Sunday, January 22, 2006

So, Ken and I were having a discussion down in Orlando about making music on the computer, etc. And he was wondering if there were any freeware or demo programs out there appropriate for making music that would be good for the dabbler. So, here's my attempt at a little roundup of what's available, what's good, what requires some concentration and a learning curve, and what's intuitive and easy to use.

First, here are a few links that might be useful. Computer Music magazine has a very good introduction on their website on how to get started in making music on a computer. Here it is. Also, the magazine Sound On Sound had a cool roundup of some freeware and shareware programs. Here it is.

Ok, obviously, the software that I would really recommend for music composition is Ableton Live. There is a free demo, available here. Live is incredibly intuitive, and what makes it really cool is that it includes tutorials in the actual program, so the program teaches you how to run it. That's incredibly cool.

Also, sometimes you're going to want to edit sound files or loops that you might be using. I really like Sound Forge, but a good free substitute is Audacity. Maybe that sound file that you crafted in Live is cool, but you want to take a sample out of it, reverse it, add some delay and reverb, and use that. That's what sound editors are for.

I really like to use Orion to create sound loops, but I know that Mike digs Fruity Loops, which I really haven't been able to wrap my head around. Neither are free, but they both have demos, I believe. Sometimes it's nice to create intricate sound loops in advance, so that you're not overtaxing your processor.

Finally, many programs, like Orion or Live, allow you to use VST software synthesizers or effects, and there are tons of people out there who make them for free. Of particular note is Crystal, which is a quite powerful freeware synthesizer. Also, check out KVR for VST news, or look at my links over at the side under the heading plugins.

Finally, if you want to get really out there, there is a thriving community for Buzz Machines, which is free, but it works more like an old style tracker, I think, so I haven't been able to crack the learning curve on that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why use ANYTHING else to build loops if you're already working in Live? It's perfect for that already.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Well, different programs have different capabilities and different 'feels' I guess you might say. I can program things in Orion a LOT quicker than I can in Live. Now, performance, that's totally a different issue.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Inilweyr said...

I haven't used it much other than to fire it up on a live Linux CD but Rosegarden is a neat option for people who like to use music notation and mix MIDI with VST instruments and effects.

You can get a live CD here:

6:07 PM  
Blogger Michael "VendorX" Heaney said...

One reason to work in anything else is because Orion is quite simply one of the finest, most intuitive programs for every aspect of looping exploration goodness that you'll ever find. I'm not going to get into a 'better/worse' than dicussion, for reasons which include lack of qualification, suffice to say that the demo version of orion is more sound software than many people will ever need.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Thanks a bunch Peter. This wil keep me occupied for a bit...

7:09 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

No prob man. Have fun. If you need advice, just email me or Mike. We might even be able to help.

12:39 AM  
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