Understanding the Terminology associated with Home Recording!
It’s easy to get lost in the terminology if this is all very new to you. In this blog I’m going to explain some of the “jargon” or technical terms you might come across and what they mean.
First of all, the main one.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW): A DAW is the software that gives you the ability to record, mix, and play back music with your computer. DAWs can be used with your interface to record live band sessions, or solo sessions using microphones, as well as to record instruments plugged directly into the hardware interface. DAWs are powerful musical tools that give you the ability to write, arrange, and engineer songs entirely on your computer screen. The highly polished quality of modern DAWs and plugins gives your computer the capabilities of a professional recording studio minus the physical requirements. Basically, your studio in a box.
Setting up and settings
Download and install the most current driver from your interface. You can generally find these on the manufacturers website. Next Install your DAW. Once installed you will need to go to the preferences in the software and make sure you select the specific driver you need. Depending on the DAW these are normally in a drop down menu or listed under Hardware Options/Preferences.
You may come across other settings there which I will try to explain in the next section below.
Latency: In simple terms, latency is the brief period of time between making a sound and hearing a sound. In the context of music production, an example of latency would be the time between playing a key on a MIDI keyboard or a note on your instrument and hearing the resulting sound through your headphones or monitor speakers. It’s pretty much unavoidable in the digital home recording setup but it can be managed by setting a low buffer size in your DAW.
Buffer Size: A low buffer size will result in a lower latency, but how low you can get it without running into issues like crackling and popping sounds will really depend on how good your computer is. It’s best to set as low of a buffer size as you can when actually recording. The buffer size can be changed later in your project when you have laid down all your tracks and need more processing power for example adding effects plugins and mixing which can be more demanding on your computer’s processor.
Plugins: A plugin is an audio program within your DAW. The most common plugins are audio effects and virtual instruments. Sometimes referred to as a VST. Effects can be used on your recordings to add depth and life to your tracks. Reverb and Delay/Echo are probably some of the most used in recording but there are countless others providing everything from subtle changes in sound to crazy sound effects. All DAW’s will come with stock plugins as standard but you can also purchase 3rd party plugins from countless manufacturers.
Virtual instruments: Virtual instruments are another type of plugin and can be extremely useful. Virtual instruments are simply software that recreate the sounds of a musical instrument. They come in many different forms from synthesizers, pianos, string instruments, bass guitars drums and percussion and many others. A MIDI Keyboard is probably the easiest tool to get the best from these instruments, although the notes can be drawn in manually in your DAW’s MIDI channel or piano roll.
Hopefully some of the topics listed can help out some of you guys who are just getting started. I know from experience it can be a bit daunting when getting to grips with the terminology. I have chosen these particular topics as they were some of the things I had no idea about when I began this Journey.
I’ve kept the explanations quite brief and basic but of course we are here to answer any further and more technical questions you may have.
In future blogs we will be taking a deeper dive and looking at different topics and in more depth. So keep your eye on our website and social media for updates.
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By Richard Atkinson