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Music, Audio, and Podcasting Do you use your Mac to create music? This is the place for discussions on creating and editing music on the Mac!

I'd like to start making some music . . . advice please


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DrQuincy

 
Member Since: Nov 10, 2006
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I used Cubase with a Korg M1 on an Atari ST way, way back in the early nineties so as you can imagine I am well out of touch with the industry. I have a couple of questions about making music. Now I have my Mac I would like to start making some ambient / trance / electronica type music for use with some of the software I develop. I'd like to start off with some basic sequencing but would like to gradually build my knowledge up in this area. I'd like some assistance in deciding what software to go for.

I believe I have all the hardware I will need for the time being. I have a Macbook Pro, a MIDI keyboard and a zero latency external USB sound card. I've rigged it all up and it works fine through Garageband.

Now, where do I go from here?

I'd like to start using, ideally, a single piece of software that will accommodate my needs now and when I start to get a little more advanced. Will something like Logic Pro be best seeing as I'm on Mac? Would I need Pro or Express? Is Express just limited to stereo and fewer inputs? If that's the case Express would do fine.

The biggest thing I am finding hard to get my head round is the software synths. Now, back when I did it the Korg came with all the sounds. How does it work with modern software? Let's say I want to make some ambient tunes where do I get all the "sounds" from? Does the software come with them? Do you somehow make your own? Do you have to buy or obtain them from a third party?

Sorry for such basic questions but this is something I've wanted to do for some time and I've no clue where to start. This will be a long term project for me that I will dip in and out of when I have spare time.
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Aptmunich

 
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Start off with garageband just to get a feel for things.

Add a new software instrument track and pick a software "instrument".
That's your synth right there.

You can buy additional plug-ins and software instruments, either for Garageband ("jam packs") or for apps like Logic Express.

Mess around with a few different tracks to get a feel for things, and upgrade to Logic or Logic express when you feel you are running into boundaries.

Remember: It's all about the music, not about the software
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Zoolook

 
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Fantastic post, because your experience is similar to mine. I used Sequencer One on the Atari ST with just a little Kawai K4 Module and a tiny Yamaha midi keyboard. A few years later I had Pro 24, Yamaha SY85, SH101, Juno 60 and a Boss Dr Rhythm (remember those?).

Anyway - I tried Cubase VST 3.1 on the PC for about 4 months among a bunch of other stuff, but found creativity hard as I was in a new job, new relationship and new house... A few years ago I got into Ableton Live and used this with Cubase SX 2, but again struggled with time.

... cue now and I got my shiney Mac. I jumped straight in to Logic Express. Do play around with Garage Band, as the workflow is similar (although massively cut down and you get far far better intruments in Logic) but Logic is great, I heartely recommend it - go and play with it in a music shop! I was lucky that a place opposite where I work had an Apple rep just as I went to ask about it and he demo'ed it for me for about 40 minutes. I have never pulled out my credit card so fast in all my life...

I have used a crap load of sequencers in the past (those I have listed, plus Reason and Cakewalk in the old days and until I got rid of my PC recently, I also had Fruity Loops). I'd say Logic is probably the sweetest sequencer I have used so far. There are a few things you need to get used to, but real pro stuff like being able to drag a midi track to an audio track and have it render (instantly) the entire audio track with all effects and recorded event, is something you don't get at this price in Cubase.

It doesn't sound like you need Logic 'Pro'. There are a few differences, like a few less plugins and one of the sampler intruments has slightly more restrictions when it comes to editing waveforms, but that's it. You get a funky FM synth, a couple of analogue synths and an amazing Synth+Sampler that can sound incredible. You also get a load of plugins (the popular ones and a few suprises) and of course you can add your own plugins and synths.

Phew.

Now the intruments. As I said, you get 5 I think, in Logic and they're a great place to start, in fact at least 2 I would say are comparable feature wise with $200 standalone intruments and sound exceptionally good. You can add other Audio compatible intruments. I really want the Yamaha CS80, but it's as expensive as Logic, so I am not going to buy it until I create something that really needs it.

Finally hardware. In Windows I had some meaty setups, but you always got the odd stutter, latency and dropouts, especially when doing things on the screen. This doesn't happen in Logic, ever, unless you deliberately overload the system and start playing Quake. it uses the CoreDuo too, you get 2 CPU bars and it spreads the load (although it's possible for one meaty intrument to take up a whole core if you add enough effects). I use a modest MacBook with a gig of RAM running at 2.0ghz and I get latency on the internal audio of around 40 msecs. Honest! If someone told you they got that on a Dell, you'd laugh and stick them on your ignore list.

Logic! Did I sell it to you?

Not to be too biased, consider Ableton Live 6 (download the demo). It's more for mixing, has amazing drag and drop loop capabilities but also a fairly solid sequencer. Reason is a good intrument base, but I always thought the sequencer was poor. A good rewire app. As for Cubase... for me, overweight and over priced, but you may think differently.

email me if you want - I'll answer any question on Logic.

For $300, it's an utter bargain.

BTW, which external sound module did you get?

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DrQuincy

 
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Hi there

Thanks so much for taking the time to make such a lengthy reply.

You've really sold it to me! What has really impressed upon me in the short time I have had a Mac is how good the software Apple makes for it. So, if there's a choice between an Apple and non-Apple product GET APPLE'S VERSION. (I recently ditched Premiere for FCP for example).

When you say you get 5 instruments - what does that mean exactly? If I wanted to meant some chilled out electronica music can I do that with Logic Pro / Express without buying anything third party plugin? Sorry if that's a daft quaestion but I'm still think in a 1990s Atari ST / Korg M1 mindset.

Oh, and I have a Alesis io2 sound card. It came with Cubase LE but since I have a Mac and I've heard people rave about Logic Pro I thought I'd ask about that first.
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Zoolook

 
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You can do chilled out music, with what you get in the package...

OK, so I now have logic open in front of me, which helps.

You get an FM synth (EFM1), 3 analogue synths (ES E, ES P and ES1) and a Sample/Synth module called the EXSP24.

Now with the EXSP24, you get about 600 ready made patches or so, plus you can make your own from the sample library or using wave forms. Patches include everything from a multi-sampled Grand piano, choirs and woodwind intruments, through to sampled Jupiter 8 patches, polysynths etc. For ANY of these patches, you can change the ADSR for the amplitude and filters, plus there are 3 indepdent LFOs. There is also a powerful filter, with resonance, that can do high pass, band pass and low pass at different dB levels. To be honest, there isn't a single sound you cannot get out of this. If you want, I'll send you a sample or two.

The FM synth gives you two ADRSs (one for modulation and the other for amplitude) plus basic harmonics, modulation and feedback. It's not as complex as the DX7, but better than all the cheap rip-off FM synths. It also has some patches for piano, FM bass and organs etc.

2 analogue synths are similar. The esp p is probably the best, with 6 analogue wave forms, frequency and resonance filters and some chorus, but no LFO. The es e adds PWM but only gives you two wave forms. I usually use these together to create a layered patch.

The ES1 is easy to overlook, but is in some ways my favourite. You get 8 wave forms, or can use external waves, plus filter/resonance, two oscilators and you get LFO (with 7 wave forms) for amp/filter, a modulation envelope (simple but useful), chorus effect, ADSR obviously, but also two gates as well, plus manual osc sync to create your own PWM effects. Nice.

On top of all that... you get all the garage band intruments. To be honest, you'd be hard pressed to find a sound you cannot create in Logic using the bog standard intruments. What are you waiting for? :black:

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is stoned to death.
- Joan D. Vinge

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Anderz_R

 
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Hiya,

I'm also looking to start recording music at home and am interested in using a Mac. I've used PCs running Cakewalk in the past but have always found setup so fiddly with soundfonts and mapping to setup and nothing ever being easy. Most of the time I spend all day setting up the PC and not actually recording!

I'm looking at the mid-range Macbook Pro laptops and Logic Express and just wondered if the onboard soundcard would be good enough to do decent recording and playback of multiple software synths etc? Is latency any good on these laptops or is a desktop the only way to go?

Cheers for any advice!

Anders
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Zoolook

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderz_R View Post
Hiya,

I'm also looking to start recording music at home and am interested in using a Mac. I've used PCs running Cakewalk in the past but have always found setup so fiddly with soundfonts and mapping to setup and nothing ever being easy. Most of the time I spend all day setting up the PC and not actually recording!

I'm looking at the mid-range Macbook Pro laptops and Logic Express and just wondered if the onboard soundcard would be good enough to do decent recording and playback of multiple software synths etc? Is latency any good on these laptops or is a desktop the only way to go?

Cheers for any advice!

Anders
The simple answer is that, yes, the sound hardware in any of the Macs is good enough for audio recording. Spend a decent amount of money on connections though and remember that the Mac can actually take in a digital signal.

On latency, well on PC systems this was never really down to the hardware on the sound card, more the way it integrated to the system (PCI) and the software. In a Mac, you get Core Audio which essentially means the audio is captured directly by the CPU, so no Northbridge to PCI to Card and back again for a nice 300 Msec delay - even on the most basic new Mac, you'll get latency of around 50 msec at worst, without dedicated hardware. A program like Logic has very easy to use latency compensation. I even managed to sync Logic on my Mac to Live 6 on a friends PC and play live music - including external sound modules.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is stoned to death.
- Joan D. Vinge

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egandolfi

 
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Holy Shnikeys!!!! I want to start recording music, but I have never done it before. I play the drums so opposite of most people that will be recorded live and the rest will be software instruments. Is there a good resource to understand what you said above????
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