Michael Duff

Musician, Singer/Songwriter, Producer
Los Angeles, CA USA

Compose, record and mix a song in 24 hours

Winner of the 2007 Los Angeles Music Awards Best Male Adult Contemporary Vocalist, Michael Duff is a singer/songwriter/producer living in Los Angeles, California.  Originally from Massachusetts, he is the former lead singer and songwriter of Columbia Records' Alternative Rock act Chalk FarM.  He can be heard in the Disney/Warner Bros. film "A Cinderella Story" and on TV episodes of the daytime drama "The Young and The Restless".  And aside from his own shows, he's a touring member of Celebrity Photographer Mark Seliger's Rusty Truck.


A Duff Song in 24 Hours

I was challenged by the guys at Avid, Apple and Apogee to use their 'Power Trio' to see how quickly I could get up to speed with this gear - which was new to me.  I've used Pro Tools for years but worked with enough top guys who use Logic that I was finally ready to make the switch.  So, when the idea came up for me to learn Apple's Logic Pro, the Artist Mix from Avid and the Duet from Apogee to write, record, mix and post a song - from scratch - in 24 hours, I was all over it.  I got me an iMac and got rolling.

Getting Started

Installing Logic was very easy - as is most Mac software.  But it took a while to load all of the loops and sounds in.  There are like 6 DVDs of sounds!  And they are fantastic.  The Artist Mix was also a simple set-up, in fact, you should go to the downloads page and get the newest version of EuCon.  That handled a little glitch I experienced during my set-up with the disc that came with the unit.  What's great about this piece (and I've been told the Artist Control is the same) is that it reads whatever program you're in - if I switch to Pro Tools it knows that - if I switch back to Logic, bang it's there with me.  The duet install was equally simple. After I loaded the Maestro software I just plugged in the Duet's firewire connection into the iMac and there it was.  So far so good!

I spent about a week with this gear before I did my 24 hour challenge (I videoed it and you can see a the clip at the link to the right or at the bottom of the page).  I'm sure I've still just cracked the surface with all Logic can do, but it was pretty easy to get up and running and into a flow, and I quickly found that some of the things it can do is pretty remarkable.

I must admit I had an idea for the song before I started - trying to hedge my bet - but once I got into the sounds in Logic I got inspired and went in a different direction.  In fact all that remained of that original idea was the title, 'Fly'.

Start The Clock

If you write songs, you just know that sometimes you simply can't do it, that somewhere the inspitration is just nowhere to be found.  I'd be lying if I didn't have that sitting in my head as I decided to start the clock.  'What If?'  And it's not even like I had anyone sitting over my shoulder with a watch, but I do like a challenge and once I said 'go' I wanted to keep it to 24 hrs so I could prove that it can be done - and without much more gear than the Power Trio.  

Anyway I had worked out a melody that I liked (with the pre-conceived idea I told you about) but when I went looking for a groove and found one that made me change what I had planned - the rhythm over took the melody.  The groove actually gave me a bit of a melody idea and from there I started to build the song.

Recording

I'm mainly a guitarist and even though I do play keyboards, for this I wanted to use only what I think other guys who write songs would have around - an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar and a mic.  Simple, right?  Sounded good to me.

The guitar tracks were done as simply as plug the guitar into the Duet (it comes with 2 guitar and 2 Mic inputs), select the channel to record on and you're ready to go.  For electric, you can choose the cool Amp Modeller plug-in (it makes different amp sounds and you can sound like Hendriks or whoever without disturbing any neighbors!) hit record and go.  You can use an amp if you want or just use the amp modeller.  Acoustic was straight in without that plug-in and I have Taylors with the stock pick-ups and they sound great so that was good.

I used the keyboard for the bass tracks.  I found a cool sound and one of my favorite features of Logic came into play when I hit 'Caps Lock' the computer keyboard turned into a piano keyboard and I did all the bass - and organ and synth parts right there.  No other keyboard needed.  Genius!

Recording the vocals went just as smoothly.  I used a Shure Beta 58 and went straight into the Duet.  Same drill, select a channel, hit record and go.  Mind you, the entire time I was using the Artist Mix to do just about everything I normally would have to hunt and peck with the mouse for - levels (obviously), but also effects parameters, record enabling, etc.  And doing it while I was recording put me in a good spot when it came time to mix it - it wasn't like I was totally starting from scratch.  The Artist Mix saved me a lot of time and generally made the whole writing/recording process a lot faster.

The Mix

As I said I had been mixing as I went during the recording, so after I was done recording I was already in a good spot.  Being on a time crunch makes you very efficient and having tools like the Artist Mix made that efficiency possible.  I was able now to really hone in on the mix.  Again, all the paramenters of every channel was at my fingertips with the Artist Mix, go to a channel, press a button and 'bang' I had the effects of that channel at my command.  Press another button and 'bang' I had the parameters of that effect ready to change by touch-sensitive knob or fader (I like using the faders myself) - and oh, how cool is it that the faders change when you switch from one 'bank' of channels to another.  'Flying Faders' for real.

The mix isn't very exciting to watch so there isn't much of that on the video - it's a lot of what looks like just staring at the screen with my hand on the Artist Mix

The End

Anyway, I got my mix how I wanted it and bounced it down to an .MP3 format - all in Logic.  I was able to chose the resolution and make the file size what I wanted.  And from there it was a simple upload to my MySpace page. 

You can check the song out at: http://myspace.com/michaelduff.  It's called 'Fly' and I hope you like the results of my 24-hour challenge.