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May 2014
more... Recording TipsRecordingMarch 2009

5 Studio Setups You Should Know About

5 Studio Setups You Should Know About

Bridgette Tatum's Mac
Nashville, TN
by Joe Coffey

Years: 6 (Using GarageBand)
Web Address: bridgettetatum.com
Rate: N/A
Contact: root49music.com
Bridgette Tatum's "Funky in the Country" Final Version:

Click to download the Garage Band Demo
We set out to find a guitar-playing Nashville songwriter with a nifty office recording setup, perhaps with a few racks of particularly guitar-specific gear, to bring some variety to this series of recording profiles. The idea was to break down the recording setup of a guitar player who writes songs for a living. These are the people who toss ideas around in “appointments” with other songwriters, mold them in a DAW and cut demos that get shopped around to hopefully become a hit song on someone else’s record. We wanted to explore the utility of a professional, yet simple, setup.

Imagine our surprise when many of the songwriters we talked to pointed to the Macs in their offices and said, “well, there it is!” Sure, standalone multi-track recorders, professional DAWs and a wide variety of devices marrying mixing consoles to interfaces have evolved, but so have laptop computers. GarageBand, the freebie program on Macs, isn’t just for beginners, either. It has become quite the workhorse in the songwriting capital of the U.S.

We asked singer/songwriter Bridgette Tatum to explain how she’s using a laptap with GarageBand to carve out a career in Nashville.

GarageBand? Really?

It’s probably the main tool I use to get everything started. I used to record on a little cassette tape player—we all had those—and then I discovered GarageBand and got proficient with it.

What about your interface and other gear?

I usually go directly into my Mac and even use my laptop’s built-in mics. You’ll see a lot of people using the USB-powered Snowball mic [Blue Microphones] at sessions. I play a Martin Alternative X with an aluminum top and a Voyage Air acoustic—they sound great through the snowball. That’s all I need to record and print a decent demo for taking into the studio to track with. The only problem with the snowball is that it is bulky; it can be hard to lug from writing session to writing session.

So you cut an initial GarageBand demo that ends up being a reference for a pro demo cut in a real studio?

Yes, but sometimes there are GarageBand-captured moments that you can’t recreate in the big studio. We had a cool vocal riff down on the GarageBand demo for a song called “Funky in the Country” that we were having trouble capturing in the studio when I was working on my own album recently. We wanted to start the song with the riff but we just couldn’t recreate the vibe and make it sound as good as we did on GarageBand. We ended up recording the GarageBand riff being played through a speaker with an air conditioner in the background for some extra ambience and that’s what you hear at the top of that song on my album, Sex. Church & Chicken.

It was one of the flukes that you kind of run up on every now and then. Sometimes when I run GarageBand I record the whole session with my songwriting partners because you get these great little outtake things that you can actually put on a demo or your album or whatever you’re working on.

I guess writing in a big studio just to capture spontaneity can get expensive.

Here’s a good example—I have a song called “Hold On To Me,” that we laid down in GarageBand and I almost wanted to include that recording as an extra hidden track on the album because it was so raw and so real when we captured it. We took it and re-did it for the album, and it’s great, but I just don’t think we
captured that moment again like we did in GarageBand with just acoustic guitars.

How does the program itself come into play?

There are some easy-to-use looping features in there with drums and percussion that are great for getting a song’s foundation going. One of my partners, John Goodman, got a loop going once and we just kept building off of it and we ended up with a phenomenal song that sounds like something you would get out of a studio. Sometimes you get lucky enough to be able to do that. Like anything else, when you’re dealing with something that has samples on it and loops on it, sometimes you get great things and sometimes you don’t get what you need. But sometimes you luck out and get exactly what you need.

Anything on the radio right now that started off in your Mac?

Yeah, Jason Aldean’s current single, “She’s Country,” started off on GarageBand. One of my writing partners, Danny Myrick, and I laid down most of the eventual demo directly on GarageBand with a just few other guitar parts and drum loops added later.

So how common is it for Nashville songwriters to use GarageBand?

Oh, it’s huge! I would guess that for seven out of ten writing appointments that I’m going to go into, we’re going to use GarageBand.

Considering what else is out there, why do you think that is?

For me, I’m very simple when I write and GarageBand is as simple as it gets. You just set it up and go. I use some effects, like reverb, but I try to keep it simple.

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