A few years ago there was a revolution in recording technology. As computers became more powerful, they started to replace traditional tape recorders that were the heart of most recording studios. Today, computers designed for home use are powerful enough to emulate an entire recording studio, and can be used for everything from multitrack recording to audio editing and scoring music for videos.
This "democratizing" of recording techniques has opened up the entire recording industry to anyone with the proper software and hardware. With software packages costing a few hundred dollars and professional-quality audio interfaces costing less than $100, anybody can have a virtual recording studio in their home.
Some of the big names in the audio recording field are Cubase, ProTools, Sonar and Sound Forge. Each of these Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) can be used for multi-track recording and editing and have the ability to combine recordings with "virtual instruments".
Virtual instruments are computer-generated sounds that can be played via MIDI. Traditionally, MIDI was used to send music data to hardware devices like keyboards and sound modules, but computers are now powerful enough to emulate sound modules. Instead of hooking up cables to an external device to play MIDI tracks, virtual instruments can be loaded into the computer's memory to play any type of sound.
MIDI tracks can be combined with audio tracks and all of it played back in perfect synchronization. All tracks can be processed with effects like reverb and chorus, and the entire mix can be compressed for a professional sounding result.
Although professional sound recording packages can be fairly expensive, you can get your feet wet by trying out one of the shareware programs that are available. They will allow you to see the capabilities of digital recording, and if you want to develop your interests further you can later buy one of the professional programs.
Hans is editor of the Audio Howto Section of
the Selected Audio Review Guide