music music creation

Music Creation

    Summary: Professional music creation: composition, performance, recording, and post production.

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     “A fundamental shift in computing has occurred. For business users and consumers alike, what matters is being connected to the Web, not the raw processing power of the desktop computer. The most intriguing new technologies aren’t spreadsheets or word-processing programs, or the latest updates to Windows. Digital photography, digital music, desktop video editing, and high speed internet access are where the action is. A top-flight desktop computer or notebook is nice to have, but what makes that technology really rock is all the gear that goes with it. Computer manufacturers have altered their product lines in recognition of that trend. Apple’s top-end consumer model, the iMac DV Special Edition, comes with a stellar sound system, high-speed FireWire ports for transferring video, and the company’s iMovie software for editing movies.” —Fortune Technology Guidem2

recommended system

    After numerous requests for specific recommendations, now includes a recommended system for professional musicians. These recommendations are partly opinion. These recommendations assume that you are working professionally in the field and are much more expensive than typical home or business systems. These recommendations are based on personal experience in the content creation field.

    Each system (both hardware and software) will need to be repeated for each person on staff (except as noted). It is illegal to buy one copy of software and then install it on multiple machines. Some programs check the network for this kind of cheating. If you are caught violating copyright law, the fines and penalties could bankrupt you, so it really isn’t worth it to try to cheat to save a few bucks.

     Professional musicians overwhelmingly choose Macintosh computers.

     The Macintosh is the computer operating system of choice among professional musicians. This is because of the Macintosh’s ease of use and true “plug and play”, combined with excellent professional and amateur music software and reliable MIDI implementation.

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Price listings are for courtesy purposes only and may be changed by the referenced businesses at any time without notice.


    computer: The most commonly used operating system for professional music work is Macintosh OS 9. Mac OS 9 has built in capabilities for the support of content creation (including such technologies as ColorSync for accurate colors, QuickTime for digital video and sound, and sophisticated font capabilities for both PostScript and TrueType fonts) and is the operating system with the largest library of professional content creation software. The G4 800MHz DP (dual processor - equal to approximately one 3 GHz Pentium) is currently Apple’s fastest computer. You will want to purchase additional RAM (at least 512 MB total RAM, up to 1.5 GB of RAM, depending on your budget). You may want to swap out the ATA drive for a more expensive, but faster internal SCSI drive. Adding Apple’s optional UltraSCSI PCI card will save headaches when connecting up UltraSCSI external devices (there are other SCSI cards available, but this is the most compatible).

    Apple PowerMac G4 800MHz DP; PowerMac G4 800MHz Dual Processor, 256K L2 cache and 2 MB backside L3 cache, 133MHz system bus supporting more than 1-GBps data throughput, 256 MB PC133 SDRAM (slots for 1.5GB SDRAM), 80 GB 7200 RPM Ultra ATA/66 hard drive, Zip drive, combination DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive (with DVD-Video, writes DVD-R at 2x, reads DVD at 4x, writes CD-R at 8x, writes CD-RW at 4x, reads CD at 24x), three 3.5-inch hard drive expansion bays (ATA or SCSI), NVIDIA GeForce2 MX graphics card with 64MB of SDRAM with TwinView in a dedicated AGP 4X slot and 133 MHz system bus (supporting two monitors, each at 1920-by-1200-pixel resolution at 32 bits per pixel, millions of colors), Apple Display Connector (ADC) and 15-pin mini D-Sub VGA connector, 4 full-length PCI slots (64 bit, 33 MHz) with throughput up to 215 MBps and one AGP 4X slot (with graphcis card installed), built in Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet connector, RJ-45), Built-in 56K V.90 modem card, stereo audio out (mysteriously missing audio in?!?!), headphone jack, two 400-Mbps Firewire ports (15W total power), 2 USB ports (12Mbps each), both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X preinstalled; $3,495

    monitor: Unless you are using your music system for graphics work, you don’t need a color accurate monitor, but you do need lots of screen space for tools and tracks. Any large monitor will do. Although not essential immediately, you will eventually want a second monitor (one for your tools and one for your work). You will need a second video card (a second Rage 128 Pro video card will run about $150). Any large monitor will do.

    keyboard and mouse: The keyboard and mouse that Apple ships with their PowerMacs are complete jokes. Neither are usable. You need to immediately replace them with a USB keyboard and mouse. Choice of replacements depends in large part on personal preference. Make sure that you get an extended keyboard and that it is one with a Macintosh “start button”. An ergonomic keyboard will be easier on your wrists, but will take some getting used to. You can get a one button, two button, or three button mouse, with or without a scroll bar wheel — again, a matter of personal preference. You might even choose a trackball or trackpad.

Adesso Tru-Form USB Keyboard for Macintosh (Ice); 79.95

Macally USB iSweet; single button mouse with changeable color “jackets”; $24.95

Macally USB iSweetNet; two button mouse with scroll wheel and changeable color “jackets”; $29.95

iBall; Macally; USB 2 button trackball; $39.95

    printer: You will want at least one printer. There are a lot of factors that can go into the decision of which printer is best for you. PostScript is essential for pre-press work and useful for general text and line art printing. Color is essential for creating proofs or “comps” of color work, but color printing is more expensive per copy than black and white printing (and if you do a lot of black and white printing, you could use up color cartridges while using little of the more expensive color inks). The pixels per inch (sometimes called “dpi”) also affects overall quality. Printer speed and ruggedness come into play if you need to do a lot of printing. Sometimes it makes sense to have more than one printer, each designed for different uses.

    For music work, your main need is printing out black and white forms, reports, invoices, and such and occassional printing of sheet music or album cover art.

    If your music staff is large or is part of a larger staff, you may want to consider the printer recommendations for print media.

    music hardware: The following are the recommendations by DigiDesign, the leaders in professional music computer hardware:

    A typical professional Pro Tools system, for example:

    Pro Tools|24 MIXplus: $9,995.00 (up to 72-channels of I/O with additional interfaces/cards)

    888/24 I/O interface: $3,695.00 (each interface gives you 8-channels of I/O)

    SCSI64 Kit: $545.00 (available at a Digidesign dealer)

    A qualified MAC with OS 8.6 or 9.0 or a qualified PC with Windows NT

    One (1) or more authorized hard drives for storing audio files (not including the internal):

Manufacturers:Drive Families:
AvidrS, iS Plus, iS Pro
SeagateCheetah, Barracuda
Western DigitalEnterprise

† First generation DigiDrives are not supported in LVD mode.

Musicians using Macintoshes

     The following is a chart of the professional musicians who use Macintosh computers for performance and/or recording. Obviously (as more than 60% of professional musicians use the Macintosh, I have just started creating this chart and it is very incomplete. If you know of any musicians that are not yet on this chart or spot any mistakes, please send Milo a message with as much information as you can provide. Thanks.

Please help me fill in the blanks. Send more info to Milo.

Note: This table will not display until the entire table has been downloaded to your computer. Please be patient.


musician instrument style model notes
Bryan Adams vocals
rock     Bryan Adams
Aerosmith band metal     Aerosmith
Walter Afanassief       producer/co-writer for Mariah Carey Mariah Carey
Tori Amos vocals
rock     Tori Amos
Laurie Anderson vocals experimental     Laurie Anderson
Bare Naked Ladies band       Barenaked Ladies
The Beastie Boys band rap     Beastie Boys
Walter Becker       Steely Dan Walter Becker
Steely Dan
Teja Bell   New Age      
Bjork vocals       Bjork
Blue Man Group band techno      
Bono vocals rock   U2 U2
Joe Bouchard   metal   Blue Oyster Cult Blue Oyster Cult
Jonathan Cain       Journey; Bad English
composes on a Mac
Bad English
Gary Chapman         Gary Chapman
Les Claypool       Primus Primus
Les Claypool & the Holy Mackerel
George Clinton vocals funk   Parliament
George Clinton
Chemical Brothers band electronica     Chemical Brothers
Mario Cippolina bass     Huey Lewis & the News Huey Lewis & The News
Cirrus   electronica PowerBook   Cirrus
David Crosby         David Crosby
Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Crosby Stills & Nash
Buffalo Springfield
Sheryl Crow         Sheryl Crow
The Crystal Method   electronica     Crystal Method
Daft Punk band electronica     Daft Punk
David Darling cello classical     David Darling
Art Davis bass jazz Performa recorded with John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, and many others Dr. Art Davis
John Coltrane
Bob Dylan
Chip Davis   new age   Mannheim Steamroller Mannheim Steamroller
Constance Denby       New Age  
Didgenus band world beat      
Celine Dion     PowerBooks stage and lighting control Celine Dion
DJ Keoki   electronica PowerBook   Keoki
Thomas Dolby vocals rock     Thomas Dolby
Bob Donlon       the Rake’s Progress Rake’s Progress
Paul Dresher         Paul Dresher
Brooks & Dunn vocals country PowerBooks used on stage for performance Brooks & Dunn
EBN       they also make programs for the Mac Ebn
Danny Elfman vocals
  Oingo Boingo
Danny Elfman
Oingo Boingo
Brian Eno   rock
ambient music
  uses Tom Bender’s Eliza to increase creativity
created the Win 95 startup sound on a Mac
Brian Eno
Enya         Enya
Gloria Estefan         Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
Donald Fagan       Steely Dan Steely Dan
Fatboy Slim   electronica     Fatboy Slim
Filter band       Filter
Fluke   electronica PowerBook   Fluke
Front 242 band       Front 242
Peter Gabriel vocals rock     Peter Gabriel
Garbage band alternative rock Power Mac 9500/200 Garbage
Jerry Garcia vocals
    Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia
The Grateful Dead
Mickey Gilley vocals country     Mickey Gilley
Dave Gilmour vocals rock      
Gina G   British rock     Gina G.
Jerry Goodman       a.k.a. Miles Goodman
the Flock; the Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Amy Grant vocals gospel
    Amy Grant
Grateful Dead band rock     The Grateful Dead
Jan Hammer composer     best known for Miami Vice soundtrack Jan Hammer
Herbie Hancock   jazz     Herbie Hancock
Jon Hassell         Jon Hassell
Ben Heppner vocals opera      
Johnny Hickman       Cracker Cracker
Sean Hopper keyboards     Huey Lewis & the News  
Ice T vocals rap     Ice-T
Chris Isaak         Chris Isaak
Janet Jackson vocals R&B     Janet Jackson
Joe Jackson         Joe Jackson
Michael Jackson vocals pop     Michael Jackson
Jean Michel Jarre   jazz Powerbook TransJarre
(French language web site)
Jean Michel Jarre
Howard Jones   new wave rock     Howard Jones
John Paul Jones bass metal   Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones
Led Zeppelin
Quincy Jones   jazz   musician
Quincy Jones
Stanley Jordan   jazz     Stanley Jordan
Howie B   electronica     Howie B
Kenny G saxaphone new age     Kenny G
Jim Kerr vocals pop   Simple Minds Simple Minds
B.B. King vocals
blues     B.B. King
Cyndi Lauper vocals pop     Cyndi Lauper
Tommy Lee   metal   Mötley Crüe Mötley Crüe
Ottmar Liebert guitar New Age Quadra 900 (for recording);
PowerMac 8100 (for artwork);
Mac IIsi (for office work);
PowerBook 170 (for touring)
Web page at Ottmar Liebert
Kerry Livgren   rock   Kansas Kansas
Cole Lloyd          
Courtney Love vocals rock   Hole Hole
Ray Lynch   New Age     Ray Lynch
Reba McEntire vocals country PowerBooks used on stage for performance Reba McEntire
Madonna vocals pop     Madonna
Mannheim Steamroller band New Age     Mannheim Steamroller
Marilyn Manson vocals gothic rock     Marilyn Manson
Ray Manzarek keyboards     the Doors Doors
George Martin producer     remixing and processing Beatles’ “Anthology” George Martin
The Beatles
Lyle Mays piano jazz     Lyle Mays
Paul McCartney vocals
rock   Beatles; Wings Paul McCartney
The Beatles
Michael McDonald         Michael McDonald
Sarah McLachlan vocals rock PowerBook 5200; PowerBook 5400   Sarah McLachlan
MC Solaar   rap     MC Solaar
Metallica band metal     Metallica
Pat Metheny guitar jazz     Pat Metheny
George Michael vocals pop     George Michael
Lamar Mitchell musician; producer        
Momus       both recording and album art done on Macs;
See web page at
Meredith Monk vocals       Meredith Monk
Mark Mothersbaugh          
Michie Nakatani bass     Shonen Knife Shonen Knife
Graham Nash         Graham Nash
Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Crosby Stills & Nash
Buffalo Springfield
New Order band rock     New Order
Roland Orzabal       Tears for Fears Tears for Fears
Prince vocals R&B
Primus band       Primus
Proto-Loungecore       “Slender Sherbet” CD  
Public Enemy band rap     Public Enemy
Trevor Rabin guitar art rock   Yes Trevor Rabin
Lou Rawls vocals       Lou Rawls
Trent Reznor   rock   Nine Inch Nails
all NIN recordings done on Macs
Nine Inch Nails
Henry Rollins         Henry Rollins
Rolling Stones band rock   used on stage for performance The Rolling Stones
Jeff Rona composer     Chicago Hope soundtrack  
Ruby         Ruby
Todd Rundgren vocals       Todd Rundgren
Rush band metal     Rush
Buffy Sainte-Marie         Buffy Sainte-Marie
Ryuichi Sakamoto composer
      Ryuichi Sakamoto
Lea Salonga vocals musicals   original London and Broadway versions of “Miss Saigon”
“Les Miserables”
voice of Jasmine in Disney’s “Aladdin”
Lea Salonga
Carlos Santana vocals
Latin rock     Santana
Devadip Carlos Santana
Joe Satriani guitar metal     Joe Satriani
Stephen Saunders vocals
world beat Mac IIfx Nobody’s Cat  
Paul Schaffer keyboards     leader of David Letterman’s house band  
Jason Scheff bass
jazz-rock   Chicago Chicago
SEAL vocals rock     Seal
Gene Simmons   rock   Kiss Kiss
Carly Simon vocals
rock     Carly Simon
Simply Red band rock     Simply Red
Nikki Sixx   metal   Mötley Crüe Mötley Crüe
Squeeze band       Squeeze
Sting vocals
rock   the Police Sting
The Police
Michel Stipe vocals     R.E.M. R.E.M.
Sugar band       Sugar
John Tesh     PowerBook 190;
PowerBook 170
control stage sound and lighting John Tesh
John Tesh Project
They Might Be Giants band rock     They Might Be Giants
William Turner keyboards jazz Mac Plus This Side of Sanity  
U2 band rock     U2
Underworld   electronica     Underworld
Steve Vai guitar rock     Steve Vai
Luther Vandross vocals soul PowerPC 6100;
PowerBook 3400
PPC 6100’s to control life performance lighting effects; PB 3400 to handle lighting cues; PB 3400 to handle sound mixing cues Luther Vandross
Eddie Van Halen guitar metal   Van Halen Van Halen
Luke Vibert   electronica     Luke Vibert
Vanessa Williams vocals soul PowerPC 6100;
PowerBook 3400
PPC 6100’s to control life performance lighting effects; PB 3400 to handle lighting cues; PB 3400 to handle sound mixing cues Vanessa Williams
Paul Winter       Paul Winter Consort Paul Winter Consort
Paul Winter & Friends
Bernie Worrell   funk   Parliament; Funkadelic Parliament
Yes band art rock   last few recordings done on Macs Yes
Neil Young vocals
folk rock     Neil Young
Crosby Stills Nash & Young
Hans Zimmer composer     motion pictures including: The Lion King; Beverly Hills Cop Hans Zimmer

Please help me fill in the blanks. Send more info to Milo.

See also the on-line column at musicEdge.

Note: This table will not display until the entire table has been downloaded to your computer. Please be patient.

Live Shows

show type model use
David Copperfield Show magic Mac lighting control and special effects
Celine Dion concert tour PowerBooks stage and lighting control
Brooks & Dunn concert tour PowerBooks used on stage for performance
Disney On Ice ice skating dozens of Macs for all aspects of the show
Reba Macintyre concert tour PowerBooks used on stage for performance
Miss Saigon Broadway musical Centris two Centries to control the scenery hydraullics
Phantom of the Opera touring musical Mac several Macs to control special effects
John Tesh concert tour PowerBook 190; PowerBook 170 control stage lighting and mix sound
Luther Vandross concert tour PowerPC 6100;
PowerBook 3400
PPC 6100’s to control life performance lighting effects; PB 3400 to handle lighting cues; PB 3400 to handle sound mixing cues
Vannessa Williams live tour concert tour PowerPC 6100;
PowerBook 3400
PPC 6100’s to control life performance lighting effects; PB 3400 to handle lighting cues; PB 3400 to handle sound mixing cues

Please help me fill in the blanks. Send more info to Milo.

See also the on-line column at musicEdge.

Music Computers

personal commentary

     Content creation, including music composition, performance, and recording, is one of the last remaining niche markets where the Macintosh continues to be extremely popular. Steve Jobs said that he wanted to aggressively defend the remaining niche markets. Apple could go a long way towards defending these markets (and maybe even growing the market for amateur musicians) by providing music computers designed specifically for the needs of professional musicians, either under the Apple label or through a clone license to Roland, Yamaha, Kurzweiler, Casio, etc.

    Apple used to dominate professional music use of computers, but in the last couplle of years that lead has been rapidly eroding. The technological advantages of the Mac (ease of use, excellent system support for MIDI, reasonable quality stereo in and out, and a truely excellent and flexible sound manager that supports software synthesizers and effects processors) continue to exist, but a musician has to already know about the Mac advantages and seek out the appropriate hardware and software to implement a Mac solution.

     Apple brand music computers, ordinary and high end Macs bundled with appropriate music software and including specific modifications useful for professional and amateur musicians (such as built-in MIDI connectors, high end A/D and D/A converters, and rack mounted casings in the size that is standard in professional studio and road racks), would go a long way towards generating new interest in the Macintosh for musicians, probably leading to both a dramatic increase in sales in this niche market, as well as the residual glamour and hipness lent by association with trend setting pop musicians.

     There are three obvious music computers: one for professional stage performance, one for professional recording, and one for amateur home use.

     The stage performance music computer would be a rack mounted Macintosh with heavy duty protection from the wear and tear of touring with a live band. The stage Macintosh music computer would include several MIDI connectors (maybe 16 or more) and several serial ports, be bundled with music performance software, and would act as a controller for the entire stage show as well as a sequencer and possibly even a synthesizer. Add in a set of both balanced and unbalanced professional sound connectors with A/D and D/A converters (possibly as an option), and the stage music computer could even serve as a digital mixing board.

     The recording studio music computer would also be a rack mounted Macintosh, but without the extra cost of rugged protection for travel. The studio Macintosh music computer would include several MIDI connectors and be bundled with recording studio software. Two optional add-ons would be: (1) a set of both balanced and unbalanced professional sound connectors with A/D and D/A converters for all-in-one digital recording and (2) hardware for controlling professional mixing boards (obviously, each recording music computer would only have one of these options). The processor, bus, RAM, etc. would be on the high end to provide the ability for demanding real-time and post processing digital signal processing.

     The home music computer would also be a rack mounted Macintosh, but would be a lower end processor to cut costs. MIDI connectors might be limited to just IN, OUT, and THRU. The software bundle would be amateur music composition, recording, and performance software. This music computer would be priced for the huge amateur musician market and sold in guitar and music stores. It could even be used as a budget recording or stage music computer for those who are attempting the transition from amateur to professional musician.

    And obviously once Mac OS X (formerly Rhapsody) becomes available, its extreme dependability (mean time to failure measured in months with 24-hour a day use) would make the Macintosh music computers that much more valuable for both stage and recording studio use. On stage, reliability is critical as there is no time to pause for a reboot, much less spend the time for a complete check-up of the system and main hard drive. In the studio, time is money, and Mac OS X deliver both much less downtime and a significantly faster running operating system (enhancing any speed advantages from the latest processor hardware).

    Licensing just these three music computer designs to such companies as Roland, Yamaha, Kurzweiler, and Casio would lend great credibility to the machines, introduce them heavily into guitar and music stores, and avoid any potential hassles from these clone licensees “eating” Apple market share.

further reading: books:

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    Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Milo

    Last Updated: October 9, 2001

    Created: June 12, 1998

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