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Lesson 4. Working with Real Instruments > Connecting Musical Instruments to You...

Connecting Musical Instruments to Your Computer

There are basically two types of musical instruments: electric and acoustic. An electric instrument has a built-in interface to output its sound, but an acoustic instrument needs a microphone to record its sound.

Electric instruments include electric guitars, keyboards, and electric bass.

You can connect an electric instrument directly to the computer’s audio-in port, if your computer has one. The computer audio-in port is a 1/8-inch mini input, so you will need an adapter or cable to convert the 1/4-inch phono output from your instrument to the 1/8-inch audio line-in port (mini input) on the computer.

To record an acoustic instrument or vocals, you can connect a microphone to your computer through the audio-in port, which is located on the back of the computer. The new G5 computers also include Optical digital audio-in/out ports for higher-end audio recording equipment.

You can also connect an audio interface to your computer, and then connect your microphone or instruments to the audio interface. There is a wide range of audio interfaces and compatible formats, including USB, FireWire, PCI, and PC cards. With the addition of an audio interface, GarageBand 2 allows you to record up to 8 Real Instrument tracks and 1 Software Instrument track simultaneously. So you can record one instrument at a time, or the whole band at once. If you want to record more than one instrument or microphone at a time, you can also connect an audio mixer or console to your computer. You’ll see an example of multitrack recording in Lesson 9.

For this lesson, I’m using the EDIROL PCR-A30 Audio Interface/MIDI Keyboard Controller. This interface is both a MIDI controller and an audio interface.

Make sure any audio interface is compatible with Mac OS X 10.2.6 or later, and that the format used by the interface is supported by your computer.

Also, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and be sure you install the correct driver on your computer.

Another exciting development in the world of digital music recording is the new iGuitar.USB by Brian Moore Guitars. The iGuitar is the first guitar to offer on-board, Class Compliant USB audio to streamline the guitar to computer connection eliminating the need for an external audio interface. In other words, you can use a standard USB cable to hook the iGuitar to the computer and record Real Instrument guitar parts into GarageBand without any other equipment.

More Info

You can find more information about GarageBand accessories at www.apple.com/ilife/garageband/accessories.html. You can find out more information about the iGuitar at http://www.brianmooreguitars.com.

Setting Preferences for the Audio-In Port

If you plan to record through the audio-in port on your computer, you will need to set the System Preferences accordingly. The System Preferences are located under the Apple menu (blue apple) in the upper-left corner of the computer screen.

Let’s change the preferences to record through your audio-in port. If your computer doesn’t have an audio-in port, you won’t be able to make the changes, but you’ll know how to do it if you ever use GarageBand on a Mac with audio-in.

Click the blue apple to open the Apple menu.

This menu is always available, even when you’re running an application.

Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.

The System Preferences window opens.

Click the Sound button to open the Sound Preferences window.

The Sound Preferences window opens.

Click the Input button to see the sound input pane in the window.

The input options on your computer will reflect the current audio devices and hardware that you are using. It is very likely that your input options will be different from the ones shown in the screenshots.

Select the audio interface that you will be using for the recording.

If you are using the audio line-in port on your computer, select Line In from the sound input list. Likewise, if you are using the optical digital-in port choose that selection.

Play a riff on your instrument and notice the input level on the Input level meter.

Click-drag the Input volume slider to raise or lower your input volume levels as needed.

The Input level meter shows the level of your input from left to right. Left is the lowest input level (quietest), and right is the highest (loudest). If your input levels are too high, you will “overdrive” the input, which means the recording is louder than the device can handle and your music will be distorted.

If the device you select does not have input controls in the Sound Preferences window, you can raise the output volume on your instrument or device.

For this exercise I’m using the EDIROL PCR-A Audio Interface/MIDI Keyboard Controller as an input device. As you can see in the illustration, this device does not have an Input volume slider in the Sound Preferences window.

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