Computer Software for Recording
March 18, 2005 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to record on my PC ( I have adequate Hardware) some music using guitars, bass, vocals, and some other instruments. I need suggestions for a good software program to use (money is not a problem) for the basic recording/tracking and a good program to create drum tracks from scratch. Please see extended explanation for more details.

I have a pretty good understanding of recording software (mostly from video fields) so I don't need a beginner program. Something for intermediate to advanced. I also don't like pre-programmed beats. I'd like to create my beats from scratch and have them easily incorperated into the recording software. I hope the details I've provided are adequate.
posted by derekislost to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Cubase SX is probably exactly what you're looking for. Ableton Live is great for loops and now enables live recording and some decent MIDI manipulation too. I use Nuendo, which is Cubase's big brother, though you probably only need it if you do music-to-video or need surround mixing.
posted by benzo8 at 7:15 AM on March 18, 2005

Cubase has a non intuative interface, IMHO.

Mackie produces Traktion, and it is very straightforward to use.

I use Live, but if you are doing acoustic stuff this may not be what you want.

Lots of good drum software, though you may be happier with hardware with pads (Akai MPC 1000.)

I need suggestions for a good software program to use (money is not a problem)

When you want to get serious, you'll eventually want to get ProTools LE to start.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 8:03 AM on March 18, 2005

Traktion's cute. I guess the Cubase interface might be non-intuitive if you've not grown up with it. And don't forget that ProTools (of any variety) will need DigiDesign hardware to run, from the MBox up...
posted by benzo8 at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2005

I can't recommend Live enough. While its setup is definitely intended for "Dj./electronic/techno" use, it is so damn intuitive and easily jerry-riggable that it can handle whatever you want to throw at it. I've used it for making beats, electro/acoustic stuff, live band recording, self-multitracking, you name it.

Granted it is not great/good for say, mastering, or serious surround mixing, but seriously, it is about as pro-quality as you need if you're not already doing things at a highly serious pro level. I'll second that cubase's interface is poo, and it's been a while since i've used protools, but that as well can feel like pulling teeth.

Really, with any computer sequencing/recording program, what's behind the curtain, conceptually, is almost 90% the same, it's the interface that makes the difference. and live's interface feels really transparent and musical. I say give it another update or two and it'll be challenging any of the 'big time' programs pound for pound.

Drumwise, there is any number of easy-to-use midi/vst programs that let you sequence shit, or again, live has a thing that you can set up and trigger live w/midi controller, mpc, keyboard, whatever. I recommend as a great resource for free drum samples (they've got a TON of synth stuff, too, but it gets samey after a bit.)
posted by Swampjazz! at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2005

Response by poster: Hey,

Don't know if I was clear above. I will def. need to mic stuff. Is Live good for that? Is "Live" the official name?

As for drum tracks. I have almost zero interest in pre-designed loops. I want to create drum tracks from the ground up. I don't mind using stock samples for the drum sounds though. Basically I'd like an interface similar to my old programmable drum machines or even something similar to the drum programming in Re-birth.

BTW - thks for all the suggestions.
posted by derekislost at 8:52 AM on March 18, 2005

I recommend FruityLoops , if you are on Windows.

It started out as a simple drum machine sequencer, but has evolved. IMHO it still has the best, most flexible sequencing interface available.
posted by C.Batt at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2005

Ableton Live is the correct name for the product, yes.

It's not unfamiliar to see the Live groupies proclaim it as the best thing since sliced-bread. And, at what it does, it is actually, the best thing since sliced bread.

Sadly, what it excels at is not what you're asking about, which is a multi-track recording environment. Yes, you can do that in Live, but not as successfully as you can do it in other packages designed specifically for that, and only by ignoring many of its other features, such as loop pitch-control, and scene triggering.

Steinberg's SX interface (and the Nuendo interface, which is similar) is intuitive if you've used hardware recording (mixers and tape or HD), and while I'm the first to admit that SX looks like a tox these days, it's still based on the track paradigm. In order to make the most of screen real-estate, it allows you to hide the mixer, or the channel inspector, or, in fact, that track lanes, when you don't want to see them, in effect, it's just reproducing a multichannel mixing console.

Of course, there are alternatives, and, as has been mentioned, a lot of what they do is the same - the difference tends to be in the look (although the digital summing of each sequencer is different and each product has a distinct sound, to some degree). Strangely, the one that doesn't fit into that category is Live...

Traktion is well designed and has an excellent way of handling plug-ins. N-Track Studio is very cheap, but suprisingly useful for the money, and, on a Mac, lots of people swear by Digital Perfomer. Don't ignore Samplitude or it's big brother, Sequoia, for audio recording either - they are widely regarded to have the best quality audio engine out of all the software products available. Cakewalk have lots of products in the marketplace, and Sonar is very good indeed, while Guitar Tracks might fit your needs very well. If you've got big bucks and want to use what most recording studios use, then yes, look at Pro Tools, but it's a big investment, and the gap between it's accellerated software and the native software of its competitors is nowhere near as large as it once was.

Most of these applications have demo versions available on the manufacturers' websites, so maybe it's worth you taking some time to check them out and see which ones work best for you.

When it comes down to creating drum rhythms - you can ReWire Rebirth to most sequencers these days, if that's how you feel most comfortable creating patterns. Otherwise, most of the sequencers offer the ability to create a drum pattern on a piano roll, or drum map, in MIDI and trigger a sampler (hardware or software). The MIDI editing facilities of the sequencer will enable you to duplicate segments of your track and save yourself keying in the whole thing, so you can effectively create exactly the groove you're looking for, then lay it out over the whole song. Sonar's Drum Map is particularly good for this, and the Cubase/Nuendo one has some detractors (it's fiddly altering the velocity levels, for instance). If this is all too much work, it might be worth investing in a MIDI controller - M-Audio are just about to release an MPC-alike controller for under $200 which will allow you to enter beats into almost any of the sequencers mentioned above as if playing on one of those old Akai's - then you can edit the MIDI to your heart's content.

I'm not pushing any agenda, but it does seem to me that the people pushing Live haven't really thought about your question at all. For a straight up, multi-track recording environment on your PC, it's nowhere near the best solution.

On Preview: FruityLoops is actually very good for the beat generation side of it (but not the audio-recording side but it can either be ReWired to a sequencer, or run as a plug-in). In the same vein, check out Reason, which again, has no audio recording facilties, but is great for beats and sequenced synths, and can be ReWired...
posted by benzo8 at 9:58 AM on March 18, 2005

Check out Sony's (previously Sonic Foundry's) Vegas. They've added lots of video features and sell it as primarily a video editor now but it's underpinnings and strength is in the multitrack audio side.

I've tried all of the others and nothing else compares to Vegas' deep features but easy to use (and FAST) interface, hardware and plugin support and rock solid stability. To top it off, it's not very expensive.

I've recorded and mastered multiple albums with Vegas, a good collection of Waves plugins and Izotope's Ozone (used for mastering). I've yet to find a better solution anywhere.
posted by aaronh at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2005

If you're going to use Sonic Foundry/Sony software, Vegas is way overpowered for your needs, with bells and whistles that are pointless. ACiD is better; provides recording capability, multi-track sequencing, MIDI support, DX and (I think) VST support, effects support.. pretty much exactly everything you need.

What I would suggest is a combination of that and FruityLoops. Use ACiD for recording your parts in, and for basic levels adjustment. Then start a new roject in F'loops, and insert the audio into the 'playlist' panel as disk-streamed audio (it's at the bottom).

Floops has massively better and more transparent effects/everything automation than just about any other program out there, IMHO, as well as an unbelievably transparent interface. The only thing I would suggest is that you either record, or buy a CD of, your own drum samples. The ones that come bundled with Fruity are ass.

All that said, however... if money's not an object, why not just buy studio time? At the very least, get everything professionally mastered.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2005

FruityLoops is actually very good for the beat generation side of it (but not the audio-recording side but it can either be ReWired to a sequencer, or run as a plug-in). In the same vein, check out Reason, which again, has no audio recording facilties

Not sure if it was your intention, but this implies that FruityLoops (or FL Studio as it is called now) does not have audio recording abilities. This is not true. You can record audio in FL Studio since at least v4, and v5 is out now.
posted by edlundart at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2005

No, that wasn't the intention - the intention was to say that it was very good at the beat generation side of things, but (imho) not very good at the audio recording side, but could be ReWired to an audio sequencer to handle that side of it.
posted by benzo8 at 4:26 PM on March 18, 2005

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