Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

An Introduction to the Components and Language of Recording Music on a Computer

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

An Introduction to the Components and Language of Recording Music on a Computer

Article excerpt

In a day and age when GarageBand comes standard on a Mac computer and software as sophisticated as Logic Pro has become downloadable as an app, it's probably time for a discussion that addresses the gap between the basic software to which Canadian students have liberal access and their teacher's ability to properly guide them through the mine field that is 'modern music recording.'

As a group, these software programs are called DAW: Digital Audio Workstations. They are many and sundry and they run the gamut from from 'open source,' free, very limited in capability (Audacity), to very comprehensive with a learning curve that rivals your average B.Ed (Pro Tools).

The more professional DAWs have entry level (usually signified by the words 'light', express, or by the designation Le) versions that are excellent for a number of reasons. For one reason, the 'full' version could easily overwhelm a beginner. For another reason, in the light version, users can A/B the software against others to see if they prefer the interface, design and features before spending hard-earned money on a new (really attractive but seldom used) icon for their desktop.

Once familiar, what becomes obvious about DAWs is that software of preference is really a matter of personal choice. What engineers and musicians use often depends on whatever they were exposed to first, what they find the easiest to use and often just what feels the most natural. For the record (at the writing of this article) Avid's Pro Tools is pretty much 'industry standard' among professional recording facilities and as such, is the most appropriate DAW for a left brained student with aptitude and a real desire to be an audio engineer. If a student (or teacher) is more of a musician/creator and just wants to record ideas when inspiration occurs with an ability to build on them after the fact, the DAW of choice is most often Logic Pro, the next logical step up from GarageBand.

Other DAWs in wide use are: Cakewalk (Sonar), Cubase & Nuendo (Steinberg), Studio One (PreSonus), Digital Performer (Motu) and Software Audio Workshop called SAW (RM Labs). While all of these DAWs have their own way of handling files internally, files from almost any of these can be saved as, or converted to, a common format that can be used by other platforms. Plug-ins, which are audio shaping tools such as reverb or compression, are handled differently between Mac and PC, the former being handled in .AU or audio units and the latter being handled in VST or Virtual Studio Technology. RTAS stands for Real Time Audio Suite and is the file extension of choice for Pro Tools. …

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