Newbie’s guide to setting up a free DAW

I first dabbled with MIDI back in 1994, using Cakewalk running in DOS. That’s text-only Disk Operating System for those of you born into the current GUI (Graphical User Interface)-only world. Since then, I’ve only briefly tried making MIDI based music once again in year 2006, and that was it, until now. How the world has changed! I think most of the music you hear today are generated using MIDI and you can’t tell the difference anymore, between generated music and actual recording of real instruments.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a brand new term to me, as MIDI software was just called that, MIDI software tools. And there are so many competing products today, to the extent that you can get them for free (yay!). Plus, there are also many good quality virtual instruments available for free. This means anyone can make serious music entirely for free. Having gone through the somewhat painful process of setting up a DAW together with a decent collection of virtual instruments, I will share the steps in this post to perhaps ease your pain if you’re about to begin your journey in the same direction.

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Taobao Product Recommendation – Meat Slicer

Uniformly sliced meat. It’s mostly impossible to do that with just a knife. To be able to properly slice meat, the meat has to be somewhat frozen. In frozen state, it takes much effort to do the slicing, and it will likely be uneven. A tool is imperative.

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True Singapore Food – Carrot Cake aka Cai Tao Kueh

It goes without saying that Carror Cake or Cai Tao Kueh (CTK) is the mainstay of Singapore hawker food. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. It has its roots in Teochew, but has certainly evolved to become something uniquely different.

I used to avoid eating CTK because it is too unhealthy to be taken as a meal – consisting of starch, eggs and preserved radish plus lots of oil and lard. But, what the heck, it can be really tasty, when you visit the right stalls that is. Here are the stalls i have found to be so so right:

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All-in-one all-grain brewing disaster

My second attempt at all-grain brewing turned out to be a disaster. It still made it into my fermenter (the ingredients cost almost S$70!) but my all-in-one brewing kit was almost ruined. A painful lesson which, hopefully, you can avoid.

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Taobao product recommendation – Smoking gun food smoker

Smoked food tastes good. We all know this because everybody loves BBQ and grilled food right? Health concerns aside, we want to eat smoked food once in a while. Most of us don’t have the luxury of using a smoker at home (large cabinet with wood burning at the bottom, or stove top smoker which i suspect still generates more smoke than desirable indoors), especially since many of us live in a high rise building. I was wondering if there was an easier way. Well, there is a micro smoker in the form of a “smoking gun”.

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Taobao product recommendation – Non-stick stainless steel wok

We all know that food sticks to stainless steel cookware, but now, they have figured out how to make stainless steel non-stick. The surface is made to minimize contact with the foodstuff such that the food “floats”. This is a winning combo – abrasion-proof and non-stick, plus even heating. But, does it really work as advertised? Let me show you.

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Taobao product recommendation – Sleep-wearable Bluetooth earphones

I learned about ASMR only recently. I would be interested because I often don’t sleep well. I did a search on Taobao and found that indeed there are earphones that are targeted at ASMR usage, i.e. for wearing during sleep.

To make an earphone sleep-wearable, the buds have to go in all the way so you don’t feel them when your ear is pressed against the pillow. Also, wireless is definitely a good idea. So, mostly, an “ASMR” earphone is just a Bluetooth earphone. I settled on this pair of KBF (the usual poor choice for brand name, both in English and Chinese). I got it for cheap – 70 Yuan (S$14.10). It is fairly light, promises 12 hours of music. The buds, wires and neck strap are all made of soft Silicon. It didn’t feel heavy when put on, and you’ll almost forget you had them on after a while. Yes, they do feel like they will not come in the way when used during sleep.

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Taobao product recommendation – Churros tools

Churros is surprisingly easy to make, to the point that i don’t understand how people can make a business out of selling Churros alone. The recipe is simple and idiot proof, but you do need to get the piping bag and star-shaped tip.

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All grain brewing using Taobao-bought all-in-one brewing system

Okay, to use the term “brewing system” is to give higher praise than deserved to the simple kettle plus pump i recently bought from Taobao. But basically that is all you need to do grain brewing – a kettle for mashing and boiling and a pump for sparging – the three stages involved in grain brewing.

I must begin by saying that all grain brewing is very tough back-breaking work. The mash for a 23 Litres (6 Gallons) brew is super heavy (20kg?). I’m seriously considering getting a hoist to save my back. You will have to lift the mash at least twice in the process. That said, the aroma of the mash probably makes up for the hard work. It is far superior to the stale smelling aroma you get from extract brewing.

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Taobao product recommendation – silicone cake mould

A parfait housed in a cup shape cake is like a dream, and i couldn’t resist trying my hand at making one. The major obstacle is in demoulding the cake, and i wondered if a silicone cake mould would help. In short, it works like a charm.

I made the cake using a souffle recipe, and when baked to golden brown, the cake does not stick to the silicone mould at all. Parts of the centre of the cake was not fully baked so those parts were slightly sticking to the mould, but otherwise, the cake actually developed a nice non-sticking soft crust all round. On hindsight i should have placed the mould on a rack when baking.

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