Macworld Music Handbook

As Macworld columnist Michael Prochak spells out in the introduction to his Macworld Music Handbook, the Mac has long been the choice of professional musicians for the recording, manipulation and playback of digital audio. USB and FireWire technologies mean that all new-Mac users can easily and instantly connect digitizers, MIDI devices and DAT storage drives in order to capture high-quality 44.1kHz audio tracks at ultra-fast speeds. But, there hasn’t been a book devoted to Mac-based music making since Fatboy Slim was nerdy Norman Cook in The Housemartins. Rather than write about every single piece of Mac-compatible music software, Prochak sensibly concentrates on Steinberg’s Cubase VST (version 5.0). Cubase is one of the Mac’s most popular virtual studios, “in” which you can record, edit and process MIDI and audio data in a creative and affordable manner. Helpfully, the bundled CD includes a demo of the latest version of Cubase VST. (You may also have noticed that there’s a couple of extract chapters in a free booklet attached to this copy of Macworld; so we’ve included the Cubase demo on this month’s Macworld CD.) Prochak points out that Mac users traditionally hate manuals, and so approaches his subject as a musician helping others to familiarize themselves with Cubase, the Mac and digital music-making. “The Macintosh is changing the way in which music is made. What used to be done by a team of people in an expensive editing studio can now be done by one person at home. All it takes is the right equipment and a bit of knowledge about the basics of digital recording and MIDI,” writes Prochak. And, that’s exactly what he helps budding Mobys and Beastie Boys with in this book. There’s chapters on the differences between pro and budget setups, buying the right equipment, getting started with Cubase, mixing MIDI, editing and manipulating tracks, adding effects (such as Grungelizer and Wild Flanger), quantizing, and customizing. At the back of the book, there’s a 100-page glossary – so that experienced studio-engineers can’t make too much fun of you when you’re just starting out. On just one page, this tells you the difference between a ribbon microphone and a ring modulator, a riff and a roll-off, and a rhythm track and “riding the faders”.

OUR VERDICT

Regular Macworld readers will be familiar with Prochak’s bozo-Gonzo writing style, and will be glad to know that he has written this book in a similarly non-technical manner. The Macworld Music Handbook is an excellent guide for Mac users starting to make music, and for musicians starting to use the Mac. Whether you want to be a Kraftwerk-like synthetic robot or a bit of a hippy (like Prochak), this long-awaited book is sure to help lay down your tracks.

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