Want To Make Music - Older Macs

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by SkyDancer59, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. SkyDancer59 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    #1
    I've had several acquaintances tell me they used a Mac computer and garage band to make their own music over the years. I'm on disability, so I can't afford a new computer though. I'd like to help my mom out with accompaniment music for things she wants to sing in church.

    I'm hoping I could get older Mac computer/notebook equipment that would allow me to lay down a keyboard track, a guitar track and mix that with a vocal track using garage band. I managed to get a tax refund this year, but it only leaves me with $700 to get both a computer and a keyboard that will hook into it in some fashion. (Every Windows PC I've ever purchased hasn't had the motherboard capability to accept a midi input). I'd like to be able to use some composing software that would write the sheet music based on input from a keyboard.

    Can anyone recommend some older Mac computers that can handle these composing/recording tasks? I also need to find a compatible keyboard (preferably a full keyboard) for composing. What are the mimimum RAM/Processor speed requirements I would need? Are there any USB considerations I need to know about in regards to hooking up the keyboard and mic?

    Many thanks to anyone who can offer assistance. :D
     
  2. Fishrrman macrumors G5

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #2
    "Can anyone recommend some older Mac computers that can handle these composing/recording tasks? I also need to find a compatible keyboard (preferably a full keyboard) for composing. What are the mimimum RAM/Processor speed requirements I would need? Are there any USB considerations I need to know about in regards to hooking up the keyboard and mic?"

    There is a digital audio sub-forum right here on MacRumors and you'd probably do well to check that out.

    It looks like what you're going to need (besides a MIDI-capable keyboard) is an "audio interface" to go along with whatever Mac you pick up.

    Interfaces (depending on which one you buy) can be hooked up via either USB or Firewire. My recommendation is Firewire if possible. That means that whatever Mac you buy should have a firewire input (400 or 800 doesn't matter one bit).

    Don't scrimp on the interface. You need enough inputs and outputs to leave you "room to grow". Pick the right one and it will serve you well.

    I've been very satisfied with an Echo Audiofire 8. These are no longer made, but I suggest you spend some time checking the Echo "Audiofire 4" interface. It will do everything you need, and the price (new) is reasonable - $299. You might be able to find a used one for less.

    As far as Macs go, I would suggest either an iMac or a laptop. All the iMacs have firewire, but not all the laptops. You will find that firewire port to be VERY handy.

    It's not that an older "tower" won't work, but the problem is that the fans make enough noise so that it can intrude onto your audio tracks, if you're using a mic. The iMacs and laptops are quiet enough (not "dead silent" but pretty quiet) so that any fan or drive noises they make won't impact your tracks.

    I would also suggest that you get ONLY an "Intel-based" Mac. You'll need one to run the latest software. I'd look for a 24" iMac. It might be either the SECOND generation "white" ones (I believe the very first white Intel iMacs didn't have a "Core 2 duo" processor, not sure), or an "aluminum" one.

    The reason for an iMac instead of a laptop is that audio applications need a LOT of "screen space" so you can see everything that's going on. It's not that you can't use a laptop, but rather you will find the screen "too confining" on one. Just my opinion.

    Final suggestion:
    If you find GarageBand becoming too limiting, you may want to try a more powerful app. Most people in this forum will say "Logic", but in response to that I say "too cumbersome". Instead, consider Cubase Essentials or try the Mac version of "Reaper"...
     
  3. FeelCollins macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    #3
    Keeping in mind your small-for-mac budget (above poster doesn't seem to do this), you could actually do pretty well with that money. After using a 2004 powerbook for many years, i finally "upgraded" to an older, 2009 intel mac mini for about $500. Using Logic Pro, i am now i able to have many more processor intensive synthesizers and audio tracks even on this lightweight, low cost machine. It may be enough to get you started, and would fit well within your price range. Installing another gig of RAM would be a cheap upgrade as well.

    As far as MIDI hardware, unless you are using old hardware synths you don't have to worry about it, as all new keyboards use USB to transfer MIDI signals.

    Depending on how much money you have left, decide if you can buy a USB keyboard controller with 41 or 69 keys. If you need more octaves, you can always press a button to **** the keyboard up or down in octaves.

    I am not including links as you could probably google this stuff, but let me know if you need more guidance.
     
  4. al2o3cr macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2009
    #4
    To be honest, your budget is pretty tight - especially if by "full keyboard" you mean an 88-key piano-style mechanism.

    One option that I've seen some decent reviews on is the Samson GM1U G-Track: it's a condenser microphone with an extra input for guitar or keyboard and a built-in USB interface. It's relatively inexpensive, and will only set you back $150. It's pretty limited if you're looking to expand with more inputs (it doesn't *have* any more inputs) but would likely be OK for recording one instrument at a time.

    Mac-wise, your best bet is to definitely stay away from the older G4 and G5 machines - they're typically way cheaper, but are now quite out of date (I'm not sure if the latest GarageBand will even *run* on them). If you've got a monitor, keyboard and mouse the cheapest option will probably be an older Mac Mini.

    For the music scoring part, the budget is also a pretty strong constraint; you may want to try out Musescore (http://musescore.org/) which is free...
     
  5. SkyDancer59 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    #5
    Thank you so much for all the information. I looked at the iMacs, but I would have to catch a lucky break on eBay to be able to afford one. I'll look into the minis as I do have an extra monitor laying around.

    I was looking at some keyboards (I'm probably going to have to settle for 76 instead of 88 based on my budget and need for USB). I found a pretty good Yamaha that has instruction DVDs that connects via USB. I might just start there and save up for the Mac. I found a good web site with lots of educational information that I can use to learn more about the recording process, so I think I'll focus on the keyboard and mic first and hopefully by the time I figure out how to use them correctly, I'll have enough money for the Mac.

    Again, thank you very much for all your replies. They are greatly appreciated. :D
     

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