A Shot at Something New: The DAWning of Creativity

By Lila Karash, Local Musician and Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Here's what I've been up to lately: experimenting with a DAW (Digital Audio Workshop). If you own a Mac and you've played around with Garage Band, then you already know what a DAW is. But for those of you who aren't familiar with a DAW, it's a program that lets you record music on multiple tracks. For instance, you can record guitar on one track and then play back what you just recorded while you record vocals on another track. Then you can blend them together in a process called "mixing." 

In order to get the sound of your instrument onto your computer, you will need one of two things:

  • A USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer - this is a cheap and simple alternative.  
  • An audio interface (plus microphone, mic cable, and mic stand) that lets you plug a non-USB microphone or an electric guitar into your computer. The interface costs a little more, but it gives you more options to use higher quality microphones. 
  • Browse through home recording supplies on the Twin Town Guitars web site.
Here is something else you can do with a DAW: Create music using MIDI sounds. These are virtual instruments and samples that you can download to your computer. Some DAWs even come with a library of sounds that are ready to use. The DAW will usually let you use your computer keyboard to place the notes where you want them, but most people prefer to use a MIDI controller, like a keyboard or keypad that makes it feel like you are really playing an instrument as you record.

If you're interested in trying a DAW, a simple way to get started is with a free, cloud-based option like SoundTrap or BandLab. I started out with BandLab and I found the interface to be really easy to learn. Plus, it comes with its own library of sounds that are free to use. Online DAWs like BandLab won't hog up hard drive space on your computer, but since it's online, you do have to do a latency test to adjust the program to your microphone. In other words, the DAW has to adjust a setting to compensate for the time it takes the signal to get from your microphone into the online program. I tried recording in BandLab with a USB microphone and it worked well. However, when I tried it with an audio interface, I had some problems, so I've been looking into other downloadable DAWs such as Ableton, which came with my audio interface, and Reaper, which is an inexpensive one that a lot of people recommend.

Home recording has become more popular during the pandemic, and you can get started on a very low budget. It's a great way to get your musical ideas into a format that you can share!
June 14, 2021 — Webteam Member

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