With so many possibilities and avenues available for getting started with recording audio to or generating audio with a computer, it can often be overwhelming for a beginner. Luckily, even with all of the options out available, there are some quite simple and surefire ways to get started with electronics and audio. Read on below to find out more about the basics of computer audio.
One of the key devices in working with computers and audio is what is called an audio interface. There are many of these devices on the market today and depending on your needs you should be able to find one that fits within your budget. For a simple recording setup I would recommend the Presonus AudioBox USB or something similar as it provides the user with a decent sound card, two inputs, and two outputs. If you are looking for more information on how to choose or what to look for in an audio interface, Sound on Sound has an excellent article on choosing an audio interface. While it is a bit dated, the material and concepts are still applicable and current today.
The reason that I recommend an audio interface as one of the initial items to purchase is that it simply allows your computer to process audio and convert signals more easily. Most consumer computers today come with barely adequate sound cards that are useful only for playing back audio from a browser or other program. When dealing with multiple streams of audio as well a complex processing, the on-board card is just simply not up to the task. There are workarounds that users can look into if it is not possible to purchase an audio interface such as ASIO4ALL, but I personally find it to be insufficient in the scheme of things.
Making some noise
After finding a way to get audio signals into the computer, one obviously needs a software that is able to record, and process the signal. Similarly, if looking to synthesize sounds, one needs a software that will allow for adequate sound design. There is almost an endless amount of software available today, both freeware and paid. All software has its pros and cons, and audio programs are no different. Head over to my software page to see some of my most used and recommended softwares as well as links to their pages.
Depending on your needs, you may find that a full featured DAW such as Ableton Live or Pro Tools is most suited for the task. Other users such as those looking for something with basic editing capabilities or a more freeware option may find both Audacity and Reaper to be of use. All of these programs will allow for audio to be recorded, generated, and manipulated, the big difference is in how that task is accomplished.
Upon becoming more comfortable with your chosen program and seeing where your needs and wishes for utilizing a computer in creating music and sounds, you may find yourself looking for a way to control and manipulate the program and audio besides using a computer keyboard and mouse. Thankfully, many other individuals have had the same idea and there have been hundreds of different devices and components created to allow for more precise, novel, and in-depth control of different software.
The vast majority of controllers, especially keyboards, provide additional control within your chosen program by sending what are called MIDI messages. MIDI is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This incredibly powerful and useful protocol allows a variety of controllers and computers to communicate and interact with one another.
Controllers can be divided into many categories depending on who you are talking with, I see them as having four main categories.
Each of these categories all contain many useful and practical devices that can be used in both studio and live settings. I encourage everyone to watch videos, read reviews and forums, and most importantly, try out the device in question before buying it! There is nothing worse than investing money into a device only to find out it doesn't meet your needs or it doesn't work in the way you expected it to.