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Hardware Thread, Computer Specifically for Music in Technical; The head of music (well, actually the only music teacher!) needs a new computer and she is being told by ...
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    Computer Specifically for Music

    The head of music (well, actually the only music teacher!) needs a new computer and she is being told by the powers that be to get an ordinary one and upgrade the sound card.
    Now, the point is that as far as I remember, proper music computers have all sorts of connectors and stuff on the front and other stuff that makes them more music specific than just a decent sound card.
    Sorry to be vague but I haven't had much dealing with such things.
    Has anyone any idea of what she should be looking at? She specifically needs ammo to show/explain what a real music computer is.
    This is a middle school which goes up to Year 8 and so she feels that it is important that the children have access to the sort of equipment they would get at a senior school
    Thanks

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    The pc's we use for music are reasonably specced shuttle pc's with 1GB ram when we bought though 2gb should be what you go for now.

    With an EMU-0404 sound card, this has 2 breakout cables on the back for all the input output connections such as midi and optical audio out.

    Also had a different video card put in that has analogue and dvi out used the dvi to go to his monitor and the analogue to the projector for interactive whiteboard.

    Ben

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Some sound card packages include the 5.25" front connector panel, so the cables just run to the soundcard internally. Such as this.

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Sounds (!) good webman if a little pricy
    Anyone else?

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    What do you need to know?

    Ill start by explaining a few things then just ask a few questions.


    The reason why you need a proper soundcard;

    ASIO - asio is a specialist low latency driver. All soundcards can use asio drivers but specialist ones have lower latency and are specifically designed to use asio.

    Latency - the most important thing in music. Its no good playing a note and then waiting 30ms for it to actually come out the soundcard. Music HAS to be (as close as possible to) instantanious.

    MIDI - musical instrument digital interface. This allows electronic instruments to be connected (daisy chained) such as drum machines, keyboards, midi controllers/mixers with faders and rotary pots. USB has now got its foot in there making it easy to add devices without special cables, no need for midi (in a school atleast).
    All MIDI does is pass messages. These can be key presses, time syncs, and fader movements - this can be 2way communication so you can have motorised faders.

    VST(i)s - Virtual Studio (instruments). VSTs are effects, VSTi's are instruments such as synths, drum machines, samplers. Certain music programs such as FL studio and cubase are compatible with VSTs, therefore you can buy loads of virtual instruments and control them by a single midi keyboard, through the "host" software (cubase).



    So what makes a PC "good" for music?

    It must have low latency! This can be achieved by a specialist soundcard but if you have a decent enough one on your motherboard you *can* get away without, atleast while you trial things anyway. Ive got a £400 soundcard and the one on my motherboard isnt that much higher latency using this program! Really is worth a shot www.asio4all.com

    CPU and RAM - obviously the more the better but dont be conned into thinking you need some super dooper high spec machine. My home PC is a AMD 939 3200 with 1gb ram and it has no problem at all running *anything* i throw at it, and i throw more at it than any pupil is ever going to.

    Soundcard inputs and outputs. This is upto you, what do you need?

    A mic input for singing and brass instruments? - Most mics come with an XLR connection so you'll need this on your soundcard.
    To complicate it further mics can have what is known as phantom power so make sure if your mics need it that your soundcard has it.

    Speakers - only need a single lineout, normally will be big jacks (not the headphone socket size).

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Soundcard makes?

    My personal fav for schools is M-Audio. Really cant knock them for the price. EMU by creative are good also. Terratecs another but not quite so good value for money.
    I could list loads but your starting to get into *BIG* money with any others really.

    Internal or external?

    Obviously the advantages of external are ease of use, plugging things in etc. But they also benefit from less interferance from the back of the PC (as they are at the front lol), but its doubtful this will matter in a school.
    External generally connect by USB, but more and more they are moving over to firewire so watch for that.

    Internal are generally *alot* cheaper, sometimes going on half the price of an external. Theres no real reason not to go internal tbh apart from ease of use, or if your PCs only take half size cards.



    Software

    When using software with your new fangled soundcard (or even the one on your motherboard) make sure you configure it to use the ASIO driver and not the MS general midi, or DX. With DX you will be lucky to get latencies less than 35ms, with ASIO you'll be unlucky (even on a motherboard SC) to get more than 20ms, with specialist cards getting around 10ms or even less.

    Cubase - this primarily sequencer software. You add your VSTis, assign a MIDI track to the virtual instrument, press record and your keypresses will be recorded to the midi track. This track can be copies, edited, stretched, whatever. Quite a steep learning curve.

    Reason - my personal fav. Really easy to use. No VST support but it has inbuild samplers, synths, drum machines, effects, mixers etc etc. All of which are easily assigned to your hardware keyboard/controller so that you can change filter frequencies (for example) with your hands rather than with the mouse.

    FL Studio - Also easy to use but i havnt played too much so i cant really comment.

    All of the above are used by schools and professionals alike.


    More MIDI - to understand the software you've got to understand how midi works (in a simple sense). MIDI works with ONs and OFFs. You press a key, it sends the signal thay x key is now ON and that it was press with y velocity, then when you release it sends a signal saying the key is OFF. There is no signals being sent between the ON and OFF signal.

    When you look at MIDI in your sequencer software it is represented by blocks corrisponding to keys on the Y axis, and time on the X axis. Usually theres a pic of a keyboard on the left of the Y axis so dont worry you'll understand what i mean when you see it.

    Controlling MIDI - in order to use a fader on a midi keyboard/controller you have to tell the software what to listen for, or tell the hardware how to communicate with the software. The later is *far* more tricky hense my reason for liking Reason.
    MIDI works with CC messages. These are in HEX (nice and easy eh? ). Each key, button, fater, pot on your midi HW will have a CC assigned to it. IF this CC is not what your software is wanting to hear you will have to change it. This requires you "flashing" your HW with a new program.
    Keyboard keys will always work straight out of box, its just the faders, pads, pots etc that you will need to assign.

    Reason on the otherhand is just a case of clicking the virtual fader and telling it to learn which button/fader/pot you are pressing. Hey presto it works, really is as easy as that.

    If you buy a decent keyboard from the likes of Edirol you can download premade programs to assosiate your fader to your software. DO NOT skimp on your MIDI hardware for this reason, you WILL regret it! Sitting there with instruction manuals matching up CCs to virtual faders is not fun.



    I think thats about it for now. Just give me a shout if you need anything else answering. Im not saying i know everything but i know more than enough to run a school music studio.


    My opinion

    Have you thought of training for the teacher(s)?? As they *WILL* need it to get even the basics out of some of the programs ive mentioned.
    Ask him; what is a gate? Why would you use a filter? How do you use Attack, delay, sustain and release in terms of Amps and filters?

    If he cant answer them then he really does need training, or must be willing to learn himself. Yes he may get some use out of the software without this knowledge but then why use software for music when you are not even going to brush on its potential?


    Cant go without mentioning Macs. Do you *need* them? No. Do they have their place in music production in schools? Yes, if you are really wanting to use Garageband. If not then the massive price differance will be far better spent on hardware, software and training.

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    j17sparky
    thanks for all that.
    I know all about most of the music stuff (although if you play the french horn like me you would dispute that music is instantaneous!)and I can see that you would need a decent sound card with all the bells and whistles - my point is that do I buy an 'ordinary' computer and put a specialist sound card in it, or do we go for a specialist music computer?
    We only have Cubasic and that is all there is going to be, much as we would like Sibelius and the like!
    Just tell me what to get!!!

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Sorry, didnt answer your question
    The machine needs to be able to cope with inputs from keyboards, drum machines, midi controllers, as well as a huge variety of audio from single instruments to ensemble pieces

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Normal PC with a soundcard.

    But like i say if you want to give it a bash on a recent PC you already have just wack that ASIO4All on and see how it copes.


    Soundcard id probably say the M Audio audiophile range

    http://www.google.co.uk/products?q=m...Search&show=dd

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    Re: Computer Specifically for Music

    Quote Originally Posted by WITCH
    Sorry, didnt answer your question
    The machine needs to be able to cope with inputs from keyboards, drum machines, midi controllers, as well as a huge variety of audio from single instruments to ensemble pieces

    How many instruments *recording* on seperate tracks at once?? Any more than 2 and you will start talking £200+. Any more than 4 probably £300+...

    Probably best to record each track seperately and put them all together at the end - thats the way they do it in real studios anyway (to some extent)


    What interfaces have your MIDI devices got? USB or just MIDI?
    USB will connect straight up.

    MIDI you will need a soundcard with a midi socket, all decnet ones have one so no worries there. MIDI is just daisy chained along so you only need one midi input for unlimited* devices

    * not unlimited, cant remember what the exact number is but more than you will ever need.



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