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The Creator's Toolbox

This feature gives music creators the inside scoop on tools and services that can help develop craft and career.


Summer 2013

How Your Laptop Can Liven Up Your Live Show
With your laptop, mobile devices and some player-friendly accessories, you can bring some studio magic to the stage while keeping your performances fresh and spontaneous. Here's how.

Summer 2012

Tips and Tricks for a Proper Bass Mix
Whether it be electric, acoustic, sampled, or synthesizer-generated, bass information can take up a lot of energy in a mix. Yet somehow, it can also get lost as other instruments-especially guitar and keyboards-compete for sonic territory.

Media Mine: Books and Gear to Advance Your Sound
We media miners enjoy reading on the iPad, and even a small smartphone display can be okay in a pinch. Actually, the bright screen is very welcome down in the pits. But there's still nothing like the old combustible media known as paper.

Sound Bytes: New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers
New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers.

Safe and Sound: Gear to Protect Your Ears
How's your hearing? Unless you've been tested recently, you probably don't know the medical answer to that question, but that doesn't really matter. Take a second to ask yourself how well you think you hear, and how your ears feel when you listen.

Spring 2012

Launching Pads
Mobile devices become more popular-and more powerful. Are they poised to replace computers as songwriters' go-to creative tools?

Media Mine
It may have been the mildest of winters in Media Mine's Northeastern base camp, but the cherry blossoms and birdsong were still welcome signs that new possibilities are at hand. Mobile apps seem to be blooming as well, especially those targeted at making music.

Mixing Do's and Don'ts
Want better results from your home and project studio mixes? Follow these 10 tips to give them a more professional touch.

Winter 2012

DIY Not?
Working alone in a home studio has become the default for many writers and producers. But knowing when and how to bring in outside help elevate your final product.

Media Mine
The iPad has already established itself as a great playform for displaying electronic sheet music; now it’s becoming more of tool for composing, as well.

Virtual Drummer
Percussion may well be the most widely used family of sampled instruments. And electronic percussion—whether it's in the form of drum loops, drum machines (both hardware and software based), or sequenced drum tracks—is also most likely to be employed by people who don’t play the "real thing" than other instruments.


New and noteworthy gear for songwriters and producers

Summer 2011

Recording Acoustics
Acoustic guitars have always been notoriously tough to record, but that doesn't mean you can't make your tracks sound warm, full and natural. We'll examine some of the tried-and-true ways to use microphones, pickups-or a combination of both-to capture well-balanced acoustic tones that can help you cut through almost any mix.

Hey you-get onto my cloud
"You have your head in the clouds!" How many times did you hear that one when you were growing up? However, cloud computing is no longer a daydream, and it's changing the way people create mu­sic, store their files, collaborate, and share their work with the general public.

Media Mine
Warm weather makes us want to go outside, and being outside makes us want avoid our indoor computers. So mobile apps are especially appealing right around now. And believe it or not, there are even more phone-friendly goodies than there were when we last surfaced from the Media Mine back in January.


New and noteworthy gear for songwriters and producers

Winter 2011

Loop You Live
Phrase samplers are becoming easier to use, giving solo performers and band members alike a powerful way to enhance their live performances.

Getting Drums Down
Live drums can add a human touch to any recording, but the idea of recording them at home can seem daunting. This guide can get you started.

Media Mine
The MediaMine crew dusted off our overalls, put down our pickaxes, and decided to do our mining from sunny Southern California instead of the frozen tundra of the rocky Northeast, trawling January’s NAMM show for new apps, books, and videos.


New and noteworthy gear for songwriters and producers

Fall 2010

Mixing with the Pros
Sending your home recorded tracks to a professional mix engineer can take your project over the top. Here's how to prepare your tracks.

Strip Mining
Combining microphone preamps with tone and dynamics control, channel strips offer sonic control for both input and mixing.

Media Mine
MediaMine has been deluged with mobile apps that provide some sort of musical utility recently, but one that stopped us in our short-attention-span tracks is Pro Vocal Warmup by famed vocal instructor and coach Robert Edwards.


New and noteworthy gear for songwriters and producers

Summer 2010

Get with The Space Program
Digital reverb may be the most used-and abused-effect in modern recording. Here's how to add ambience without turning your mix into mud.

A little "Light" Music
Compact all-in-one PA systems are easy to carry and offer all the power you need to turn a small or medium space into a music venue.

Media Mine
We thought we'd start this installment of MediaMine with a rundown of new iPad/iPhone apps, and then decided it would be easier to make a list of items that are NOT available for some sort of portable phone; it's getting overwhelming.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers

Spring 2010

Production in your pocket
Despite their modest size and weight, the latest generation of compact recorders brings big sound and heavy-duty features to musicians on the go.

Getting Your Share Fare
Learn how a fast Internet connection and the right software lets you get your music to fans and clients from anywhere.

Media Mine
Remember when the owner's manual to your tape recorder was the size of a diner's menu? With today's high-powered software, the documentation can look more like an encyclopedia, which is why we like the clean layout of Hal Leonard's Power Tools book/DVD combos.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrowNice Pad!

arrowDoing the Wave

  arrowTake Less Time to Rhyme

arrowCompact Surroundings

Winter 2010

The Big Squeeze
Compressors may seem like utilitarian tools designed to control dynamic range, but in the right hands, the use of compression can be an art unto itself.

Supercharge Your Creative Flow
Digital recording tools are amazing creative aids, but they can also be distracting or intimidating.

Tina Shafer
Over her 19 years with the New York Songwriter's Circle, Director and President Tina Shafer has seen a lot of talent develop. Such songwriters as Norah Jones, Jesse Harris, Gavin DeGraw, Richard Julian, Vanessa Carlton, and Company of Thieves have emergred from the Circle's regular performances and annual songwriting contests.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrowKeys to Live Vocals

arrowPeavey Follows a Muse

  arrowEasy Rider

arrowStage Rite

Fall 2009

Plugging Into "Unplugged" Sound
It's a cruel irony that the acoustic guitar, blessed with a unique combination of portability and usefulness as both a solo and accompanying instrument, can lose so much of its character when amplified.

Viva The Vocal
Great vocal production is the magic ingredient on hits in all genres. But nailing that killer lead vocal track is often easier said then done. In this article, well explore some tried and true recording techniques and then check in with a few top flight engineer/producers on how they go about chasing that perfect take.

Sondre Lerche
At the tender age of 27, Norwegian-born singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche has already spent almost a decade in the spotlight.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrowMonitor Massage

arrowEight Figures

  arrowGoing Mobile

arrowPlug-In PCM

Summer 2009

You Out to Be in Pictures
Author Lorian Hemingway has found incredible success in the family business.

Properllerhead Record
With Record ($299), the makers of the popular Reason suite of software productions tools offer their own take on the DAW.

Jill Sobule
Over the course of her long career, singer and songwriter Jill Sobule has built a reputation for creative independence. Yet despite consistent critical acclaim and an incredibly loyal following, she's never found a permanent home of a record label.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrowRoland Juno-Di

arrowAlesis DM6

  arrow(Portable) Power to the Plug-Ins

arrowLexicon I•ONIX FW810S FireWire Audio Interface

Spring 2009

It's Under ControlIt's Under Control
From compact units that can slip into a laptop case to consoles that resemble professional studio mixers, control surfaces are making computeraudio productions more of a hands-on experience than ever before.

The Lowdown On Getting Down LowThe Lowdown On Getting Down Low
The ability to create the ideal bass balance is an essential studio skill; these tips should help achieve a healthy bottom line.

The art and craft of Adam SchlesingerThe art and craft of Adam Schlesinger
Adam Schlesinger is one of those rare musicians who can thrive in different musical environments while maintaining the stylistic integrity of each one.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrow A Logical X

arrow Compact 'Cussion

  arrow PreSonus Studio One

arrow Shure Thing

Winter 2009

Preamps, which boost the signal of microphones so they can work with mixers and audio interfaces, can be the most important gear in your studio.

Phone HomePhone Home
Headphones come in more varieties and offer better performance than ever before.

The art and craft of Stephen SchwartzThe art and craft of Stephen Schwartz
Equally adept as a lyricist and composer, Stephen Schwartz has enjoyed one of the most prolific and honored careers in history of modern musical theater.


New and Noteworthy Gear For Songwriters and Producers

arrow Yes, Master

arrow Nano Nano

arrow Whadda Juno

  arrow Core Values

arrow Toontrack music's Drumtracker

arrow Eight's More Than Enough

Fall 2008

Technology Pitches InTechnology Pitches In
The latest pitch manipulation tools sound more natural-and offer more creative possibilities than ever before.

Choosing the right tools to bring analog audio to the digital realm-and vice versa-can make a major difference in the quality of your recording.

The art and craft of Billy SteinbergThe art and craft of Billy Steinberg
The world was a much different place when mega-songsmith Billy Steinberg secured his first major cut, Linda Ronstadt's "How Do I Make You," in 1980.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers

arrow 8's a Piece of Cakewalk

arrow Working the City Beat

arrow Logical 'Phones

  arrow Some Good "D"

arrow There's an iDea!

arrow Music in Motion

Summer 2008

Get into the LoopGet into the Loop
Loop production has been a mainstay for electronic, dance and soundtrack music for years, but new tools make it more appealing to songwriters than ever before.

Surround for SongwritersSurround for Songwriters
Surround sound may be a specialty format for album production, but it's become the norm for film and TV. Here's what you need to know to prepare your mixes for the screen.

The art and craft of... Lori McKennaThe art and craft of... Lori McKenna
Most aspiring artists begin pounding the pavement as teens-but not country-based singer and songwriter Lori McKenna, who took a decidedly different route.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers

arrow Solid and Tubular

arrow Peak's 60th sense

arrow A Plug for Ear Protection

  arrow Fire Up Your Studio

arrow High-end Twin

arrow Desktop Logic

Spring 2008

A "Logical" Approach To Mobile Music CreationA "Logical" Approach To Mobile Music Creation
Fast notebook computers, portable interfaces, and powerful software such as Apple's Logic Pro 8 let songwriters and producers create music, anytime, anywhere.

Mastering BasicsMastering Basics
The final stage of the production process can be critical.

The art and craft of... Rodney CrowellThe art and craft of... Rodney Crowell
After working in Emmylou Harris's celebrated Hot Band for much of the 1970s, Texas-born songwriter Rodney Crowell began cranking out the hits for the likes of the Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson and ex-wife Rosanne Cash, while waiting patiently for his own solo career to take flight.

New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and ProducersSOUND BYTES

New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers

arrow Pod Table

arrow The Beatin' Path

arrow Paint This Disc

  arrow Pocket Rocket

arrow PA Will Travel

arrow Harmony-Tech

Fall 2007

License To EarnLicense To Earn
Pump Audio puts music licensing in composers' hands

Monitoring BasicsMonitoring Basics
A well-chosen and set up monitoring system is critical in delivering mixes that will sound good outside the friendly confines of your studio.

The art and craft of... Jimmy JamThe art and craft of... Jimmy Jam
After several fruitful years working with Prince during the early part of the '80s, R&B songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis made the decision to strike out on their own.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers

arrow Arturia Analog Factory Experience

arrow JazzMutant Dexter DAW Controller

arrow Bollywood Grooves

  arrow Lexicon PCM96 Stereo Reverb

arrow Blue Joe Condenser Microphone

arrow Apogee Mobile Gets Battery Power

Summer 2007

Scoring SoftwareScoring Software
Notion Music releases a version 2.0.

Tips For The MixTips For The Mix
Mixing is more about the ears than the gear.

The Art and Craft of... Aimee MannThe Art and Craft of... Aimee Mann
After struggling with major labels, Aimee Mann to the indie route to success.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers.

arrow BOSS' RE-201 Space Echo

arrow Open Labs' MiKo

arrow Future Sonics Atrio Series

  arrow Planet Waves Screeching Halt

arrow Vocalist Live 4

arrow PreSonus' MegaStudio Producer

Spring 2007

A Soft Synth Steps Out" width="50A Soft Synth Steps Out
Cakewalk adds a new "Dimension" to the desktop studio.


New and Noteworthy Gear for Songwriters and Producers.

arrow TC Electronic G Natural Acoustic Guitar Effects System

arrow Disc Makers Medley

arrow Nady USB-24M Professional Dynamic USB Mic
  arrow Alesis iMultiMix 8 USB Mobile Recording Mixer

arrow Prosoniq TimeFactory 2 Time- and Pitch-Manipulation Software for Mac OS X

arrow TerraTec Producer AREA 61

Six String MagicSix String Magic
Pro tips for recording guitars.

The Art and Craft of... Desmond ChildThe Art and Craft of... Desmond Child
Desmond Child is a hit machine. He's written or co-written successfully with a diverse array of artists, including Kiss, Ricky Martin, Joan Jett, Aerosmith, Hall and Oates, Iggy Pop, the Baha Men, Clay Aiken and many others.