Musec wrote:Thanks for all your info. Perhaps I should have mentioned that I plan to use the computer as a graphics editor as well (not video though), hence a little bit more specs than perhaps needed for audio.
Yeah definitely you need all the oomph you get. And some more.
In terms of computing requirements, audio doesn't hold a candle to video.
Also, get a graphic card which is supported by your NLE of choice.
The way I understand it, nowadays most sounds used in a song is in a sound library on the computer harddrive and not in the keyboards/synts? I would like to prefer that way of working anyway. Otherwise you have to get a lot of synths.
With "synth" often one means a software instrument of some sort - not necessary an actual synthesizer. But you're right, "software instrument" is a better general name. You have both types: actual software synthesizers, who emulate oscillators, filters etc; and sample-based instruments. There's also modellers which try to recreate the physics of a specific instrument so aren't either.
The main point for the whole lot is that the processing happens in the computer
. That means that you need to hear the sound processed in the computer as opposite to the simply monitoring whatever you put in (which in these cases is usually MIDI, so doesn't really have a sound). For this kind of instruments, latency is critical.
As for "most sounds" it really depends on the music you make. I've recorded for a good few years now and I've seldom if ever used a software instrument in a production - being so that I mainly use and mix physical instruments. And EDM guy will mostly use software instruments. So really up to what kind of music you make.
Except for synths/keyboards and digital drums, I plan to record a real electric guitar via an audio interface and play on keyboards via MIDI. Not planning on bass since they can be simulated pretty good on the computer, but electric guitar needs to be a real electric guitar the way I see it. Perhaps some singing as well (not by me though), but that can probably be arranged somewhere else. Singing can also be simulated with synths to get some feel for the melody and instead bring in a real singer later when the song is finished.
For the guitars, it's the same story: do you record a live, real guitar amplifier using a microphone? Or plan to plug the electric guitar into the interface and use a software emulation running in the computer as amplifier? In this latter case, you're back using a software instrument (the amp emulation) even if the input is with real guitar. In the former, you're simply recording a finished signal via a microphone - just as you would for a vocal track.
1. The audio interface - can they be used with any DAW? I just plug it into the USB? I only need like two audio inputs, mostly for the electric guitar. Do you have any to recommend?
USB interfaces, generally yes (I understand Apple computers have some fancy connectors which allow the company to squeeze some more money from you, but in principle so long you have the right cabling, yes). Thunderbolt interfaces tend to be used only with Macs because the type of connection (as opposite to USB) is not supported by many PC motherboards. Firewire interfaces still work fine but you will find very few modern motherboards still supporting firewire - it's a dead protocol.
Make sure you have direct monitoring, since it helps a lot (but most USB interfaces from the last few years have it)
RME is a fave around here for stability, connectivity, quality and support- but they're a little more pricey.
2. If I want sounds there are sound libraries available - do they work with every DAW? Is this what is called VST instruments?
They are software instruments. VST is one of the formats with which these instruments come in (actually there's several, with VST3 being the most recent) - but it's a very popular format and works with most DAWs. Not sure about the last ProTools, but it's a google away.
3. What's the most usual format for the finished song? .wav? .mp3? Or something else? 44.1 KHz seems to be the standard?
You usually have many formats for the finished song. CD quality is uncompressed PCM (pulse code modulation) at 16 bit / 44.1KHz and it's plenty good for any kind of music.
WAV (or AIFF etc) is one of the "losseless" formats that can contain PCM16/44.1 so from a bunch of WAV you can easily make a CD (that's what CD making factories do).
MP3 takes a PCM16/44 and cuts away information so that the file size is smaller. Quality is always degraded to a degree, but how much and how much that's noticeable depends on the parameters you use to create the MP3, in particular the bitrate (the number of bits of data made available every second). Basically the lower the bit rate, the smaller the file, but the worse it sounds with respect with the original. The main issue of mp3 is that if you compress again a compressed file, the sound artifacts become immediately noticeable (and ugly).
So usually you have a 24 bit PCM master (24bit is the "working" format which you use for recording, mixing and mastering), also stored in WAV format (or similar) which is then converted to 16bit/44.1KHz (for high quality playback, like CD, or as an input to Spotify, Apple Music etc) and a "good" (high bitrate) MP3 that you can distribute to people who want to keep things on their disks and so need to save space.
Note that when you submit a file to Spotify/Apple Music/YouTube etc, these services will compress it first thing (in a manner similar to mp3) so it's worth always submitting CD quality.
4. It would be easier to buy a new fully working computer where I just expand it with larger SSD-drives etc, instead of putting together my own computer from scratch and buying all the individual components myself. This seems ok?
Really depends on how much you know about building computers. If you want to concentrate on the music rather than building, yes. :)
5. If I get a descent audio interface, the built-in soundcard (in the interface) will be the one used instead of the computers soundcard?
Yes, that's the point. :-) Most modern motherboards come with sound cards on the board itself, but for space and cost reasons they aren't that great. Ok for playing videogames but not so much for recording and mixing.
I plan mostly do do "radio typ of music", i.e. pop and rock and so on, no symphonies.
Cool. So do I. Pop and rock can be made the traditional way (four, five chaps with drums, guitars, keys and vocals and a whole lot of microphones) or almost entirely with software instruments (software drums, software amplifiers and software synth/keys/whatever). In this latter case you need the microphone only for vocals.
One word of caution (but it's only my $.10): to do good stuff with the latter setup you gotta be good, arguably better, than with the traditional way. The reason being that while all these emulations can
sound fantastic, the work necessary to make them so is a bit off field. Take a drum part: you need to know how to play drums and record them, but once you do - all the performance nuances, timing micro-shifts, all the stuff that makes the part interesting
will be there. It takes effort to get the takes to tape, but once you have them, they're good (assuming you are a good drummer :)).
Whereas if you use even a great drum software instruments, you can create a sketch part in a fews seconds.. but then you have to spend lots of time in trying to make it feel personal and realistic, which means thinking explicitly
of stuff that - as a drummer - you normally wouldn't... as it would be just what happens: velocity of hits, move hits a little bit to simulate shifts, nuances etc.
To each their own tough, I've heard programmed parts which are incredibly good, so it's perfectly possible, but you get to learn programming them. I'd rather ask a drummer. :D
Pro Tools wasn't that expensive as I thought, about $559 for the "standard" version, but perhaps I go with Reaper instead. Several others have recommended it. Does any audio interface work with Pro Tools, or do they have their own audio interfaces?
Nowadays pretty much everything works with everything - at least with USB. What differentiates the interfaces is the number of I/O, the digital connectivity options, a little bit (but little) the quality of preamps and converters, the inherent latency and quality of drivers (which produces the actual latency), and the overall support from the companies.