You probably all know that technical tasks are mainly processed with one hemisphere of your brain while the artistic domain is handled by the other one. For reasons I won't get into here, it just so happens that the two hemispheres of your brain don't communicate optimally with each other. Consequently, it is strongly recommended to organize your time in such a way that you group all similar tasks to be more efficient. Yet, home studio owners usually work on their own, which means that, while it is more or less possible to split technical from artistic aspects during mixdown and mastering, it is not so easy to do so when tracking... Fortunately there are solutions that allow you to limit the technical turmoil and, hence, focus your attention on your performance.
Alone in the dark…
Raise your hand those of you who don't own a smartphone or a tablet! Okay, well, I'm sorry to tell you that this first part doesn't concern you, so feel free to move on to the next one. For the rest of you, you may not know that there's a plethora of apps that can largely ease your life, avoiding you to unnecessarily go back and forth between your computer and your recording setup.
Let's begin with some apps specially conceived for certain DAWs:
- Cubase iC and iC Pro for Steinberg's flagship's sequencer
- Studio One Remote for PreSonus' software
- Pro Tools | Control for Avid's unavoidable toy
- touchAble for Ableton Live.
These solutions are all pretty nice, but they all exhibit some inconveniences. First due to compatibility. Indeed, while Apple is well covered in this respect, Android and Windows aren't. Furthermore, they are not really customizable and are not particularly conceived with remote control in mind during recording, and hence their usability is not optimal. Finally, not all DAWs are considered.
But don't worry, I still have some other tricks under my sleeve to help you out. In my opinion, the best of the best are TouchOSC and Lemur. Besides being iOS and Android compatible, they are fully customizable. And if you don't want to get your hands dirty, there are some ready-to-use templates for your DAW, like LiveControl 2 for Ableton Live, Binder for Reaper, or TTC-1 for Harrison Mixbus, for instance.
Not satisfied yet? Too complicated to set up? No problemo! There is still one last option in the mobile world: keyboard shortcut apps. Personally, I use BTT Remote together with the superb BetterTouchTool utility. Thanks to this partnership from hell, I can associate customizable icons to keyboard shortcuts linked to my DAW. I've obviously chosen these shortcuts meticulously to avoid having to beat my brain between every take. The downside is that they are only available for Apple. That said, a quick search online ought to help you find something similar for Android / PC, and I'm pretty sure someone in the Audiofanzine community might be able to help you out if you ask in the forums…
Alone in the dark 2…
There are other options besides mobile apps. The poor man's solution, which I personally used in my beginnings, boils down to using a simple wireless keyboard with the shortcuts you need. If you have a small budget, there are many MIDI controllers, wireless or not, that can serve the purpose wonderfully. Finally, I'll mention an extremely interesting solution: MIDI pedalboards. Commonly used by our guitarist friends, a MIDI pedalboard used as a remote for your DAW has the huge advantage of helping you keep your hands free!