Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A home recording studio

I am preparing to record my first musical piece on the pipe and tabor using the home music studio. The piece will be twinkle twinkle little star. To start, I believe it would be useful to describe the technology within the home studio and why we decided on the setup we have.

MIDI ports and cabling
We had a generic set of music and audio recording requirements. Where the system would mostly be used for my daughter in her music recording and composition and for my recording of podcasts, screencasts and music recording. Our requirements were as follows;
  1. Works well with our existing Yamaha MIDI keyboard
  2. Records acoustic instruments, including voice
  3. Allows for multi-track music composition and includes a good suite of  built in instruments
  4. Total costs less than $1000.00
We found ourselves an inexpensive desktop machine running Windows XP with a big HD and lots of RAM and a reasonable monitor and video card. We added a wireless card so we could attach the household wireless network without stringing any wires around the house. We chose a M-Audio FastTrack Pro as the main "hub" to attach all the components within our requirements. A strong benefit of choosing the M-Audio is it came packaged with Ableton Live a Digital Audio Workstation that provides all of the features (and more) than we require. After installing Ableton Live we were prompted to install the free upgrade, this included over 100 instruments. We also included an Audio-Technica microphone kit with both an instrument microphone and voice microphone. This mix of the M-Audio FastTrack Pro combined with Ableton Live, the Audio-Technica microphones and some MIDI and microphone cables provide us with all we need. And in the last six months my daughter has composed a number of pieces and managed to get an interview on a local coop radio station.

M-Audio Fasttrack Pro and the mix of devices it can attach.

If you do go down a similar path with this hardware and software configuration I strongly recommend you invest time in understanding the relationship between the system settings for your audio devices, your internal soundcard, the m-audio device and the Ableton Live software. Once you figure out how to configure these to work together with the USB connected m-audio device you will be able to better manage how all the devices work together. I know this seems like an obvious statement, but once I had a deeper understanding how these worked (beyond just getting it working) I was much better at utilizing all the individual components and was able to use other software within the whole setup.

Audacity audio recording window
All my effort in putting this system together and understanding its configuration has paid dividends. With my working on a #nophd I am now back to creating podcasts, screencasts and slidecasts and my tool of choice is audacity for audio recording. It is a great opensource audio editor which I am already familiar. I really like the crispness and clarity recording through the new microphone configuration, it is much cleaner than using an internal microphone or an inexpensive headset microphone. Soon the decision will come if I use audacity or ableton live to record my musical efforts... expect a new post soon on this music recording topic.