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Microphone Month 4

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Help with simple setup???


I would like to be able to make multi-track recordings of my guitar, with the ability to listen to one track while adding another. Professional quality not important at all. Just messing around... I have a multi-effects unit I should be able to hook straight into stereo line inputs and get decent results.
Was looking at the M-Audio Audiophile USB and possibly CAKEWALK Guitar Tracks Pro 3 software...
Would this stuff allow me to do what I want? The ability to play along with backing tracks sounds interesting in the software. Is there anything better that I could look at without getting in over my head? Something that would allow creating my own drum track etc...????... or should I just keep it simple for now???... I have no experience at all with this stuff. I'd probably be looking at an inexpensive stand-alone recorder with a drum machine, but I'm probably buying the M-Audiophile anyway to transfer some vinyl to CD and get better sound from the computer to the stereo... Figure since I'll have the necessary hardware (I think), I might as well put the computer to work and maybe get a little more flexibility?
What about Sonar Home Studio? Looks like less super easy to use and guitar oriented stuff... Don't think I'd be using the effects, tuner, etc... in Guitar Tracks anyway... More flexibility for creating my own drum / backing tracks with included samples???.. or in over my head???
Thanks MUCH for any advice!!!
January 31, 2007 @10:43am

Ah... it's a slippery slope you're on, my friend. You may have modest goals right now, but once you see what can be done with this stuff it may take over your life. : )
I have an older Roland stand-alone, along with a computer-based DAW (Pro Tools LE, Mbox), and, like you I started with very modest expectations when I got my computer based setup. I mainly bought it because it was inexpensive - now I rarely use the stand-alone, the ease of use, flexibility and quality is far better.
Absolutely you can do what you're talking about with the interface and software you mentioned. You say pro quality is not important - maybe not, but I think you'll be stunned at the quality that is obtainable for such a reasonable cost.
Whether the Guitar Tracks software is a better choice, who can say? For the extra fifty bucks or so I'd go for the Sonar Home Studio. You might not think you want to mess with MIDI and stuff right now, but after you get acclimated to the environment you might find it restrictive not to have at least some midi capability. I used to use a drum machine with my stand-alone, it was always a giant pain. Programming drums on a midi grid is a whole lot easier for me than programming a drum machine, unless you are already very proficient with the drum machine. Not to mention the availability of all kinds of cool software drum instruments.
January 31, 2007 @10:28pm

Thanks for the reply!!!
Yes, it looks like the possibilities are endless and the quality should be pretty good using even a simple interface these days. Looks like the M-Audio Fast Track or Solo interfaces would be better for recording guitar and keeping it simple. The Audiophile looks much better suited for transferring my vinyl to digital though, and looks like it could be pressed into service using my stereo multi-effects / preamp unit for recording guitar. I believe my multi-effects rig even has a built-in mic preamp / mixer. Seems the simpler interface would actually be better if I got really deep into this. I'm sure you'd want to use a separate mixer, mic preamps, effects, etc.. anyway. A simple, high-quality interface with analog and MIDI inputs would be all you'd need.
I phrased my original question very poorly, which is probably why I didn't get more replies...
I guess what I really wanted to know is... Would a beginner be able to create decent drum tracks out of samples included with Home Studio (are drum samples included?) without studying for a week? Any way to load a "ready-made" drum track with Home Studio... or it just doesn't work that way?
I'm guessing Guitar Tracks probably has some simplified method of using "ready made" or easily built drum tracks... but I don't know for sure... I'd be tempted to start there if building drum tracks on Home Studio is too complicated, or has to be done completely manually. They're both about the same price. I'll probably just end up buying both eventually... LOL. How come every simple thing I want to do turns into a full-fledged expensive hobby???!!! Looks like I'll have to buy a bass too, if I don't want to learn MIDI and still add a bass part to my recordings...
As far as MIDI... I don't know... I'm just learning guitar and don't know if I have enough musical knowledge to make music with virtual drums or any other virtual instrument... May give it a shot someday...
Thanks again for the reply. Every little bit of info helps things make a little more sense to me. Wasn't even sure if I was on the right track with the stuff I was looking at. Looks I actually did OK for someone who knows nothing at all about pro recording. Should be good stuff to start learning with. THANKS!!!!
February 1, 2007 @03:26am

Sorry if I missed the point.
I'd be inclined to go with the Fast Track Pro if it's within your budget. A friend of mine has the Fast Track, and while it works fine, one thing I don't care for about it is it has only one mic preamp and one line input. This means if you want to record a stereo output, which I suppose your multi-effects device has, you're going to have a level matching problem if you try to use both channels. The Fast Track Pro has two phantom powered mic preamps as well as two line/instrument inputs so you'd be good to go for whatever purpose.
Sonar Home Studio has a feature that lets you select a MIDI drum pattern and then "paint" it into a track simlar to the way you put loops into Acid, if you've ever seen that. I doubt it gets much easier than that, at least without spending a lot of money on some third-party program.
I have an older version of Cakewalk that does this, it works pretty well - there are full drum kit patterns as well as patterns and fills of individual drums so you can build from there. You just point to the place where you want the pattern to start, and pull it to the right on the timeline, and the software fills in with the pattern in the proper tempo to match the grid. I'm assuming Home Studio is similar but possibly better.
One thing I've found about the various Cakewalk products I've owned or seen, the documentation is always very good so you should not have much trouble getting started.
Once you get proficient with using the DAW software, you may find this approach limiting, and you'll find there are all kinds of things you can do to get drums into your songs. I'm sort of a part-time user, not a full-time pro, but even so I use a mixture of things... recording live drums, software drum machines, samplers, and loops from a drum library I bought. Each of these methods has its advantages, and you can mix & match them into the song as you deem appropriate. Some of the time, once a live drum track has been recorded, I'll chop it up into loops and re-build the song from there. This is especially useful if, like me, you don't know any drummers that can play with a click for more than a few measures. : )
A cool thing about using a sampler to create drums is you can map a bunch of different hits of the same drum to different notes, then push things around in the Midi track to use them in various fills and things. That makes it sound much more like a real drummer, nothing sounds more machine-like than having every snare hit sound identical. It's pretty much limited by your patience and imagination, and the learning curve is not egregious, because you can start simple and increase the compexity at your own pace.
February 1, 2007 @03:51pm

Thanks again Steve!!!
Not your fault at all. My mind and my questions were all over the place for sure!!! Hard for me to know what questions to ask when I know so little on the subject.
Sounds like the Guitar Tracks software is a "stepping stone" that I could probably skip. I should probably just start learning Sonar Home Studio. Sounds like there are some helpful features in there for beginners after all. Thank you for the excellent description of some of them and the examples of different things that can be done. It all helps.
I'll probably take your advice on the Fast Track Pro interface as well. I have enough hobbies to know "cheap pays twice" and to try and avoid "stepping stone" products that will soon be outgrown, or just aren't the right tool for the job as much as possible. The Fast Track Pro also comes with the "virtual stomp boxes" I wouldn't be getting if I didn't buy the Guitar Tracks software. Might come in handy someday for letting another guitarist jam on the computer / monitors, while I use my multi-effects and amp. I've got two guitars, but never any way to amp them both at the same time if someone comes over. This could work... Might even sound better going straight in than through my multi-effects... Never know...
Well... Be prepared for more annoying, clueless, beginner questions after I buy all my stuff... LOL.
February 1, 2007 @06:05pm

Hey there, don't mean to over complicate things for you, but there is one issue you should be aware of when it comes to computer recording, and using computer based effects while recording. In a word, latency. Latency is a delay between input and output. When you play your guitar into a computer interface, and want to use software effects, there will be a delay between the input and the output. PCI based audio interfaces will have a lower possible latency generally than USB or Firewire. If you are up to the task of installing one, I would go that route. Of course, if you plan on using your outboard processor, it's not an issue. But if you were to use vst amps and effects it will be. Even with M Audios claim of extremely low latency settings with effects, when you start throwing in playback and software based drums, your bandwidth and resources will be quickly used up. On my computer, AMD dual core with a M Audio Delta 44, the lowest latency I can get while tracking over previously recorded material and software instruments is around 2.5 to 3 milliseconds. That's pretty good, I record at 44.1khz or 48khz these days, but for vocals, it's too high for me! I would be surprised if a USB device could get that low a latency while tracking over playback and using a VSTi or two, but I don't really know.
February 5, 2007 @08:48pm