If you plan on doing any type of live recording with your laptop, the first thing you'll need is a microphone. As the first link in the audio chain, a microphone acts as a kind of measuring device which outputs a small, continuously varying AC voltage in response to the changes in atmospheric pressure caused by any sound disturbance.
There any many makes and models of microphones, each with it's own set of characteristics. When evaluating different microphones, there are three important factors to consider:
These three factors are often integrated in a microphone's performance characteristics. When shopping for a microphone, look at these specifications, think about what the microphone will be used for, and choose accordingly. Manufacturers will often make suggestions on applications for their products, and trade publications, such as Electronic Musician, will often have articles and reviews.
Suggested Additional Reading: For a more detailed overview of microphones, read this article from the Electronic Musician archives: Building a Microphone Cabinet on Any Budget; Electronic Musician; September 2000.
Recording Audio with a Computer
Audio Signal Flow Beyond the Computer
In order to understand the various ways we might configure additional hardware components, we must understand how audio moves between devices.
Audio signals may exist in the analog domain as electrical voltages carried along copper wires. Audio may also be represented in the digital domain as numbers and transferred either as electrical signals (on or off pulses) on copper wire or as light pulses through fiber optic cables.
In addition, analog and digital audio signals may exist in various formats, each using a unique type of cable and/or connector.
Follow these links for a summary of audio connectors:
Although your laptop is perfectly capable of recording and playing back digital audio, there are a number of possible upgrades that will yield better sound and offer a number of additional capabilities. Although sound cards have been a cost-effective way to upgrade tower-type computers, audio interfaces such as the MOTU 828mkII and the Pro Tools M-Box offer many advantages. These include:
Follow this link for more background on different types of computer audio connections.
As you expand your capabilities, one important consideration will be the matching the input and output levels of various hardware audio tools. Follow this link for some background on Audio Levels.
This week, get started on producing your final project for the semester.
Choose a piece
of music in any style, original or not, and produce an arrangement using
either GarageBand or Reason. If you use GarageBand, which supports audio
recording, you are able to add an instrumental or vocal recording to this
project. This would be a great opportunity to produce a demo of something
you have written or of your performance skills. If you choose Reason, produce
an instrumental arrangement. In either case, audio recording is not required
to successfully complete this project.
Your project should fulfill the following requirements:
Recording Workshop Vocabulary
ADAT light pipe