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Nathaniel Kunkel InSession: A Little Bit IT, a Little Bit Rock 'n' Roll

November 1, 2009
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Nathaniel Kunkel

Okay, it's happened. Knowing about network protocols and their implementations is now as important as mic placement. “Crazy fool!” you say. Not this time, not this time.

My TC Electronic System 6000 will only run on a 192.168.1.x subnet. My Drobo hard drive connects with iSCSI to the second port on the Mac Pro tower, and I am running that network without any DHCP leasing. I need to forward UDP Ports 6000 through 6002 and TCP Ports 80 and 5222 to the machine that hosts my Source-Live broadcast. My Aviom uses a form of POE, and I regularly run my computer remotely from mastering sessions to print and deliver file changes to myself while I'm more than 100 miles away.

Does that sound much like dialing in a guitar tone on a Fairchild or getting a slamming drum sound? Not to me either, but without knowing how to do that other stuff, my sessions might not ever get off the ground in the first place. And I think we can all agree that some of the first luxuries to go during these hard times are unlimited tech visits.

In truth, it's not enough to just be able to navigate this boatload of new stuff in music production. You really need to excel at it. How many times do sessions come to a grinding halt because of computer problems? Maybe you need an update. Maybe your monitor card died and you need to get the files off the machine to your spare CPU. If you're working with a player or a singer, you can't spend two hours getting your system working; it needs to work in 10 minutes. That, believe it or not, is one of the things that will separate the pros from everyone else: They will actually get the take.

Even if you are just a songwriter doing your craft on a computer, that's your rig, and you have to know how to run your rig. We all work on computers in music — heck, the name of this magazine is Electronic Musician — yet networking seems to make people run for the hills. Akin to a root canal as it may seem, it's time to get conversant.

A computer's main function for us in society (as well as in music) is communicating, and it does that with a network. It's a pretty logical extrapolation. If we know how to use a computer and we know how to communicate with a computer, knowing how computers do that might be helpful — at least in a fundamental sense.

I know it sucks, but network design, security and maintenance should now be considered part of advanced recording theory. But wait, don't despair, because here's the good news: It's not really that hard. A little DHCP, a little NAT, a little LDAP, some coffee, and you're dancing. Jump in; it's not a bit cold.

Another big upside is that this kind of knowledge has the potential to make you more money all on its own. You can use YouSendIt, which works well. But how much more pro do you look with a secure, verified and branded FTP site that costs you nothing? Remember, perception is reality.

Happy reading.


Nathaniel Kunkel (studiowithoutwalls.com) is a Grammy- and Emmy Award-winning producer, engineer and mixer who has worked with Sting, James Taylor, B.B. King, Insane Clown Posse, Lyle Lovett, I-Nine and comedian Robin Williams.

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