Creative Discovery in Digital Art Forms
Setting Up to Record Digital Audio and MIDI
The first part of this lab exercise was created on a Windows XP computer that has an internal sound card as well as an M-Audio Fast Track external sound interface and an M-Audio Keystation MIDI controller attached to it. The exercise is written as if your computer is set up in the same way. However, what you see in your settings windows is different for each computer, depending on the operating system, internal sound cards, and external audio interfaces that are installed on the computer. You should try to find the equivalent settings and do equivalent activities with your own computer and software.
1.2External Sound Interfaces and Their Drivers
If you have an external sound interface attached to your computer, you may need to install a driver for it. If you don’t have the driver, you can generally find it downloadable from the manufacturer’s website.
1.3Default System Settings for Audio and MIDI
Find and examine the audio settings for your computer. You can make default settings for input and output. These can later be overridden by the particular audio/MIDI software you’re using.
When you click on the volume icon in your task bar, you’ll see the volume settings for the various types of output. (If the speaker icon is not on the taskbar, it’s because you haven’t chosen that option in your Control Panel. In that case, you have to go to the Control Panel, click on Sound and Audio Devices, and on the Volume tab of the window that pops up, select “Place volume icon in the taskbar.”)
If you want to make settings for Recording, you have to go to Options/Properties.
Check the Recording button.
What you see here depends on the sound card you’ve selected in the top drop-down box. For the M-Audio Fast Track, there’s only one recording setting we can make, Capture.
If we select the internal sound card in the drop-down menu, we have other settings we can make.
When we choose the internal sound card as the Mixer Device (in this case, SoundMAX HD Audio), then we have choices for the input source for the recording. Generally, you’ll want to choose the microphone as your input source.
You can also make settings from the Control Panel.
After opening the Control Panel, click on Sound and Audio Devices.
This is where you set your default input and output devices for audio and MIDI. That is, this is where you choose the default sound card through which input and output is processed.
We’ve chosen the M-Audio Fast Track as the sound playback and sound recording device. Above, the USB Audio Device is chosen as the MIDI music playback device. USB Audio Device in this case refers to a MIDI controller that is connected to the computer via USB. This isn’t a good choice for MIDI output because the MIDI controller we’re using at this moment doesn’t have a synthesizer, a sampler, or speakers. If we change this to Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth, then the internal sound card will serve as the MIDI sampler, generating the MIDI sounds for us. This setting is fine for now. Actually, we’ll override it later in our digital audio processing program.
Now we’re ready to open an application program. First let’s try Cakewalk Music Creator.
Open Cakewalk Music Creator and create a new project. A “Normal” project will have an audio track and a MIDI track. If you select an empty project, you can always add tracks later.
It’s important that you select the All tab. This gives you the best view of your settings for the audio and MIDI track. You can see all the settings for inputs to and output from the sound card on the audio tracks and also channels and patches on the MIDI track. You can see that the All tab is selected in the picture below because it says All in white in the lower left part of the window.
2Working in Cakewalk Music Creator
2.1Selecting the Driver Mode and Input and Output Drivers in Cakewalk Music Creator
The first time you use Music Creator, your audio is probably set to MME (multimedia environment) driver mode. You can see the setting by going to Options/Audio and looking at the Advanced tab.
We’re going to change this later, but let’s examine the MME setting first. If the driver mode on the Advanced tab isn’t already MME, set it to MME. Then when you click on the Drivers tab, you have more than one choice for audio input and output.
The inputs and outputs that you select on the Drivers tab are made available as the input or output devices for particular tracks in Music Creator. (We’ll show you how this is done in a moment.) Different tracks can get their input from different sources and send their output to different devices. You can check all the drivers in the Drivers tab, making them all available to the Music Creator tracks.
However, we’re not going to use the MME driver mode. Let’s go back to the Advanced tab. ASIO driver mode is a better choice for my setup, so let’s choose this one.
The advantage of the ASIO driver is that it doesn’t do its processing through the main processor. There’s less latency when you use the ASIO driver. Latency is a lag between when you press a key on the MIDI keyboard and when you hear it. It’s very difficult to synchronize audio and MIDI as you record when you have noticeable latency.
After choosing ASIO as the driver mode, Music Creator has to be shut down and restarted.
After restarting Music Creator, go again to Options/Audio and select the Drivers tab.
If M-Audio Fast Track isn’t the driver selected for both input and output on the Drivers tab, you have to deselect both the current selections, and then select the M-Audio Fast Track for input and output.
Once your driver mode and input and output drivers are set correctly, you’re ready to select the inputs and outputs for the tracks in your project. You don’t need to record in stereo, so you can select the input as shown in the picture below.
Set the output to the Fast Track. This implies that the Fast Track will have to be connected to speakers or headphones. The Fast Track processes the audio output, but it doesn’t create the sound since it has no speakers.
Record on the audio track by arming the track for recording and pressing the record button.
Rewind and press play to listen to what you recorded.
2.3Setting Inputs and Outputs for a MIDI Track and Recording MIDI
Now let’s work on the settings for the MIDI track. Set the input to USB Audio Device/MIDI Omni. This causes the input to be received from the M-Audio keystation MIDI controller, which is connected to the computer by USB.
If we check the output drop-down menu, we have only Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth and New Drum Map as choices. If we choose the Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth, then our internal sound card will create the MIDI sounds for us.
Arm the MIDI track for recording and record MIDI notes.
Press rewind and then play to listen to your recording.
Music Creator offers its own MIDI synthesizer called the TTS-1. To use it, you need to set up a track with this synthesizer.
The MIDI track that you already have sends its output to the TTS-1 MIDI synthesizer track.
The TTS-1 MIDI synthesizer track sends its output to the M-Audio Fast Track.
Open the TTS-1 software synthesizer by making the selections shown below.
If you say that you want the Synth Property Page and the Synth Rack view to come open, they pop open and look like what is shown below. The Synth Property Page is the larger of the two, showing the channels of the TTS-1 software synthesizer. The Synth Rack shows all the software synthesizers you’ve inserted.
After you insert the TTS-1 track, your environment looks like what is shown below. Now you can set the MIDI track’s output to the TTS-1.
Set the channel to channel 1. Set the bank to the first bank available on the drop-down menu.
With the MIDI track’s output set to the TTS-1, you can set the patch to be any of the available instruments, as shown below.
Arm the MIDI track for recording.
Press the record button. Record something by playing on the MIDI controller. You should be able to see that you’ve recorded something in the track.
Rewind and press the play button to play what you recorded.
2.5Editing MIDI in Different Views
For the demonstration that follows, I’ve recorded a section of a Mozart Sonata. I’ll use this recording to demonstrate how to edit MIDI after you’ve recorded it.
Here’s what the recording looks like before it’s edited.
You can see some triangles at the bottom of the track. They indicate that at the beginning of the piece, I was using the sustain pedal, which makes the notes hold longer and blend together. It didn’t sound good, so I think we should take it out.
One way to delete the sustain pedal is to look at the Event List view. Click on the Event List view icon, pointed to with the arrow below.
On the Event List view, you can see the sustain pedal commands. They’re control commands, one saying that the pedal is on, and then one saying it’s off. I’m going to delete these.
You can see the Note On commands in the Event List view, also. These show the note being played, the number corresponding to that note (according to the MIDI protocol), and the time when it was played.
If you double-click on the MIDI track, an enlarged Piano Roll view will appear. Here you can see that for this keyboard, middle C is C5, which means that the note C one octave above middle C would be C6, and so forth1. The number that MIDI gives to middle C is 60. When a Note On message is sent to indicate that middle C is to be played, one argument to the message is 60. The other argument is the velocity with which the note should be played.
If you don’t know how to read music, just follow along with the music notation as best you can and try to get the gist of it.
I made a mistake as I was playing the end of the song. There are various ways that I can fix this. One is in the Piano Roll view.
The scrub tool in the Piano Roll view allows me to listen to the notes one at a time to verify their correctness. The eraser tool allows me to erase individual notes. The pencil tool allows me to write in notes.
The Staff view might be more helpful in fixing that problem, but before I use the Staff view, let’s straighten the staff out a little so that it looks more like the original sheet music from which I played.
The Staff view shows what key and time signature has been set for this piece. This doesn’t match the piece I’m playing. I could have set the key and time signature correctly before I played anything. I didn’t, but it doesn’t matter. I can fix it now. Changing the way the piece is written out in musical notation (now that it’s recorded) doesn’t change how it sounds.
The correct key for this piece is G, meaning there is one sharp in the scale. The time signature is ¾ time, meaning there are three beats to a measure, and a quarter note gets one beat.
Right-clicking on the Staff View brings up a menu, from which you can choose Layout. This is where you indicate which clefs you want shown. The treble clef at the top of the view shows what the right hand plays. The bass clef at the bottom of the view shows what the left hand plays. You can also set the split point, which is the note around which the two clefs are separated. I’ll set a split point of F6 and indicate that both clefs should be displayed.
Go to the Insert menu and select Meter/Key Change. This is where you can change the key and time signature. I’ll make it the key of G, which has one sharp, and a time signature of ¾ time.
Now the Staff view looks like what is shown below, nearly identical to the sheet music from which I played.
Adjusting the Staff view to look just like the sheet music you might be playing from is merely a matter of standard music notation and appearance, not of sound. You’re not changing what you recorded or how it sounds.
There’s a detail to this that has been left out. In order to make this notation come out to look like the original sheet music, I had to set the tempo and metronome appropriately. I figured out how fast I could play the piece without making a lot of mistakes. This was a rate of 50 beats per minute (BPM), where a quarter note gets a beat. Thus, I set the tempo to 50 BPM.
set to 50
beats per minute
Then I turned on the metronome so that I could hear the beats tapped out for me, giving myself an 8 beat lead in. You can get to the metronome from the Options/Project menu.
Now that I have the Staff view straightened out, I can go in and correct my mistakes at the end. Since there are a couple of measures that have mistakes, both in the left and the right hand, it would be more efficient to use Punch In recording than to try to correct the mistakes note by note. In the Staff view, I select two measures and then click the Punch In recording button.
Then I set the play head back to a few measures before the ones I want to re-record and I press the Record button and begin playing along with what I already played. Recording will happen only over the part that I marked as the “punch in” area.
If you want to add Effects to the MIDI track, right click in the FX area and call up the
Cakewalk FX menu.
There aren’t very many special effects built into Music Creator. You’d have to buy additional plug-ins to get more. In any case, the Effects you put in place are stacked up in the FX rack and applied in the order in which they appear . The order can make a difference in the resulting sound. You can click on any of the Effects in the rack to upon its interface and reset the parameters.
The following section shows how you work with Logic Pro 8 on a Mac. The particular Mac computer being used for this demo is a Mac Book Pro running Mac OS X Version 10.4.11 (aka Tiger). For this demo, we have an M-Audio Fast Track external sound interface and a Yamaha PSR-GX76 MIDI keyboard connected to the computer. The Fast Track has external speakers connected to it. It also has a Shure SM58 microphone attached by means of an XLR connection.
First let’s look at the sound settings you can make for the Mac computer in general, apart from the settings in Logic Pro. You can make these settings through the system preferences.
If you click on the Sound icon, you see this window.
This is where you choose the default sound device (i.e., sound card or sound interface) through which sound effects, input, and output are processed. The window above pertains to the Sound Effects. In this case, if we click on the arrow for the drop-down menu that says Selected sound output device, we have a choice of internal speakers or Fast Track. The Mac automatically detects that the M-Audio Fast Track is connected.
If we click the Output button, you see the window below. Here we can choose the place through which we’ll hear the output from our Logic Pro recording session – either the internal speakers or the M-Audio Fast Track. Notice that if we set this to Fast Track but we didn’t have speakers or headphones connected to the Fast Track, we wouldn’t be able to hear anything.
The window below shows what is on the Input tab. We can get input either through the internal microphone of the Mac, the Fast Track, or Line in. (Line in is for something like a CD player or cassette player.) We choose the Fast Track. This makes it possible to record through the Shure SM-58 microphone that is attached to the Fast Track, which will give a better quality recording than the internal microphone.
Look at the screen capture of the System Preferences window on page 1. At the bottom of this window, you’ll see an icon for the M-Audio Firewire. This is not the same interface as the M-Audio Fast Track. The M-Audio Firewire has a more expensive interface with more input and output ports. Since it’s a more complicated device, it has more settings. We have previously used this external sound interface with this Mac, and thus we’ve installed the driver for it. That’s why you see the icon in the System Preferences. (Currently, the iMac in the Digital Media Lab does use the M-Audio Firewire device.)
The M-Audio Fast Track that we’re using for this demo is a simpler device and doesn’t offer any special settings through the System Preferences. It’s pretty much plug-and-play.
4Working in Logic Pro
4.1Starting a Project
Let’s open Logic Pro now.
When you first open it, you get this window.
It’s ok to create an empty project. You can always insert the tracks you want later. If fact, you’ll immediately be prompted to insert at least one track.
We want at least one audio track and one software instrument track. The software instrument track is your MIDI track.
Start by asking for one audio track. Recording in mono is fine. Your input is just input 1, and output is Output1-2. You don’t want input monitoring, since that can give you unwanted feedback.
Now when your project is opened, insert a software instrument track as shown below.
The library of MIDI instruments opens on the right. You have to choose an instrument for your MIDI track. Otherwise, you won’t hear anything when it plays. We’ve chosen a Pop Piano.
You have to save your project before you’re allowed to record anything. Go to File/Save and save your project. Create a folder in you home directory, under Documents.
First we’ll record audio. Arm the audio track for recording by clicking the R button on that track. There are three buttons. One is R for record, one is M for mute, and one is S for solo. When the R button is red, the track is armed for recording.
Once the track is armed, you can click the record button on the transport bar to record. The transport bar is shown below. The record button is the one with the circle on it, the right-most button on the left group of buttons.
Click the Record button and speak or sing something into the microphone.
If you get audio feedback while you’re recording, go to Logic Pro/Preferences/Audio, go to the Core Audio tab, and deselect Software Input Monitoring.
If you recorded audio successfully, it’s time to record some MIDI.
Disarm the audio track. Arm the MIDI track for recording.
Now press the record button and play something on the MIDI keyboard. You’ll know that you successfully recorded if you see lines on the track.
Set the playhead back at the beginning of the track and press play. You should hear what you recorded if everything is set up right.
If you recorded successfully, the track looks something like this.
If you heard a clicking sound when you pressed the record button, the metronome is on. The purpose of the metronome is to help you keep a regular time. It doesn’t get recorded on the MIDI track. However, if you’re recording on an audio track, it can get recorded there. If you want to turn it off, go to File/Project Settings/Metronome.
If you double-click on the MIDI track, you can see an expanded Piano Roll view. If you go to Window/Score, you see the Score view
For those of you who know how to read music, you can edit the Score view to be the key and time signature you want, indicate that you want both bass and treble clef, say where you want the separation between bass and treble, and so forth. You can edit both the Piano Roll and the core view note by note. You may want to explore for yourself how this is done.