Thursday, 22 September 2011


So you have some music swimming around in your head, some chords and a few lines of lyrics with a really cool hook line. I used to love to walk and while I stepped a beat I would imagine music of all sorts. The only thing that I was limited by was the tempo of my walking pace. I soon got over that by imagining a different beat and unlinking the song in my head from my walking beat.

The really important thing is to get it out of your head and into a recorded format.

A few steps first… write it down! Write the words, write the chord progression. One trick I use is with my smart phone, I’ll actually record myself playing the chords so it doesn’t get lost in the translation. Sometimes when you’re just doodling around on the guitar you’ll hit upon some really interesting chord shapes and progressions which aren’t immediately easy to just write down.

Once you have a bit of a structure to the song it’s easier to then actually record it. You have a better idea of the drum beat you want, the tempo, the sound etc.

Getting the music recorded…. WOW… how easy is it these days to create CD or broadcast quality music in your own lounge room or bedroom or where ever!

Get yourself a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Some are free, some are not, some are easier than others to use, some integrate with internal and external sound cards or modules better than others. So here are my experiences.
I use MixCraft5 and I bought it for $90 with some extra drum loops and BeatCraft which is a drum beat creator. I bought it after using the trial version because it recognised every sound module I plugged in with no fuss. Others did not and I had to do a lot of tweaking and preference setting to get them to work. I want plug n play.. it should be THAT easy!
My friend uses and swears by Cool Edit pro because it syncs nicely with his big mother sound card with 16 in and out channels which he patches through patch panels into his big mother desk etc. etc..
I do my stuff in a little study room so I don’t have a huge setup. Or you might be in your bedroom, shed, kitchen or where ever.
MixCraft5 is like the PC version of Apple’s GarageBand and has lots of click n drag instrument loops, drum beats and virtual instruments that you can use the PC keyboard to play or plug in a USB keyboard controller.

The drum beat.. well that’s pretty straight forward, click, drag and drop into one of the tracks.

The guitars or bass are recorded via a USB sound module. These can be called guitar to USB recording links and look like this.
There is one made by Behringer for about $45 or check eBay for the same thing, probably from the same factory and for about $12 delivered. Comes with drivers if needed and some recording software as well but I didn’t like their program so looked for something else and found MixCraft.

The vocals are next and can be a little bit more tricky. There are heaps of USB microphones out there for all different prices. I bought a thing called a Lightsnake USB microphone cable which has the sound module interface built in AND has phantom power to power a condenser mic. I bought one ages ago for about $6 but they are now around $30 delivered and work best with a condenser mic which you can pick up on eBay for $45 delivered. Just remember that if you buy a condenser mic, it requires phantom power, either from the lightsnake or a mixing desk which then goes to a USB interface, again Behringer make a cheap one for this purpose, or you need an external phantom power supply which you plug the standard mic cable into then into an interface. I opted to keep it really simple.
If you want a USB keyboard to play the virtual instruments in the recording package, they range from about $60 up (I have a basic MAudio one), but you don’t have to have one at the moment. Just use your computer keyboard.

So that is my very basic set up which allows me to record what’s in my head.

Be sure to comment if you need any feedback on what you’re doing or you have an other ideas you can pass on to me.

So that’s it. Play it. Record it. Enjoy it!

Till next time,
Rock on