Here’s an article I submitted to ReviewCentre. However, being a musician I think it’s worth putting up here as well:
Riffworks Standard and T4 product aims itself at the musician and thinks, you want to make and produce a song in 2 hours and have it podcasted in 2 hrs 15 mins…Here’s how!
NO SPECIALIST MUSIC PRODUCTION KNOWLEDGE NEEDED WITH RIFFWORKS
No specialist knowledge is required. Yes, it’s that simple. If you come into any problems the company has a facebook page [which they interact on] plus really helpful forums. The whole Riffworks community is really, really positive and being a num-nuts myself at music production I’ve been overwhelmed how cool the whole experience is!
If you want to hear what I’ve done in a few months then check out my riffworld. I’m still getting there, but it’s all rock/metal drum and bass! No guitar :-p
MUSIC QUALITY VS EASE OF USE IN RIFFWORKS
You’re asking then, does it compromise quality for ease of use? Simple answer – no. If you double up tracks and take extra time from doing say a demo in 2 hours to spending say a week, you’ll have a praiseworthy track.
SOUND INPUTS INTO RIFFWORKS
How does it work? In effect it interfaces via ASIO plug-ins to your MAC/PC. You may use any instrument that interfaces digitally via ASIO compliant sound cards or USB plug-ins. My review is based on using Amplitube’s Stealth Pedal using SVX, Metal and Live2. The software supports collaboration on songs as well as podcasting [although they call it riffcasting :-D).
RIFFWORKS EASY USER INTERFACE
There’s a really simple, but function rich interface that’ll please anyone making any form of music. If you’ve ever done digital home recording, you’re used to recording in parts. This, as opposed to the entire song in one bash. Riffworks allows you to specify each part in length of bars, tempos and time signatures. It gets saved into one riff track. Think of it as a self contained but dynamic block of sounds. Now the keen difference is that unlike say logic, cubase you don’t have to worry about finding the exact millisecond to make a cut between say verse and chorus.
How come? Think of it as lego. Look at the picture above. You can see the little blocks right. You click the riff part [literally a block in the interface] and drag and drop the part where you want. So, if you want to change the bridge and chorus over you literally click and drop into another part of the song. Any other sound effects don’t overflow in the new arrangement. There’s no post moving editing of the precise millisecond with the previous effect. You change the song structure at anytime with a click and drop and it’ll flow. It’s clean and simple! Removing parts is just as easy select and pull out of the song.
All effects like delay/reverb etc will carry on to the next track for consistency. You don’t need to think about adding anything else. The interface allows you to easily label and colour specify your parts for ease of editing. The only thing one cannot do is change the TEMPO of the drums once you’ve recorded riffparts.
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH RIFFWORKS
How do you get started? You start by selecting a drummer, time signature and tempo. This, what I will call a riff layer will loop around. There’s a handy metronome to help you play on time. Depending if you’ve bought or use the free version you’ll have a selection of drummers. Others can be bought for like 10 dollars. They often have a 4 for 3 offers so you can find the exact sound you want for your song! You can lay down the track without a drummer no problem, however it’s probably best to find the type of drummer you want for the feel of your track. I’ve not tried this, but I think one cannot import drum tracks from other programs unless it’s an entire riff. You can do it, but it’s far too complicated. This review is based on the keep it simple idea 😀
With many programs with drummers sound purely electronic and sound like a machine. Playing songs to my friends they ask who I’m playing with as the cymbals and toms, snares sound so real! Check out here some of their loops. Well, this is the plus. Riffworks use on the whole real drummers and one can select different progressions within one drum style to add in more kicks, rolls, cymbal hits etc. The cymbals sound real enough and there’s different kits to match all styles of playing from pop, rock, metal, house, d&b, funk… you get the idea.
So, once you’ve found a groove you can start to lay down your instrument layer and then plug in a virtual amp to give you the sound and effects you want.
Drums, rifflayers and the entire riff-part can be effected by individually moderating the effects, gain volume, panning and once you’ve got it perfect you can then double a layer to give more force and/or add another effect. Additionally, the drum sounds and types can be changed at any-time should you change the part of the song. Many drum types of labelled Verse, Chorus, Ending, so it’s literally pick and choose.
The program is quite intelligent, and sound mixes the drums in a pro fashion. You can effect the compression of the drums to make them sound tighter if you wish.
If you’re not working with a virtual amplifier you can use an inbuilt amplifier which suffices. To be honest, when you add on layers you probably will need to up certain layers so as to force a definition for your instruments [if playing the same octave notes].
Talking of effects what do you get? Both the free and full version has the following: ATTAQ: An auto-wah mod/sequencer, Tripwire: A three-band compressor and distortion modulator, TEMPEST: has 8 effects like Chorus, Phaser, Octaver, Wah, Autopan etc, 4X4 a multi-tap delay but with synch time abilities, SUPERTANKER: a reverb creator, STAMINA: a cool compressor, and NOEQUAL: a UK style knobs to cut and peak various frequencies. These can be used on the WHOLE RIFF LAYER or on individual parts! If you don’t like a riff-part of a layer then mute and re-record.
OUTPUTTING RIFFWORKS INTO OTHER SOUND PRODUCTION PROGRAMS
Want to output to other programs.. in the free version you get a 16MB wav, plus OGG. In the paid for version [around 80 EUROS] you get 32bit and higher level OGG. The other keen difference is the T4 [free] version you can only have up to 4 layers per riff-part. With the paid version The drums do not count as a layer. So you kinda get 5!
One can re-master in say any other program, but the genius with Riffworks is that you can produce a high quality song without having to cubase it!
LEARNING CURVE WITH RIFFWORKS
The learning curve only really happens if you’re happening to record too high or too low. You have to watch the peaks in various drum models showing up in the VU meters. However, sensibly using a compressor you get amazing sounding songs. As I said before, the support and community is really helpful and offer support even if it’s your own dumb fault!
To give you an idea how effective this program is, one can try out various riffs and keep them for later. You can then export them for use in further projects. So, you can pick and choose riffs parts or whole layers and compose a song simply when you want.
WHAT RIFFWORKS CAN’T DO: AS OF YET
There’s a few things of not the program is unable to do. First, there’s no fade in, do you’ll have to export and modify. This is a minor gripe.
The other main bug bear is that you cannot import a Wav and play over it [unless you use another application Intelliriffer.
The program does presume you can play on time. There’s no quantiser. So.. if you call yourself a musician, you ought to know time anyway! However, there’s been studies and reviews in the music business that say it actively makes you keep time. With a metronome and a loop, you’d be more than a dummy not to keep time to be honest!
RIFFWORKS MAKES YOU CREATIVE
To give you an idea of how cool this program is, I created 8 songs that I passed around in a week of owning the program. If you’re brimming with creativity and want to get going without the hassle of learning a heavy weight program but with all the effects to make you sound like you’re playing as a human, this does it.
All in all, you can get to use this program from the start. The learning curve is minimal. To get the best out of it, well you’re looking at 2 weeks to produce an album! If you’re into prog metal like me, the time signatures like 5/4, 7/8 etc are limited.
I RECOMMEND RIFFWORKS!
I recommend the fuller version to be honest. T4 will give you an idea of how simple it is to create your sound and refine you as a musician! Plus it’s risk free. It’ll work on most PC’s [I’m using it on a notebook NC10]. But, you might find the latency recording could give you problems!
For 80 odd euros it’s hard to find a simple plug in, select and drop program for a pro sound but now the dummies can sound just as good.
First off the program works on both MAC and PC. You get 5 free downloads of each [so 10 if you’re using 5 on MAC and 5 on PC]. With drums you get 5 downloads and for any Plug-In for your virtual amp you get 5. I’m running it on Win 7 with 4GB memory and using the Amplitube Stealth Pedal to interface. Now, one might have to use a pre-amp if you’re using the Stealth for vocals [as I’ve got this issue].