100 Newbie Hurdles – Part 3 – Latency Trouble

This is one of those topics that you need to understand. To be honest, most of the stuff in this series will be conceptual, which will help you to apply them when situations arise. Instead of giving you specific solutions, making you understand would be the best way, because when you understand you can apply your mind and solve things in any DAW. Although I would try to give you examples of how to do it specifically in some DAW.

Latency

Latency is the time difference between the input you give such as an Audio Signal or a Key Press on the keyboard, and the response to your input that your Musical Setup provides.

For Example,

  1. You are recording your vocals and the ‘monitor’ switch is on, so you get a feed back of your voice in your headphones. If there is a 1 second delay between the moment you utter a word and the time it is played back to your headphones, then this is the Latency issue we are talking about. Or
  1. You are playing a VST instrument, and there is a time difference between the moment you hit a note on the keyboard and the sound being produced by the DAW. This is latency too.

In any case the result is pretty annoying and it needs to be solved.

In situations where a computer’s own sound card is used, latency is very common. Unless your sound card is really powerful. This doesn’t mean that there are no latency issues when you use an Audio Interface. Just that it is not that common.

Anyway, so you are having latency issues although you are using your Audio Interface. The fix usually lies in either the Audio Interface preferences or the DAW preferences or both.

  1. Open the properties of your Audio Interface. I have a screenshot of the properties of my Audio Interface. I switched to the Latency Tab. This is where you get to tweak. Shown below is a scale of the amount of data the Audio Interface collects before sending it to the Computer. Lower the amount lesser the latency. But it is suggested by many people that you don’t go below 128.

Need Explanation?

Ok, You don’t get how lowering this can reduce the latency. Imagine this situation. There is a guy packing boxes and there is another loading them into a truck. If the first guy has a huge box. It would take a long time for him to pack this box and pass it on to the next guy right.? But what if he had small boxes. He would pass on more boxes every hour or minute or what ever unit of time you are considering. Although end of the day we would complete the work in the same time. What really matters for us is whether there is a continuous flow of boxes.

That’s the case with the Audio Interface too. We need real time processing. A continuous supply of Audio Data.

  1. The second way would be to tweak some preferences in your DAW. Every DAW will come with preferences to compensate for Latency that cannot be avoided. Shown below is a screen shot of the preferences.

Change the ‘Driver Error Compensation’ to reduce latency. Although I believe that the first solution will solve the problem for sure. This would be a supplementary method to solve things.

You can also use the Test Tone in Ableton to check if you would have Latency. Click the Button where is says ‘Off’ next to ‘Test Tone’. This will switch on the Test Tone which is one of those continuous single frequency sine wave sounds. If there is a problem with your latency, then this tone will sound distorted with noise. Simple enough?. Yes!

If you have any questions, comment here or drop a mail at johananj@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to reply.

Thanks for Reading. Make some MUSIC yo’all!!

100 Newbie Hurdles – Part 2 – Audio Interface doesn’t get Detected

I was stuck with this problem for a really long time and this even discouraged me to not make music anymore. Although it sounds really funny now. This is, till this date my biggest hurdle because it stopped me from doing what i really wanted to. The solution though was and is really simple though and I felt really REALLY stupid when i found it. Lets take this from the top….

It is very common to think that your Audio Interface is an additional gadget to the Sound-card on your Computer but what happens when you plug in your Audio Interface is that it BECOMES your Sound-card now. It is rather a (better)substitute than a supplement. All the audio comes out from the Audio Interface now (unless you change settings in the computer to do otherwise). So if you have speakers connected to the audio jack of your PC. You will not receive any audio output from that. Instead the audio is now being routed to your Audio interface. If you now connect your speakers to your Audio interface, then you could listen to the sounds from your computer.

With that said, there is another problem that the Ultra Noobs tend to do. They switch on the Audio Interface after they open their DAW. If you post questions like these on other forums you would probably have an internet mob virtually stoning you. But hey, don’t worry, we all go through crazy situations like these. Anyways, In this case, your DAW will pop up an error message and you being an Ultra Noob might just click on Ok or Cancel and move on. Now with the DAW open, you switch on your Audio Interface and Viola… NO SOUND from the interface.! :). Why is that.. ?

For a start let me say, Switch on your Audio Interface before you open your DAW!. What happens when you don’t is that, your computer’s own soundcard is now your primary driver for your DAW. Meaning your DAW looks for ways it can send sound out to the speaker and since it finds only your on board sound card, it actually pops up an error message saying that you do not have any interface connected, since it believes that your sound card is not good enough to do most of the tasks your DAW is meant to do. But since you graciously dismissed that away your computer figures, “Ok there’s no Audio interface, I’ll use the onboard soundcard and do what i can with it”. Well yes, your on board sound card can do some bare minimum essential tasks, although be prepared for Latency (Covered in another post). So now when you switch your interface on, your DAW does pick that up but what it does not do is, select it automatically when you switch it on. So obviously, you would have to go to your preferences/options and change that. But you being an Ultra Newbie do not know where that is and what you should select.

In Ableton, head to Preferences and Go to the Audio Tab and you will be able to select, Driver Type, Audio Input Device and Output Device. This is set to Direct X for PC users if you did not have your interface ON before opening your DAW. If you change the Driver Type from Direct X to ASIO this would enable you to select your Audio interface. Usually all Audio interfaces that i have come across have been listed as an ASIO type. For ASIO, there is no option to select Input and Output device, but rather just the device itself.

In Cubase, these options are located in the ‘Device Setup’ dialog. Click on VST Audio System and then Select your Audio interface. For other DAWs, the process should be really similar.  If its not, now that you know what the problem is, you should be able to google this and find out from a blog that specifically deals with your DAWs issue. ;). Will try to upload images for these from my Ableton Live very soon.

Thanks for Reading..

100 Newbie Burdles – Part 1 – What do I need to Record and Make Music

You can skip this post if you are happy with the arrangement you have at home right now. This is really really basic. This is for someone TOTALLY new.

The first thing that you would need is to determine the setup that you would need to make music. How long did i wander in this zone?. About an year. How much was I motivated at this time to make music? I would give myself 4/10. So that reflects at how long it took me to finally know what to buy.

Basically, there are three things that you would need apart from your computer to make music.

1. Audio Interface.
2. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) – The software that you install on your computer that helps to sequence and arrange music; helps you add effects; use virtual instruments and produce music.
3. Instruments and Microphone – Depending on the type of music you are going to make, sometimes a keyboard is all that is needed (example for electronic music).

Lets see each of these in detail.

Audio Interface

This is the most important component of Home Recording. This is the first and foremost thing that you have to consider buying because this is the key. Without an audio interface you are not gonna go anywhere but believe me its one of the best investments i have ever made in my life, I just love it.

So what does an audio interface do? Essentially it converts the analog audio that you send it via a line in from an instrument or signal from a mic that you have connected to it. So in short, if you are going to record guitar, vocals or drums for that matter, you would need an Audio Interface.

I have the M-Audio Fast Track Pro. I got this because it had what i needed and more.

fast-track-pro-4x4-mobile-usb-audiomidi-preamps

FTP_front+back

Reasons I went for the Fast Track Pro1. It had midi support. My keyboard did not have an usb port for me to directly connect to my computer to send MIDI notes to my DAW.
2. It had two audio input jacks. Which was more than enough for me. The max i would do that would be to record vocals in the future or record guitar.
3. I loved the brand.

But sadly this product is discontinued now. I would suggest you check out some of the products like the MBox by Avid, the Scarlett range from Focusrite and the Audiobox range from Presonus.

Digital Audio Workstation – DAW
This will be the second most important thing that you will need. This is the software that you will install in your computer, which will help you create tracks, record audio or use Midi and VST, sequence and arrange them, Mix them and finally master and produce the tracks.

There is a whole lot of debate on what DAW is good for you and what is better and which is the best one out there. Thats an endless topic on its own. But a wise suggestion is to go with the DAW that comes with your Audio Interface. Every Audio interface you buy will come with some free or lightweight version of the main software so that you get used to it and later possibly buy it. Now this is a good deal. When i got my Fast track Pro i got with it a limited version of Protools and Ableton Live. I installed Ableton live first because it seemed somewhat unique to what ive seen my friends use, like cubase and logic. Although i had no clue of what i was looking at, i think it was first love and no matter how many DAWs i come across i always go back to Ableton. This might not be the same case with you. Maybe the first DAW you get to use is something else. Stick to it and become a pro in that. More about this in another post.

Instruments and Microphones

This is an obvious section. Yes you will need instruments. But depending on what kind of music you will make, you might need less or more. For electronic music, a keyboard is all that is needed. Of course you can very well get a lot of other cool gadgets. But this will be the bare minimum. For three months into my passionate quest, i had just my audio interface and my keyboard. No mics, No good headphones. I was just using the headphone i already had. This is why i haven’t listed that here. But if you have the money. Go for it!. Get some good Monitor Headphones or even Studio Monitors for that matter. But eventually you will need some good headphones with a flat frequency response to mix properly.

You will need a good mic for vocals and guitars. To keep this post shorter, let me conclude that getting a decent Condenser mic would be better. A whole post on mics later.

With these three, i guess you can start your quest pretty decently. Let me recap.

1. Audio Interface
2. The free limited version of DAW that came with your Audio Interface.
3. Keyboard and a Decent Mic. Assuming that you are a music lover and you already have an OK headphones.

Thanks for reading.

100 Newbie Hurdles and Mistakes in Home Recording – Series Intro

100 Newbie Hurdles

This post is essentially a story. There is nothing productive in this if you are here in this blog to look for a quick solution. This post is for you to read when you are free.

I have taken a challenge to write 100 newbie hurdles and mistakes that every newbie faces while trying to establish a home studio. In this series i would like to discuss my ten month journey, alone, with no specific guidance from anyone and how i hit the walls and finally found the path i am on right now. This is not to say that i am well established music producer or anything of that sort. I am still at the learning stage and i haven’t made a buck out of it (not that earning money was my original intention). But hey, if you are new to all this and you are lost, who can understand your position better than me.

I have always believed in the internet and i have always believed that the internet has the answers to almost everything you shoot at it, you just need to know where to look. But it is an arena of confusions too. There are so many people who can confuse you and lead you astray. But if you don’t wanna spend much for what you want or if you don’t have the cash for it. You have to take this long road. Such was mine. But the great thing about this is that eventually you will find direction and you will know whom to listen to. You will find people you can trust, people you can listen to. I found such a person, three four months into my passionate quest to learn music production. There have been tons of people on Youtube that i have listened to, who’ve helped me a lot in working things out with recording and mixing but if there is one person i can point out, who dragged me into the highroad and gave me direction it would be Graham Cochrane from the Recording Revolution. Now that i gave you the link, my job is actually done, you actually wouldn’t need me, but i guess i have a duty to share what i know to make your life easier. Whether people read it or not is secondary. In this series I wanna focus on my mistakes and hurdles that kept me from making good music. I would like to start from scratch, from even the most trivial things because those are the things that are never covered in any blog posts, and extend to hurdles i face currently after ten months. Some of it might be really obvious to you, some of it might not. Take what you can. Read when you can. Lets make some good music.!!

Thanks for Reading ….

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.