TEKGUIDE: COM­PUTER MU­SIC

TekSavvy Insider - - Contents -

Since the dawn of time mankind has been ob­sessed with mak­ing all man­ner of rhyth­mic sounds, start­ing with prim­i­tive, im­pro­vised per­cus­sive in­stru­ments and even­tu­ally pro­gress­ing to the stuff of sym­phonies fol­lowed by the mod­ern mu­sic mak­ers we know and love to­day. But in the past cou­ple of decades we’ve seen yet fur­ther in­no­va­tion, this time on the dig­i­tal side of things, as pro­ces­sors be­gan to play a much more ac­tive role in mu­sic

cre­ation - and I’m not just talk­ing about elec­tronic dance mu­sic. Th­ese days there’s not much mu­sic around that doesn’t in­volve soft­ware some­where along the line, and it’s now eas­ier than ever to get into har­ness­ing the

power of your com­puter to cre­ate your own sonic works of art… This month we’re tak­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach with our TekGuide. Rather than walk­ing you through a step by step process, we’re in­stead go­ing to take a look at how you can get your­self into the won­der­ful world of mak­ing mu­sic on your com­puter. Whether you’re a gui­tarist ex­traor­di­naire, a vi­o­lin vir­tu­oso, a pi­ano per­fec­tion­ist or some­one who has never dab­bled in any­thing other than turn­ing on the ra­dio or load­ing up an al­bum on your iPod, there’s a so­lu­tion out there for you.

Be­fore we start, there are a few things that it’s im­por­tant to know about mak­ing mu­sic on your com­puter - and, sadly, they go­ing to cost you some money. If you’re plan­ning on record­ing an in­stru­ment with any great clar­ity, you’re go­ing to want to get your­self a de­cent au­dio in­ter­face. You needn’t break the bank ini­tially, but it’s ad­vis­able to spend as much as you can af­ford here, be­cause it’s one area where price most def­i­nitely cor­re­lates with qual­ity. The kind of au­dio in­ter­face you’ll want will de­pend on what ex­actly you’re try­ing to do. If you’re a singer song­writer, for ex­am­ple, you’ll prob­a­bly want a de­vice with at least 2 in­puts that can be recorded si­mul­ta­ne­ously. One for your gui­tar, and one for your vo­cals ( if you’ve got a mi­cro­phone, of course). For the time be­ing there are work­arounds that you can use to record rough takes into your com­puter, such as pick­ing up an adapter that’ll al­low you to plug your mic or gui­tar into your com­puter’s built in mi­cro­phone port, but the re­sults are go­ing to be far from pro­fes­sional sound­ing. If you’re un­sure as to what ex­actly you’re look­ing for, pop into your lo­cal mu­sic store and ask, they’ll be glad to help. Next up, and one area you’re not go­ing to be able to skimp on for too long, even if you’re not plan­ning on record­ing any in­stru­ments, you’ll need what’s known as a dig­i­tal au­dio work­sta­tion ( DAW). A DAW is es­sen­tially the core of your dig­i­tal stu­dio. It’s your mix­ing desk, your sam­pler, your edi­tor and the host for the plu­g­ins

you’ll use to make and man­gle all kinds of sounds. If you’re a Mac user, you can pick up Garage Band for $ 5.79 at the Mac App Store and that’ll give you a very ba­sic in­tro­duc­tion into some of the pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able to you as you em­bark on your jour­ney of au­dio ex­plo­ration. PC users can check out Presonus Stu­dio One Free which is a heav­ily stripped down ver­sion of the re­tail Stu­dio One soft­ware. Once you’re ready to spend on your new pas­sion, I strongly rec­om­mend Mac users take a look at Logic Pro X for $ 229.99 and PC users con­sider ei­ther Stein­berg Cubase Pro 8 for $ 549.99 or Pro­peller­head Rea­son 8 for $ 399.99. Both of which are very dif­fer­ent pieces of soft­ware, with the for­mer more geared to­wards tra­di­tional record­ing, and the lat­ter more at home with elec­tronic mu­sic - but both are awe­some for pretty much any­thing, once you get past the learn­ing curves. Al­ter­na­tively, if you’re look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle more af­ford­able, Able­ton’s Live 9 Intro can be had for just $ 99. Each of th­ese op­tions come with ev­ery­thing you need to get started, and are able to record and edit ( crudely in the cases of Rea­son and Live) au­dio, se­quence and ar­range your record­ings, layer tracks and cre­ate new sounds via VST in­stru­ments and MIDI chan­nels, which are es­sen­tially in­ter­nal in­stru­ments on your com­puter as plu­g­ins for the DAW of your choice. Each DAW will come bun­dled with its own VSTs, but you can pur­chase ad­di­tional ones from third par­ties to ex­pand your sonic ar­se­nal should you choose ( while they’re typ­i­cally in the form of vir­tual syn­the­siz­ers, there are plenty of of­fer­ings that aren’t that are worth check­ing out - some are even built to mimic gui­tars, and they can sound great. In ad­di­tion to VST in­stru­ments, there are also VST ef­fects, and just like with the in­stru­ments there’s plenty of va­ri­ety avail­able here, from ba­sic EQ or fil­ter units to more ab­stract of­fer­ings that’ll com­pletely man­gle your sound into un­rec­og­niz­able forms. As with pretty much any­thing in the realm of com­puter based, or recorded, mu­sic though, you can get in­cred­i­bly cre­ative and make your plu­g­ins do all kinds of things they weren’t nec­es­sar­ily in­tended for. One last thing you might want to look into, if you’re plan­ning on cre­at­ing ex­clu­sively elec­tronic mu­sic or sup­ple­ment­ing your tra­di­tional in­stru­ments with dig­i­tal pi­ano, syn­the­siz­ers or pads, is a MIDI con­troller. Es­sen­tially key­boards that don’t ac­tu­ally gen­er­ate any sound with­out a com­puter, th­ese are a huge time saver and are su­pe­rior in lit­er­ally ev­ery way to try­ing to pro­gram in­di­vid­ual notes us­ing a mouse. Just as­sign your con­troller to a VST, arm your track, hit record MIDI and away you go. Mak­ing the jump to cre­at­ing mu­sic with the help of, or ex­clu­sively on, com­puter can be a whole bunch of fun, but it can also get quite ex­pen­sive, so try to avoid the temp­ta­tion to buy the first thing you see and re­mem­ber to do plenty of re­search. Speak­ing to your lo­cal mu­sic store is a great way to fig­ure out ex­actly what you need and don’t need, so make sure to avail of their ex­per­tise if nec­es­sary!

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