Any computer audiophiles?

I am in the process of a talent swap with my neighbor. I am going to upgrade his computer, he is going to do some work for me. One of the things he would like is for me to hook up his keyboard to his computer so his wife can fool around with composing songs. I have never done this before, but I have been looking into it for a few days and believe I can accomplish this task. I am looking for advice from anyone who knows anything at all about this.

I am considering just selling them my P3 550, instead of upgrading their circa '96 Compaq. The physical wiring looks fairly simple to accomplish. Besides the keyboard, computer, and midi adapter cable, is there any other required hardware? When it’s all hooked up, does the sound play from the sound card or the keyboard?

Can anyone recommend decent sequencing software? My neighbors seem to have a pretty good sense for music, but they are complete novice when it comes to the computer. Above all, the software should be easy to use. If possible it should run on XP, although I am happy to just leave 98 on the machine.

I realize there no one may be able to help me with this, but I figured I would at least try. Surely if nothing else, someone knows a good resource to point me toward?

If she’s a computer newbie, you want a reaaaally simple sequencer. Jumping into something like Cakewalk or Cubase would just be overkill. I have more advanced programs, but actually use Powertracks Pro Audio, which is pretty oldskool. It’s a good basic sequencer, and really cheap (less than $40) System requirements are low, too, so they could probably keep their old machine. I have version 7, using it with Win98 on a Pentium Xeon450 and a variety of keyboards/samplers.

You’ll need a decent full-duplex (play and record at same time) sound card…a Soundblaster Live (you can probably get one cheap) works fine.

That sounds pretty good. I would have thought that doing decent sound work on a home PC would set one back a few grand at least.

By the way. Anyone remember the old Access games that had instructions on modding your PC speaker to allow for in game speech? I have the instructions somewhere here but i’m curious if anyone ever actually did it.

Well, he just said she had a keyboard and wanted to record a few songs, so I didn’t include: MORE keyboards, samplers, drum machine, amps, mikes, mixer board, guitars…I’ve found there’s always room to spend more money on music equipment :twisted:

2 decent mikes (around $750-$1000 list price for both of them)

run into

Behringer compressor/limiter/noise gate (can get used for $50)

run into

Tascam 4 track, mostly used as a mixer ($250 or $300 new?)

looping out to

2 Alesis reverb units (used, can find at $75 each) a outboard effects loops

also running in and out off here is

a tape deck (old one of my old stereo system) - decent one is what, $200?
an Alesis drum machine (er, up to $500 I guess?)

This all runs out to

Audigy soundcard with the external patch panel ($200-250 brand new)

I run a MIDI keyboard in and out of the Audigy as well (A cheap pro-level one can be had for $350)

The Audigy came with ACID Style. Acid is EASILY the easiest to use recording software I have ever seen, and it rocks. I upgraded to ACID Pro 3.0. ACID can burn CDs for you.

The Audigy also came with Cubasis. Cubasis can do any MIDI sequencing that you want.

The Audigy also came with a decent .wav editor (WaveLab). But I use SoundForge.

Now, a lot depends on what they want to do. If they want to record the keyboard and not do anything else, they can use a line level adapter, run the out on the keyboard into the mic jack on the soundcard, and record in the standard recorder that comes with Windows. :P


Thanks Sparky! That was pretty informative. I feel encouraged that I’ll actually be able to pull this off. My biggest concern is that I just don’t understand the music end of things. To be honest, I’m not really sure what a sequencer does besides make those annoying midi tracks that used to ship on early 1990’s games.

This guy is a cabinet maker and has already repaired a piece of furniture for me. The door had come off and when I attempted to reattach it, I mangled it up pretty bad. Where I spent a weekend mangling, he had it repaired inside of an hour. I already know I am not going to be that impressive to him.

I think I will sell them my P550, so if I completely botch the sequencer thing, I can at least load up Quake 3 and impress his kid.

Wow, Raph. I don’t completely follow what all you got there, but I bet it sounds pretty cool when you get it hummin.’

These neighbors of mine are pretty into music. They’ve got a really expensive looking keyboard with what looks like a German name. She also has a professional looking mike, really huge speakers, and god knows what all else. Right now they just want to hook the keyboard up to the machine. I bet there are lots of additional things they could do with the computer, but we just don’t know about them yet.

What do you do with all that stuff you got hooked up, if you don’t mind me asking. Feel free to dumb it down for me. I havn’t a clue about music!

An Oberheim?

>An Oberheim?

Possibly. Next time I go over there, I will make a mental note.

I don’t know what Raph does with his, :) but I write music (right now, stuff for our game). I use a 20-channel mixer and don’t do tape, although I use a Sony MiniDisc for scratch work (just goofing around with musical ideas). Cubasis (I think it runs around $90?) is a decent sequencer – they could work up to Cubase ($$$) if they want to get into serious digital orchestration. There are a lot of basic sequencers out there from shareware on up, they all work pretty much the same, IMHO, it’s just a matter of preference.

Feel free to email me if you need any help with your project.

Thanks Sparky. I appreciate your offer. I will get in touch if I get into trouble or have some questions. I like the idea of using simple software before jumping into more advanced and expensive options. Pretty amazing that none of this requires a powerful CPU.

I use it to write and record music. Mostly acoustic guitar driven, with additional instrumentation as needed.

Here’s a track (older, though):

Maybe Free


Odd that this conversation would start up.

Ok, I got elected - since I’m the computer guy and sold my Telecaster a year ago - to do the sound engineering for the demo CD for my friends’ band… “The Deadly Passing Time”. Well, they just want to call it “Passing Time” but for a band that sounds somewhere between Tool and Ministry I don’t think that’s too keen a name. I was pushing for “Chocolate Fetus” or something.

Anyway, to do this dirty work I needed to come up with some method of recording the instruments and vocals. Now, I own a copy of Acid 3.0 and it’s on my P1.6 Vaio laptop, so I went out and grabbed a SB Extigy. I’m completely pleased with it.

Of course, this whole setup is pretty rigged-up, but it does record a nice clean track. They’re all going into a mixer and then into the 4-track, and then I’m taking a line-level signal out of the 4 track’s L/R outputs and into the Extigy. One really nice feature of Acid is that you can record a track of an instrument and leave it on the timeline, then record another and another and keep stacking them on the timeline with each other. The beauty of this is that each person gets to hear the whole mix coming out of the monitor speakers (not PC monitor for those not into music - monitor speakers.) while I’m recording just them.

Now, if I could figure out a way to have everybody play at the same time and record 4-6 different tracks at once, that would be the holy grail… but I don’t see that happening so we’re getting by with the rigged method.

Part of the CD is already done. My big challenge at this point is to get the .wav files all normalized to the same level so the thing sounds even when played though - as in, one song not louder than another. I’m running them through Soundforge for that, and also to do the effects on their voices.

I might get into asking some advice about this stuff a little later.

Do the effects in Acid. You can apply envelopes and adjust them on the fly, it’s much easier than doing it “baked” in SoundForge. AFter you have them like you like it, export as wavs from Acid and use SF to normalize everything.

Ok, here’s a quirk…

I’m keeping the wav files in 44khz stereo, and they burn out to a CD nicely. However, when I attempt to make an MP3 file of them to share with you guys I get an error in CDEX that says basically “Screw you, this isn’t a RIFF WAV Format.” So, I attempted to read in the tracks from the CD and send them straight to MP3 - and it does… until the file operation completes, and then it names it back to a .wav. WTF?

PS - How did you know I was baked when using soundforge?

Oh… one other thing Raph. Were you at Celebration II? If so, you’d remember the “IX Trio”… the mexican guy, his wife, and me.