Learn The Basics Of Recording On Your Computer

  1. Fade


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    Oct 1, 2001

    First thing's first - what is your purpose of recording on a PC? Are you doing it for fun? Are you an up-and-coming producer? Or are you trying to upgrade your current recording setup? I will be covering the aspect of simple, basic recording on a PC. Read on.

    Let's take a look at how sounds get recorded into your computer and get spit out of your speakers.

    Input / Output
    Whether you have a set of turntables, a microphone, drum machine, sampler, etc., you will need to somehow plug your gear into your computer's sound card. Let's say you have a SoundBlaster Live soundcard installed on your PC. When you take a look at the soundcard, you can see that it has an input and output. But they're not RCA plugs, what are they? 1/8 inch. So what you'll need to do is get some wires that have 1/8 inch at one end and RCA at the other end. You need the sound to travel like this:

    • RCA OUT of your drum machine, sampler, etc.,
    • To 1/8 inch IN of your soundcard.
    If you have multiple pieces of gear and you would like to hook them all up together, you'll need to either connect all of them to a mixer and then go to your soundcard, or connect them via MIDI, but I won't get into all of that this time.

    The sound is now able to pass through the soundcard and recorded into your computer. It then sends the sound out of the soundcard, through the OUT slot. That's where you hook up another wire going from the soundcard's OUT to the IN of your amp.

    There are too many to name, but even the most basic soundcard will do nowadays, but it all depends on what you want to accomplish and how good you want the sound to be. As long as the soundcard is full-duplex and has the basics like IN, OUT, MIDI IN, MIDI Out, SPDIF Out (to connect to a DAT machine for example), then you'll be fine.

    Once the sound reaches your computer, you must have some kind of software program that can record it. Windows has a basic recorder that you can use, but you obviously won't be using that. There's a whole variety of programs to choose from, depending on your needs. If you're just starting out, you can check out programs like Acid, Sound Forge, Cool Edit Pro, Cubase, Cakewalk, Logic Audio, etc. Some of those programs are sequencers, some are editors. If you want to use your computer just to edit some sounds, then you'll only need a basic program like Sound Forge. If you want a sequencing program that will be the center of your studio, then you should look at something like Cakewalk.

    Once the sound is recorded into your computer with a software program, you can do whatever you want. This is where you play around with audio, MIDI, effects, mixing, and so on. With programs like Cakewalk, you can actually control some of your equipment! You can set up your drum machine, for example, so that it responds to messages sent from Cakewalk. If you want to record a drum track and you want it done in MIDI, you simply hook up your drum machine to your soundcard and you follow the instructions in your software program to set it up. Once it's all ready, you hit record and the software will send a message to your drum machine telling it, "Play now!" and the drum machine will respond and start playing. There's so many more things that can be done when you have a good software sequencing program and the right gear hooked up to it.

    When you're ready to mix down your tracks or send some kind of sound back out your soundcard, you can either have it set up the basic way, like I mentioned at the beginning, or you can have it set differently. You might be able to send sounds into a DAT machine, to be recorded there, or to a CD burner. If you have a separate CD burner (one that is not installed on your computer), you can treat it somewhat like a DAT machine. Except the sounds don't get recorded directly on to a CD, they are recorded in memory first. If you have a CD burner installed on your computer, then in order to put your songs on there, you must mix down your tracks to a .WAV file.

    This article is meant for beginners, with just a very basic introduction in to how recording on your PC works.
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