However, if you’re on a tight budget, if you’re a programmer, or if the idea
of a self-contained OS and applications just for music is appealing, Linux is
worth a look—even if only to run alongside your existing OS. And even if
you don’t use Linux directly, odds are you’ll be using hardware powered by
it or open source or commercial software developed on it in the near
Configuring Your Computer
Whether you’re buying a new computer or using an existing system, speci-
fications are important (Table 2.7). If you’re just doing MIDI or music
notation, older machines are likely to be sufficient, but live digital audio is
system-intensive. In these situations, your computer has to perform mathe-
matics on data that changes 44,100 times per second or more, outputting
the results with minimal delay. Digital videographers and 3D graphic artists
can afford some rendering time, but musicians often can’t.
Figure 2.6 Rosegarden is a
free, open-source audio appli-
cation you can run on your
Mac or PC hardware under a
Linux operating system.
(Screenshot courtesy Fervent
Software, Ltd.)
Table 2.7 Essential Specifications
Factors to Consider Minimum/Optimal Importance Research/Budget
CPU speed Research: Check software requirements
to see how processor-intensive the soft-
ware you want to use is.
Cost: Functional bare-bones computers
start at about $500.
Hard drive capacity Research: Calculate how much space you
need at
Cost: Large, fast internal hard drives start
at around $100; external drives suitable
for audio have dropped below $200.
Hard drive speed Research: Check drive specs carefully.
Examples include audio-specific drives
from Glyph Technologies (,
pictured—photo courtesy Glyph Tech-
nologies) or the portable high-speed
ComboGB drive from Wiebe Tech
RAM 512 MB/1 GB + Research: Memory prices fluctuate as
often as week-to-week based on supply
and demand, so its best to comparison
shop—computer manufacturers usually
inflate RAM prices. Check tracking sites
like DealRam ( for
the best deals.
Cost: You can usually significantly
upgrade RAM for under $100, so buy as
much as you can afford.
Buses Research: Apple systems ship standard
with these connections; PC users should
max out their systems.
You’ll need connections
for your audio interface,
hard drives, keyboards,
control surfaces, and
other audio gear.
At least USB 1.1 and one
high-speed bus (FireWire,
CardBus, or PCI)/USB 2.0,
FireWire 400/800, PCI
(desktops), other fast
If you’re using a soft-
ware sampler, the
amount of RAM is
vital: these applications
usually load samples
directly into RAM, so
you’ll need more RAM
for bigger samples.
4200 and 5400 rpm
drives, like the internal
drives that usually ship
with laptops, choke
when recording multi-
track audio, causing
dropouts, or they
cease to record.
7200 rpm for simultane-
ous multitrack record-
ing/Audio or
A/V-optimized drive
Recorded audio eats
hard drive space fast: a
CD’s worth of audio is
about 600–700 MB, and
that only includes the
finished, mixed songs.
Once you start recording
layers of audio tracks,
you’ll have multiple
recordings for each
minute of sound.
60 GB free for recording/
As much as you can
afford (250 GB +),
dedicated drive
The primary CPU per-
forms tasks like effects
processing and sound
generation in many
800 MHz processor
for a single basic
application/1–3 GHz
2: C

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