A Christmas Song: Built In Pro Tools

2009 Dec 17, 2009

Since Christmas is only a week away, I wanted to share a little something with you guys that is holiday appropriate. A few years ago I wrote an original Christmas song and recorded an a cappella version of it. This year my wife requested I bring it back and record it with a whole band. Well, time was limited so I decided to do the whole song myself…in Pro Tools. So I thought it would be a helpful post to play you the song and then briefly show you how I used my Pro Tools system to make it a reality. Thanks in advance for listening!

“This Time of Year”
[audio:This Time Of Year.mp3]

Starting With What I Had
Like usual, I started out by opening up my songwriting template. This is always a time saver as I have tracks already labeled and routed to my gear the way I like it. Since I wrote the song on acoustic guitar originally I knew I wanted to start there and build up. As I recommend to most people I started by creating a solid guide track, complete with a click and markers. Then I simply laid down the basic guitar part all the way through the song. I doubled it on another track with another pass through, cleaned up a few parts, and then I was done. If I were recording another group I would have laid down a scratch vocal, but since I know the song pretty well (I wrote the dang thing) I decided to wait on vocals.

Enter Pro Tools
Now without the rest of the band available I had to let Pro Tools fill in the gaps. Thankfully for me, that’s exactly what it’s good at! To record every instrument other than guitar and vocals, I turned to only two plugins. Digidesign’s Strike and Xpand! Strike is an amazing virtual drummer plugin that I had to purchase separately. I used it for every drum sound you hear in the song. Xpand however comes free with Pro Tools system…and it is a life saver. Just take a look at what I used it for on this one song:

  • Bass guitar
  • Piano
  • Strings
  • Bells
  • Organ
  • Tremolo suitcase piano
  • Arpeggio effect

Talk about versatile. Xpand is one of the best virtual instruments I’ve come across. It’s packed with hundreds (thousands I think now) of patches, but even better than that is just how simple the interface is for tweaking the sound to your liking and mixing with effects, all within the plugin! The bottom line is that Xpand helps you make amazing music out of the box in a matter of minutes. No confusion, no fuss!

A Product of The Revolution

To be honest, this song is truly a product of the Recording Revolution that I believe we are in. We live in an age of amazing accessibility to outstanding recording gear for a mere percentage of what it would have cost for such amazing tools 20 years ago! That’s why this blog is called The Recording Revolution. We live in a unique time where anything we can dream up in our heads we can create in our home studios. And that is why I’m sharing this with you…I want you to be empowered and encouraged to fire up your home studio and start crafting great music and all the while ignoring all the hype and babble out there about the extra gear you “you need” to make pro recordings. While those people are debating which A/D converters to purchase you can be putting the finishing touches on another great song!

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