Think you have what it takes to become a Soundcloud star? Learn how to make music on your computer with this beginner’s guide.
Are you wanting to record your compositions? Or are you just hoping to create that pumping dance tune that has been banging around your head? Getting started with computer music can be daunting but is not as tough as people think.
Below, we break down how to make music on a computer. We explain the equipment you need so you can begin creating that awesome tune you always dreamed of. Read on and get started today!
Choosing a Computer
Most modern computers are able to create music. Many people prefer to use the industry-standard Mac, but even these are being challenged by the flexibility of a Windows laptop. Ideally, try to clean your computer before you begin making music and free it from any programs that may slow its processor speed.
If you choose not to go the Mac route and are purchasing a new computer to make music, gaming laptops are excellent choices. They have all the processor speed you will need to create multiple tracks effortlessly.
Digital Audio Workstation
A digital audio workstation is a program that allows you to run and record tracks on your computer. There are many different packages available and each is slightly different, though many follow the same structure. The hardest part is learning where the basic controls are for each one.
If you have a Mac, it is probably already bundled with Garageband. Garageband is free to use and is a great DAW for beginners. Pro Tools and Ableton Lite can be downloaded for free for use on other operating systems.
Paid options offer you more flexibility. If you are looking to make tracks regularly it would definitely be in your interest to pay for one of these packages. Cubase and Logic offer the best service and compatibility.
How to Make Music on a Computer With Audio and Midi
To get sound into your computer you have two options, of which you can choose one or both. Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) allows you to send musical notes in electronic form throughout your computer. It is a small keyboard that will let you play into your DAW.
Audio does not send electronic signals but sends the actual wave file from a real instrument. If you are looking to use guitars and record vocals or instruments using microphones, then an audio interface is what you need. This will look like a small box with inputs for leads and microphone cables.
Of course, you can opt for neither and use your mouse and keyboard to type information in. It is restrictive but perfectly plausible.
When choosing a MIDI controller basic is always better. Seasoned keyboard players may wish to purchase something with more octaves as smaller ones can be restrictive. For the new producer, a standard size 2-octave version will suffice.
An Audio interface is a small box that plugs into your computer. You can plug various instruments into the interface and it will transfer the signal to your DAW. There are many options when considering an Audio interface.
The most important factor is to think about what instrument you wish to record. If you are plugging in guitars, a simple interface with a solitary jack lead input will work. If you wish to record vocals, for quality you may need an interface with an XLR microphone input.
Many entry-level interfaces will have at least both of these in one unit, ideal for singer-songwriters or basic vocal recordings. If you choose to use an XLR, you will also need a quality vocal microphone such as an SM57.
Other Useful Equipment
A pair of good quality headphones are a must. Ideally, they will cancel out as much sound from your environment as possible and let you hear only the music you have made.
Studio monitors and good speakers are also very useful. Music sounds different when played on a new speaker or system. Having speakers, as well as headphones, allows you to test on different outputs before you release your work to the public.
Starting Your Track
The last thing you need is a pen and paper. Composing music directly onto a computer can lead you down many rabbit holes due to the myriad of choices and options available. It always helps to plan in advance before you begin.
Listen to your favorite tracks and plan out the structure. Write down where they have a breakdown, how long the chorus lasts, and how many times it repeats. If you already play an instrument, you may wish to make a chord sequence or tap out a drum rhythm.
When you have an idea of what you want to create, begin sequencing. The joy of making music on a computer is that it is easy to correct or eliminate mistakes.
Samples are snippets of pre-existing music that can be used in your piece. You can often drag them into audio tracks and manipulate them as you like. Some DAW’s like Garageband already have a range of samples bundled with them.
If you want to expand your choice of samples you can find many free websites online to provide them. Large packs can also be bought for very good prices. If you want to use something specific, you may even be able to take it directly from YouTube using a converter like the one here.
Mixing the Track
Creating computer music is just the start. Now you have to mix it. Mixing is the process of taking all your sounds and samples and deciding how and where they will go. Will you place them far left in the stereo field, or will the sound come from the right?
Mixing correctly is its own world and you will get better the more you do it. Look for tutorials online to help you along the way.
Finally, you are ready to release your track to the world. Make sure you export your file from the computer (saving the file will just give you a DAW file, you need to visit export) in MP3 or WAV format to share with friends and family.
So now you know how to make music on a computer, what are you waiting for? Get recording and get your music out there today.