Digital audio was once the exclusive domain of those with deep pockets or access to a university or multimillion-dollar recording studio. Times have changed. Today, digital recording and music production are within reach of anyone who can afford a modest computer. And traditional recording is just the beginning: computers are tools for composition, sound creation, and performance, and a means of connecting music and sound to visuals and other media. Sophisticated studios are still valuable places, and professional expertise is irreplaceable. But the amateur in a home studio can produce professional-sounding results too. The production studio doesn't even have to be at "home." People really do make music in coach-class airplane seats and improvise with laptops onstage.
Digital audio tools have become, in essence, a new musical instrument in their own rightor perhaps more accurately, an ensemble of instruments. But while the technology has brought the ability to make amazing music within easy reach, getting the best out of the technology is not guaranteed to be easy. Like learning how to play any musical instrument, learning how to use digital audio technology requires assimilating a lot of knowledge and skills.
The new forms of computer-based music making put new demands on musicians. It's no longer enough to master a single instrument (be it a grand piano or an electric guitar) and leave the rest of the recording process up to other experts. Musicians today need to know how to get the numerous elements of digital audio technology to work together smoothly. Today, you need to be an instrumentalist, composer, conductor, recording engineer, producer, and computer specialist all at once.
This book brings together the information you'll need to master the new skills involved in digital audio production. Although there is a nearly infinite range of musical styles, tastes, and musicians, there are basic needs that all of us have and basic information that we all need at our fingertips.
We need to understand how sound itself works, so we can manipulate audio effectively once it's in the computer. We want to be able to create new sounds and shape existing ones. We need to be able to record performances on acoustic and electric instruments, voice, and the many real-world sounds around us, and we want that recording to resemble the way we hear those sounds before they reach the microphone. We want to share our music, whether through printed scores, CDs, DVDs, online distribution, as soundtracks for video and motion pictures, or in live performance. To make this happen, we need to get past the learning curve of gear, figure out which equipment and software to buy, learn how to plug it in, decide which cable to put where, and learn how to keep everything working.
The first step is often just to pierce the fog of unfamiliar terminology.
"But what does an 'expander' do?"
A student had looked up the name of an audio effect in the manual for a software product he was trying to learn. There would certainly have been room for a full explanation in the manual, since it was a phone book- sized tome. Instead, the author had provided a circular answer that would make sense only to someone who already knew the answer. It said something like "the Brand X digital expansion module provides high-quality expansion of an audio input."
So what does "expansion" mean?
If you've gotten this far, you probably already know why you want to learn more about digital audio. Now that this book is in your hands, it's simply a matter of getting started. All of us have been in the same spot as the student I quoted above: all of us are beginners at something, even if we're expert at something else. What we need is a place to start.