Emerald City Productions

How to start composing on computer?

by Paul on February 1, 2010

in Electronic Music, Music


Do you want to start writing music with a computer?  Do you think that there is something musically stirring in you that need s to get out?  Can you play an instrument but feel restricted by the options available?  Then computerised music is for you.

Fortunately I was trained on the piano early on in life, and was able to use that skill to progress on the computer as a Midi keyboard is the main input device for the musician working with music on the computer.  If you are at a basic level though, do not despair as even basic notes being pressed can create wonderful strings or a simple held chord even better.  The quality of strings samples available is incredible these days. Theoretically, with only a basic knowledge of chords and notes, it is possible to create a whole orchestral piece.

What do I need?  Well a computer is the basic requirement!  I chose the Mac route, for many reasons including reliability and simplicity of operation with the well renowned support you get.  Initially I was a Windows PC person and cut my teeth that way, but feel I have made the correct decision to ‘move over’.  If you choose the Windows route, remember it has been written to accommodate the millions of programs written for it and is horrendously complex in nature.  Further, it has more than a million viruses written for it-Mac historically a few!  I recently asked Technical Support for the Mac if I needed anti-virus software-the answer-no!  If you choose the windows route-I pity you!-well make sure that it is at least a dual core processor with more than 2GB RAM and keep it clear of as much program clutter as you can-really-dedicate it if you can to music only.  If you decide on a Mac, most will work out of the box for music reasonably competently.

Next you will need an input device.  This is simply a Midi keyboard that transmits the notes pressed into Midi signals that a Computer/Sequencer can understand.  A music Sequencer is a piece of software that takes Midi signals and converts them into computer language that the sequencer can understand.  It will record the notes and then playback your symphony! Voila!  Further a sequencer is a vast and clever piece of software that can perform cartwheels with the information that you put in-seriously-it can create score from your inputted notes, Record/Playback/Record Audio/Playback audio and has numbers of sound effects-in short-you are fully equipped to start creating music with one.

At last, two other pieces of kit required are: a Midi Controller and sound output device-commonly called the Audio Interface-with speakers.  The midi controller can be a simple midi in/out device connected to the computers USB port.  The sound output device can be as simple or as complex and expensive as you want.  Generally these days they connect to the USB or Fire-wire ports of your computer.  They then feed their output into a pair of amplified speakers-ranging from about £10 to £1000’s depending on your needs.  The Audio interface also twins up taking the sound of Microphones plugged into it or guitars for example, and converts it into computer code-acceptable for the Sequencer-i.e. the Audio side of things.

That’s it in a simple nutshell!  Yes you’ll need cash, but just think-the outcome may be another Mozart or Alicia Keys!

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