Starting Out

I am starting out writing about my recent experiences with Apple’s Logic Pro. Logic is one of many Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) products. A DAW is a software re-creation of a musician’s recording studio. It is a technical product aimed at artists and recording engineers. The modern DAW combines two forms of computer based recording techniques: MIDI sequencing and digital audio recording. A proper DAW supports a complete workflow of composing, recording, arranging and mixing to produce a professional level DVD quality (or better) recording.

DAWs had their genesis in the last century along with personal computing. For a long time, before the term DAW was coined, a musical software product provided either MIDI sequencing or digital audio recording. Both borrowed the multi track recording concept from the analog audio world of the time. In the post WWII years, Les Paul and others pioneered studio techniques for recording musical parts separately on multi-track recording tapes and then mixing these parts into a whole. Before that the whole band plus singers would record a piece over and over until a perfect or good enough take was produced. Multi- track techniques quickly became standard in studios because they saved time, effort and money. Later on software solutions embraced them.

One shortcoming of early MIDI sequencers is that they only produced sound at the speakers. They recorded the sequence of key presses but not of the sound produced. Eventually the two threads, sequencing and audio recording, were integrated into a single product called a DAW. With that integration, a MIDI track could be recorded and edited until it was perfect or good enough, and then bounced to an audio track. Now all of the parts could be mixed as a set of audio tracks to produce a recording master.

Logic has a long history that stretches back to Atari ST computers. See this Wikipedia article for a more complete story. I came to it in version 9 after using versions of Cubase, Reaper, and Sonar.

The progression of DAW software follows the evolution of computer audio interfaces. Hardware manufacturers often bundled a reduced version of a DAW with the purchase of an interface. My introduction to home music recording came with the purchase of a Turtle Beach sound card. It was bundled with a Voyetra MIDI sequencer with a character based user interface running on the Microsoft DOS platform. I used a Casio keyboard as the input device and as a sound source. This was a good setup for creating video game music. After that I bought a Sound Blaster AWE64 which came bundled with Cubasis VST. I upgraded my keyboard to a Rhodes 760 synthesizer when I tired of the sounds on the AWE. My next purchase was the Echo Audio Mia MIDI professional sound card which did not have a bundled DAW. At this point I still used Cubasis, and tried the full product Cubase. I also used Reaper on laptops. I wound up purchasing Cakewalk Sonar and used it with the Mia MIDI until Microsoft, and Cakewalk, dropped support for Windows XP. Then I switched to a Mac Mini and bought Logic Pro.

The result of this progression was a large number of partially completed projects in several incompatible file formats. Now I am trying to bring it all together and complete those projects in my current studio setup.

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