SEQUEL3 for Game Music Makers
Ah, the nostalgy! A lifetime ago – on the recording studio era of my life, most of our own makings were concentrated around good ol’ Korg M1 workstation, my friend’s guitar + Korg A3, an 8-track recorder, and in the center – Steinberg Cubase on Atari ST. Now after all these years, I am again facing the same decision – which app(s) to use in my development projects. Today on my test bench: Steinberg SEQUEL3. Some background first…
The beginner’s choice – Garage Band
Garage Band (in Apple iLife package, and GB for short) is the most obvious choice to start your musical career with. Everything in GB is very Applish = easy to use, which makes it perfect for beginners. I like the wealth of usable sound effects and loops included in it. But for an ex-studio technician like me… You play with it for a while, and quickly become agonized by the lack of decent editing features. Being easy limited my options a bit too much. I still use it though because of the sounds & loops. And because it’s there in almost every Mac.
But what to use if not Garage Band? Here are a few products I know from the Steinberg product family. Focus this time on SEQUEL3, which has conveniently a free 30-day free trial for you to download and try.
Steinberg flagships Cubase & Cubase Artist
As an old Cubase user, I initially thought my options were either to have the full Cubase or the Artist version (version comparisons here). The cardinal sin for Cubase has always been that it’s damn difficult to learn. It’s nothing like Garage Band “just do it” approach. You need quite much configuring on your audio gear, VST plugins, fight the eLicencer – and then try to guess how to patch the studio-like gear on your screen so that you actually could record and/or play something… The frustrating hours learning pay though in the end, as you get high quality studio effects, VST Amp Rack for Guitar etc… And the editing features are still the best of breed.
I had already pre-decided in my mind that I’d go for the Artist (don’t really need the full version for my game projects), because it had a nice drum track editor, VST amp rack for guitar – and it’s roughly 250 EUR price was not that bad. But then I met SEQUEL (by Steinberg as well), which I had never heard of. Which costed about 80 EUR. AND had loops I grew in love with in Garage Band. Hmmm….
After the first few nights of testing, Sequel seems to fit somewhere in between Garage Band (with the annoying learn to play – features removed) and Cubase Artist. What tempted me was the included Groove Agent ONE for drums, VST Amp Rack SE for guitar, and software synth Halion Sonic SE – just the things I wanted from Cubase Artist. And the 5000 ready to use loops are a blessing for any game project. You do not have to do everything from the scratch + you can record your own guitars, bass & vocals over the loops if you prefer. (I don’t know if the Artist has any loops included – does it? I think it doesn’t.)
Sequel has also something called “performance mode”. The idea (if I understood correctly) is somehow alter the song as you go. For what use – I do not know. I think this is somehow related to the LoopMash idea, which I never understood either. LoopMash is the colorful app (also available for iPhone), where you click on colors and it somehow alters the loops playing with logic I never figured out. Stay away from these, you don’t need it for anything. It’s just meant to get you confused and distracted from everything important.
Otherwise – I got a background music loop done for my BounceInc game project on the few hour test run! Creating and mixing loops was easy. Recording guitars – Easy. Finding the effects like VST amp rack for guitar, reverbs, delay, eq and stuff was a bit more difficult (Steinberg still knows the art of hiding features you are looking for in the UI). Once you found them – excellent quality here too. The UI is a bit confusing in the beginning, but you’ll live with it. I have seen worse.
Couple of strange / bad design issues I came up with – one show stopper and few minor problems.
The show stopper: Looks like the app starts loading the audio from hard drive when the sequence gets played for the first time. Until cached, it does not always start playing the part in time – the delay may be seconds until you get sound. Clearly a big hairy bug, and a reason for not to pay yet for me. And I got the bug repeated quite easily. A bad one that is, not just one timer kind of bug. “How did this pass the testing – asks the little IT development manager voice within me?”
The smaller problems; The included guitar tuner does not have a clear marking that now you are in tune – just the cylon eye bar moving left and right. I had to guess first where it was in correct position, until I figured what I was to expect as “in tune” marker. And as an old schooler – I really would like a separate “Stop” button instead of just play button toggling on and off. But that’s just my taste.
If you don’t mind the “transport” giving you crap on the first run for not playing the tracks, I’d recommend you give SEQUEL a shot! As I said, it has a free 30 day trial… Or you may want to save that for the next version where with any luck, the show stopper bug is fixed.
Post Production for Game Loops
After the masterpiece is finished in sequel, you still need another app to cut and splice the tune to be used in the game. I do not want to spend money on a wav/mp3 editor just now, so Audacity will have to do. It will do the mastering trick in it’s (sometimes illogical) ways – cutting and splicing the raw stereo track, the fadeouts, volume tweaking, stereo compression, eq’s – so that you have your tune or loop in usable form ready to be used in your games. Well worth the price tag of zero.
General complaints department
Why is every music app written like everybody wants to make techno / elevator music? I’d love to see hard rock drums and blazing metal guitars in the loops as well. You can get the nu-metal and indie rock loops for extra cash from Steinberg – but really – please include them in the core package. Some of us want to make real music.
Know any other great apps for game music / sfx ?
There are of course a lots more of these apps – please post your favorites for game making in the comments! I know my guitar oriented – and non game making – friends are using both Logic Pro and Mixcraft and are apparently quite happy with the products. Maybe I’ll check the Logic Pro before the final decision – sounds like Garage Band taken a step forward. But is it different enough from Garage Band which already has tons of good loops?
Don’t get me wrong. If I had the opportunity, I’d still make the whole music track by myself from the scratch. Back in good old days, I always started with keyboards and a drum track, and then started building up the tune. With my current options limited to only using the computer and guitar at max – the loops are a blessing. In this sense – I miss the old way of doing the job “properly”.
Added 25.4.2012: How to uninstall Sequel 3
I had to ask from Steinberg support how to remove / uninstall Sequel 3 totally, as I did not find the answer anywhere in the net. The answer was:
remove the Sequel 3 and eLicenser control center applications from your Applications folder.
Then remove everything named Steinberg, eLicenser and Sequel from your /Library/Preferences and /Library/Application support folders.
Here’s what I did, based on the prev. advice:
That’s all I could find – there may be more.