One of my boys wanted to play with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) called FL Studio, so I bought a license. I figured if he was interested I might as well play with it too, and I was immediately overwhelmed. It’s a software system used by professional music producers.
I didn’t expect a steep learning curve. After all, I began playing with a keyboard synthesizer and MIDI in the 1980s. (Some of the stuff I did is still floating around my old website.) More recently I spent time transcribing and arranging music with MuseScore. But the sound production community has a separate lineage going back to analog media and hardware – think of those huge mixing boards in sound studios – with its own practices and terminology that have carried forward to the latest DAWs.
I persisted. I watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube channel In the Mix. I’ve spent on the order of a hundred hours playing with this thing. And my bewilderment at the depth and breadth of the state of the art of sound production has only grown.
The best way to learn anything is to have a test project. I had just finished watching the second season of White Lotus, which has an amusing opening theme song. So I set out to reproduce and elaborate on that. My first cut did not stray far from its inspiration:
Over the next few months I put in more hours playing with different ideas and ended up with this:
Here’s a screenshot of the project in FL Studio:
I think the results are OK, but only until I listen to something that has been done by a professional. Leaving aside the fact that I only used FL Studio’s basic synthesizer for the instruments, what I have now is relatively muddy, lacking the crispness and separation of sound that I wanted. I have just scratched the surface of a few of the dozens of standard tools and techniques used by professionals, which I didn’t even know existed until I started this project.