Composing & Recording With Your Computer
personal computer has brought a whole new dimension to the
craft of songwriting.
some of the computer music programs available today, you
don't even have to know anything about music to be a composer.
this can be fun to sit back and let your computer do all
the work, it is strongly recommended that you use your own
creativity and talent to write the music and let the computer
put it all together for you, quickly and easily.
get started playing, composing and recording music with
your personal PC, you will need at least Windows 95, a midi
keyboard, a soundcard, and a MIDI sequencer program such
as Power Tracks or Cakewalk. (More on Computer
Music Programs later).
will also need some sort of MIDI interface. The MIDI interface
I use is a Roland MPU-IPC-T. There are many other MIDI interfaces
on the market today. The MIDI interface connects to one
of your computer ports (or soundcard) and on the other end
to your Midi keyboard. First let me explain the term MIDI,
for those of you who do not already understand this incredible
technology. MIDI stands for (Musical Instrument Digital
a MIDI keyboard and a Sequencer (either a stand alone hardware
sequencer) or a software computer sequencer program installed
in your computer, you will be able to play and record sounds
from your keyboard into your sequencer and play them back
advantage of having a sequencer program installed on your
computer's hard drive is the fact that you can use your
computer for your music and of course for many other things
as well. With a stand alone hardware sequencer you can use
it for recording music tracks, playing them back and nothing
else. Though that they are very handy for musicians playing
with bands who do not want to haul around their expensive
computers to gigs.
sequencer program is much like a multi-track digital recording
system, only what you are recording is digital information
from your keyboard into your computer or sequencer.
you strike a note on your MIDI keyboard, a sensor located
below that particular key relays a message to your computer
as a note/pitch/touch message etc.
play back the sounds you have recorded into your sequencer
you will need a sound card in your computer or a MIDI keyboard
or sound module capable of recreating sound. There are normally
16 MIDI channels to work with (some programs have more but
we won't get into that now).
great feature of computer sequencing is a function known
as Quantiziation. This is where the computer will automatically
correct your (not so perfect timing) and play your tracks
back in perfect time.
example: After you lay your drum tracks down and it comes
out quite a bit sloppy and off the beat, you can press (Quantize)
to say 8th resolution if you are playing a straight 8th
groove or 8th triplets, if you are playing a shuffle groove,
and your drum track will now come out sounding perfectly
on the beat, just like you are the best drummer in the world.
And, YES, you can do the same thing with all your other
tracks and have a perfect sounding recording.
sequencing is also a very good tool for composing. You can
record a basic chord progression into your sequencer and
then record a melody line over top experimenting with different
melody lines etc.
can also change the chord progression if you like as you
go along experimenting and coming up with the best one that
suits your current composition. This is not meant to be
a complete course on recording with MIDI, but is included
simply to get you acquainted with it's potential as a powerful
aid to composing music. Once you get the hang of it, it
is very easy to understand and to use.
Computer Sequencing programs I personally use are Cakewalk,
Power Tracks, and Band In The Box. There are many more programs
available commercially, at prices ranging from a few dollars
to a few hundred dollars, depending on all their bells and
will probably not find these programs in your friendly neighborhood
computer store, but you will find them in most music stores,
and shops that cater to musicians.
you do not own a MIDI keyboard and/or soundcard for you
computer but are interested in checking out these wonderful
gadgets, there are many to choose from at all price ranges.
Check your local music store, there are usually very knowledgeable
staff there to help you with all your questions, and to
demonstrate all the latest musical techno toys.
Walker is an electric violinist, composer and recording
artist from Oregon.