Music Recording Made Simple
Recording used to be the privilege of a lucky few who could afford the massive fees associated with a professional studio. But starting in the nineties, professional digital recording software gradually put the power to record in the hands of virtually everyone. Today, you can record tracks on your laptop simply by hooking up a midi controller keyboard and recording interface. Here’s a quick look at this simple music recording strategy.
First up, what’s midi? It’s a system of communication between digital instruments (like keyboards), or between digital instruments and computers. You press a key or hit a pad and the velocity, pitch, tone and other information is transmitted to the unit you’re communicating with. Midi used to require special cables, but today keyboards like the Axiom Air Mini 32 from M-Audio link up via USB. The controller part of the title means that the keyboard itself isn’t like a regular instrument – it doesn’t have built-in sounds. What it’s doing is triggering sounds that are in the device it’s linked to. So if you plug headphones into a midi controller you will hear nothing. Nada. Silencio.
So where do the sounds come from?
Remember that controllers like the Air Mini 32 are designed to trigger exterior sounds? Well, it comes with its own recording software which contains a library of sounds for your talented little fingers to trigger. The program’s called Ignite, and it’s perfect for getting started. It’s designed by the German company AIR, which provides plug-ins to the industry standard Pro Tools, and it has 275 instruments. Of course, if you already have your own recording software and digital instruments, keyboards like the Air Mini 32 can be used with those too.
How do I get vocals on there?
The astute among you will be wondering how to record vocals. Will singing into the keyboard work? No, although it would be hilarious to watch. Instruments that aren’t digital in origin, like guitars and voice, produce analogue signals. These need to be digitally converted and you do this with a recording interface. The M-Track series from M-Audio is an affordable interface system designed for recording vocals, bass, guitars and maracas (you never know when you might want them, after all!). You can plug your electric guitar directly into the unit, or you can mic up the amp and plug the mic in. Monitoring while recording is through headphones, also plugged into the M-Track. For playback, connect M-Track up to speakers.
It’s amazing to think that with just these two items and a laptop you gain entry into the recording industry. Next stop, Abbey Road!