I get a lot of emails requesting advice on music issues and equipment. Here are a few that seem to show up in my inbox most often.
Q: I have a huge number of vinyl record albums that I want to transfer to CD and to my hard drive and wondered what the best approach to this would be.
A: There are several possible approaches to this. One way would be to use computer software such as the free Audacity program to record your music to your hard drive as high-quality wave files, then burn the songs to CD. You could then also convert them to MP3 files for use in iTunes and other such software.
You will need to hook up your turntable to a receiver or other device that has the proper voltage requirements, as most turntables have a weaker output than CD players or similar equipment. You would then output your audio into the line input of your computer’s sound card.
Another alternative would be one of the USB turntables that have become popular, but be aware that most of the less expensive models are belt drive rather than direct drive and you may have to replace parts at some point over time.
If you want only to burn CDs, you might consider a stand-alone CD burner. Again you must be sure to run your turntable to a receiver or other device to get the correct output to the burner. Note that most desktop CD burners require special discs that can be a bit more expensive, although there are now a few that are more forgiving. Be sure to research your choice before buying, as always.
Q: Which is better for music, the PC or Mac platform?
A: In the early days of music on computers, there was no doubt that Apple’s Macs dominated audio and video. Some of the best programs ever designed started on the Mac platform.
These days either choice is fine for doing almost anything musical that you desire. It really comes down to which computer most appeals to you as a whole. One advantage that the Mac always has had is that Apple is the only hardware maker of the computers, while there are hundreds of Windows PC makers. This can lead to problems with third party devices and even software if the manufacturer fails to comply with the recommended specifications for design. This happens more often than you might think.
My best advice is to pick the platform you like, then optimize your computer for recording. If possible dedicate a computer to audio or video work only so that you can set it up just right one time.
There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that can teach you how to set up your chosen computer and software to operate well. Also sites like emusician.com and harmony central.com have tutorials that will help.
Q: What exactly is a guitar synthesizer?
A: It is a device that uses a pickup or mike mounted on a guitar to convert the string vibrations to electronic or so called MIDI data. It sends the data to a synthesizer that trigger sounds. They tend to be expensive and problematic, but I’ve owned several Roland models that worked tolerably well, especially for organ sounds.