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Cool Gizmo Alert: Sonoma Wire Works' RiffWorks
by Lou Lombardi,
It never fails. I'm sitting in my studio jamming away, when I discover the greatest riff of all time. The riff to slay all other riffs. The King Kameamea of riffs. I HAVE TO record this! Okay...so I put the guitar down, (first mistake), go get a mike, run some cable, open my recording software, adjust all the settings...figure out what tempo I am playing....I should put a drum loop down? Yeah... That would totally rock! I go through several loop folders; find something close to what I want. It's now about 30 minutes or so later. What was I doing? Oh yeah... that killer riff. Finally it's time to record. Oh...crap! What was I playing? I think it started in E. Damn! That's not it. An hour later all my hopes and dreams are dashed. My riff that would align the universe in perfect peace and harmony, solve world hunger, and stop global warming is gone ...forever! And even worse...my guitar is in pieces, on the floor and my computer is in the swimming pool!
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Okay, maybe it's not that intense with you, but I think that you get the idea. The point is that when you get an idea you want to get it down as quickly as possible. You don't want to spend time fiddling with your DAW when you should be capturing your idea.
RiffWorks is a very easy to use recording software designed to help you do just that. You simply connect your guitar to your computer's sound card, open the RiffWorks software and start recording. (You WILL need a sound card with an ASIO driver for WinXP or a Core Audio device for the Mac.) While the company offers the AmpliTube LE plug which is very helpful, you can also use your favorite direct recording gizmo or mic'd amp. These days I keep a rig connected to my machine via the Koch Loadbox. I was set up and ready to play in probably about 30 seconds...not bad eh?
The next thing you want to figure out is what tempo you are playing. This is pretty cool. RiffWorks has a feature called "JUNT." You simply start playing and the software tells you what tempo you are playing.
Riffworks comes with it's own drum looping application called InstantDrummer What sets InstantDrummer apart from a program like Acid, is that you can vary the complexity of the loops with the turn of a virtual knob. By cranking up the "intensity knob the loop becomes more complex...more fills, variations etc... How do they do that?!!! This beats the hell out scrolling through hundreds of loops to get the groove that you want.
In addition to these features RiffWorks also includes several of the most common effects associated with the electric guitar, which all sound very respectable. Once you have recorded your masterpiece you can post it for all the world to hear with a feature called "RiffCast." You can also "jam" in real time with a feature called "RiffLink."
The interface is pretty simple and user friendly. Most of the controls have on screen knobs. The program's default recording setting loops what you've recorded which allows you to add different layers with each pass. This is great for being able to quickly hear how different parts will work together. Once you record a section you simply save it and move on to the next section. RiffWorks organizes each section together into an arrangement, so you can quickly tell if the key change after the second chorus is going to work going into the bridge etc.
RiffWorks is fairly simple to use, and it is priced right ($129.99 for download). This makes it an excellent "get your feet wet" recording program for beginners. Okay. So it doesn't do nearly as much as say Cubase, or Nuendo, but it is also much easier to use, and MUCH less expensive. The ease of use also makes RiffWorks great for capturing song ideas while they are still fresh. However, I would like to see the InstantDrummer feature expanded. It is a great concept, but could there be some way to easily move the fills and accents around the arrangement? While I found InstantDrummer compelling I couldn't quite get the fills and accents where I wanted them.
I have talked with some other guitarists about this software and the consensus is pretty much the same. RiffWorks is a very good program for beginners just learning to record, as well as great "sketching tool" for pros.
For more information check out http://www.sonomawireworks.com/
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