Home recording noob needs software suggestions for iMac
February 15, 2006 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Home recording noob: I need software suggestions for my iMac, and help getting my instruments to "talk" to the computer.

I'm a longtime professional musician, but haven't ever had the time or gear to do any home recording until now. I just acquired a used iMac (G4, 700 mHz, ample RAM) and have some other odds and ends (a good digital piano, an M-Audio Ozone to interface with the computer) and would like to start learning how to do this. I don't plan on doing heavy-duty projects; mainly just recording piano parts for the school choir I direct and doing demo versions of songs I've written.

1. I need some inexpensive software (I'd love to get Logic Express, but I'm broke right now and can't shell out $300). I have GarageBand 3, but it's really limited for my purposes; I'd like to have some control over tempo/meter changes within a song, for instance. An older program would be great as I know it would run on my box, but I wouldn't know what to look for.

2. Even in GarageBand (which I haven't played with for well over a year until today), I'm having trouble getting my piano to talk to it. I've set up my M-Audio Ozone, and it works well as a MIDI controller, but when I plug in my digital piano I can't get a signal on the computer. Consulting the manual doesn't help... it used to I used to know how to do this, but again, it's been a while.

3. Once I get to the point where I'm able to do this, what are some good online resources for teaching yourself recording? Good book recommendations are valuable as well.
posted by the_bone to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
1. GB3 is as good as it is going to get for cheap music software.

2. When you say 'I can't get a signal' do you mean an audio signal or a midi signal? How is it plugged in?

3. Teaching yourself recording is quite hard. I strongly recommend finding a local small studio and asking if you can hang around for a couple of sessions to see how they do things.
posted by unSane at 6:18 PM on February 15, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not sure which signal I mean, to be honest (but I think audio). I've plugged the Ozone into the computer using the USB cable, and have installed the driver. I can hear sound when using the native ozone keyboard using GarageBand's "software" instruments, but when plugging my digital piano into the Ozone's input channel I neither hear anything or see anything on the display indicating a signal.
posted by the_bone at 7:10 PM on February 15, 2006

when plugging my digital piano into the Ozone's input channel I neither hear anything or see anything on the display indicating a signal.

Have you specified a "record" channel? I don't know GB well, but often in other audio recording programs, you have to have a track or channel marked ready to record before you'll hear anything play through.
posted by weston at 7:13 PM on February 15, 2006

2. Did you try System Preferences -> Hardware -> Sound -> Input (selection) ?
posted by starman at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2006

Also check the input preferences in GarageBand.

And ditto about making sure the track is armed (set to record.) It should be. Creating a new real instrument/software instrumet track, which you would have to do at some point, arms that track by default.
posted by emelenjr at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2006

Response by poster: Hmm... checked all the preferences, made sure that M-Audio is set as the input, and still nada. I'm not sure how you "set a track to record..." does that mean you highlight the track that you're going to record on? If so, I'm doing that and it's not working. I'm starting to wonder if maybe the Ozone is broken, actually. In that case, I'll need to buy something else to interface with the computer. Bleah. It shouldn't be this hard, should it?
posted by the_bone at 8:00 PM on February 15, 2006

Does garage band work with Midi? I wasnt aware its a sequencer.

Does your Digital piano have ab audio out?

Lets forget midi for a moment.

Plug your Piano's aoudio out put into the ozones "instrument" in. And try it like that.

I have a Ozone too. But I use it with a PC.

I always thought garage band was just a multitracker and not a sequencer. Try it purely audio and not Midi.
posted by gergtreble at 8:07 PM on February 15, 2006

GB should work with midi. You have to create a new instrument, make sure it is a "software" instrument rather than "real" instrument. Then make sure it's lit up/selected (you can double click it to change the instrument). Then you should be able hear it or at least see green bars pop up on the lower right side indicating a level. If you've done all that there might be something wrong with it.

Oh, also make sure the midi cables are plugged in the right way. Try switching the In & the Out and see if that helps.
posted by starman at 8:20 PM on February 15, 2006

Response by poster: gergtreble: I'm already doing that, I think. The piano is plugged into channel 2 (the instrument input), and the Ozone is connected via USB. I can get MIDI to work with it, but not an instrument (at least not with the Ozone; if I can't make it go I'll just pick up a cheap interface tomorrow).
posted by the_bone at 8:31 PM on February 15, 2006

Audacity is a free sound editor for the Mac. I haven't tried it out, but it has been recommended to me. As far as online info, here is a previous Ask Mefi on home recording. And there is even an earlier Meta Talk thread.

Can't help you with your connection problem as I am an uber noob when it comes to this stuff. I also have a new iMac and just opened Garage Band last night. Good luck.
posted by jabo at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2006

I asked a similar question about starting up doing some lo-fi/home recording. I got recommended Tracktion. There is a link to the demo on the site.

It cost me £120 and I just love it. It has many of the features of Cubase for way less money. It's also SUPER simple to use. I can use it for producing demo versions of my songs, with synthesised drums, some keyboard, analogue (recorded) guitar and vocals.
posted by pollystark at 6:55 AM on February 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, all. I ended up ditching the Ozone and picking up a new interface. I'm using GarageBand for the moment, but I'm gonna check out Audacity as well (and would be interested in Tracktion if I can find a copy).
posted by the_bone at 10:11 PM on February 16, 2006

This little gem may be helpful too. Although I have no idea if it works on a Mac.

If it works for you, just send me some money for the tip.

Audacity is also decent. You will need to install the LAME MP3 encoder though if you want to work with god-awful sounding MP3s.

As a professional, I would never recommend Mackie Tracktion to anyone. But for someone just getting into DAWs, it may be just the ticket.
posted by roguescout at 2:38 AM on February 19, 2006

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