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Ruby Gold

Serious newbie trying to figure out how to make a song...

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Hi there. I'm brand new to DAWs in general and to Cakewalk in particular, but have managed to figure out some of the basics through tutorials, reading, etc. That said, I'm still a babe wandering around a dark forest. I work on a new Dell laptop, but it has a built-in sound card - so nothing special there.

I wrote a song that has a melody line and some chords. When I play the chords with the melody on my ancient (maybe 16 years old - so no modern outputs/inputs) Yamaha keyboard, the chords sound good with the melody, but when I tried to input them note by note with the virtual piano that comes with Cakewalk in piano roll mode, they sound terrible - like a 'plunk' -  not remotely 'real' sounding, nor do they sound like they 'go' with the melody line (that they sound perfectly in synch with when played on said keyboard).

Does anyone have suggestions - written so a newbie can understand them, please - to either make the entered notes/chords from the virtual instrument sound more real, OR what a good, simple new keyboard/converter set-up would be to play actual notes/chords and get them into Cakewalk as they sound when played? I'm not thinking a midi controller, I'm thinking some kind of real keyboard with the ability to get bits of music onto a track in Cakewalk sounding how it sounds when played. And, on the latter, an explanation of equipment needed to make that happen.  If these are ignorant questions - I apologize.  Just trying to figure out how to get this song made so it sounds reasonable. Thanks in advance!

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Why not just use the Yamaha to record a MIDI track in CW if you like its sound?  If you're not used to using a piano roll to edit MIDI then check out tutorials on using the PRV.  Don't give up, you'll get there.

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If your Yamaha keyboard has MIDI in / out port, all you need is MIDI interface so you can record your playing to Cakewalk as MIDI data. There you can also capture the dynamic & touch of your playing. Then you can edit the notes / MIDI track in piano roll when necessary.

The problem with virtual MIDI keyboard is it likely will input MIDI notes on same default velocity, resulting in the sound being "unreal" & lack of dynamic.

You can start by looking for MIDI interface to connect your Yamaha keyboard to your PC.

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Welcome.

What you're likely running into is that first, while even low end Yamaha keyboards have excellent built-in sounds, TTS-1 dates back a lot longer than 16 years. The default piano sound in TTS-1 is....a lackluster mono thing. Fortunately, you can easily change to one of the other piano sounds in it, and things improve. Just switch the sound to Piano 1 st. and you'll get a stereo sound.

An even better option is to get a 3rd-party freeware piano VST. There are excellent ones available. My favorite is the Meldaproduction Monastery Grand, but at this point in your learning, installing it is kind of involved. Check this thread for a ton of freeware instruments including sampled grand pianos:

One I suggest is IK Multimedia Sampletank 4 SE, which comes with an excellent sampled grand. Native Instruments' Kontakt Player also comes with a decent sampled grand. Both of these free products come with a ton of other useful sounds as well.

As for the note plunk factor, one of the differences from playing on your velocity-sensitive keyboard is in expressiveness. You play with dynamics and slight timing variations that sound good. When entering notes by hand one at a time in Piano Roll, they all go in at the same default velocity setting. Assuming that you have Snap enabled, they go in "on the grid" as well. One remedy for this is to use the Humanize process command, which adds velocity and slight timing variations. Another is to manually adjust the notes' velocities.

As for the disconnect between the chords and the melody line, I don't quite understand the issue, so I can't speak to it.

If your Yamaha is 16 years old, its lack of "modern inputs and outputs" can actually make things easier for you, as it likely has a 5-pin DIN MIDI out jack on it. You can get a USB MIDI interface and instead of having to draw notes on the screen, play your whole song into Cakewalk as MIDI using the Yamaha.

I bought this one when it was $15 and it works great. You can get it now for $11:

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B08549TD7G/

As for using the internal sound chip, that's fine for what you're doing, but of course if you want to record any audio, then it's time to step up to an external interface. You'll get the best results using it in WASAPI Exclusive mode, and turn the latency down to 10mS or below. Your Dell is new, so should have no trouble getting quite low latency with the Realtek chip in WASAPI. Avoid ASIO4ALL, it won't give you anything that WASAPI Exclusive doesn't.

 

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 So - this is what the port situation is on the Yamaha. The 'usb' port is so old I don't know that there is a converter to be able to play the Yamaha keyboard directly into Cakewalk. The one you suggested looks like it doesn't have this shape.  Am I wrong?

ports.jpg

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Okay - so I plugged the Yamaha to the laptop via a USB Type B to USB Type A cable.  I created a new 'instrument' track but am not sure what to select for input - the Yamaha isn't showing up - just OMNI and Midi channels with numbers - so not sure it's recognizing the instrument.  Because I don't know what I'm doing - I tried both input options of "Virtual Controller" and "All Input" and neither worked to record when I played from the plugged in keyboard with the track armed to record.  Also, the only output option was  Microsoft GS Wave Table Synth, and I'm not sure what that is. 

Can someone explain to me what I need to do/set-up in CW for it to recognize what I'm playing on the keyboard and record it to the instrument track I created?

Thanks for your patience and help!

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Try Mike's video here where he connects a midi keyboard to his PC to use in Cakewalk - you have a USB connection so just ignore the first bit where he talks about midi connections! Good luck!
 

 

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Thanks Joe. Unfortunately, when plugged in, my keyboard is not showing up as Mike says it should under the USB to midi inputs in the preferences. Just not there. No input is shown. Perhaps I need some kind of audio interface like he shows in the video, but not sure it's worth making more investments for a keyboard that is so old. If any of you have recommendations for a not too expensive keyboard that would be a plug and play situation into CW - please let me know.  Thanks again.

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What is the model number? The USB port might just be for firmware updates which was common back then. 

Go to the Yamaha site and search for your model and see what is available under downloads. 

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If the keyboard is from 2004ish I think you are out of luck with the USB port. As John said back in the day they were only for firmware updates.

 

 

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Looks like your going to need a Audio interface with a midi port, No point wasting money on a midi only interface. It's pretty important to use a Audio interface anyway. 

The Focusrite 4i4 might be perfect. It has the extra inputs for keyboards and the MIDI jacks. 

Uh, Oh Oh,  I just looked at the picture.. I don't see a midi port! That must be a Home type keyboard which most didn't have midi. 

Looks like you can add a keyboard controller to that shopping list.

Cakewalk is free but to make things work properly you sort of have to spend some cash on some hardware that makes it work.

Audio interface- Most important part of a DAW system. 

Mike- unless your singing real sucks.

Keyboard controller- So you can enter midi data, even with terrible playing skills because you can edit midi till the cows come home. 

Studio monitors - so you can hear your wonderful creations in all their glory.

Good headphones- So you can hear all those mistakes you didn't hear in the monitors.   

The price range is huge and you can outfit a studio for as low as under $500 or just keep adding zeros. 

Edited by John Vere

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9 minutes ago, John Vere said:

he price range is huge and you can outfit a studio for as low as under $500 or just keep adding zeros. 

Now John don't scare him away ;)

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Can you tell us the type / series of your Yamaha keyboard ? And what Windows do you use (Win 7, 8, 10)?
Many devices require you to install driver for them to work. You probably need to install one for your Yamaha keyboard.

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You do need an audio interface if you are planning to record audio (vocals, guitar etc) but if, like me, you are only working with midi it is not essential as you can usually use your computer's on board sound chip which I've been doing for years now

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