Pro Tools 9 – Confessions of a Pretend Musician

I won’t lie; I am not a brilliant musician. Yet, it is an art that holds me close before pushing me aside like a lovestruck fool too petty for his mistress. When I was in Grade 8, I spent entire days trying to learn little riffs on my guitar with few real successes. But I loved it, just as I loved my first rock guitar, a 1980s B.C. Rich Warlock made in Korea. Unfortunately, I could only play in the school jazz band, and I will admit that I never really got the whole Prince Edward Island Jazz scene. My jazz career ended when I met the high school band teacher, a deranged lunatic who believed his own hype and built a little kingdom in the back portable. I tried the rock band thing, but I just never had the guitar chops to keep up with my old buddy, Adam Gill, who still plays on the East Coast. The only time I made it to a stage was a disastrous battle-of-the-bands; I should have known that any band called Exotic Poultry would not be welcome to share a stage with hair bands in leather. Whose idea was the trombone section anyway?

I stopped playing music until my time at McGill. A friend lent me his DX7 keyboard to tinker with, and I spent a few nights seriously composing really terrible love songs to no one in particular. When an outrageously outrageous friend exclaimed in ironic tones that “you have the soul of a blues master, my friend!” I knew that my days were up with the keyboard and the guitar. I did not play again until I was about to leave Montreal two years later.

Upon arrival in Toronto I decided that I would play the bass. It would require less technical ability and if Sting could sing and play, then I could surely play. I adored the bass and spent countless hours wearing headphones, practicing scales that made no sense to me, and learning the big bass songs: “Roxanne”, “With or Without You”, and “Blister in the Sun”. I even spent a winter traveling to Humber College two nights a week to play in a jazz group led by professional musicians. They were hardcore, and they wanted me to quit the band immediately. I could not read music, could not keep track of where we were and had never even listened to jazz before. It was dismal, but I stuck it out and before long I played at the Toronto club, The Rex, which was brilliant. Shortly after my debut, I ran out of time to practice after switching schools, and gave up playing altogether.

While I was married, living on the Danforth, I spent a lot of time in the basement writing and recording music that no one would ever really listen to. I did an entire album by myself over the course of two years. I called it Prayers From the Killing Jar; all but one of my friends would not listen to it. I did manage to play with a group called Etch for a summer, and we recorded three great songs, played in a bar named The Black Swan, and then I stopped again.

This summer I tried playing with two great guys, but my schedule is so insane that I never can make the time to practice enough to learn the pieces. I let them down despite wanting to play on a weekly basis. It is hard when you are tone-deaf, cannot read musical notes, and are playing with perfect pitch geniuses, but I tried.

This long confession brings me to ProTools 9. On my way home I decided to pick up the latest upgrade for my DigiDesign 002 Rack. Version 9 is a complete opening up of the proprietary system to all other hardware devices, and it allows users to work on laptops without an actual hardware interface. ProTools 9 is big. While I seldom get to play with ProTools like I want to, and I get to play music even less, sometimes it is key to buy the upgrades so that you do not lose your investment in the system. If you wait too long, then you end up needing to buy a full version, and you no longer understand the features.

What does this purchase have to do with photography? Interestingly, I have been called on a few times to edit video or sound for people, and ProTools allows me to do that efficiently and professionally. I took courses on the software a few years back, and I get how it works. For me to ignore a major upgrade like this one, would be akin to me abandoning all of the hard work I had done and all of the money invested in the system.

What do I think of the software? Hmmm, after an initial scan and listen it feels just amazing. I finally have a computer system fast enough to take advantage of the plug-ins, and not having to sit in a dark basement  when using it is a godsend. If someone had told me I would be able to access a gorgeous baby grand piano and record it, I would have thought them nuts. The free sample players, synths, guitar amps and reverb effects are the real deal. I will not suddenly become P-Diddy or Timbaland, but ProTools 9 gives me the opportunity to sit and play all of the music in my head on a cold, winter’s night. It may all be behind the beat, but, then again, maybe I like it like that.




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