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Getting Started Composing Music with Sony Acid

By Jeffrey P. Fisher

Rare is the audiovisual project that canít be enhanced by the correct application of music. One tool that demands consideration is loop-based music composition software such as Sony ACID. Itís been around a few years, but still continues to offer power and flexibility for pulling together music scores quickly and easily.

Lest you think you need outstanding musical skills to craft a decent soundtrack, you are in for a pleasant surprise. ACID lets you select from pre-recorded music loops and combine them in original ways to craft your own music scores. Best of all, the compositions you create with ACID and the available loops belong to you and are completely royalty-free!

These loops that ACID relies on to work its magic are typically short music performances that repeat flawlessly. They may be drum patterns, bass riffs, piano chords, guitar solos, or any number of possible instruments and parts. The program lends itself well to a variety of musical genres including rock, orchestral, hip-hop, techno, ethnic/world, electronica, ambient, and just about everything in between and out on the extreme.

Working with the program is a snap. Just audition a sound, paint it across the grid/timeline, and make music. You may even find the program somewhat addictive and downright fun. Hopefully, you will discover how it can help you create the music you need. While it is not required, it is helpful to have a rudimentary understanding of music, music instruments, and a good ear, though.

The software comes in several flavors: the full-blown professional version Sony ACID Pro 6 (used in this tutorial), the consumer version, ACID Music Studio, and the freeware version, ACID Xpress. All are available from Sony Creative Software ( http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com ). There are also many loop libraries available there, too.

Nearly every function in the program relies on the single main screen. There is a large workspace/timeline, a tabbed docking area for navigating to and auditioning loops, transport controls, and an audio mixer.

The Toolbar along the top of the workspace includes Draw, Selection, Paint, and Eraser. Draw is suitable to placing loops on the Timeline, selecting, and moving them. The Paint tool makes it easy to draw in continuous loops and/or across multiple tracks. Erase deletes loops or parts thereof, obviously.

Notice the workspace doesnít have any audio tracks at first. When you drag and drop loops on the Timeline, the software automatically creates a track. Only the current Pro version 6 supports having multiple loops on a single track, all other iterations of ACID allow for only one loop per track.

The Explorer in ACID functions similarly to the Windows Explorer. Use it to navigate to your loop files. For this tutorial, Iím using loops from the Retro Active library from Hark Productions ( http://www.harkloops.com ).

To audition a loop, simply select it and click the Start Preview button in the Explorer tab. The loop begins to play. Click the Auto Preview button tab to have ACID automatically play a loop once you select it. Press the Stop button to cease playback. Information about the loop appears along the bottom of the pane.

Even with that first preview, ACID is already working. No matter how the original loop was recorded, the program automatically matches the tempo and musical key of every loop you audition to the project settings. Tempo is the speed of the performance in beats per minute (BPM), while key is the group of musical notes that sound good together. You set the tempo and key at the bottom of the Track List using the slider and drop down box adjacent to the tuning fork.

Occasionally, you may notice as you audition certain loops, that they may sound strange, especially when pitch or tempo shifted in large intervals. Matching the key/tempo closer to the original (use the information that appears when you audition a file) will rectify this artifact. 

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Related Keywords:loops, soundtracks, music creation, Sony ACID

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