Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

In part 1 I talked about the basic equipment you will need to get started producing your own music and in part 2 I am going to talk about the next important decision your going to need to make which is choosing your software. This is a very important decision and one that as a beginner you should spend a good amount of time thinking about before rushing into any purchases.

I shall mention some software packages in this section but I must point out that every musician is different and whilst some musicians will swear by a piece of software as an essential piece of kit, others will find it to be completely wrong in every way for what they require out of their software. The trick here is to try out demos for each piece of software you come across before buying and research well to make sure it is the right piece of software for the music you want to create. Ask other musicians who create a similar style of music what they use, read the many reviews on the net and try not to be sucked in by any adverts from the software companies (that piece of software might not be the perfect solution that they want you to believe). Also check to make sure that there are not any free alternatives that may be sufficient for what you require.

So what I’m going to do in this section of our beginners guide is to point out the different types of software available, talk about some of the features and give a few examples of software packages for each type. I am not going to choose the software for you or suggest a piece of software as required for your music, that is your job. The best piece of advise I can give you when choosing your software is to choose a package which you think you will enjoy using. If you find that making music becomes a bit of a chore and not fun you will end up either giving up completely or your music and inspiration for the creative process of writing music will suffer.

The Different Types of Software
These following categories are how I would categorize the different types of recording software available today. Some software could be classed in two of these categories, have features like that of other categories or be classed into a subcategory of that category, but these are the top level categories.

CD - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elcombri Pre-Recorded Loop Based Mixing Software
This sort of software is the most basic type of music software available and so are great for beginners and those not looking for anything too difficult to start with. They are very cheap to buy but are also very limited. They basically work by using pre-created loops and samples usually supplied by the same company in the software or as add-on packs. You can then use mix together these samples and loops to create a track. They are great for young people or those who have no experience with music but if you want to create your own sounds or plan on recording instruments and vocals, this category of software is not for you. This is what I would call music gaming software (yes, some of them are available for Playstation).

Examples of this type of software: eJay

Sample/Synth/Loop Based Sequencers
Software in this category is the real fun stuff, these have nice easy to use sequencers and are more geared towards creating your own sounds using the software synthesizers included in the software (These synthesizers can make a wide variety of good quality sounds and most can easily compete with the hardware synths in sound quality). They also are very sound sample based with extremely good sample manipulation abilities and loads of great effects that can be placed on your sounds. You will need to collect or make your own samples, import them into the software where you’ll be able to use a MIDI controller to play, edit and create some great sounding pieces of music within them.

Keyboard - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elcombri Some have the facilities to use VST plugins and instruments (Extra effects and virtual instruments) and can also be hooked up to other sequencer software (See below) using a technology called ReWire to create a full blown recording studio environment. This is the category you should look at very closely if it is dance/electronica or sample based music that you will be creating. If your looking to recording instruments only, you may want to skip this category completely. They have a wide range of users as they can be very good for beginners to music production as well as more than capable for producing professional tracks.

Check each piece of software in this category as they can vary a lot. Reason for example emulates a hardware environment extremely well with some amazing instruments, FruityLoops is more loop/sample based but with VSTi support can be expanded in many different ways, where as Ableton Live has been designed with Live Performance in mind and includes multi-track recording.

Choose carefully from this category and try before you buy to make sure that it is right for you. Check to make sure that any included synths can make the sounds you want to produce by listening to examples, synth presets on any demos or other peoples music you know has been created with that software. I must point out that you will find that if you are going to choose to buy software from this category that you may also need to use a piece of Audio File Recording and Editing Software (See below). This is so you can record your own samples as well as clean up or edit any samples you may get from other place such as from sample web sites.

Examples of this type of software: Reason, FruityLoops, Ableton Live

Recording/Instrument Sequencers with Plugin/Extendable Features
This is the category you should be looking at if your music is going to be more recording based. They have great recording facilities and emulate a professional recording studio in a software environment. They can also be extended to allow plugins such as VST plugins and intruments, these are effects and instruments (synthesizers, drum machines etc) that can be added on. There are loads of these available from a wide range of different companies.

These sequencers can usually allow the software from the previous category (Sample/Synth/Loop Based Sequencers) to be integrated into them via the use of a Technology called ReWire (A kind of virtual cable between the different software packages) allowing you to get the best of both worlds. They all offer MIDI support too and with the VST Instruments can achieve the same as the sample/synth/loop based sequencers can, but the enviroments could be considered to be less fun and user friendly. Plus you may have to fork out extra money for the plug ins to get the sound you want.

These pieces of software can range drastically in price and features, so make sure you get the right version as you will sometimes find there are cheaper “Lite Versions” and more expensive “Ultimate Versions”. Think about whether you really need the extra features of the more advanced versions, you may not need them now but in the future may require them so investigate all versions of any piece of software fully.

Examples of this type of software: Cubase, Sonar, Logic

Recording Sequencers with Hardware Interface Options Software in this category is very similar to the category above in that they emulate a professional recording studio but they also have the options to have specially designed hardware interfaces very similar to a classic mixing desk. These link into the software directly creating a very hands on approach. If you go into professional recording studios today this is the system that you will see set up.

The hardware options can be very expensive in this category and so if you are a beginner I would not advise that you go for this type of software/hardware.

Examples of this type of software: Pro Tools

Audio Recording Software
Software in this category is usually seen as an addition to the above categories, as they are used to record and edit samples or individual channels of sound by editing the waveform. They come with effects and processing that can be applied to the sound (although usually not in real-time like the software sequencers above). They can also be used to apply effects and processing to your tracks as a whole when you have completed the track and exported it from other software. (Mastering)

Some software in this category can be used similar to a multi-track recorder, but cannot do nearly as much as a proper sequencer. If you are just looking for something to record a couple of tracks for example just some vocals and a guitar, you may find that a piece of software from this category is all your looking for. I’ve not advised a specific piece of software in this guide but I have to here. Please give Audacity a go as it is Free and is a very capable piece of software and may be perfect for your needs if your exploring this type of software.

Examples of this type of software: Audacity, Audition, Wavelab

Part 2 Conclusion
Hopefully this part of the guide has given you a insight into the different types of music production software available. As I said before make sure you explore all the different alternatives in each category and pick the software that matches what you require. Software is an important choice and a choice you will have to live with, so give it the time it deserves.

Beginners Guide To Music Production - Part 3 - Setting Up Your Studio

Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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