The limitations of Sound Recorder

Q I recently connected an electronic keyboard via its Line Out plugs to the Line In plug on my SoundBlaster card, with a view to recording a song. And voila -- it worked! I played it back via Sound Recorder and everything was fine. I also have a CD writer and, having saved my masterpiece as a .wav file, I managed to record it onto a CD.

However, my problem is that the Sound Recorder only seems to record for 60 seconds, and I see no way to make it work for a longer period. Do I need to install extra software/hardware in order to record tunes of a decent length?

- Jeff Jones

A Sound Recorder, built into Windows 95/98/NT, does the basic job of recording sound but unfortunately limits the length of the recording to 60 seconds. You can increase the size of the file by inserting other pre-recorded .wav files into an open file, but the maximum file size is determined by the amount of available RAM.

To record a longer session you need to consider using other software. Check the disks that came with your soundcard; many soundcards come bundled with software that includes a sound recording and editing utility.

There are a number of shareware utilities available for recording, editing and mixing music. One that I have used on a number occasions and found to be more than satisfactory for recording and editing a single track is GoldWave (downloadable from http://www.goldwave.com or from our cover CD). GoldWave simplifies file editing and provides special effects tools such as fades and noise filtering.

For more sophisticated editing your should consider software that allows you to mix multiple tracks. The range of sound editing software is immense, and it is beyond to the scope of this article to look at all the options. Of the professional software packages, WaveLab, from Music Technology, has been recommended to me as one of the best (http://www.steinberg.net; phone (02) 9369 4990).

There are two further points worth considering when it comes to recording music. Firstly, wave files are not really the best way to record and distribute songs. Real Audio's RAW format is particularly good if you want to allow people to listen to music over the Internet. For creating CDs, you want to make a standard audio CD that anyone can play on their stereo. This can be done with most CD-Writer software, but is also a feature of some sound recording packages such as WaveLab.

People with electronic keyboards often connect the keyboard to the computer using a MIDI connection. When the keyboard is played, it uses built-in electronic componentry to produce sound. When it's plugged into your computer, it uses the electronic componentry in the soundcard to do the same thing. As it is often cheaper to add a new soundcard to your computer than it is to buy a whole new keyboard, you can often get better quality sound through your computer. The resulting MIDI files are also quite small.

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