This post is completely just a rant. Please bear that in mind going forward. I am here, in the world, experimenting with and learning new toys, and that’s really fucking frustrating, okay? Also, I have some sort of headache that asprin doesn’t touch at all, which I’ve been living with almost non-stop for three days, so my mood may be a little more cranky than usual. So literally anything I have to say right now I may completely change my mind on in three seconds.

  1. If ProTools First was a person, I would break their fucking nose.
  2. All of the people who make tutorials about ProTools First? I want to break their fucking noses, too.

Okay, so here’s the thing. I FINALLY managed to get on the Focusrite website to download the stuff that’s supposed to come with my little Scarlett Solo, and spent last night fighting with almost every single installation, but I got there. I had to sign up for accounts about a billion different places, but things finally, at something like one in the morning, FINALLY would OPEN.

ProTools First took OVER TEN MINUTES TO BOOT. That’s where my rant starts. Having since rebooted laptop (which to date I have never had any technical issue with. It’s about 2-3 years old, so is not new, but also not exactly the grandpa of PCs) several times, ProTools First still takes over 5 minutes to boot up. This is an insanely long boot time. To put things another way – I have graphically intensive games on steam that boot faster. Monster programs like photoshop boot in half the time. This boot time is RIDICULOUS.

So, I sign on, and there is no apparent way to create a blank file. You have to use one of their presets. This will load a template with about ten individual tracks, that you are most likely then going to go in and delete to do your own thing. Loading from a preset rather than starting fresh means – you guessed it MORE WAITING. That’s another three minutes of my life I will never get back, just so I can have a bunch of stuff preloaded that I don’t even want.

You would think from here, starting a track and hitting the record button would be straight-foward. Nope. It yells at me about my device having changed (it hasn’t), about some output/input thing, which means literally NOTHING to me. ‘I don’t know, uh. output 1? what does this even mean?’ And then, when you’re done setting the thing up, making it recording ready, and you hit the record button, thinking you’re finally going to do that fun victory dance? Nope. NOTHING HAPPENS. The record button flashes, but NADA. NOTHING. ZILCH.

So, you go to the internet, because the internet knows everything, right? Wrong. The internet is full of know-it-all schmucks who assume that if you are using pro tools first you’re naturally already totally experienced with ProTools something else and therefore they don’t need to tell you how to do beginner shit. At all. And the one lady who supposedly does, after five minutes of her talking while saying NOTHING, I want to grab by the head and smash her face into a keyboard. How do you spend 5 minutes talking before even loading ANYTHING? Some of you may have the patience of saints, I, however, loathe having my time wasted, and telling me ‘this is the series of things you have to click to make recording happen’ should not EVER take more than half an hour. EVER, OKAY? EEEVVVVVVEERRRRRR. Just cut the crap and get to the damn point.

Now, if ProTools was my only issue…if ONLY ProTools was my only issue!

The Focusrite Scarlett Solo periodically decides not to hear the ukulele properly (when I give up on protools first and return to my old friend Audacity, in which hitting the record button actually makes something happen), and I end up with something that sounds a bit like wet roadkill being hit by a paintball gun over and over again. In other words: don’t even attempt to record a ukulele on this device at anything less than 50% gain, which will give you a recording that  your grandmother’s overactive hearing aid can just barely pick up while she’s grousing about everyone yelling all the time. My point guys, is that the little fucker is QUIET, and it will not hear a quiet instrument without a pretty good twist of the ol’ gain knob. The guitar, obviously, is less problematic due to it just naturally having more volume than an uke. I am testing with the uke specifically because it’s where I’m likely to run into the most problems. The end result for now seems to be: the smaller the instrument, the bigger the issue. I have not gotten a clean recording out of my soprano uke yet, but as long as I can get a clean recording on my Ibanez, I’m ready to say ‘fuck it, I’ll mic the little sucker and call it a day’ because I just am out of patience on the subject.

Speaking of things that behave funny with my ukes: the Blackstar Fly is also finicky as hell about the uke. I haven’t had any problems with it and the guitar. But there’s this entirely odd quirk where, if I switch from uke to guitar to uke(which happened because I was testing the little guy), the Fly just stops hearing the uke. I have no idea why this is. The other night the only way to get it to register the uke was in Overdrive. Today, it’s fine. I thought maybe one of my cables was a dud. I tried three others. With both the uke and the electric guitar. The cables are fine. My uke’s connection is fine, too – I never have an issue with it with my other amps, and have never run into an issue at any of the open mics I’ve done, so it’s something that’s specifically happening somewhere between the signal leaving the uke, and reaching the mini amp. One day everything is gravy. The next, who the fuck knows? And yet, this is an issue I never seem to run into with the guitar. There is some weird tech shit going on here that I haven’t found the bottom of yet.

At the moment, I’m not under the impression that I’m running into a hardware issue on either front, but there’s definitely some weird crap going on. Part of it is probably the learning curve. Part of it is there being completely inadequate tutorials for newbies. As it stands, I think I will be primarily sticking to audacity for my recording needs until either ProTools First stops being a vicious bitch, or I find an alternative that is more intuitive and functionally sound.

And, on that note, I’m off to take something for this headache, in the vain hope that maybe this time it will at least reduce the throbbing.

EDIT: I don’t usually edit posts because I think I’m better off to just let things stand and then post updates as separate posts, but after this rant, I took a dose and a half of ibuprophen, which has massively improved my outlook on the universe as a whole, since – for the first time in days – my skull no longer has its own drumbeat.  With renewed vigor, I decided to tackle the epic (in terms of length) youtube tutorial. (Translation: I fast-forwarded through the 75% that is just her rambling and watched the 10-15 minutes of actual relevant material to learn that there is literally no way anyone could possibly guess their way to making ProTools First record. You have to hit the space bar, which is something you would never really guess on your own unless you actually did bash your head on a keyboard and suddenly discovered you were recording. Also figured out that “input 1” is the mic cable on my Solo, “input 2” is the instrument. This much, at least, is logical, once you know it.

At the end of the day, dealing with ProTools seems to be a bit like learning Photoshop: it’s not intuitive at all, and you’ll spend as much time learning how the program thinks as you will figuring out how to make it’s most rudimentary functions work.

That said, having FINALLY made it record, I can tell I’m getting a lot less background noise using the interface than I was without it, so I’m moving forward, one frustrated rant and insanely wordy tutorial at a time.

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