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by Steve Siercks, Jordan Streiff, & Chris Rogers
computer news with the teen perspective

Phat Tracks On Your Mac
by Jordan Streiff
February 10th, 2000

A little while back I became very interested in writing music, making beats, and composing melodies. It always intrigued me how such entrancing tracks could be made. So I set out, Mac in hand, to start my own producing career. You can too - even on a low budget and without much experience. Read the rest of the article to find out how...

There are a couple things that you'll need before you can set up your own home studio and start recording. Currently, I'm using a Performa 6360, a surround sound stereo system, a special RCA cable, some headphones, a plaintalk mic, and a MIDI keyboard. However, all you really need is a PowerPC with a boombox/stereo that has RCA Audio ports in the back (you'll see a couple red and white places where you can hook the computer up to the stereo.)

Once you've got both of those, the next step is to hook them up. The cable that you use to connect your mac to the stereo is a cable that has two RCA plugs (red and white) on one end, and an 1/8" jack that looks like a regular headphone jack on the other. The headphone jack goes into the back of your mac (on the side if you're using an iMac) in the audio out port. The other end plugs directly into your stereo. Because this cable is usually pretty short, you'll probably need to have your mac right next to the stereo. You can pick up this special RCA cable at your local Radio Shack. Just set your stereo on Auxiliary and you're ready to go!

Now that the hardware part is out of the way, we can move on to software. While you could probably go out and spend hundreds of dollars (in some cases thousands) on a good composing program, for amateurs, the shareware Melody Assistant will probably provide plenty of punch. It is readily downloadable from few of the better features are reserved for those that have registered, so you might want to go ahead and pay the small fee so you can work uninhibited. After registering the program, you will have the ability to save files in such formats as MP3, .wav, and MIDI.

Melody Assistant is pretty self-explanatory. You select the notes you want to put in from a side bar, then click where you want to put them. There is a huge database of instruments and sound effects (even larger if you download the extended sound database from their site.) You can also add such things as a bass boost, simulated surround sound, and an echo effect.

Probably the best way to start composing is by taking piano lessons. However, if you don't have the time or patience, don't despair. Going through the Melody Assistant manual quickly explains the basics of music (rests, quarter notes, etc.) After a little experimenting with the program, you should have no problems composing simple melodies. With more experience you should get better and better.

Well, say you've gone through all of the above and are ready to export your musical masterpiece to another medium. No problem. If you have everything set up correctly, all you need do is start playing the music and push record on the stereo (make sure you have a tape.) There you go!

Now that you've put all this effort into hooking up your own home studio, you might as well enjoy it some. MP3 fans will love the fact that when you now play MP3s, they come booming out of your stereo's speakers, instead of that tiny speaker built into your Mac.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check my next article for a songs I've composed. Seeya,

Jordan Streiff

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