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Your Computer Recording Studio
by Alan J Orr
To get started, you will need three things. The most expensive tool, I'm sure you already own.
A computer. You can buy a digital hardware deck, but this article will be talking about home digital recording with your computer. The computer should have a fast processor, as much ram as possible, and a large hard drive. I recommend at least 1 gig of memory and of course up to 4 gig would be even better. The more ram you have, the more tracks you can record and monitor, and the more effects you can use.
The next thing you will need is an interface. This is a hardware device that allows you to plug in instruments or microphones as well as midi controllers such as keyboards. An interface can cost as little as $75.00 or as much as $2000 or more. Don't worry though if your just starting out, an interface just over $100. will probably do nicely. You can even search eBay and find one for as little as $20. Hey! That's the same amount of money I can get for my $500. Tascam!
The only real considerations here are what ports you need to connect to your computer, and how many instruments you want to record at the same time. If you have USB ports on your computer, a USB interface would be a logical choice. Firewire is another option. Are you going to record a band, many instruments at once, or are you just looking to record your voice and guitar. This will tell you how many inputs you will need. If you are planning to just record yourself and your guitar, an interface with two to four inputs will be sufficient. If you are just interested in recording "real" instruments, just an audio interface will be fine. I do however suggest that you consider MIDI inputs as well. Midi is a great way to add new instruments or backing instruments to your music. The only other consideration at this point is if you are planning to record with Digidesigns Pro Tools. Pro Tools requires specific interfaces, while the others do not.
To summarize, at this point you need a decent computer and an audio/midi interface. Assuming you have the computer, your total investment so far is approximately $150. Possibly much less.
Next you need a Digital Audio Workstation. This is the software equivalent of a mutl-track recorder and mixer. These are programs such as Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Cubase, Sonar, Samplitude and others. These programs usually come in a couple of editions. The limited edition, and the whole enchilada editions. In the limited editions you are usually limited to a certain number of tracks, while in the super edition the tracks are greater or unlimited. The limited editions usually offer less effects and other goodies, while the super edition is loaded. Even the lighter versions however will let you record your music in cd quality or better! Examples of the lighter editions are Cubase LE, Sonar Home Studio, Sony Acid Music Studio, and Samplitude Se, or Samplitude Music Studio. If money is no object, you will want the top of the line Pro Tools, Cubase, Sonar, or Samplitude. The lighter versions usually sell for under $100. The top of the line workstations can cost thousands.
Once you have the interface and the workstation software, you are ready! Of course you will need decent monitor speakers, and hopefully a large amount of talent.
Alan Orr is a musician of over thirty years and a digital composer living in the mountains of New York State. This will be a series of articles on the subject of home digital recording. The next will focus on the Digital Audio Workstation software. You can find an easy guide to home digital recording at http://www.hotconcept.net You will cover all the essentials, from what you need to start, to quantizing your music, all in a couple of hours. http://www.hotconcept.net
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