Basics: Five Questions about Latency and Computer Recording

Get the lowdown on low latency, and what it means to you

By Craig Anderton 

Recording with computers has brought incredible power to musicians at amazing prices. However, there are some compromises—such as latency. Let’s find out what causes it, how it affects you, and how to minimize it.  

1. What is latency? When recording, a computer is often busy doing other tasks and may ignore the incoming audio for short amounts of time. This can result in audio dropouts, clicks, excessive distortion, and sometimes program crashes. To compensate, recording software like SONAR dedicates some memory (called a sample buffer) to store incoming audio temporarily—sort of like an “audio savings account.” If needed, your recording program can make a “withdrawal” from the buffer to keep the audio stream flowing. 

Latency is “geek speak” for the delay that occurs between when you play or sing a note, and what you hear when you monitor your playing through your computer’s output. Latency has three main causes: 

  • The sample buffer. For example, storing 5 milliseconds (abbreviated ms, which equals 1/1000th of a second) of audio adds 5 ms of latency (Fig. 1). Most buffers sizes are specified in samples, although some specify this in ms. 

 Fig. 1: The control panel for TASCAM’s US-2×2 and US-4×4 audio interfaces is showing that the sample buffer is set to 64 samples. 

  • Other hardware. Converting analog signals into digital and back again takes some time. Also, the USB port that connects to your interface has additional buffers. These involve the audio interface that connects to your computer and converts audio signals into digital signals your computer can understand (and vice-versa—it also converts computer data back into audio).
  • Delays within the recording software itself. A full explanation would require another article, but in short, this usually involves inserting certain types of processors within your recording software. 

2. Why does latency matter? Continue reading Basics: Five Questions about Latency and Computer Recording

TH2: Using Guitar Amp Software Live

Turning this powerful amp, cab, mic & pedal modeler into a MIDI-controlled effect for live use.

Original article posted on The Cakewalk Knowledgebase

TH2 is the guitar amp modeling software included in SONAR X3 and Music Creator 6 Touch, and while it deserves all the high praise it’s received as a guitar processor, one aspect that is often overlooked is its deep MIDI routing capability. More specifically, it’s possible to adjust the settings of TH2’s amps and effects pedals and even switch between separate banks, sounds and variations by using a hardware MIDI controller or a MIDI CC message in a track. With this setup, TH2 can become your full-time pedalboard and let you take the sounds of your studio recording to the stage.

Wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s all the groaning from the people who think that mixing “MIDI” with “stage” will only lead to wasted time and headaches. Fear not, TH2 is smarter than usual software and the flexibility you’ll gain—even if you don’t make TH2 your Continue reading TH2: Using Guitar Amp Software Live

29 Shortcuts Music Creator 6 Touch Users Should Know

1.  Record [R]

With a track record enabled, selecting [R] will begin recording.

2.  Play/Stop [Spacebar]

This starts playback of your project. Selecting [Spacebar] again will stop playback.

Continue reading 29 Shortcuts Music Creator 6 Touch Users Should Know

RECREATING PORTAL 2′S “WANT YOU GONE” WITH MUSIC CREATOR 6 TOUCH [PART 2: VOCAL TIPS]

Recently, Cakewalk worked with the great folks over at Valve to make our Music Creator 6 Touch software available to their community, and the onslaught of new “music creators” has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring.  To kick off our promotion, we thought it would be a fun experience to recreate Jonathan Coulton’s cult classic “Want You Gone” from Portal 2 all in Music Creator 6 Touch (MC6t) – but the kicker is that we had 24 hours to do it in order to make the deadline for launch.  In this case, not only was collaboration creatively beneficial, but it was also essential.

Getting the bed-tracks together was the first step, and you can read our previous blog here on how this all came together.  Cakewalk’s Bill Jackson and Seth Kellogg spent time programming some great drum tracks, keyboards and guitars, and then I was able to easily embellish and add to the programming with loops, sounds and mixing.  After the drums, bass, keys and guitars were in a good spot, it was time to figure out how we were going to capture the focal point of the song: THE VOCALS.

I had just finished a record with a great singer by the name of Jodi Good so she was my first logical phone call.   As timing and luck would have it, she had just finished her video shoot for her first single (Definitely Different) in NYC and she had a 2 hour window to help pitch in.  There were two hurdles: 1.) she could not make it out to my studio, and 2.) I had to get clearance for name, likeness and sound from her and her legal team for usage – not a problem 😉

Continue reading RECREATING PORTAL 2′S “WANT YOU GONE” WITH MUSIC CREATOR 6 TOUCH [PART 2: VOCAL TIPS]

Recreating Portal 2’s “Want You Gone” with Music Creator 6 Touch [Part 1: Drum Tips]

[All customers who purchase Music Creator 6 Touch on Steam will have a Demo Project for the Portal 2 song “Want You Gone.” We suggest that you open the Demo Project and follow along to best understand the concepts explained below.  Click on any of the images below for a larger view.]

One thing I’ve learned over the years, which I believe is a key component to making great music, is the art of collaboration.  Sometimes creating music on your own is the way to go, but a lot of the times the genius and magic in music comes from creative minds working together.  In Music Creator 6 Touch, it’s easy to collaborate with other Cakewalk users by saving your project as a “bundle.”

 

Recently, Cakewalk worked with the great folks over at Valve to make our Music Creator 6 Touch software available to their community, and the onslaught of new “music creators” has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring.  To kick off our promotion, we thought it would be a fun experience to recreate Jonathan Coulton’s cult classic “Want You Gone” from Portal 2 all in Music Creator 6 Touch (MC6t) – but the kicker is that we had 24 hours to do it in order to make the deadline for launch. Continue reading Recreating Portal 2’s “Want You Gone” with Music Creator 6 Touch [Part 1: Drum Tips]