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Ok, Ive been trying to record stuph for a while now... yeah, I know, another one of those, in any case, I would dearly appreciate some simple and straight forward advice on some VERY basic recording issues.

I have a computer... and I would like this to be THE tool in my music production. I also have software to go with it, I have both Cubase and Cakewalk and at the moment I'm swaying towards the Cakewald direction... it seems a bit simpler.

I also have 2 Mics; both Shure, one SM58 and some other one.

I have plenty guitar equipment, including a guitar (duh) a multi effects box and a PA system don't ask).

I can get my hands on a keyboard with midi functionality too.

Apart from patience and excessive time, this is all I have and I would like to be able to produce reasonable sounding stuff with just this... unless this is not possible. Now I can plug my guitar and mics into the computer and record sounds in that manner, so what I really need help with is this whole intimidating MIDI thing.

Now I've read some of the basic stuff from tweakheadz and get the feeling that I need a synth patch box or something of the sort to run my midi signal through to apply sound effects to. Do I really need this hardware? What kind of software does one use for this? Does Cakewalk have a build in plugin to apply audio to midi signal?
Basically what I'm asking is whether I can simply install Cakewalk over Win XP, whack in a keyboard and be able to produce and edit descent sounding stuff without all this hardware. Another major concern for me is drumming. I am a drummer myself and have a drum kit too. Ive tried recording these with my 2 measly Mics with dismal results, so I really need to program midi drum patterns. Does Cakewalk come with something to program drums with? Do they sound good? And can one apply commands such as velocity?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Pro Audio Guest Wed, 06/14/2006 - 02:10
Thanks alot for the help guys, I appreciate it.

I've just spent the last two days hunched over my laptop experimenting with Cubase just to get to grips with the feel of it all. I understand that in my ignorance I posed my questions in a vague way, sorry for that.

The main reason why I am wanting to use MIDI is because I would like to be able to produce electronic sounds that I cannot produce with my guitar; that being drums, synths etc. Also, because of the difficulties involved in recording drums with mics I would like to be able to produce much cleaner MIDI compositions. I've been playing around creating some basic midi compositions with mouse and keyboard with reasonable, although highly tedious, success.

I think experimentation here is the key to learning. I think I will take your advice pr0gr4m and head off to a music store and ask for a demonstration of a keyboard to get some understanding of that.

Also, I have realised the limitations of midi sounds in that one cannot apply audio effects to them; so how does one go about converting (or recording) those midi sounds to audio from which one can apply effects to them? Also, can one get free software plugins to improve the range of midi sounds one can produce?

TeddyG Thu, 06/08/2006 - 10:43
A bit "all over the road" here(We all were. Part of knowledge is knowing what questions to ask, how to ask them and who to ask them of.), but:

The problem is that the "normal", home, computer isn't made for anything close to "real" recording(Or at least the "interfacing" part.) - the basic computer, itself, is "fine" - most audio work is not "difficult" for a computer. So, you can do it, sort've, but it's kind've like trying to use a MoPed as your "primary", 4-person, family vehicle". It's not even, so much, the "quality" of the sound, it's the difficulty of NOT breaking off the little pins in your computer's on-board sound "card"(Actually your Mother Board), when you trip over a guitar cable, or "where do I plug this..?"...

Yes. A little hardware will make things so much easier.

MIDI stuff? Sounds like you need to learn more about MIDI before even worrying about adding sound effects to your piano solo? First, let's try to pick software - software that seems to be able to do what you want to do. I'd lean on Cubase, but Cakewalk is fine -- you can get in trouble picking something because it's "easier", but, if it does what you want to do(I don't "use" MIDI, for instance, so I don't care about that - if you do??? Your software will have to acccodate MIDI AND audio recording).

Let's get your keyboard/synth, your guitars and mics into the computer, reliably, cleanly and safely - first(Or, second, after software selection.).

So. Software. Cakewalk is fine... BUY the software(So you have tech support, etc.), don't try to use the "demo stuff", for long - get ALL OTHER AUDIO SOFTWARE(All the demos you've tried) OUT OF YOUR MACHINE - and get busy learning how to use what you keep.

Keep in mind that when you buy a new USB recording device or a new sound card, it may COME WITH software(Some with "full" versions of software!), if it's software that works for you, just use it!

You WILL want SOMETHING to "interface" your gear with your computer. You can get a Lexicon USB "all-in-one" for a couple hundred bucks(And up and "same' devices from many companies.) Many of these gadgets Do "do it all" and fairly well, too! Should at least be lots of fun and plenty educational.

Or a seperate sound card(My LynxOne, for instance, is "very pro" and also includes some MIDI capability - convenient - I do fool around with my keyboard!). With a sound card, you'll need at least one, seperate, preamp(A nice, little "mixer" - connected between sound card and gear - will do fine and has built-in preamps, a place to plug-in your headphones, your speakers, your synth, your guitars, etc.)... If you only need two channels(1 stereo or 2 mono) at a time(Should be ALL you need at this point! Baby steps! Though, I've been doing this for years and have never needed more..?), you have many options in the catalog - but - if you really study the sound cards, USB/Firewire "systems", etc, you can quickly narrow down what will work for YOU. Start with price - good as any! No sense looking at something W-A-Y out-of-bounds, nor bothering with "toylike" things, if you've a mind to "do better", right at the start..? My MAIN criteria, for my sound card, was that it be "absolutely pro"(I make my living with it - such as it is......) AND, equally important(!) that it have "the right connectors" to attach the rest of my gear, too!!!!! Also horribly important is that it work with my "system" OS, etc.

Another thought a a "fine" sound card, is that it is the base of your system! IF you get a fine sound card, right at the start(Assuming you know what you want!!!), you can then add/subtract any OTHER outboard gear and know your "base" is reliable and of high quality. My sound card "points out" the deficiencies of other equipment I use(Or try to use), it NEVER is, itself, a deficiency! GREAT to have a SOLID BASE! Best possible software, best possible sound card/interface. Everything else is just "add-on's".......

You DO need a bit of "human interface", along with a bit of "electronic" interface... Does not have to be expensive to be "acceptable", at least to learn on. Even the putting together of the most modest "system", will educate you so you know enough to make better decisions on upgrades(And there will be upgrades if you stick with it!) and to learn how to ask those "better" questions, of others and yourself......


pr0gr4m Wed, 06/14/2006 - 14:22
The_Modulus wrote: Also, I have realised the limitations of midi sounds in that one cannot apply audio effects to them; so how does one go about converting (or recording) those midi sounds to audio from which one can apply effects to them? Also, can one get free software plugins to improve the range of midi sounds one can produce?

I may not have explained that part too well. While you can't apply effects to MIDI (because it's just computer data), you can apply effects to the sounds that the MIDI data is playing back.

In Cubase, you can have a MIDI track playing a synth or drum plug-in sound. You can apply any effect you want to that sound. You do it applying the effect to the plug-in's audio track in the same way you would any other audio track.

Now if you want to convert the MIDI track to an actual audio track, you can use the audio export feature in Cubase and export the playback of just the track you want. There should be a checkbox to have the new audio track imported into your pool/project. But it's not necessary to do this just to apply effects to the track. Use the method from above.

saemskin Wed, 06/14/2006 - 16:00
I still don't think he's getting what midi is. I can sum it up in one statement that everyone usually understands...

it is a set of instructions telling "something" what notes to play. It is capable of more data transmission than that, but thats the gist of it.

Lots of people have been confused about this due to the fact some windows operating systems have an internal sound generator that will take these DATA files (read: midi files) and play them for you. Soundblasters will do this too, and its the worst thing they've ever unleashed upon the world.

pr0gr4m Thu, 06/08/2006 - 15:11
Good info Teddy!

I'd like to address the MIDI portion of the post. First, why do you think you need MIDI? I understand that you want to create/record drum loops and you can definitely use MIDI for that..but is that the only reason? Do you also want to use VSTs?
MIDI wouldn't be used for effects. And you can't do anything with recorded audio using MIDI. At least not in the way you describe it.

Very brief MIDI tutorial:
MIDI is simply computer data. It is not audio. When you press a note on a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI note number is sent to your recording device. If you play a song and record the MIDI data...all you have recorded is a bunch of computer data, basically note numbers. That MIDI data can be played back through a MIDI device like a synthesizer and the synthesizer receives the note numbers and plays back the appropriate sound/note.

Both Cakewalk and Cubase have the ability to record both audio and MIDI, but they are not generally used to create MIDI data. You can use them to create MIDI data, but it is tedious and not very efficient.

You will need some sort of MIDI interface. There are audio interfaces that have MIDI ports and there are some that dont. If you pick one that doesn't have MIDI, you'll need to pick up a separate MIDI interface. It can be USB, Firewire or plug into your game port on your sound card. Any of those will be sufficient for your needs.

If you want to create drum patterns, you'll first need a plug in that has drum sounds. What you do is set up the plug in so that each sound is set to play when it receives a specific MIDI note. Then you'll need to create the MIDI notes. For this I highly recommend some sort of external device like a MIDI controller. You can get a MIDI keyboard for as little as 50 bucks and it will make recording MIDI data very easy. If you are using this exclusively for drums, then you may want to look at a device like the M-audio Trigger Finger. It's taylor made for drum programming.

This doesn't cover all of what MIDI has to offer but I hope that it will help get you on the right track.
I would recommend you go down to your local Guitar Center or Sam Ash on a slow day and check out the keyboard department. See if one of the sales guys will give you a little demo of how to play, record and play back MIDI data. In less than 10 minutes, they should be able to show you enough so that you understand it a lot better.