William Goode’s Journal – Avoid losing your songs using Digital Audio Workstation software (DAW)

One of the problems with recording digitally to a computer using DAW software is that you can lose work in an instant if you haven’t been making regular backups. There is nothing worse than after just getting that guitar part right and working on it for (put your own time in here) it disappears, the computer has frozen and a restart is required.

What can also happen is that you can end up with a corrupted file. Say you have been working on “song one” all morning saving to the same file, what do you do when this file ceases to work, start again? well I guess you have to.

I have become somewhat paranoid about this and now make a point of saving within my DAW software to a new file name at least every half hour or so. Every half hour I’ll have a file “Song 1 two”, “Song one three” etc plus add the date to this file. This does add up to a few files by the end of a song but at least they are all there, unless of course the whole main drive of your computer goes down and that is why I save the files to a second drive and only run my audio recording program from my main drive on the computer.

A backup to a USB memory stick, a good 16gb (or larger) is also a good further backup to cover all angles after all this is your heart and soul we are recording for posterity here.

Recording using one of the many audio programs (I use Steinberg Cubase) involves a lot of data being saved to that one file. Along with your song are all the plugins that you have used, your mixer settings, VST synths etc. By the end of a session you have a lot of data all hinging on being loaded up tomorrow from one file.

So why do files corrupt and computers go down? Your operating system can lose it’s connection to where that file is, it may not remember the files number (allocated by the computer) anymore and that’s that. Audio requires a fair amount of computer grunt, the more memory the better and I always use an external sound card (I have been using a Focusrite audio firewire interface for a few years now) but there are many very good audio interfaces available. These interfaces give you a much more professional sound via the high quality audio they produce through good circuitry, you have more choice in the amount of input and output jacks, microphone preamps and are usually from my experience, quiet.

A computer checks constantly for the mouse, the keyboard, all your different plugins and the myriad of other processes it needs to function. Recording audio is processor and memory intensive, if anything is going to make your computer hit the wall then recording your audio tracks will.

An internal sound card can also pick up noise and affect your recordings but more importantly the computer is working harder using an internal soundcard instead of letting an external audio interface do a lot of the work. This may be OK if you don’t use many VST plugins but your computer memory will be sorely tested once you start to pile them on and the dreaded freezing screen may not be too far away.

Now I don’t want to sound too scary about all this, but losing hours of work using your DAW software is never fun and a few little simple methods put in place can save a lot of heartache and make the creative process just that little more relaxing.
Let the music flow.

William Goode’s Journal – Beatle John Lennons Home Studio

I saw this picture on the web thanks to Mr Google images; it was from an old newspaper article discussing John Lennon and his home studio.

John Lennon newspaper clip home studio

What intrigued me were the old analogue tape recorders in the background. Now I knew of course from reading articles about The Beatles and I am an avid fan of their recording process, that John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison (not sure about Ringo Starr) dabbled in experimental music (we’re thinking here about Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “Two Virgins”, “Life with the Lions” and “The Wedding Album”) and this obviously was a picture of his studio.

The studio was set up in an attic in a house that Lennon owned called Kenwood, at Weybridge in Surrey.

More research led to more pictures, not many though, there seems to be hardly any taken of the studio and thanks to modern technology namely the internet we have them easily accessible for all of us. These are the photographs I could find.

calum macdonald blog john lennon home studio


calum macdonald blog john lennon attic home studio


calum macdonald blog john lennon home studio 60's

A great deal of Lennon’s song writing was done in his attic and apparently the capability to overdub from recorder to recorder happened after Paul McCartney set up the recorders for him to do this (and started writing Eleanor Rigby), a productive time.

This then led to the electronic recordings that he undertook on his own, with Yoko Ono and other collaborators.

Getting back to the Brenell tape recorders Lennon appears to have four in the picture, my research leads me to think they are the following models.

The two on the left appear to be a Brenell Mk5M as seen here:

calum macdonald blog brenell mk5m tape recorder used by john lennon

And the two on the right look awfully like the Brenell Standard Mk5:

calum macdonald blog brenell tape recorder used by john lennon

These machines (the Ferrograph being used more in studios) were at the time for musicians who could afford to set up a home studio, the recorders of choice and all the Beatles were known to have them.

There are numerous bootleg copies of the tapes that John Lennon made on the Brenells between 1966 and 1969 and now they are no doubt some of the most historic home recordings you could have.

Other musical equipment in Lennon’s attic included a mellotron, a piano, an organ (Farfisa) and of course his guitars.

Through the use of tape loops and overdubbing Lennon produced many of what could only be described, as avant garde recordings along with the beginnings and ideas that were later to become many of the Beatles marvellous psychedelic Sgt Pepper era recordings.

For those of you who would like the specs of the Brenells what better than a peek at the manual.

calum macdonald blog brenell mk5 manual

calum macdonald blog brenell mk5 manual specs

Let’s finish with an old analogue studio from the BBC’s Playhouse theatre in Manchester, what fun you could have with these, if analogue is your thing.

calum macdonald blog BBC studios

For more information on Brenell tape recorders and their history you could do worse than go to these sites.



BBC Playhouse theatre studio shots.


Fascinating information on John Lennon and his days at Kenwood.