodbye Time Warner, Hello Roku Box

Back when Iived in Texas, I had Verizon FIOS for my internet and cable. It was a dream in terms of the speed of the internet, but I really hated how you could only pause the live TV for like 10 minutes before it would start playing again by itself.

Before that, I had Time Warner Cable and was reasonably pleased with it. Fast-forward to where I am now, post living in Texas, and I am back with Time Warner Cable in a new city and it is an absolute nightmare. And, of course, they are the only option for cable and high speed internet.

The problem? The cable box regularly reboots itself, which stops any DVR recordings that are in progress. More often than not, the channel that you want to watch tells you that it is not available. This often means that things set to record on the DVR do not actually get recorded. And, the internet modem regularly reboots itself, which results in numerous times during the day where the connection just drops. Not great for someone who works online from home.

So, I have finally decided that I have just had it with Time Warner Cable. Since I need the high speed internet and have no other choice, I am forced to keep it. But – I am not forced to keep their crappy cable service! Woot!

So, what I am doing is totally ditching the cable service and getting myself a Roku Box to do my TV watching. I already have an Amazon Prime account that gets me some free streaming and I will add in an $8/month membership for Hulu Plus and I will be good to go.

Not only will I be able to substantially lower the cost of my TV watching by ditching the cable, but I will end up with more reliable service. Of course, I do still have to rely on the spotty Time Warner Cable internet connection, but at least it is a little bit more reliable than their cable service.