In Extremo - Cubase and Nuendo Go Medieval
With their unique blend of exotic instruments, medieval German lyrics and modern rock music, In Extremo are one of the few very original bands in the German music scene. Their currently released eighth album went straight into the German album charts at number three.
In "Mein rasend Herz" ("My Racing Heart") they follow their usual style of alternating hard guitar, bass and drum parts with medieval arrangements. In the intros and interludes you can hear a huge range of old instruments: several bagpipes, sitars, tamplas, bombards, Tibetan horn, flute, harp, dulcimer, barrel organ, shawm, trumscheit, uileann pipe and lots more. The musicians from Berlin can not only play all these instruments, but also actually build most of them themselves.
Although some of these instruments are many hundreds of years old, the album was produced with up to the minute Steinberg technology. Before going into the studio, the musicians spent six months in the rehearsal room and captured new song ideas on an Apple Powerbook using Cubase SX.
Composing with medieval instruments is exceptionally challenging for the band, because the instruments, apart from nyckelharpa, barrel organ and harp, cannot be played fully chromatically. The bagpipes, for example, only have a major ninth register, which is further reduced by the constant keynote.
"With each set of bagpipes we can only play in two keys really well. In all other keys we can at best suggest melodies but we can't play the whole scale. For our work this means that we are slightly limited in a harmonic sense. And this is what our fellow rock musicians tend to forget," says Boris Pfeiffer, who plays medieval instruments in In Extremo.
"If the guitarist leaves a good idea on the rehearsal room computer before nipping off on holiday, but unfortunately in the wrong key, you've got a problem. Our bassist might smile about this, but if you start looking for a suitable melody with the bagpipes, you'll actually find it impossible," Pfeifer continues. "Waiting for the guitarist to return would have been one option, but we were all far too impatient for that. Especially because we thought that we had found the absolutely fitting missing melody. Audio Warp was the magic word, which in this case proved to be the rescue. To be able to transpose the guitarist in real time was simply brilliant! Ever since that we love trying out Audio Warp while still arranging just to go a bit crazy even when things have already worked out."
In Extremo are also quite taken with the new Play Order function of Cubase SX3: "We found it fascinating to be able to try out in an uncomplicated way if the chorus is really at the right place or if break B wouldn't be better than break A. With Logic I used to cut everything up with the virtual scissors and then had the painstaking job of putting the pieces together again and saving everything, just to be on the safe side, under the file name for example "Experiment 005". Not only did this take ages, it also didn't have anything to do with making music any more."
The album was produced by the renowned team of Jörg Umbreit and Vincent Sorg (Resetti Brothers) at Principal Studios in Münster, where they took the production further using Nuendo 3 on a Mac G5. Everyone involved was impressed by the unproblematic transfer of data from SX to Nuendo.
The actual recording started at the end of 2004 and took two months altogether.
During the production process several studios were used at the same time. Often vocals would be recorded in one studio, while at the same the medieval instruments were being recorded next door. "During this process we noticed how remarkably well the data managment of Nuendo worked. Although we constantly switched studios, we were always fully in control of our data and it wasn't an effort at all," explains producer Vincent Sorg. "Then we mixed all the material on a PC with a dual Opteron processor and Nuendo 3. Here the switch from Mac to PC turned out to be totally unproblematic, too," Sorg goes on.
The final step was mastering the production in WaveLab, so that from preproduction to mastering only Steinberg products were used - which in this form was a new and positive experience for the whole team: "For everyone involved it was the first production that was done completely with Cubase and Nuendo. At first we were all a bit skeptical if it would be the right decision to change systems before such a big production. But these doubts vanished quickly, as we all realized how much more effective working with Nuendo is in comparison to Logic," the producer concludes.
The band, too, was delighted with the complete process of the production and - as Boris Pfeiffer finally explains - absolutely certain that they found the right software for their compositions: "Since we started using Cubase, we have more time to actually get down to making music, just because everything works so much better. Now it doesn't matter anymore if we work at home, in the rehearsal room, in the studio or in the tour bus, because the songs can be called up everywhere without losing any of the settings. At first the change to Cubase SX was slightly confusing but in our case it turned out to be definitely very much worth it. And these are just a few examples of all the advantages for us." For more information about the band and the producers go to: