Saturday, February 17, 2007

Software Dev and Music Prod, pt. 2.5

Use what ya got .

When I first fell in with the local composers crowd, I'd join them once in a while at a Studio City coffee joint and we'd talk shop. This piece of gear, that piece of gear, this client, that project, blah blah blah. Inevitably, several of the guys would speak of the newest, latest, best recording equipment in reverant tones, and offer this bit of (to them) sage advice: "If you don't have [piece of gear x] and [piece of gear y], you can't compete. You suck. You'll never make it. Who are you fooling? You can't possibly be professional unless you own these gadgets! Go home! Now!" How odd that these guys, save one, did not produce even one product. Everything was, oddly enough, a "demo". This is akin to never getting out of "prototype" stage.

Hey, look. If I had the extra cash to buy the thing, I might. But the gear I own is not only good enough, it's excellent if you know what you're doing. And if you don't know what you're doing, learn what to do so that you eventually know what you're doing!

And, with one exception, the music out of my studio was far and away of better quality than the work of these gearheads. In the end, they depended on the hardware to make them successful, rather than depend on their knowledge, skill, and talent to get them to where they wanted to be.

Here's a great example. While we were working on a Gypsy Soul production, we needed a decent shaker and also a decent brushes-on-snare sound. We had no budget, and so we had to use what we had.

Use what ya got. What'd we got have? For one, we had Roman's production skills and bat-like hearing. For two, we had my sound-design and editing skills. And for three.. we had a cupboard full of spice canisters and imaginations fueled by gallons of caffe americanos. (two shots of espresso and hot water in a tall cup). We found a plastic canister of sesame seeds for our shaker. I still have it, and it's the best damn shaker I own. And it turns out that a bunch of loose change in Roman's corduroy pants pocket made the best brushed-snare sound if you recorded it in the right way. (See their CD "Superstition Highway"). In fact, our at-the-time odd recording style made it into EQ magazine! Go figure.

In software development, the same applies. Use what ya got. Anyone who's worked on an iSeries nee AS/400 knows what I mean.. Enterprise solutions using RPG-III and IV? Get outta here. I mean.. ouch. But we did it, from 1987 onward.

Now, to be fair, I did just spend two weeks learning AS3. And I have one killer laptop to go with my two used, old, slow, ancient laptops. So it isn't like I'm suffering here... But, using what I got, I am going forward with the skills I already have, learning more as I go. Might this mean re-engineering later? Well, maybe. But rather than wait for my RoR ship to come in, or for some expert in AS3 or somesuch to arrive at my doorstep, or for the free money to go and buy a monster server, an additional flatscreen monitor, etc. etc., I'm coding coding coding...

There are limits, of course. Lets make an agreement right now, shall we? I won't argue from extremes here - everything I write will take into account that there is always an exception to a rule, somewhere.. and there are always extreme cases that can serve as arguments contrary to what I write. Let's be clear - unless I'm way off about something, "thinking from extremes" gets us nowhere and provide little but anecdotal suppositions with a highly suspect probability of occurrence. For example "Yeah, use what ya got, but what if all ya got is a TRS-80 and a cassette recorder, and an old Hitachi black and white TV, huh? Huh? Huh?" Shaddup. Don't think or argue from extremes.

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