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Making Sound : Page 3

In this section we describe the nuts and bolts of working with audio, including the equipment you'll need, where to get your sounds and how to put your sound on the computer.


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How To Create Sound
Creating sounds involves four steps: deciding whether to save your sound as MIDI or audio, creating the MIDI or recording the audio, editing the sound, and saving the sound.

Choosing your Sound Format
MIDI is typically used to play music. MIDI files contain instructions about how to play musical notes and which instruments play those notes. How a MIDI file sounds on a reader's computer depends on the quality of their MIDI interpreter.



Audio files contain recordings of actual sounds. When you speak into a microphone, you create an audio file. Audio files work well for recording voice and sound effects.

MIDI
Saving sound files as MIDI files is often a good choice when you're looking for quality sound with the smallest file size possible. To make a MIDI file, it helps if you know a little about music or can play an instrument. You have to have MIDI software that gives the computer instructions about things like what notes to play, how long to hold them and what sound should be used. You also need some instrument source.

Most MIDI software lets you create several parts or tracks. Tracks refer to the different parts of the music. A bass part would be a track, and a saxophone part would be another track.

When using MIDI software, you choose the instrument sound you like or simply play the notes you'd like to use for your first track. If you're using a sound source such as the QuickTime instrument set or Beatnik sounds from your sequencing software, you can choose notes using your computer keypad and assign each note a length. If you have a MIDI instrument, you can just play the sound and record it to the track.

You can download many MIDI arrangements of all kinds of songs. Just be sure that you have the right to use them on your page since it's illegal to use a copywritten song without permission.

If you want to try your hand at playing and arranging your own songs using MIDI or Beatnik files, and you have a sound card or QuickTime 2.5 or later on your computer, you can download freeware or shareware MIDI sequencing software.

Freeware and shareware programs are often a little difficult to use and you won't have as much control for sound manipulation as you would with professional sequencer programs you purchase. But if you decide that you like playing with MIDI after experimenting with MIDI software you can obtain a MIDI synthesizer or two, and use some of the advanced features you'll find on these applications.

Digital Audio
To create your own digital audio files, you'll need a way to get sounds into your computer. Power Macs have built in analog audio jacks which use mini phone jacks (the little 1/8" kind of plugs that most cassette decks use). This will provide a decent audio input, but for higher quality professional sounding audio, you can buy audio cards.

The easiest way to get a sound into your computer is to download some audio from the net or get a CD-ROM with .wav or .aif files on it. All you need is a computer with a CD drive. Fortunately, there are many such CDs and internet sites with all kinds of interesting and effective sounds and music that you can purchase or download—just be sure that you have the right to use them on a Web page without paying a fee or royalties. Copyright and royalty information is almost always included in the documentation or on the CD itself.

Recording from a CD
Recording from a CD is a simple process, which could explain why so many people simply use CDs they own for sound on their Web sites. You simply pop your CD into the CD-Rom drive on your computer, and use the "Record from CD-Rom" function on your sound-editing software to capture the sound you'd like.

The first step is to find the recording preferences in your dialog box and set it to 11 thousand or 22 thousand samples per second. Although more samples-per second, such as 44.1 thousand samples per second, give you a higher-quality sound, the files take too long to download over the Internet. You can always save your files under different samples-per-second, and test each one to see which one gives you the best sound-quality at the smallest size.

Recording from a Microphone
To make a recording from real life, you have two options: record directly into your computer to create a digital file, or record onto a tape recorder and then transfer it to your computer. In either case, you'll need a microphone, and you'll need to use your Macintosh's Sound Manager or your PC's sound card's software.

Talk, sing or play into the microphone and set the sound levels. Be careful of the meter on your sound software going into the red zone—this indicates distortion of your sound files, which creates loud, harsh and unpleasant noise.

Of course if you're constructing the Pulpy Palace of Punk Pain site you might want your sound to sound loud, harsh or unpleasant. But under most circumstances you'll want to avoid distortion.

Try not to get too close to the microphone when you are recording and that you're in a quiet environment without much background noise. Being too close can create distortion.

One of the issues with recording directly into a microphone connected to the computer is computer noise. Internal computer noises, such as the computer fan, can interfere with your sound. You can use a long cord or blankets to stifle the noise that your computer makes.

Once you've recorded your sound, check to see how it sounds. If you hear distracting background noise, re-record and set the recording level on the computer or tape recorder level and get closer to the microphone. If you hear distortion, re-record after you set the recording level down and move away from the microphone.

Keep experimenting with recording levels and moving closer and further away from the microphone until you hear the sound you want.

After you've recorded your sounds from a CD, or from real life, you need to decide which format you'd like to save your sound as. Some of the more popular formats include: wav, aif or aiff, au and ea.

  • WAV is Microsoft's audio format of choice. Since Windows 3.1, WAV has been the native format for sound within the Windows environment . Needless to say, this makes it one of the most common sound formats on the Web. Most browsers support the .wav format with their internal sound players.

  • AIF is a audio format that was developed by Apple Computer. Most recent browsers, including Microsoft IE and Netscape Navigator, will play an aif file using the browser's built-in sound player.

  • AU is one of the most common audio formats used on the Web. It was created by Sun Microsystems and is sometimes referred to as "audio/basic" format. Most browsers support the au format with their internal sound players.




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