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Derakon

What do I need to compose music?

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Yes, I saw the sticky at the top of this forum. That pertains only to computer software. And while a sequencer will be useful (nay, necessary), I'm interested in a better setup. I really don't want to have to put in each note by hand, so I'd like to get a keyboard on which I can play. Ideally I'd plug the keyboard into my computer (through a MIDI-to-USB converter as necessary), fire up some software, play on the keyboard, and have my notes show up on the staff in the software, at which point I can correct miskeys, change tempos, and so on. What exactly is needed for this? I see three things: a keyboard with MIDI out, a MIDI to USB converter, and a sequencer. Am I missing anything? Also, what's a recommended cheap keyboard? As a college student, I really don't have much in the way of disposable income. I've looked at this keyboard as a possible option (the "functions as a standalone USB MIDI interface" bit leads me to suspect that I wouldn't need a converter to connect it to my computer). It's about as expensive as I'm willing to go; this quickly eliminates a lot of options. Is the limitation to 4 octaves of range (without using the octave shift) going to make it difficult to use? I've seen some even cheaper 3-octave keyboards, but that seemed too claustrophobic for me. I'd like, if possible, to also be able to play normal sheet music, since I need to get back into practice with the piano.

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There's a question of what generates the audio. Unless you go with fancy, high-end software-based synthesizers, then your keyboard will also serve as the sound generator. Thus, you'd want a keyboard with reasonable polyphony, and a reasonable set of useable sounds. I wouldn't use the Microsoft MIDI synth for real-time playback, as it's too laggy. A SoundBlaster Live! might be good enough, though, if you're on a budget.

Many sound cards come with a MIDI port built in. Practically all of them do, if they have an old-style game/joystick port; this is usually known as "MPU-401 compatible MIDI port". I would look for an older keyboard on eBay; something like a used QuadraSynth+Piano by Alesis ought to go really cheap, and has reasonable sound, and real-size keys (which I find important).

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You can use what I use, a Korg Triton, but you need about 2k for one of those. I just record the music using its sequencer then record the output of it on my PC using GoldWave. Ok, if you can only afford a cheap keyboard, but don't want the cheap computer MIDI sounds, you can use some sequencer software to compose it, hook up MIDI cables so that it outputs on your keyboard, then hook the keyboards audio output into the line input of your computer, record with goldwave, and off you go.

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The keyboard will be fine unless you actually want to play bach or somthing of that sort ;) I would try to look around for a keyboard with 61 full sized keys though. Look around at some of the department stores you don't need one with a ton of presets and rythems etc. seeing as (mostly) you will just be using it for a midi in to send signels not sounds. You can use the program you buy as the synth or whatever else you want. I would take a look at fruity loops (www.fruityloops.com) it costs $150 AMD for the good one ;) there is a good community and it can host vst programs (more synths, effects, insterments etc.) alot of them are free as well. That's about the cheapest commertial program I know of to make music with...

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What do you need to compose? In my experience, training is everything. If all you've got are some basic tools, you can still make quality music if you've got the experience and talent. I see tons of people posting to forums going "I have 10,000,000 GB of samples and a nice guitar--you should hire me!!!" But I often find that when people are stuck on the merits of equipment, they tend to overlook the fact that if they suck, there's not going to be any way around that.
That being said, a huge keyboard is not going to be necessary--you'll be able to work composition just fine on a three octave, unless you plan on writing tons of piano music.

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Thanks for the input, everyone. It's looking like getting a keyboard big enough to do recreational playing as well as composition is out of the question, simply because of budget concerns (an at-all decent 66+ key keyboard costs over $200)

I do have some training with regards to music; I've done...lessee, six years of piano, six cello, two violin, and two cornet. However, that was at least eight years ago, so I have some catching up to do. Ahh, well; I have winter break coming up and will be in a house with a baby grand piano. My biggest problem right now is really getting a setup where I can comfortably compose music. I've dabbled a bit with manually adding notes to a sequencer (i.e. "place a high C half-note here") but it's slow and seems like it would interfere with the creative flow. Then again, I haven't really practiced that; could be that with time I could learn to use that method better. Right now I just need to find a software sequencer and synth that I can afford. If there's interest, I'll post my final setup here; seems like it could be useful.

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hi.

go on ebay ans search within the "musical instruments" section with "midi keyboard"... ebay is by far the best place to by gear cheap.

Also, you have to ask yourself how many octaves you will actually use during ONE recording pass. Ie. are you going to be recording passages involving > 3 or 4 octaves? If not, then just get a small keyboard. Remember, if your composition goes over 4 octaves, it doesn't mean you need a four octave keyboard. For instance, you might record the bass parts separately from the treble parts. In that case, who cares!? Just hit the octave up button before you record.

Also, since you're getting into software AND you have a baby grand piano, onboard sounds should be your lowest priority.

-j

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