Using a Hardware Control Surface With Recording Software

With most home recording studios using computers with recording software these days, most of the tweaking is done with a mouse, or a standard computer keyboard, or more likely a combination of the two. Recording programs tend to duplicate the look and functionality of their hardware counterparts of yore, with pictures of knobs, sliders and buttons on a computer screen replacing the real thing.

While it does not bother me in the slightest to use my mouse to drag a volume slider up and down, or turn a knob, or press a button, there are folks out there who find that distracting or difficult.  I think the more experience you had in the past working with the hardware - mixing consoles were a large part of that - then the less intuitive it will be to have to use a mouse.  Also, I think even if you did spend a lot of time with your fingers mixer controls, if you also spent a significant amount of time doing other things on a computer with a mouse and keyboard, doing the same with recording software is no big deal.

That said, what do you do if you are one of the former group who really like to have that tactile feedback loop while working with audio, but have everything on a computer now?  Well, you can purchase a hardware controller (also called a control surface) to mimic the actions of an physical mixing console.  I find it ironic that first we created virtual versions of the hardware to take recording into the computer, and now we're creating virtual virtual versions of the hardware.  Don't think about that too much:).

Anyway, yeah - you can hook up a control surface like the Behringer BCR2000 or Behringer BCF2000 (which both work with Reaper software - my main recording program) to your computer via MIDI or USB and control volume, panning, and other parameters in your software from that, without having to do it with a mouse.  The BCR2000 runs about $179, and the BCF2000 is $249.99.

Other popular control surfaces include the Mackie Control Universal Pro - Expandable Control Surface (very good and works well with Pro Tools - but also expensive at ~ $1,100), the Novation Zero or any of the many units you can find in the control surfaces category at B&H Pro Audio.

So if you're tired of messing with a mouse and computer keyboard to control your recording software, maybe you should check out a hardware control surface for yourself.


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