Logic 9

On August 14, 2009, in Music Technology, by Daniel Rowland

Logic Studio 9 is out! I know it’s been a while, but if you have a Mac, this is an amazing program. Check out Logic 9 here!

Logic Studio 9 is out! I know it’s been a while, but if you have a Mac, this is an amazing program.

Check out Logic 9 here!

Question: Best audio interface to record practice and concerts?

On August 10, 2009, in Music Technology, by Daniel Rowland

What’s the best way to make audio recordings of myself practicing or sketching out songs? 
Should I buy a Mac for this? 
What software will I need? I’ll only need to edit the beginning and end of the file. Nothing too complicated Thanks, D D, There’s no reason to buy a Macbook , unless you […]

What’s the best way to make audio recordings of myself practicing or sketching out songs? 
Should I buy a Mac for this? 
What software will I need? I’ll only need to edit the beginning and end of the file. Nothing too complicated
Thanks,
D

D,
There’s no reason to buy a Macbook , unless you were already planning on it! You can download free PC programs that will work, and you can buy an audio interface.

For what you are describing, a mobile recorder like the Zoom H2, the Zoom H4, or the Zoom H4n would be good. The H4 is more expensive, but also sounds a little better and comes with free software (Cubase LE) to record with. They are made of plastic, however, so you can’t throw them around. If you are gentle, it will last a long time. The H2 really isn’t bad either, so if you’re tight on cash, don’t feel like you should steer clear of it. It even comes with a built-in guitar tuner. I would recommend either of these.

Best of all would be the Zoom H4a. It is has a more rugged build (which is important), more onboard effects, can record 4 channels at once (from the stereo onboard mics and from two external mics), has better sounding preamps, a bigger LCD screen, and can be outfitted with a remote control (for about 40 bucks extra).

Another important feature is that not only can you can use all three Zoom models as standalone handheld recorders, but  you can also connect them to your computer and record to the audio program you’ll be editing with. If you don’t record directly into your computer, you would record the the Zoom’s included 512 MB memory card, and then load that to your computer. You can purchase larger memory cards.

Another option is the Edirol R09HR. There is actually a “B stock” one at Zzounds for around $300.. These do essentially the same thing as the Zoom with a few differences. The Edirol cannot be used to record directly to your computer. You’d have to record to the device, and then load the audio files into a program like Audacity (a free audio editor). Unlike the Zooms, the Edirol comes with a remote control. So, you can sit down at your instrument and press “record” on the remote. Will you ever use this feature? I don’t know! I’d probably lose the remote.

Personally, I’d like a device that I could record straight into a computer with, as well as record with when I’m out. It depends on your situation.

Hope that helped!  Let me know if you need a recording class, or a class on Audacity, Cubase, Pro Tools, or anything else!

Thanks,

Daniel Rowland
lessons@theonlineaudioschool.com

Question: Best MIDI Guitar Converter?

On August 2, 2009, in Music Technology, by Daniel Rowland

I’m a guitar player interested in MIDI guitar–playing sounds (piano, etc) on my computer with my guitar. What interface would you suggest? Would my regular audio interface work (I don’t think so from the specs)? Thanks again for your help. You need a special interface to use your guitar as a MIDI controller. I do […]

I’m a guitar player interested in MIDI guitar–playing sounds (piano, etc) on my computer with my guitar. What interface would you suggest? Would my regular audio interface work (I don’t think so from the specs)?

Thanks again for your help.

You need a special interface to use your guitar as a MIDI controller. I do this, and I love it! You’ll be able to trigger pad sounds behind your playing, play strings/piano/whatever…even drums. You can even have each string trigger a different instrument. I recently worked on a session with the guitarist Adrian Belew, and he loves the MIDI guitar thing.

If you don’t have a special pickup built into your guitar, you can buy one separately or as part of a guitar synth package. Or, you can buy a guitar with the pickup built it. Keep reading for more info!

With the pickup, the output of your guitar is transferred over a 13 pin connector cable. This isn’t MIDI, it’s actually just audio, being taking independently from each string of you guitar (by a special “hex” pickup in the guitar). After that, all you need an audio to MIDI converter. Here are your options:

Axon AX50
$500 Strictly a guitar to MIDI converter, though it is certainly one of the best.  It is also a very simple device (as you can probably see from the link).  The Axon Ax100 is the big brother of the Ax50, and has sounds built into it. Might be overkill for you.

Roland GI20 A popular guitar-to-MIDI converter box. Sometimes these are bundled with the special pickup you’ll need, so you can save a bit of cash.  You plug your 13 pin cable into the GI20, and connect the device to your computer via USB. There is also and instrument out on this that you would connect to your audio interface/amp. Remember, the 13 pin cable carries your regular guitar signal, along with signal from each of the 6 strings (that will be converted into MIDI). So, you only need to plug one cable into your guitar! The converter will break it out into an separate audio (guitar) and MIDI signal. It works great. This has an instrument out and connects via USB.

Roland GR20
This unit actually has sounds in it already. It has foot-switches and an expression pedal which you can use to change patches on the fly. You can also take MIDI out to the computer and control the devices in Logic (over MIDI cables, not USB). I own one of these, with a pickup mounted on a Strat. It works well, though I really don’t use the sounds on it. Having the footpedals is nice, for things like sustain pedaling (think piano) and volume. I’d say that the tracking (the speed/accuracy of the audio to MIDI conversion) is a little slower on the GI20, though by milliseconds. Remember, the GR20 has sounds in it (it’s a synthesizer, as well as a guitar-to-MIDI converter). So, if you just want to trigger sounds on your computer, then I’d recommend the previous product.

Roland VG99
This is the king of 13pin guitar interfaces. I really want one! It costs more–around $800-900 dollars, however. This device functions as a guitar to MIDI converter (USB to the computer), as well as amp modeler/effects device. You can create patches that virtually retune your guitar to an open G (for instance), though you haven’t actually retuned you guitar at all. Any amps sound or effect is in it. It even has a Dbeam infrared feature, where you can wave your hand and change parameters.  There as some absolutely crazy/stunning sounds in this thing. It is a deep piece of gear. Again, if you want to stay entirely in Logic, this is not for you. It’s not cheap, and it may be overkill if you’ll only be playing nylon string. It would also be another relatively complicated piece of gear for you to tackle (along with Logic). Having said that, the VG99 is amazing

Ok, there you go. You’re really putting me to work! MIDI guitar is really fun, though.
Keep in mind that you may eventually want to get a MIDI foot controller to use for sustain pedal, patch changes, volume, or for other MIDI functions. There are several to choose from–let me know when you get there!

Thanks!

Daniel
lessons@theonlineaudioschool.com

The Online Audio School

Question: Best Audio Interface?

On August 2, 2009, in Music Technology, by Daniel Rowland

New blog post: “Help! What’s the best interface for Logic Pro or Garageband? Thanks!” Hey! Here are a few interfaces that I’ve used and/or am confident work very well with Logic. You really have two categories of interface. Do you want something that just does input and output, or do you want an interface that […]

New blog post:
“Help! What’s the best interface for Logic Pro or Garageband? Thanks!”

Hey!
Here are a few interfaces that I’ve used and/or am confident work very well with Logic. You really have two categories of interface. Do you want something that just does input and output, or do you want an interface that also gives you control over Logic (faders, pan, transport functions, etc). I’ve listed a few of both. Another key concern for you is the number of preamps on the devices. Many advertise that they have “10 input channels” for instance. Well, 2 of those channels may be mic/instrument inputs (with mic preamps) and the other 8 may be line inputs, which are useless to you unless you have external mic preamps or an external mixer.

You’d mentioned whether you need an external mixer or not. That really depends on the interface you buy and the number of mic inputs you need. Again, if you are just recording yourself, two should be fine. If you need to add a third (or more), you could buy a few inexpensive external mic preamps to feed into the line inputs of your audio interface, or by a mixer and utilize the preamps on that.

I’m not trying to be confusing, by the way. I also don’t know how familiar you are with mic, line, and instrument levels, so forgive me if some of this is unclear. Let me know and I’ll break it down for you.

The Alesis MasterControl–this unit has 2 mic pre/instrument inputs and 6 line inputs, connects via firewire, and is also a control surface for Logic. I’ve included a link to the unit on Zzounds, as well as a video showing how the MasterControl works (in Cubase, but Logic will be the same). About $900.
Master Control video

The Apogee Duet–two channels (total) of I/O. Two mic preamps/instrument inputs. Very simple design, made by a company known for good sound quality. About $500.

Focusrite Saffire Pro–8 preamps (unlike the two previous interfaces, which have 2). Two headphone outputs, in case you are recording with, or engineering for,  another musician. This company is known for good mic preamps. This also comes with some plugins. However, Logic most likely has all the plugins you’ll ever need. When you hear Logic’s  convolution reverb Space Designer on your nylon string, you may very well cry. Again, about $500

MBox 2 Pro This is a Digidesign/Pro Tools interface. So why am I including it? Well, you get Pro Tools when you buy it. Depending on who you’re working with, you may find that you need to be able to open Pro Tools sessions, as Pro Tools is kind of a standard for many people. That doesn’t mean it’s better! Buying this interface would kill two birds with one stone–you’d get  2 mic pre/instrument inputs and 2 line inputs (for more preamps, if you need them), firewire connectivity, and 2 headphone jacks. You could run Logic with it, and you’d get a copy of Pro Tools (which you could learn later). I actually own one of these and use it with Pro Tools and Logic everyday. If you don’t foresee yourself needing to work with people running Pro Tools (other musicians/engineers), then this probably isn’t the best option, though it is a quality interface.  Price is $600.

We didn’t talk about your budget, so I’ve kept things reasonable. You could find a few cheaper interfaces, and a number of more expensive ones. The links I’ve included will take you to Zzounds, who I’ve been buying my gear from since I was 16. They’re a good company, they’re prices are as low as anyones, and they have a very good return policy, which is important with this sort of thing. In the interest of full disclosure, if you buy gear from them, I get a few percentage points from the sale. Keep in mind that has nothing to do with the interfaces I chose for you. If that were the case, I would have found some really expensive stuff! Regardless of where you buy your gear and Logic, feel free to keep in contact with me if you need help. I also do “one-time” classes, where I help people setup their new gear and get it working properly with their computer, if you end up needing that.

Regardless, it was good to meet you.

Daniel Rowland
lessons@theonlineaudioschool.com

Question: Best Keyboard MIDI controllers?

On August 2, 2009, in Music Technology, by Daniel Rowland

Daniel, Thank you for the webinar on Pro Tools (and Logic). I’m thinking about upgrading from Garageband; maybe getting a keyboard controller to trigger the synth sounds on the computer: any suggestion about the keyboard controller? thank you again for your support and explanations. Hey there! If you’re upgrading from Garageband, check out this page […]

Daniel,

Thank you for the webinar on Pro Tools (and Logic).
I’m thinking about upgrading from Garageband; maybe getting a keyboard controller to trigger the synth sounds on the computer: any suggestion about the keyboard controller?

thank you again for your support and explanations.

Hey there!
If you’re upgrading from Garageband, check out this page on Logic Studio. Version 9 is on it’s way. Make sure that if you buy version 8, that they include the upgrade to version 9 for free. Otherwise, I’d just preorder version 9, though you may have to wait a bit for it to be released. The upgrade cost is $200! Don’t get caught in that trap, regardless of who you purchase Logic from.

Well, there’s a few ways to go on a MIDI controller. The first thing to consider is whether or not you want a controller that has the feel of a real piano (or close to it). Weighted keys cost more money, or course. From the sound of it, you probably aren’t interested in that, but if you are, let me know. I can give you a few more  suggestions.

You can get a basic MIDI controller for very cheap. The big questions are: how many keys (25-88), do you want drum pads on the controller, and do you care about “automap” features (more on that in a bit). Again, if you’re a piano guy, then you’d most likely want more keys. Here are a couple of options.

Novation Remote 37
These are normally $500, but there are a few “Factory resealed” ones at Zzounds for $400–going fast. Still pricey, though, but for a reason. These controllers have 37 keys (though there are larger versions), drum pads, and also have a cool “automap” feature. When you open up a synth or plugin, the controls on the Novation (knobs and sliders) automatically map themselves to relevant parameters on the softsynth, giving you easy control over parameters. Of course, you could just use your mouse to change these parameters. If the automap thing isn’t appealing to you, then there are cheaper MIDI controllers that will work just as well as this one. If you like the automap idea, I can give you a few other controllers which do the same thing.The MAudio Axiom Pro is one. They tend to be a bit pricey, as is the Novation.

MAudio Axiom 61
These are very common/popular. They come in several different sizes: 25 key, 49 key, and 61 key. The 61 is the largest and most expensive–$299. Still, not a bad price. These have faders and knobs which can be assigned to parameters in Logic (if you do a little programming), and they also have drum pads. I’ve used these quite a bit.

MAudio Keystation Pro
This is a full-size, semiweighted 88 key controller, with tons of assignable knobs and slider. If you don’t need a very large keyboard, then pass on this guy. I’ve used them–their pretty good, especially given that they only cost $400.

Now, if you really don’t care about have a bunch of knobs, sliders, and drum pads to assign to parameters in Logic, and you really don’t care about having weighted action on the keyboard, then you can pick up a controller for a little over $100.

MAudio Keyrig 49
49 keys (no knobs/sliders)….$100. The 88 key version is $199–semi-weighted keys. The quality can’t be very high for this price. But, honestly, it’s a MIDI controller…you press a key and it sends out a note. Pretty simple. This keyboard (and the one that follows) lack a MIDI feature called aftertouch. Honestly, it may not matter to you at all, though. With aftertouch, as you hold down a note or chord, the controller sends out messages describing the pressure you apply to the keys (as you hold them down). This information is used in some synth patches to add an extra degree of feel. For example, the volume or filtering of the sound may change as you press harder/let up on the keys.

MAudio Oxygen 49
Same as the Keyrig 49, except with assignable knobs and sliders. $139 The 61 key version is $169

And lastly,….My favorite drum pad controller is the Korg PadKontrol.
I don’t get the impression that you’re looking to program/play drums, but if you are, this controller is fun. You can do snare drum/cymbal rolls on the X/Y pad, which is pretty innovative and very realistic sounding. There are a number of different types of drum controllers though. Check them out here!

If you have any more specific questions, let me know!
Thanks,

Daniel

The Online Audio School .com
lessons@theonlineaudioschool.com