There are numerous reasons why you record, and probably an equal number of ways. Whether you collect industrial sounds for a drum library, capture sound effects for a multimedia project, keep an audio diary of your songwriting or band rehearsals, or document environmental sounds for art or science, if you're like many of our readers, you carry some sort of audio-archiving device wherever you go, even if it's only your digital camera with its video capabilities. (Despite my camera's compromised omnidirectional mic, which often captures more of my breathing than the subject I'm filming, I've managed to document some unexpected sound events that wound up in my own musical projects.)
Although portable digital recorders have been around for a while, getting them small enough to carry everywhere, reliable enough that you don't have to worry that you might lose a take, and priced affordably has been a long time in coming. In the nearly three years since our last roundup of field recorders (October 2005), the number of portable digital recorders has grown, while the products have shrunk in size and price. Our newly minted senior editor, Geary Yelton, has been chomping at the bit to do a side-by-side comparison of these tiny trackers, and we finally let him loose in the field. As you'll see, some of the recorders include features tailored to the needs of the performing musician, such as a tuner, DSP effects, the ability to set loop points, and tempo- and pitch-changing capabilities.
And speaking of musical activity, we've received a number of letters asking for articles that explore musical topics pertaining to technology. Although we have been steering our interviews in that direction, this issue includes a master class on using desktop orchestral libraries in real-world situations. Rob Shrock, a longtime EM contributor who has been the keyboardist-arranger with Burt Bacharach for many years, orchestrates one of his own pieces using four full-size orchestral sample libraries. His article demonstrates how a professional approaches this class of products, suggesting how you can solve the problems that occur when your project requires sounds that aren't provided in the library you're using.
We're also lucky enough to have an interview this month with one of the great restructuralists of the electric bass, Victor Wooten. Besides being one of the foremost masters on his instrument, Wooten has been honing his recording chops throughout his career, and his most recent release, Palmystery, was recorded in his home studio with an amazing cast of musicians (Dennis Chambers, Will Kennedy, Mike Stern, Keb' Mo', Alvin Lee, and numerous members of the talented Wooten and Woodard families, to name just a few). The music is rich with gospel-inspired melodies, solid funk grooves, and, of course, the fiery jazz fusion soloing that Wooten is known for.
An interview such as this reminds me that it's not the technology that makes a compelling record, but the talent of those involved. Sure, it's great to live in an age when we can collaborate with musicians around the world via the Internet; sample, slice, and dice sounds into a rhythm part that would be unplayable by a human; and synthesize timbres never before heard. But ultimately it comes down to the artistry of the people involved — musicians as well as engineers — not whether they used a vintage mic with a customized transformer or an analog or digital synth.
So whether you're using a cassette 4-tracker, an early version of a sequencer on a Mac Plus, or a state-of-the-art DAW, I hope the articles in this issue will inspire you.