Introduction to Music Production, Assignment 2

My name is Richard Lee from San Francisco.  I’d like to welcome you to my second peer reviewed assignment for Berklee College of Music’s Introduction to Music Production Coursera Class.

My topic for this assignment is to efficiently record audio in my DAW, documenting both the project setup, and creating the tracks.

garageband-guitarFirst, the Digital Audio Workstation software is GarageBand. Since it came free with my iMac, I decided to give it a shot, as it’d likely have a massive community of users who, like me, are just starting off in making nois*ahem*music.  If I ran into a problem, it’s likely 1000 other people have run into the same problem and their solution would be posted a mere google search away.

garageband-file-newWe start our journey with creating a new project.  This is accomplished by either hitting the COMMAND-N key combination or clicking on File | New on the top menu.  In this case, I used the menu to create a new project.

You’ll now be presented with a new project dialog (see image below).  Choose where you’d like your project files to be saved.  In my case, I decided to create the project in Coursera \ MusicProduction \ Week 3.
Once you’ve chosen a directory for your project to live, you’ll be greeted by the main GarageBand window.  By default the project is populated by a “Grand Piano” track.  I have seen a workflow where you’re able to choose a first track type up front, but going through File | New menus seem to skip that initial choice.


garageband-delete-trackIf your goal is to record a MIDI grand piano, you can go ahead and use this default track.  For the case of this assignment, however, I want to record using an electric guitar; specifically my Epiphone LP-100.  To do that, we want to delete the default track and add a new Electric Guitar track.  To do that, select the Grand Piano by clicking on it then select Track | Delete Track (or Command-Delete).


garageband-new-trackTo create a new Track, click the Track menu and select New Track. This will present you with a choice of “Software Instrument” or midi track, a “Real Instrument” for recording directly from an audio device, or “Electric Guitar” which is like a “Real Instrument”, but allows for guitar specific special effects.  Here you see, I chose Electric Guitar.



IMG_0507My next step was to set up my audio interface.  The Audio Interface that I’m using is an M-Audio M-Track Plus.  On the right, you can see my interface and it’s got nothing plugged into it yet.  I’m going to be using input 1 for this assignment, so I turned the gain all the way down prior to plugging anything in.

IMG_0514My monitor is a Sennheiser HD202 headset.  I’ll plug it into the headphone jack of the interface.  The headset is natively an 1/8″ jack, but comes with an 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter.

I make sure that input 1 has “Guitar” selected instead of “Mic/Line” and plug the TS Cable from the guitar into the “Guitar/Line Input” jack.I strum my guitar aggressively while slowly increasing the gain until the signal starts to peak in the yellow.

Once my levels are set in the interface, It’s back to GarageBand.  Toward the bottom of the window, there are a cluster of controls which are used to start and stop recordings, switch between Project, Tuner, and Time modes.  For this assignment the most important view is Time.  To enable a metronome tick during your recording, be sure the metronome icon is highlighted  as it is below.


Hit the record button to begin your recording.

Just for the heck of it, I exported the strumming.  Not particularly good guitar playing, but it *is* pretty loud!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In reflection, a lot of this assignment seems very simple; intuitive even.  Without the class, however, I wouldn’t have known the utility of the audio interface.  I had tried several times before to plug my guitar amp into my computer via some 1/4″ jack to USB cable, but the recording was always noisy and of low quality.  My original plan was to create a video… but as it turns out, it’s very difficult to film yourself doing tight actions such as adjusting gains or plugging in cables.  Perhaps I’ll be inspired by the creativity of my classmates and give it a shot next week.

Thanks for reviewing me.