Turning The Tables


Making music can be a complicated and expensive process.

You need to spend a lot on the latest gear. You need to build a special room to put it all in, and you have to spend years of your life learning how to use the endless parade of new equipment that’s rolling off the production line just to stay in the game.

Or at least that’s what everybody says, but these days to be honest I’m not so sure.

My name is Jon Withnall, and I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life working as an engineer and producer with some of the world’s biggest, and smallest bands and artists.

I’ve worked with artists such as Coldplay and Rhianna, I’ve put in 10000s of hours recording and mixing hundreds of sessions with vast channel counts into Grammy winning albums in many of the major studios from Liverpool’s Parr Street to Wales’ Mono Valley and London’s Abbey Road.

So when the RECHORD.XYZ guys reached out and said, we’re building a 4 track recording app, and the first thing we’re gonna do is remove all the tools from modern big recording facility and make it like the 4 track you had when you were 16, I did wonder how that would pan out.

From the very start, everything about our approach flew in the face of what the recording industry has been doing for the last few decades. While a dozen D.A.W brands have worked to fit thousands of tools into a single interface, we focused on just a few.

While ProTools & Logic have been continually cramming in new features, we’ve been taking them out.

They pride themselves on fitting a 12 foot mixing desk into a laptop, we binned the mixer entirely and dug out our old 4 track tapes instead…

And in theory that shouldn’t work, right?

So, as the dust settled on our initial development and I first began using RECHORD.XYX, I admit that at first I kept on thinking about what the app couldn’t do.

It didn’t have a waveform. It didn’t have an undo function. There was no endless list of Editing tools to paper over and repair dodgy audio.

All there is is three simple functions: Track, Tune, & Bounce. Record your channels, give them a basic mix, and export your finished track. That’s basically it.

Now, this probably isn’t the smartest thing to say for somebody who makes their living in a big studio environment, but losing all the added complication turned out to be a brilliant thing. Totally liberating.

When you don’t have a thousand options in front of you, your only option is to do it right. If you can’t splice together a dozen imperfect performances to repair the mistakes, you just have to play better. If you don’t like what you sound like – do it again, but this time do it properly.

That’s the fun aspect of going back to the 4 track workflow. It forces you to perform, and to think like a musician again instead of a computer operator.

With a simple 4-track studio like RECHORD.XYZ, your tools are your voice, your instrument, and your creativity – and that’s all most people have or need. Sing, play, overdub a tambourine and some hand claps and you’re done. That’s it. No need to spend three months learning a new system, no fiddling about with a hundred different settings. no fuss. Just hit record and go …

I have a professional studio at the bottom of my garden where I work with artists every day, but if I need to get an idea down, these days I’ll do it from my sofa with a guitar and an iPhone – and I’ll knock out a basic demo faster than I can switch all my equipment on and plug in a microphone.

Yes I’ll take the track into the studio and mess about with it a bit more, but chasing the demo is easier, faster and cheaper now than it ever has been before – and now that we’re building a stems export function into the app, it’s only going to get swifter and simpler.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a trained audio engineer, a kid with their first guitar or a new starter with no more than an idea. If you strip away the complexity of the tools you’re using, everything else will become clear.

TRACK. TUNE. BOUNCE. It’s really all you need.

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