Terry Danielles Music - Tech - Retro information, features and blog website www.tdanielles.com .


The question that gets asked time after time over the years when it comes to creating music on a home system computer HOME BUILD COMPUTER

Make a brew, slice of cake and if you’re sitting comfortably.. read on. I can’t cover EVERY issue re this, What works for some I may not have tried or discarded cos it doesn’t work for me.

YES the computer case shown on the right actually houses my own SELF BUILT system.
I’ll cover this on another page with some invaluable links if you think you can build your own system and save a substantial amount in the process.  I would add however that it is something NOT to be taken on lightly.
However if you follow the instructions correctly AND have done your homework! It is more than possible for a great number of us to achieve!

Here’s a taster from one of my favourite people who tells it from the hip no nonsense experience counts down to earth tech. https://youtu.be/IJH2gUiRdJ0  Thankyou Carey Holzman I should also add that Carey has a number of extra youtube vids on installing ie Windows 7 Professional and a stack of other issues you might find with your pc and how to optimise, get rid of unwanted and or tune up your system.

WHAT works ?

There are a couple of KEY points that MUST be taken into consideration

  • Your CPU or Processor speed.
    In simple terms how quickly your computer processes data - the faster the better BUT that is a myth IF the rest of the computer’s hardware and software falls short of minimum necessities for the processor to work efficiently.
  • Operating system limitations. IF you run Windows here are a few important points to note:
    • Windows 32bit software will allow you a maximum of up to 3.5 Gb of memory use NO MORE!
    • Windows 64 bit HOME edition software will only allow you up to 8Gb of memory probably closer to 7.5Gb
    • Windows 64 bit Professional software will allow you up to 32 / 64Gb memory access.
    • WINDOWS 10? I won’t use this system - peronal preference but some of you will because it came with your system have no choice but to use it. HOWEVER take care to double check that what you buy to work with it WILL WORK with it. A lot of previous hardware and or software won’t or will cause you major headaches trying to get it to work OR will have parts of the software et that won’t work!  Your only other choice is to install Windows 7 PROFESSIONAL 64 bit or i.e LINUX (which does allow software such as AUDACITY to run.) Audacity will run on Win 10 see web page for more details LINK
  • Hardware attached to the computer INTERNAl and EXTERNAL.
    • CONNECTIONS via i.e USB - external storage and input / output devices - the better and faster those connectors the better, this includes FIREWIRE and THUNDERBOLT plus plus M Audio firewire / audio interface
    • SSD drives offer faster access read and write to disk times against those of HARD DRIVES BUT! there are still some issues that you should be aware of re using SSD or solid state drives. LINK for more info.
    • COMPATIBILITY issues may occur if those are NOT shown as compatible with the operating system that you are using !! This may be because you can’t get the drivers and or similar.
    • Microsoft is notorious for its inability to provide up dated drivers for other out sourced software or hardware utilities et Make sure before you buy that your system IS compatible with what you plan on using AND the drivers are available for the ideally 64 bit operating system. I should add that some manufacturers of products can also fail to update drivers for newer operating systems as they often have to pay i.e Microsoft licencing to do so. Hence what works on XP will seldom work on Windows 7 AND worse still often definitely won’t work on Windows 10!
  • The options to UPGRADE your system i.e processor / maximise memory potential et when buying a new computer is a good consideration. Should you want to epand the memory or change the processor to a faster one, install devices such as a blu ray recorder and similar audio interfaces / video display adaptors et GraphicsCard300
    • A large VIDEO monitor can be a good bad or indifferent choice. Resolution should be at least HD quality but ! Remember that the larger the screen the SMALLER the type will be on the display making you squint to read it OR worse still BLURRED! I use a 24 inch monitor and I would NOT go to a larger one ! Most decent video cards will support multi monitor output - allowing you to divide your software interface, computer screen across two screens!
    • If you are using just the software with additional plug ins and more I find using TWO monitors a good idea BUT use a decent Video card NOT the processor video output for this. Visual performance is also enhanced.
    • Ideally an HDDR5 with a minimum 2Gb of ram AMD or NVIDIA card is good. Some of the older video cards DDR3 type are also more than capable and cheaper. Make sure they are HD not the 720p type card, that way you will get far better resolution. Remember you are not using the card for gaming but one that can run the lighter power required games is as effective.
  • LATENCY : Milli seconds of connectivity between your pressing the key and your system reacting is the simplest way to illustrate this. The faster obviously the better but most systems these days respond pretty good and its rare to get a bad situation re this UNLESS you are using old or outdated equipment OR non DAW Digital Analog Workstation interfaces as an example. Cabling and more also affect the end result so keep em short and sweet! Decent quality cables and connectors are ALWAYS a good long term investment.
    • Sit down and draft out your equipment - your CABLE networks / connections is always a good idea. It allows you to see what you need to use and what you think you need but don’t necessarily cos that does that as effectively in one connection!
  • MIDI = If you are going to record et AUDIO only then you don’t NEED an audio AND MIDI interface !! A lot of you make the mistake of buying what you don’t NEED and believe me, I’m just as guilty on that over the years !
  • Microphones: Ah yes that chestnut! Lets face it, if you want to record quality VOCAL tracks then you need a decent studio quality microphone. I’m not going to let you compromise on this by giving you any leeway re this. So let me emphasize again. A decent quality microphone that is suited to your NEEDS AND ah here comes another MAJOR point in question. YOUR ENVIRONMENT. UHH? Shure SM58 microphone
    • STUDIO home with maybe some background noise?
      A DYNAMIC microphone is best for this likewise favoured by performers for LIVE or STAGE perfomances. (I love my Shure SM58 (SM58A wireless) ) Check out Gear4Music They have a great offer on this LINK Their after sales support is also one to highly recommend! A DYNAMIC microphone does NOT require PHANTOM POWER, it IS a PLUG and play device.
    • Enclosed sound booth or sealed recording studio environment MOST use something like the RODE microphone, favoured by a lot of the top artistes and undisputably a high quality microphone BUT do NOT use this in the HOME where you are likely to suffer from background noise! This mic has a wide frequency capture and that includes almost EVERYTHING that goes thud, click, thump and ! It also is one of the microphones that requires PHANTOM POWER. Phantom power (labeled as +48 V on most audio equipment) is a method that sends DC voltage through microphone cables. It is best known as a power source for condenser microphones, though many active DI (direct input) boxes also use it.
    • WIRELESS microphones are an adaptation of the microphone to use a CABLE free microphone BUT require a suitable INTERFACE to use with the microphone. Remember that some are good bad or indifferent, pick one of them preferably with a channel or frequency changer (usually 3 options) this allows you to audio test for the best response less interference et. Do some more reading on this IF this is how you would like to use your recording mic et.
  • IYamaha Analogue mixing unitNPUT interfaces, MIXERS et. This applies to ALL of the different inputs you might use such as the MICROPHONE an INSTRUMENT i.e Keyboard, Guitar et input. The number of channels and options available on them can range from 4 channels to an infinite number BUT oh yes! Don’t be taken in by those home studio geeks who insist on a mixer desk with controls that are if nothing else panoramic in essence! A visuall swarry of often unused and seldom wanted buttons, controls and and !
  • WHAT I am going to USE and WHAT I am going to NEED plus a little of the ability should I need to, of being able to modify, adapt and improvise the said equipment. You also need to be aware of ANALOGUE and DIGITAL mixers.
    Digital mixers are more expensive but connect to your software via i.e Digital Analogue workstation interfacing rather than an audio input et. The DIGITAL version is my preferred choice but an analogue will with the right audio interface work well re recording from audio devices connected through it. What digital achieves is an echo on screen of your movement of the controls on the hardware digital mixer. An analogue mixer requires you to set the controls on your software independant of your analogue mixer.
  • BUYING Secondhand equipment! Ah yes ! It was 2000 in its heyday.
    Ten years later its only 400  to you mate. The antiquities market may well make an impression on you and your wallet if you’re not careful with little or no usage from the product (outdated drivers, some bits don’t work, wrong connectors and and there are cheaper software equivalents available !)
    If you’re up for a little nostalgia like me with my Emu synthesizer then OK but otherwise? THINK long and hard about that investment. It may look the part in any studio but when it comes to value for money?!
    Now that does not always apply to KEYBOARDS.
    • Keyboards and DAW Digital Analog Workstation interfaces. They allow you to play your music and INTERFACE with your software - in short allowing you to see the notes you play recorded on screen. M Audio keyboard interface with digital displayA good way to be able to edit your compositions and if you take my hints tips on board, a good way to secure a bargain in the process. BUT remember ONE very VERY important point. IF you are going to use it for MIDI recording editing et then it MUST have ideally a MIDI OUT, a MIDI IN and a THRU socket is a bonus. I’ll explain more.
    • A Midi OUT is just that, it sends your MIDI signal and its contents to the device you have selected to receive the signal. The Midi IN takes back the signal from your i.e software or device and processes it back through the keyboard, so you can hear the sounds on your keyboard speakers et.
      A Midi THRU socket allows you to connect other Midi devices to your keyboard from i.e my Emu synthesizer allowing me to play it directly using the keyboard speakers et AND to record that on the computer- in other words I don’t need to connect the Emu synth Midi OUT or IN to the computer ! The signal passes THRU to the computer directly VIA the keyboard. Saves on CABLES!!
  • HEADPHONES Studio type. Why? Have a read HERE LINK

I’ve always been a fan of  M Audio web link products
Go check out the web ! http://m-audio.com


Legacy cards are an analogue to digital way of interfacing with external input devices and the 10/10LT by M Audio is one of my all time favourite cards. There are other legacy cards also available that range from 4 channel to the 10 channel options. Worth the investment!




Other aspects of your computer system that you should take note of:

  • The Computers POWER supply AND it’s VENTILATION / cooling.
    • The more processing power you computers CPU or processor uses the more DEMAND there is on the CPU and the word DEMAND is critical here.
      As the CPU processes power it creates HEAT - anything from 28degrees to as much as 90 degrees with i.e gaming et What helps the CPU cope with these extremes to continue working without shutting down or powering off your computer ! Is thanks to decent COOLING and ventilation, i.e how it sucks in cool air across the internal components EFFECTIVELY to reduce heat and not just chuck it around the inside of your PC!
      The solution lies in taking air IN and chucking the heated air OUT - that also creates another issue. The storage of , use of the computer in a dusty environment. i.e it will suck in dust !! That will clog the fans and gradually reduce the effectiveness of your cooling!
    • Why I point this out is because a lot of you will have a decent computer BUT I would always advise taking note of maybe upgrading the cooling system on your CPU AND your computer case / internals. Another cooling fan for as little as 20 to intake a bit more cool air or blow it out is never a bad idea unless it compromises the system by being poorly installed or not working as it should. Internal components such as cards et can stall the air flow allowing it to settle heat in one spot ?! If in doubt on your capabilities then find someone who understands how computers work and the necessity for decent cooling. I have in the past simply changed my CASE to accomodate better cooling i.e air intake and flow through OUT!
  • If you bought a computer and have installed internal components but NOT upgraded the power supply. A lot of bargain PC’s often have i.e 250W power units when in some instances after you’ve modded your PC you should have nearer 500W !
  • DVD or Blu Ray DVD Recorder. Totally your choice but as a composer I like to be able to cut my finished work to CD and either will do this. The main difference is the PRICE ! IF you want to save your work for posterity i.e after you are gone ! Storing the tracks on an M disc might be the answer
    MORE here on that subject.
  • Card Reader = A bonus for recording tracks on. Perfectly sound recording medium AND also for your phone memory card to add Mp3 tracks with ease. No having to fumble for a lead to connect to your pc!

OK Lets outline a fully funcitonal PC that works for me (homebuild)

Intel i5 6500 3.5Ghz with Corsair vengeance DDR4 - 2666Mhz 2 x 4Gb =8Gb expandable to 64Gb memory- Motherboard Gigabyte Z170XP-Sli (New motherboard available Z270 series chipset) Crucial SSD drive 250Gb with WD Black 1Tb hard drive. 1 x Blu Ray DVD EXTERNAL drive. ATX format case with built in card reader.  NOT midi or low profile. 16Gb USB drive. Windows 7 64bit Professional. M Audio Legacy interface Pcie card Audiophile 2496 4 in 4 out midi audio card.

Here’s a taster from one of my favourite people who tells it from the hip no nonsense experience counts down to earth tech. https://youtu.be/IJH2gUiRdJ0  Thankyou Carey Holzman I should also add that Carey has a number of extra youtube vids on installing ie Windows 7 Professional and a stack of other issues you might find with your pc and how to optimise, get rid of unwanted and or tune up your system.

Shure SM58 plus AudioTechnica AT2020 (Phantom powered) Cardioid Condenser microphone. Studio quality headphones. Analogue mixer with phantom power and FX sends.

Cmg up : Cost effective keyboards and how to get good value for money!

In short I recommend

AudacityM Audio web link


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