Note: The below Pro Tools rig no longer exists. For two different options of studios for only $300, check this out.
Earlier this week in Part 1 of this post, I encouraged musicians looking for the best deal in home recording to pick up an Mbox 2 Mini from Avid. For a mere $295, the Mbox 2 Mini can be the hub of your personal studio allowing you to get high quality audio in and out of your computer. And the best part is, it comes with Pro Tools recording software for FREE, giving you everything you need to write, record, edit, mix, and master your songs right out of the box. Seriously folks this is a great deal.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you purchase a Pro Tools LE system (like the Mbox) you get a whole slew of useful software that will help you make great songs in no time. Here is a short list of the most powerful ones you get and how they can help you make great music, now!
Your Virtual Drummer
When you fire up a new Pro Tools session, one of the best things you can do is start off your song with some pro sounding drum tracks. Not a drummer? No problem. Pro Tools ships with a free copy of FXpansion BFD virtual drum program. You get to pick what type of kit you like, what style you need, and then you can trigger pre recorded patterns by real drummers in a real room, with a ton of expensive mics tracking every hit! How sweet is that?
What if you aren’t actually going for that natural acoustic drum sound? What if you need more of a hip hop beat or dance groove? Simply open up Avid’s very own vintage drum machine plugin, Boom! Use one of the thousands of pre programmed patterns, or make your own! Honestly getting drums into your song has never been faster or better sounding.
Vintage Amps Galore
So you’ve laid down some great drum tracks in minutes. And perhaps you’d like to get a great guitar part down to sculpt the song. You could take your mic and throw it on the grill of your guitar amp (you do have one don’t you?), but what if you want to pick form multiple different amp tones? And what if it’s 2:00 in the morning and the people living below you might not like you cranking it up while they’re sleeping? Why not use a virtual amp!
Pro Tools ships with a free version of Eleven, which is a totally realistic (the best I’ve found) amp modeling plugin. Plug in your guitar directly to the Mbox, fire up Eleven, pick an amp, tweak the knobs and press record! If you nail the perfect take but actually needed a different guitar tone, just change the setting on the plugin and keep the recorded track! Simple as that!
Your Singing Just Got Better
When it comes time to lay down your vocals for a song, sometimes you just don’t nail it in one take…or 2 or 3. And even after using Pro Tools’ comping feature to piece together the best out of all your takes, you may need a little help to tighten up a few notes (or all of them). This is where a pitch correction plugin comes into play. The one that started it all, Auto Tune, is probably the most famous (and most abused…think Cher or T-Pain). But the most subtle and helpful program out there in my opinion is Melodyne from Celemony…and you get a free version with your Pro Tools system!
The simple visual display of your recording makes it super easy to grab an off note and drag it to where it “needs” to be. This can be as subtle or as drastic as you want, but either way it is fast, easy, and sounds really good. Trust me when I say that this is a life saver, even on the best of singers!
A World of Possibilities
These are just a few of the most helpful programs that come free with your Pro Tools system. They are powerful, sound great, and are easy to use. But one of the even cooler things that you can do in Pro Tools (or any DAW really) is play their virtual instruments to add more amazing sounds to your sessions.
With the addition of a simple USB powered keyboard controller you can “play” pretty much any instrument imaginable! For example, ever want to lay down a smooth cello line to your ballad, or a fat synth to fuzz up your bass tone, or even add some classic piano parts to your pop rock masterpiece? In just minutes you can add these sounds to your session and begin filling out the tracks so they sound like a more professional arrangement.
Get To It…
So there you have it. A great little studio for $500. Honestly, you don’t need anything else to make great recordings in your home. There is no excuse…save up some dollars, grab the basic gear I’ve suggested, and get to making music!