How to Make Music Using a Computer

Here are a few basic steps to kick start your way into becoming a computer musician.


  1. Image titled Make Music Using a Computer Step 1
    Get access to a computer. You will need a reasonably fast processor and at least 4 GB of RAM.
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    Access a digital audio workstation (or DAW). If you own a Mac, then you already have a very decent DAW called Garage Band. Some other very popular DAWs are Logic Express/Pro (Mac only), Sonar, FL Studio (PC only), Cubase, Ableton Live (PC and Mac), Pro Tools (only works with Digidesign or M-Audio interfaces). If you are looking to make electronic music, only then you should also look into Propellerhead Reason.
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    Get an audio interface. A basic interface usually consists of two input pre-amps that go into two analog to digital converts, two line outputs (left and right) and a headphone output. They are available in USB, firewire, PCI, etc. Usually when you get an interface you will also get a lite version of Cubase, Ableton Live, Sonar, or Pro Tools. This should solve your DAW problem if you are a PC user. Some popular brands are Apogee (Mac only), Digidesign, M-Audio, Tascam, Presonus, Edirol, Yamaha, etc.
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    Start recording. There are two ways of recording into your computer. One of them is using a microphone (condenser, dynamic, or ribbon) and a pre-amp (usually included in your interface). To record this way, just connect the microphone to the XLR input of your interface, turn on the phantom power (+48V) if you're using a condenser microphone, and set the gain to where it doesn't clip on your DAW (go over 0db). If you want to record using an external pre-amp, make sure you bypass your interface's pre-amp and you have phantom power turned on in either you interface or the pre-amp. The other way to record is by using the direct inputs (also known as instrument inputs in most interfaces). This is usually used for recording guitars, synthesizers, drum machines, or any external sources. To record this way, just hook up your guitar, synthesizer, or whatever you are recording straight into the 1/4 input of your interface and set the gain to where it's not clipping. If you are using a guitar amp emulation software (like amplitude, guitar rig, revalver, etc.), then this is how you should record your guitar/bass.
  5. Image titled Make Music Using a Computer Step 5
    Check out the synthesizers. There are three main kinds of synthesizers: analog, digital, and software. A synthesizer basically uses waves or samples to create sounds. Different waves produce different sounding tones. Some of the basic waves used are the square, saw, sine and pulse waves. You can also mix different waves together to get different sounds. Some synthesizers also let you morph different waves together, making your own waves. There are other tools that help you alter the sound of the synth, the next most important being the filters. These usually consist of cutoff and resonance and are usually low pass (lp) and hi pass (hp). The filters usually have their own ADHR (attack, decay, hold, and release) modifiers. After that usually comes the amp/loudness ADHR modifiers and effects (distortion, chorus, delays, reverbs, etc). Synths may seem confusing at first, but the best way to learn how to use them properly is to experiment with them. Start by focusing on the Oscillators (waves) and the filters, first.
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    Be aware of the dynamics. Compression is always good for keeping your drums punchy, keeping your vocals at a constant level, and also making synthesizers and guitars sound tight. Limiting is used to keeping your tracks from clipping. Maximizers are good for making thing sound louder.
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    Add effects. These are also important. Reverbs are used for tasks like making your electronic drums sound like they are in the same room or making things sound like they are far away, etc. Delays are also a good way of making something sound spacey. Chorus and ensembles are usually used to widening and detuning. There are many other effects like phasers, flanges, filters, distortions, and ring modulators that can be used for anything you like.
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    Mix your song. For this you will need a good pair of headphones (flat response) and some studio monitors (if you can afford them). Make sure you have a limiter on your master channel so nothing goes over 0db. Start by mixing the kick drum to where it hits 0db, and then throw the bass up as desired. After you are done with that, everything else should be simple.
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    Try to keep things off the center. The only things that should be mainly in the center are the kick drum, snare, bass, vocals, and maybe your guitar/synth solo. some good ways to make things wider is by using a chorus effect, turning on the unison on your synthesizer, or delaying the left or right channel by a few samples.
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    Practice, practice, practice. It will take you some time to get everything sounding how you want it to. There is nothing like a perfect mix, you should always aim to make the best mix you can.


  • Get a good microphone. That could really change the sound if you have vocals or instruments.
  • Look up more detailed information on the equipment listed here, so you know what you're doing.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Digital audio workstation
  • Audio interface
  • Instruments

Article Info

Categories: Summarization | Music Techniques