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What kind of equipment can I get for less than $5,000 to start a home studio?


CP

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I'm looking to build a modest studio in my home for less than $5,000. That may be way too cheap, but please excuse my ignorance, I have no idea about this subject. What is the basic equipment that I need, and how much would it cost? The only thing I have right now is a Yamaha P-80. I am not looking to be a professional. I just want to be able to fool around and have fun making music.
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not that i am an expert, but from what i've had experience with, you could get a good start with a mac G4 running either digital performer or pro tools (audio and midi recording software) and a MOTU 828 (a/d interface). we're using this setup for an album my friends and i are doing. i don't know about cost since i live in the land of the crocodile hunter (and i hear that you guys LOVE him - he is a nut) and i don't know your currency too well and how much things cost in $US.

 

i have a fast pc running cubase VST and it's ok. as for compressors, power amps, mics, mic preamps and speakers i can't really offer any advice - i'll leave that to the experts. but i think yamaha or mackie near-field monitors rock.

hope this helps.

"Consider how much coffee you're drinking - it's probably not enough."
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CP, here's my suggestion:

 

1) A 733MHz Power Mac G4 with 512 MB RAM and an Apple 15" Cinema Display for $2,324.00 : the host computer with two FireWire ports, two USB ports, and a CD-RW drive.

 

2) A MOTU 828 Interface for $699.99 : the FireWire audio interface.

 

3) MOTU Digital Performer for $499.99 : the sequencing and audio software.

 

4) A Maxtor 3000DV 60 GB 7,200 RPM FireWire HD for $289.95 : the drive on which to record the audio.

 

5) Event Electronics 20/20bas Monitors for $799.99 , so you can hear what your doing on a relatively accurate pair of monitors.

 

6) An Audio Technica - AT4033/SM Microphone for $299.99 .

 

Total: $4,913.91

 

[ 10-30-2001: Message edited by: soapbox ]

Enthusiasm powers the world.

 

Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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Originally posted by jimbyjoe:

[QB]i live in the land of the crocodile hunter (and i hear that you guys LOVE him - he is a nut)

QB]

 

lol! that guy says crinkey too much...no, I've only been living in America for a very short while, but from what I can tell they don't like him. they just like bad sit-coms and their version of football.hmmmmm...

"Bach is ever new"-Glenn Gould
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Originally posted by soapbox:

CP, here's my suggestion:

 

1) A 733MHz Power Mac G4 with 512 MB RAM and an Apple 15" Cinema Display for $2,324.00 : the host computer with two FireWire ports, two USB ports, and a CD-RW drive.

 

2) A MOTU 828 Interface for $699.99 : the FireWire audio interface.

 

3) MOTU Digital Performer for $499.99 : the sequencing and audio software.

 

4) A Maxtor 3000DV 60 GB 7,200 RPM FireWire HD for $289.95 : the drive on which to record the audio.

 

5) Event Electronics 20/20bas Monitors for $799.99 , so you can hear what your doing on an accurate pair of monitors.

 

6) An Audio Technica - AT4033/SM Microphone for $299.99 .

 

Total: $4,913.91

 

[ 10-29-2001: Message edited by: soapbox ]

hey cp! this guy has the idea! try it out! surfjazz
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Hello ,

Computer recording is certainly one way to go when it comes to laying down tracks .

However , Hard disk recorders are very affordable right now . To me a HDR is more plug and play vs. the learning curve with computers .

You will need a ggod pair of monitors as well .

Here are some ideas .........

Hard disk recorder ...Korg D1600 $1599.99

Internal CD burner $199.99

Easy to use and 20 gig hard drive ! 4 XLR inputs etc ..

Roland VS1880 $1499.99 plus another $300.00 for expansion cards . Roland Burner cost around $569.99 .

Akai DPS16 $1499.99

I won't get into monitors right now . I would definately check out a Hard disk recorder and get back to us ! Dano

www.esnips.com/web/SongsfromDanO
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While I'm a big fan of the computer-based DAW, plugins, etc., the standalone dedicated recording unit is certainly an attractive option in your price range. In any case, you've got to spread that 5K around:

 

A recording medium: DAW, HDR, or, heavan forbid, a 20 bit ADAT which you could score for about $0.35. The computer route is the most exciting but it also involves the most discrete components, the most vendor compatibility, and the biggest potential for headaches. But when you get it all working, the editing and processing power is addicting, to say the least.

 

A mixer for preamps/monitoring/external mixdown if required

 

At least one good mic, more if you want to record live drums, guitar, voice, etc. Get a shure 57 for less than a hundred, then allocate a good chunk for a mid-quality condenser mic. Then steal from friends.

 

Monitors: very important and very easy to short change. No other single factor has as big an impact on the quality of your mixes, IMO.

 

CD burning: dependent on your media choice (see above).

 

If you're going to do a lot of MIDI, I would also look into a module to augment your P80. Which one, of course, depends on your tastes and styles, but there are lots of good choices under a thousand. Maybe a virtual analogue, maybe a better and more diverse all around sample playback type synth. P80 has strong pianos, right? But what are you going to do when you need GM 127 Applause, or an "Ice Storm" synth pad? hehe.

 

Anyway, I think you can do some serious damage with 5K, but in doing so you are not sealing the deal; you're courting endless, ongoing temptation. Enjoy.

 

John

 

[ 10-30-2001: Message edited by: Magpel ]

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Originally posted by Magpel:

 

If you're going to do a lot of MIDI, I would also look into a module to augment your P80. Which one, of course, depends on your tastes and styles, but there are lots of good choices under a thousand. Maybe a virtual analogue, maybe a better and more diverse all around sample playback type synth. P80 has strong pianos, right? But what are you going to do when you need GM 127 Applause, or an "Ice Storm" synth pad? hehe.

 

What's a good module to go with a P80, and will I have trouble using it? I read some comments in this forum that the P80 is hard to use as a controller. I love the P80 and don't want to exchange it.

 

Another question, why do I need a microphone (I hope that is not a dumb question). I don't plan on recording live drums or voices?

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Originally posted by CP:

I just want to be able to fool around and have fun making music.

 

That's what we all said at one time or another. Once the bug bites you in the ass and you get a taste of G.A.S., you are done. If you are dropping that kind of cash, then my suggestion is go as professional as you can. By going the Mac/PC route (Soapbox is dead on with his suggestion), you gain several advantages:

 

1. Compatibility with pro systems, just in case you want to take your music to the next level.

 

2. Upgradability, just in case you want to add the latest software, softsynths, sound cards or plug-ins when you want to take your music to the next level.

 

3. Most of what you'll need and use is in one place/box (such as a CD-RW to burn your CD's for friends and yourself, and even other musicians who have an interest in your music and might want you to do some work for them and make you consider taking your music to the next level) and you can spend less time fiddling and more time playing and doing what you love.

 

4. Flexibility in your set-up. Say you come down with a chronic case of G.A.S.. You wil already have a solid nucleus to work from with a computer-based system. That way, you don't have to worry about buying something that will be obsolete for your needs, but will still be able to support any future ones if they change and you decide to take your music to the next level :)

 

You'll be ready for that next level when you start making the kind of music you want. Get the picture?

 

[ 10-30-2001: Message edited by: MusicWorkz ]

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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Okay, after a little prompting from an individual who shall remain nameless, but who is known for his love of a particular brand of monitors, I am going to revise my post above. ;)

 

The Event Electronics 20/20bas Monitors are a relatively accurate pair of monitors. They are a bit hyped on the high end, but I can't think of another pair of monitors I like better for under $1,000 (certainly not NS-10Ms...yeecch!). There are, however, a number of better monitors available at twice the price.

 

It's true that, as some of the posts above suggest, you could cut the DAW budget by buying something like a Korg D1600. Then, the money would be there to buy a pair of A.D.A.M.s or Dynaudio Acoustics monitors. Personally, I'd rather keep that budget high and have 60 or more voices (audible tracks) available with the Mac/Digital Performer system than only the 16 voices that are available through the Korg D1600. There are a number of other benefits to a Mac-based system as well, such as easier editing and software synthesizers.

 

CP, as you can tell, there are a lot of options for $5,000. Perhaps we could help you better if you tell us what you want to do with your system (besides fooling around and having fun).

 

For example, we didn't realize that you only wanted to record keyboards, so we suggested a microphone because most people want to record something more. Imagine that! ;)

Enthusiasm powers the world.

 

Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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Originally posted by CP:

What's a good module to go with a P80, and will I have trouble using it? I read some comments in this forum that the P80 is hard to use as a controller. I love the P80 and don't want to exchange it.

 

Another question, why do I need a microphone (I hope that is not a dumb question). I don't plan on recording live drums or voices?[/qb]

 

A Proteus 2000 is an excellent price/performance module (so is the Kurzweil PC2R, but it's more $$). The Roland JV-1010 is under $400, but will soon be replaced by the XV-5050 which should be a very good value.

 

If you don't plan on recording anything with a mic, then are you going to be MIDI only or MIDI+guitar/bass recorded direct? If so, your best option is probably a computer based recording system instead of a stand-alone HDR.

 

Soapbox's shopping list works. The only thing missing is a MIDI interface. Ditch the $300 mic (for now) and put $250 into a MOTU Micro Express. Perhaps you can move down to a slightly slower G4 like a discontinued 450 or 500 Mhz single or dual processor model, then add a used Proteus 2000 for $550 via online auction.

 

Another good, low cost investment might be a Presonus Blue Tube preamp for around $150. Essential when you add a mic, and a welcome touch for warming up guitar tracks. I love mine.

 

[ 10-30-2001: Message edited by: mzeger ]

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Originally posted by soapbox:

 

CP, as you can tell, there are a lot of options for $5,000. Perhaps we could help you better if you tell us what you want to do with your system (besides fooling around and having fun).

 

For example, we didn't realize that you only wanted to record keyboards, so we suggested a microphone because most people want to record something more. Imagine that! ;) [/QB]

 

I thought I only wanted to fool around until I got these answers. Basically, just want to record myself playing different genre of music. I would eventually like to compose music and write for other people. If I can put together a system for under $3000 that would be great, plus I wouldn't have to hear to much from the Mrs. But for now, I just want to be able to record myself doing different arrangements. I guess I could always build on whatever system I started with.

 

P.S. I'm more confused now. Both ways sound good to me HDR and Mac.

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Or put it this way:

 

If you want simple and basic, get HDR. Yes, it will be plug and play; but it will only have 16 - 24 audible tracks, basic audio editing on a tiny display, basic MIDI or no MIDI, no software synths, limited upgradeability, fewer audio effects, etc. You'll still have to learn how to operate the HDR. It shouldn't take more than a day to get comfortable with the basics.

 

If you want complex and evolved, get a computer. (If you want less complex, but just as evolved, buy a Mac.) Then you'll have 40 - 100 audible tracks, audio editing on a full sized monitor, MIDI which can handle as many keyboards and modules as you need it to, software synthesizers and effects plug-ins, upgradeability, etc. If you take the advice I originally gave, you'll have to learn about the Mac operating system, Digital Performer, and the 828. It shouldn't take more than a few days to get comfortable with the basics.

Enthusiasm powers the world.

 

Craig Anderton's Archiving Article

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How about getting an HDR and a decent pair of headphones (I recommend Grados or AKG). And then stop!!!

NOW learn you new equipment and get comfortable with it. Play some music on your P-80

and put some ideas down. After a while you know what you need to add. Proably a drum machine, maybe a synth module, and maybe even a guitar.

Think and have patience and you get what you need. Above all HAVE FUN!! That's why you want to do this in the first place.

Michael

Q:What do you call a truck with nothing in the bed,nothing on the hitch, and room for more than three people in the cab? A:"A car"....
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Originally posted by dano:

Just remember thah HDR is plug in and record !

Computer recording is not !

 

Yeah - also don't forget that the HDR will go obsolete pretty quickly, where the computer software will get updated regularly and probably be compatible with whatever computer you have at the time...and you're gonna wanna buy a new computer every few years anyway - why not use it's power for something besides surfing the 'net?

 

Think about this - if an HDR is currently shipping, that means it was spec'd a while ago, and the micro that was put into it was probably already obsolete back then...wouldn't you rather use the one in your computer?

 

Did I mention that computers give you more tracks? And then of course, there's plug-ins...

 

Just my $.02,

 

dB

Loving Digital Performer

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

 

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Originally posted by CP:

If I can put together a system for under $3000 that would be great, plus I wouldn't have to hear to much from the Mrs.

 

A bit of unsolicited advice, garned from years of experiences and nagging :)

 

1. Either you can go on and spend the $5K now and hear the Mrs. complain for a few days before you write her a new song on your new system, or;

 

2. Spend $3K now and then another $1-2K a year from now when you want to add-on to it(I'm telling you, you are going to get G.A.S. once you start this) and hear her complain, bitch and moan TWICE as long the second time (I am sure you'll hear "but didn't you just spend $X last month"-remember they don't have any sense of time when it comes to music equipment purchases or shoes :) )...

 

Seriously, Dave is right. It will be easier to stay current longer with a Mac/PC vs. a HDR. You won't regret it at all, and when you get ready to take your music to the next level :cool: ...

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

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CP, you sure asked your question at the right place.

 

I would also go with the computer. Plan on dedicating the computer to music, not doing general office and graphics stuff etc. on it as well. If you do want to use the computer for other purposes, first get just the music stuff working, then do a thorough backup so you can exactly come back to that setup when your web browser update starts eating the tail of the word processor update. Get a Mac unless you want to start a new hobby of tinkering with computers to try to get them to work. Sure you need to do a little bit of this with the Mac, but much less than trying to get all the parts of a Windows machine to talk to each other.

 

You could save some money by getting a lesser computer at first, such as the iBook laptop instead of the big Mac. You could also get an audio interface that only handles stereo in and out instead of the full multichannel 828. Ask Jeff the Tascam guy if their audio/MIDI/control device for USB is currently working on the Mac with DP 3. I would put the money you save into either Halion or a software synthesizer. That's the big advantage of the computer, it not only does what it does today but it will also do what lots of clever companies think of making it also do next month.

 

If you'll be doing composing for other people, add an inexpensive laser printer for nice looking, quickly printed scores at a low cost per page. I'm not sure if DP does all the printing features you would want, if not you can start another thread about which notation program to buy.

 

Also remember you will probably need to add acoustic treatment to your room and you might want a guitar, bass, and POD to play those tracks on real instruments.

 

Chris

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CP - I sense you are getting a little confused with all the options that are being tossed around. Really, you have 2 basic ways to go. A dedicated Hard Disk Recorder (HDR) or a computer based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

 

HDR Pro's (not comprehensive - someone I'm sure will point out many other pros and cons, but these are what I can think of at the moment).

 

1. Cheaper to get into at the low end (but HDRs run up to several thousand dollars at the high end). For as little as $600 you can get a digital 8 track unit, but it will have a lot of compromises such as 16 or 20 but A/D and D/A converters.

2. Ease of use - just plug in, set the levels and start recording.

3. Portable - they are very small with modest power requirements so you can literally record in a hotel room if you want.

4. Low latency - that is, compared to a DAW, there is little delay between the signal coming in from your synth or guitar, and the signal you hear on your monitors.

5. On board effects, many HDRs support on board effects processors which provide reverb, delay, compression, chorus etc. The quality of these effects is questionable.

 

HDR Cons:

1. An HDR locks you into a particular hardware box that can become obsolete very quickly.

2. Quality of on-board effects is questionable.

3. Expansion capability is limited to the original vendor or a small handfull of 3rd parties.

4. If you are trying to do advanced track editing, you have a itty bitty little screen to work with - compared to a DAW. Some HDR include a VGA monitor port and a mouse port to make this easier.

 

What to look for in a HDR.

 

1. You really should get 24 bit A/D and D/A converters. 16 bit and 20 bit are already obsolete so there is no sense starting out with obsolete hardware. In fact, you should make sure all internal audio paths are at 24bit, 32 bit is better yet. It will also (IMO) make a difference in the quality of your sound.

 

2. Be sure the mixer section provides at minimum a 3 band EQ on every channel. 4 bands is better and a sweepable semi-parametric mid is even better.

 

3. Lots of I/O - particularly digital. S/PDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT, TDIF etc. Allows you to connect digitally to computers, ADAT recorders, synthesizers etc.

 

4. Expandability - the ability to add more I/O, effects processors, etc. The Yamaha AW2816 and AW4416 and the Roland VS1880 and VS2880 both allow you to add additional effects processors and analog or digital I/O.

 

5. At least 2 integrated mic preamps. As you go further, you will probably want to bypass these and use better quality off board preamps, but if you are going to record any vocals or mic'd instruments you will need a preamp or so.

 

DAW Pros:

 

1. Powerful - almost unlimited number of tracks, powerfull on screen exiting (drag-n-drop, cut-n-paste), built in sequencing, soft synth plug-ins, sampling, loop creation etc. You get a lot more with a DAW there is no question.

 

2. Friendly - once you get it all setup (sometimes not an easy task at all) the interface is much deeper and more friendly than the HDR interface.

 

3. Flexibility - all of the things mentioned above (sequencing, loops, sampling, soft synths) plus all of these are available multiple vendors with highly competitive features.

 

4. Modularity - the basic components: Audio Interface (D/A and A/D convertors + digital I/O), midi interface, DAW software, computer + operating system can all be purchased or upgraded seperately.

 

DAW Cons:

1. High latency (compared to HDR). General purpose computer operating systems are not as optimized for handling audio as an HDR is.

 

2. Setup - with all of the components potentially coming from different vendors with different revisions and upgrade paths, getting the system setup can be quite a PITA. Regardless of what the mac heads say, this is true on both platforms.

 

3. Instability - all DAWs crash from time to time. They crash more often if you use them for purposes other than audio - such as surfing the net or playing computer games. Macs may be somewhat more stable than PCs (I've used both and am not convinced this is true - but many mac zealots swear by them).

 

4. High cost - (particularly for macintosh). Audio processing requires lots of HP which equates to a pretty high end computer. Pentium III 800 MHz or a G4 should be your starting point or your are going to run out of processing power very quickly. You will also need fairly fast EIDE or SCSI II drives.

 

The obsolecence argument does favor the computer DAW over the HDR, but only to a point. I would strongly recommend that if you go the DAW route, you do not use this computer for other things (games, Internet etc.). This is a recipe for frequent crashing. If you only use if for recording, then replacing your computer every few years is not much different than replacing your HDR every few years. Software upgrades will allow you to stay current longer on the DAW, but eventully the software will require that you upgrade your hardware.

 

I'm not going to get into the Mac versus PC debate - either one is a fine platform. There are somthings you can do on a PC that you can't do on a Mac and vice versa. Go with which ever platform you are most familiar with.

 

Just my $0.014 worth (I'm Canadian so it is not worth as much).

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong: James Bryce
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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

 

Yeah - also don't forget that the HDR will go obsolete pretty quickly, where the computer software will get updated regularly and probably be compatible with whatever computer you have at the time...and you're gonna wanna buy a new computer every few years anyway - why not use it's power for something besides surfing the 'net?

 

Think about this - if an HDR is currently shipping, that means it was spec'd a while ago, and the micro that was put into it was probably already obsolete back then...wouldn't you rather use the one in your computer?

 

Did I mention that computers give you more tracks? And then of course, there's plug-ins...

 

Just my $.02,

 

dB

Loving Digital Performer

 

Dave, you make good points, but it's important to remember that this guy is just starting out. A computer-based system may be too complex. Trying to figure out MIDI and audio and interfaces and backups and synth programming and songwriting and arranging and hard disk optimization, etc., etc. all at the same time is a daunting task. I'm sure that a lot of people get turned off on the whole process because their system places so many management and techie demands on them.

 

Computers become obsolete as fast as HDR's. HDR's are generally more stable and easier to get up and running. You can also tuck an HDR under your arm and record a gig or track a friend at his house. Computer software is upgradable, but upgrades sometimes set you back. It may take a while to get Version 2.0 to run as smoothly as Version 1.6, and you may have to upgrade other things at the same time to do so.

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Originally posted by CP:

I'm looking to build a modest studio in my home for less than $5,000. That may be way too cheap, but please excuse my ignorance, I have no idea about this subject. What is the basic equipment that I need, and how much would it cost? The only thing I have right now is a Yamaha P-80. I am not looking to be a professional. I just want to be able to fool around and have fun making music.

 

CP, please allow me to step back for a moment. I'm not going to make any specific equipment recommendations, because people have already recommended a lot of good stuff. I would rather give you some general guidelines to help you make the right purchases at the right time.

 

First and foremost, do NOT spend your entire budget all at once. It's going to take some time to learn any new piece of gear. If you buy five new things, four of them will sit around collecting dust and becoming obsolete while you're getting a handle on how to run the fifth one. Proceed slowly. Assess what you already have. If you already own a computer, you may be able to buy a few simple accessories to get it to record music for you. If you own a cassette deck, you can already record yourself playing things.

 

You said that you want to fool around and have fun. That's the perfect attitude; it will serve you well, because there's a lot to learn. Here are some of the areas where you can spend time fooling around and having fun. Just don't try to do it all at once. Pick one of these areas, assess what gear you need (if any) to pursue them. Keep in mind that, in a six months to a year, a whole new array of gadgets will be available that you can't get today, so don't be in a hurry to part with your money.

 

1) Songwriting and composing - Here is where you learn to take the music ideas in your head and turn them into a form that others can play, listen to, and enjoy.

 

Equipment: All you need is a piano or a guitar and a lot of imagination and determination.

 

2) Basic "live" recording - Getting your ideas into a form that others can listen to.

 

Equipment: You can record yourself playing your P80 or other electronic keyboard with an inexpensive mixer and a cassette deck or MD recorder. Use a pair of headphones (AKG K240's are excellent) to monitor and listen to playback. You can record the pieces you've composed, and you can examine your technique.

 

If you add a microphone (and cable), you can record yourself singing as you play, or you can record a real piano or guitar.

 

3) Multi-track recording. This is where you record different instruments separately and blend the parts together later. You can create more complex arrangements this way, i.e. your recording will have a bigger sound. You can also record a whole band and mix them later to make them sound their best.

 

Equipment: Either a stand-alone hard disk recorder/mixer like the Roland VS series or the Korg D1200 or D1600, or a computer with a sound card and special software for recording. This is the kind of system that many people described above. Just don't go out and buy it if this isn't what you want to do. This stuff can get complicated fairly quickly, so add new hardware and software only when you absolutely need to.

 

4) MIDI sequencing. - Here, a machine memorizes the notes that you play on the keyboard and plays them back at any speed and in any key you like. You can play back multiple parts at once, and you can edit (i.e. change) any note you want, any way you like. You are not actually recording SOUND, so your files will be smaller. This is a good way to work out arrangements before recording them.

 

MIDI sequencing is also a valuable resource for learning about the role of all instruments in the band or orchestra, including those you don't play. You can learn how to create drum patterns, bass lines, and string parts that work with your piano parts. You can learn how to write for a brass section, an ensemble of several guitars, etc.

 

Equipment: Some synthesizers (Korg Triton, Kurzweil K-series, Yamaha Motif) have a "sequencer" built in, so you can do everything in one machine. Sequencers are available as computer programs, too (Logic Audio, Digital Performer, Cubase, Cakewalk, etc.). The computer versions are more powerful and offer feature like printing your recorded parts in standard music notation. Built in sequencers are very powerful, too, these days, so guage what you need.

 

5) Synthesizer programming. - Here, you figure out how to make different, new sounds come out of your keyboards. You can then use these sounds to add a unique flavor to your compositions, recordings, and arrangements, as discussed above.

 

Equipment: One or more programmable synthesizers, samplers, or beat boxes. Note: Some of these types of instruments are now available as programs that run on your computer.

 

6) Mixing and Mastering - Here is where you take basic tracks in a recorder (or from a MIDI sequencer) and blend them together with effects to make a more "professional" sounding recording, or to come up with a unique sound all your own.

 

Equipment:

 

- Good monitors.

 

- A flexible, clean sounding mixing board. Digital boards offer built-in effects and the ability to memorize the mixing "moves" you make, but analog boards are a little easier to get up and running. Learning to use a mixer is a major project in and of itself, but it's very rewarding as you make progress.

 

- Signal processors such as compressors, gates, delays, reverbs, chorus. These may be hardware modules or computer programs called plug-ins. Some digital mixers and stand-alone recorders have software built in that performs these functions.

 

- High quality recording media like a hard disk recorder.

 

- The ability to record the finished product to a CD.

 

Those are some of the areas where you can focus. As you can see, there's a lot to learn, so take it a piece at a time. This is why I don't recommend you rushing out and buying a truckload of gear. You have a lot of homework to do before you'll be able to get the most out of that gear. It's better to start small and learn as you go than dive into a complicated setup, most of which will be obsolete in a few years.

 

Good luck! Let us know if we can help!!

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Interesting line of conversation. dansouth offers a great framework for decision-making. I'm about 18 months ahead of where you are, with a similar budget mostly spent. Let me share what I found out.

 

Here's the thing. No matter which way you go, in 6 months (if you're lucky) or maybe even right away, there will be something bigger/better/faster that will give you some buyers remorse. Just keep remembering - what you are doing is buying a tool that helps you make music. Anything that gets in the way of that end result is the enemy. And, if you can still record your music with what you have, you didn't make a wrong decision, just a different one.

 

I suspect you are where I am - in that serious amateur/semi-pro range. That means you have another life - job, family, significant other, whatever. The biggest issue I have to confront is time. That means that learning curves, while necessary, need to be minimized. And for me, that meant that I wanted the solution that let me get to my end result - recording, and creating my own CD's - out of the box.

 

I went the HDR route - Yamaha AW4416. It was more expensive, and there are learning curve issues, but it is a deep box for my purposes. And, I was up and recording within 1 day. Had my first song done within a week - part time. But that was my solution. I did my research, then talked to the sales people (who will probably know less than you - caveat emptor), and found a great person who cut me a very fair deal, and gave good advice on mikes and monitors. I spent about $3650, got the AW4416 with burner, a pair of AKG 3000B's (stereo piano), and Tannoy Reveals (had the headphones already.)

 

I have been making music for a year with free upgrades (3 already) to the Yamaha, and have $1400 to go on the budget. I have a tool that I still haven't found the end of yet, and while I'm sure that my bat-ears will eventually regret not having 96K, I'm playing more music today, and playing around with technology less.

 

2 other quick thoughts (sorry about rambling). Used gear, esp. for sound modules/keyboards, is a great way to stretch. I have bought a lot of yesterday's technology today, and have found real bargains that expand my palette for not much money. And I strongly second dansouth's point about multiple learning curves. Stay with one at a time. You may be surprised at how much you can do with what you have - and not spend another nickel. Buy for need, not for want.

 

But when you buy your core tool, buy the best one you reasonably can. I've never regretted buying the best, but usually regret my compromises.

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CP, I'm changing my recommendation to match what Dan South and Brian Leary are saying. You don't have to impress clients with your setup, just yourself, so be compact and cost effective with your rig.

 

At this time, your goal is to enjoy composing your music and sharing it with others. The composition will be done on your keyboard and you don't expect to add other instruments. This means you can scale way back on the scope of your setup. Get just enough for now, and learn one thing at a time. You can count on the fact that next year's wonder boxes will do twice as much for the half the price as today's, so put off buying more gear until you really know you need it to accomplish your musical goals.

 

How are your keyboard chops? The Miracle piano teaching software is a pretty good approach towards studying at home. Take piano lessons and find an intro to music theory class at your local community college. How about your knowledge of music history and literature? Look in the music biz forum for Nika's thread about the technogeek crying, for an awesome list of great music to consider adding to your collection.

 

Use sequencing for now and don't get into audio recording at all. Cakewalk for PC or Performer for Mac would do fine. I think sequencing is much better on a computer because you can more easily see the structure of your music and flexibly make changes to your arrangements.

 

Your P80 will be fine for your MIDI controller, just have it send all the data about which keys and pedals your are pressing on channel 1. Your sequencing program will be used to select patches and send on the control data to sounds outside the P80.

 

Since your computer will be turned on anyway for the sequencer, have it provide your sounds as well instead of getting a separate module.

 

For under $2,500 you can get a nice music computer; MIDI adapter for the computer, you only need 1 IN and 1 OUT to hook up the P80; sequencing software; sampling software (Gigasampler on PC or Halion on Mac); soft-synth software; CD recorder; and laser printer. This is a great setup to compose your music on keys, play it with great sounds, record it to CD and print lead sheets to share with other musicians. Also add the program "Band in a Box" for some fun "instant arrangement" ideas. The final $1,000 buys powered monitor speakers in the "pretty good" to "pretty darn good" range with stands to put them on. Put the other $1,500 into safe investments and check back next summer about what gear would best add to your studio at that time. Oh, maybe $250 of that could go to your local music & technology geek to go shopping with you, install everything and show you how to get started, saving you the headache of having to read a shelf full of manuals before you get to have fun.

 

Skip the whole DAW versus HDR debate right now by not buying either of 'em.

 

Chris

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If you want a Hammond B3, Profit 5, PPG and lots of other cool instruments go the computer route. Use your favorite sequencer, GigaStudio, Reaktor, SoundForge, Acid Pro, and a good sound card. I am not recommending Acid for the loops you purchase, but for using with your own loops. Reason is good for making loops.

 

Though I have Reaktor 3 I picked up the Pro-52 just because I wanted a Profit 5 to play with. My next purchase will be either GigaStudio or Native Instruments B4. I love software synths for home studio. They sound so good and cost so little. The trick is to do your composing on an outboard synth like the Proteus 2000, then translate your tracks to software synths and send their output to file. Then you mix the sound files in something like Sonar and you get a great sound.

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Originally posted by That Portland Dude:

[QB]CP

How are your keyboard chops? The Miracle piano teaching software is a pretty good approach towards studying at home. Take piano lessons and find an intro to music theory class at your local community college. How about your knowledge of music history and literature?

 

My playing is getting much better. Been taking lessons for about a year (classical and jazz, heavy on theory). Was trying to study on my own, on and off for about ten years. That was a nightmare. Had the original Miracle keyboard that hooked up to Nintendo, anybody remember that :) ? Don't laugh, that keyboard lasted about ten years. Just brought the P80 to replace it. The Miracle software was horrible.

 

Anyway, thanks everybody for your responses. Quick question, when I bought the P80, I also bought a pair of Roland MA-8 micro monitors for about $90 (recommended by the sales person in Sam Ash). After reading what everybody is saying about good monitors, how important is it to the sound produced by my keyboard. Should I first invest in a good pair of monitors. What's a good brand I can get at a reasonable price?

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The little Roland monitors are NOT going to cut it. Get yourself a good set of headphones (I mentioned some above) and a decent set of monitors. There are SO many monitors that you'll need to do some research on your own. - A call to Nika or the other guys at Sweetwater might not be a bad idea. They're straight shooters.

 

Self-powered monitors are very nice, but if you have a decent stereo hi-fi amplifier, you can use non-powered monitors and save some money. Don't buy home stereo speakers, though, because they're designed to color the sound to make it sound pleasing. You want monitors that tell the truth, good or bad.

 

Keep in mind that you'll need a little mixer to get sound from your keyboard(s) and recorder (when the time comes) to your monitors. Something like the Mackie 1202 or 1402 VLZ would give you a lot of flexibility and clean sound. Plus it would give you a chance to learn how mixers work, an essential skill.

 

Please be aware that a pair of monitors can cost you anywhere from $400 to $5000 (or more), but you can get some really nice stuff in the $700 - $1500 range. But like everything else, don't go overboard. I like the Mackie HR824's, but they're overkill for your current needs (until you get to the advanced mixing stage I mentioned earlier) and they'll make your electric bill go up in a hurry. But PLEASE pick up a pair of AKG K240 headphones right away. It'll be the best hundred bucks (approx.) you'll ever spend on your studio.

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Yep. Yep. Yep. Headphones first. A good set of headphones is like a $2K set of speakers. I use headphones for true sound, and various computer speakers testing the mix on cheap speakers. I plan to spend around $700 for monitors, some day, when I run out of other things I want more. Also, watch the music stores and catalogs for close out deals on good mixers. I went totally analog and those mixers don't really change year to year. When ready for the final mix I use the digital out from the keyboards to the digital input to the computer. I don't do much vocals so this works well for me.
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Very good thread. You guys have any preference on the laptop vs desktop route? I am in a similar situation. I would like to do some recording, software synth experimenting and arranging on a computer at home. Being an IT pro in my day job it would certainly be a separate dedicated machine not a conversion of an existing machine.

 

It would primarily be keys, guitar and bass. Software drums for now. I would prefer to stay in the PC realm. Any suggestions?

 

BTW - A hearty 'Hey' to dansouth from RobT at the Bass Station

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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