I wouldnt have so much of a problem if ram preview didnt always start from the beginning of the track.... any help is appreciated.
RAM preview only starts from the beginning of the track because you're telling it to. I know you don't realize you're doing that, but you are. There are two solutions, you can either change the work area (since it is currently set to preview the whole work area) or you can go to your preview panel and you can change it to preview from current time.
And, in the version of AE you're using, you shouldn't be pressing spacebar to start a preview. It won't play audio that way. You need to cache a RAM preview to hear audio.
Now, if you update your AE to CC 2015, you have a LOT more options for previewing and spacebar is useful in it. Here was the page on the changes when CC 2015 first came out: all about previews in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5). It got even more refined and even more better in subsequent versions. Current version is 13.7.1, by the way.
If you do update, make sure you don't let CC default to remove your old version though! keeping previous versions installed when installing CC 2015 applications
thank you so much for the help. I updated to 2015, and it works a little better, but it still only plays a little part at a time, over and over again.... how do I get it so I can preview the whole song clean? I know I am missing something stupid, but I have only played with AE for a short time... any help is appreciated
You probably can't preview the whole thing at full resolution. After Effects is not like a video editing program. It doesn't just play back a video stream or an audio file. It's actually making a full-frame pixel-accurate image for every frame and playing that back. Now, it has to cache that in order to have something to play back and it caches it to the RAM. The more RAM you have, the longer preview you can have. If you make your preview smaller (so half or quarter resolution in your composition panel, for example), it will be able to cache a longer section because the preview images it's caching take up less memory.
Whereas a video editing application (like Premiere Pro) will just play back a video stream or an audio file so you can just play the whole timeline.
Longer explanation courtesy of Rick Gerard:
Sony Vegas, Premiere Pro, Final Cut, Avid are all NLE's (Non Linear Editors) and they are specifically designed to playback a video stream. With any of them, if you stack enough layers or effects on the video they will have to render a new video stream based on pixel based calculations for every pixel in the stack. This rendering, especially for HD sources or for complex plug-ins, will take quite a bit of time.
After Effects, Flame, Fusion, Shake -- are all pixel based image processing applications that act very much like Photoshop. They calculate the values of every pixel in every frame, come up with a new pixel, and then play those pixels back as a video stream. More importantly, AE and all the other pixel based compositing apps, always work internally with completely uncompressed pixel data. NLE's rely on codecs and in some cases, hardware, to playback the video. It's an entirely different way of working with moving images.
In After Effects you enable the preview by loading a bunch of frames into RAM then the video stream is played back. The length of the preview depends entirely on how much free ram you have available and it takes some time to generate these new pixels. The more layers, the more effects, the more calculations that need to be performed the longer it will take to process the RAM preview. There's currently no way around this rendering time. Premiere Pro, a modern NLE, will handle an amazing number of video streams simultaneously, but as soon as you exceed the capability of the system you're stuck with a render. Most NLE's, given the same number of calculations, actually take a little longer than After Effects to do the same kind of effects. Open GL, and other GPU acceleration helps many NLE's achieve higher performance but it has yet to be implemented into a pixel based compositing app. The sad truth of the matter is that if you want to do compositing in any of the available compositing apps, you have to wait for renders. They are getting better. Memory management and efficiency is improving. GPU accelerated effects are being added, but for now, that's about as good as it gets.
I hope this helps. As long as you use After Effects to create shots and don't try to make it do the work of a NLE you should be fine. Movies come from NLE's, amazing shots come from AE.
If you're new to AE, you should really start here: http://adobe.ly/AE_basics
This will get you a good foundation in how to work with AE and a bit of really important stuff about how AE works under the hood (and it's free!) Go through all of that and you'll be a lot less frustrated when you work with AE.