If you have little or no experience using music software to play and record music, this guide is for
you. This guide explains the terms and concepts you need to know to use music software. You can get much more help in every Cakewalk program by using the Help
menu, or by pressing F1 when you have any view or dialog box open. All Cakewalk programs have very basic tutorials in the online Help that cover recording and playback. To view these tutorials, open the Help
menu, click Help Topics
, and look for topics called Getting Started
The basic way that you use a computer to record and play sound is this: your computer has a circuit
board in it called a sound card
, which converts the sound from an electric instrument or microphone into a long string of numbers, which a computer stores and then converts back into sound when you want to play the recording. Almost every computer comes with a sound card which is good enough to make very good, but not fully professional-level recordings.
To record, for example, an electric guitar into the computer, you plug one end of your guitar cable
into your guitar, and plug the other end into the Line input of your sound card. Then you would click the Record
button in your Cakewalk software, start playing your instrument, and then click the Stop
button (or press the SPACEBAR). The Line input has a little icon next to it, which is very hard to recognize, so it usually helps to look at the documentation that came with your sound card or computer. A guitar cable has a plug on it that is 1/4 inch wide (diameter), and the Line input on low-priced sound cards is 1/8 inch wide. You need to connect your guitar cable to a 1/8 inch adapter in order to plug it into most sound cards. These adapters are inexpensive and are available at most electronics supply stores.
If you want to record an acoustic instrument or vocal, you would use a microphone. You connect the
microphone’s cable to the adapter and plug the adapter into the Mic input of the sound card. You can get a better sound, however, by plugging the microphone cable into a preamp, or a mixer with a preamp, and plugging the outputs of the mixer or preamp into the Line input of the sound card, instead of the Mic input. You would then need an adapter to connect the two outputs (left and right) of the mixer or preamp to the 1/8 inch Line input. Ask the store where you buy your preamp or mixer what kind of adapter you need to connect to a sound card that has 1/8 inch inputs.
To play back the music, you need to connect powered speakers or headphones to the output of the
sound card, which on new computers is usually painted green. Then you click the Rewind
button (or press w
) in your Cakewalk software, and then click the Play
button (or press the SPACEBAR) to play back what you recorded.
Music software uses two different formats to play and record sound
. Knowing the differences between the two formats is essential for using most music software. However, some Cakewalk programs, such as Guitar Tracks Pro, do not use MIDI.