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Best DAW for me? And a controller?

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  • Best DAW for me? And a controller?

    I make alternative rock, indie rock, and electronic rock, and I would like something that helps me encompass those sounds.

    I don't have money for real instruments. However, I would like a keyboard that is compatible, as in, it registers my input on the keys and translates it to various sounds into the DAW program. I am going to compose entirely within the program itself.

    I have a windows setup, but hey, if mac is the way to go, I could rig Mac OS on my pc. Anyway, point is I don't want OS to be a deciding issue.

    Thanks for any advice or suggestions!


  • #2

    Sounds like you want a midi compatible keyboard. You can buy a straight midi keyboard relatively cheap these days. They make no sound on their own, and rely on the software/virtual instruments to do this. They come in different sizes and cost ranges, weighted keys and varying amounts of on board controls. I've even seen mini Korgs for as low as $39 new that will plug in via a USB port.

    The other option is to buy something like a cheap Casio or Yamaha that has both tone generation and midi ins/outs. Many can be bought for $100 and less. These have an advantage over a straight midi keyboard. They have built in speakers for listening to the instruments when you aren't plugged into a computer, they usually have 100 different voices like piano, organ, strings, horns etc, they usually have 100 different drum beats and even auto accompaniment built in where you can play the bass parts with one hand and the keyboard melody with the other. Then you can record what you play into the unit itself and play it back later.

    Some of the stuff id cheesy but having a backing track for writing is handy. Main thing is you aren't glued to the computer when writing music and you can always rearrange what you play back into the computer later adding different voices/instruments etc. I've even used them for manually tapping in drum parts off the keys.

    Besides using them for midi, you can use the keyboard analog output to record at the same time for fatter voiced sounds. 

    For the computer, you need a DAW program capable of recording midi. Most all of them will do this. Its a matter of what virtual instruments they come with. If you record with midi, windows uses a stock midi list of sounds used for your computers animated sounds. These cover the normal orchestra of sounds, but nothing spectacular. You can download plenty of free virtual instruments form places like KVR that can be used as plugins for your midi guitar. You should be able to find some decent synths, pianos, organs etc from there. Then you can Google up others. Some are inexpensive and some elaborate and expensive. I'd start with the free ones and whatever comes with the DAW program first till you get to know what you're doing first.

    Connectivity between the keyboard midi outs can be done through a standard sound cards joystick port. You need a midi adaptor dongle that can be bought cheap, or you can get yourself an inexpensive interface that has midi ports on it. The Interface is a better option for a few reasons. If you want to record voices or other analog instruments, those instruments will need to be converted to digital. A DAW program may not even see a standard windows sound card so recording with it or interfacing with the DAW program is not possible.

    Onboard sound cards use windows drivers and are slow converting analog or midi. If you use a midi keyboard, there may be a delay between the time you hit a note and hear it through your monitors which makes recording difficult to impossible. An interface is designed to use ASIO drivers which drastically reduce latency and your virtual midi instruments will play near real time through the computer.

    If you get a midi keyboard with a USB port then you don't need an interface card, but you wont be able to record anything analog. You may pay more for the instrument up front but you don't have to pay the addition $50 or so for an interface.

    I barely scratched the surface here and there's a whole lot more to it than I could possibly post here. I'm not a midi expert either. I know enough to connect my instruments and get them to work, record and edit and that kind of stuff. I'm more into analog recording because I can play all the instruments. I'm not into building music note for note either, but that can be done using midi sequencing. There's also building with loops if you're into that kind of stuff. Its kind of like taking a document in MS Word and rearranging the words and sentences already written to say what you want without being able to type and spell the words yourself. It has some basis of originality but you are effectively chopping up someone else work and building off of it. Again, I play the instruments and do it all from scratch, but if you are a non musician and have the patience to deal with all the editing involved in creating a composition, its one path to creating music. Music is just a chain of events based on a time clock and cutting an pasting sounds together can work.

    For more info I'd check with the Keyboard forum and Google up more info. Recording requires allot of self education and hands on. You can begin very inexpensively then upgrade when you have a clue to what path is suitable to your desires. Basically you need a keyboard, and interface and a DAD program to record, edit, mix and play back your work. You can do all that for under $100 if you go basic and buy wisely. You can get several DAW programs free or in an interface bundle. I saw Cubase being sold in an interface bundle for under $50 and all you'd need is a keyboard. Or if you get a keyboard with a USB port all you'd need is a free DAW program to interface it.  

    Comment


    • mike.sartori
      mike.sartori commented
      Editing a comment
      It's tough to beat logic for soft synths and composing, but it is OS X. I'm not sure if you can run it on a windows machine because I've heard there's some problems with the core audio drivers not working right.


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