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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Which or what type of software creates music?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26879points) March 30th, 2011

I should be able to find it but I can’t, I am either looking in the wrong place or under the wrong category. Does anyone know of a music program or software that allows you to create music? I am not talking about a program that allows you to blend, mix, or filter existing music or write music by way of a piano with a MIDI interface but one where you can actually create music even if you do not know how to play an instrument. Many years ago I seen one but I can’t remember the name and I am sure they have way better stuff out there now. What have you got or have you seen?

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14 Answers

12Oaks's avatar

I have right next to me here Music Creator 5 by CakeWalk. It’s a touch tricky at first, but with just a little bit of musical knowledge (Like the higher up on the clef the note is, the higher the pitch) you’ll be making music in no time. Unlimited amounts of lines to use, so you could do anything from a solo piano piece to a full orchestra, drum lines included.

cookieman's avatar

Apple’s Garage Band does all of the things you list (and more) – and is a great piece of consumer grade software.

‘course, ya need a Mac.

I’m sure there must be a PC equivalent.

the100thmonkey's avatar

I use FL Studio.

It’s a sequencer that can also host VST effects and VST instruments. Pretty much any commercial sequencer software will do this. The only problem is that they are rather expensive.

There are free equivalents, but I can’t comment on the quality of the software.

XYZZYtja's avatar

Try Fruity Loops, it’s great for beginners,
When you understand the program, u can also try Cubase. It’ s a bit difficult at first, but when you learn it, it is great!

Mariah's avatar

A PC equivilent of Garage Band is Mixcraft, which is not free, but has a free trial, and isn’t expensive if you decide you want it. I love it!

DeanV's avatar

Ooh, I like these questions.

There are pretty much two roads to take, you can go with the programs themselves, or you can program it yourself.

The first one is using something called a DAW (digital audio workstation) which allows you to host software instruments or VSTs/AUs, sequence beats and samples, and then master and export with plugins. There are tons of these programs, but I see them categorized into a couple categories, some far more professional than others.
In my experience, the most professional (and often expensive) are Pro Tools (used by nearly every studio around the world), Apple Logic (used by nearly every mac-based studio around the world), Steinberg Cubase, and Presonus Studio One. These “professional” programs often have an increased focus on mastering and recording audio, but skimp on features like help sections or tutorials and templates. Ultimately, if you plan on getting into this you’ll want to learn one of these programs, but they are the most difficult to start with.

There’s another category with programs such as Ableton Live and FL Studio in it. These programs are usually what I consider a “middle ground” between the professional studio programs and the home musicians. These usually skimp a little bit on exporting and audio quality, but are incredibly easy to learn and a lot faster than programs like Logic and ProTools in putting together a quick song. As a result of these being easy and fast, you’ll see big name artists like Deadmau5 and Skream swearing by FL Studio whereas Justice and Diplo stick to Ableton Live.

Then there’s what I consider the third tier of programs. This includes Garageband, Mixcraft, Cakewalk Music Creator, and some “lite” versions of Ableton Live. These programs are excellent for getting started and learning the basics of computer audio, but you will ultimately grow out of them and start wanting more control of MIDI paramaters, multitrack audio recording, or easier sequencing and loop mangling. These are great to start off, but I guarantee that no successful electronic artist makes all of his music in Garageband, ultimately the sound engine just doesn’t compare to offerings such as Logic or Ableton or FL Studio. They’re a great first step, but ultimately your music will outgrow them.

My personal favorites out of these sequencers/DAWs are Ableton Live for simple “jotting down” of ideas and then Logic Express (which is only $150) for mastering and exporting. I find that Ableton’s sequencer is great and easy to use, but its mastering plugins and audio engine are just not as good as Logic’s for audio quality and exporting a full song.
I would strongly recommend going with Ableton Live as a starter DAW, as it can be quite intimidating at first, but ultimately you will start learning it and going to a more simplistic program like GarageBand just seems like a chore. Unfortunately, I would recommend investing on one of Native Instrument’s software synths as well, as Ableton’s software synthesizers are far from perfect. Ableton is a bit more expensive than FL Studio or Logic Express, though, so definitely download a demo and look up some youtube tutorials before you spend money on it.
My other recommendation for a starter DAW would be Apple’s Logic Express if you’re on a Mac. It’s only $150, and is pretty much the exact same as Logic Pro without some plugins and live performance features. There’s no track limit, and it’s the most “professional” sounding audio engine and DAW you’re going to get for $150 anywhere. It’s fairly easy to learn as well; you can probably pick up the basics in about 4 hours and start making good music at 12.

But there are other ways like Max/MSP or PureData (PD).
Max/MSP and PD are audio programming languages used by a lot of IDM and experimental artists. Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Modesekeltor, and Apparat use programs they created themselves in Max or PD to create their own music that is highly tweakable and very personal.
The pros to software like this is that it is entirely moldable to what you want it to do. You create the synthesizer, sequencer, and sampler, and as a result a song that you create in Max/PD is completely your own.
The con is that, like any programming language, they are hard to master and could have far too steep a learning curve for a beginner, especially if you don’t know some basics of MIDI and synthesis (oscillators and filters and effects, etc.). It will take you far longer from beginning to end to create a song, but I find that in the end it is far more satisfying and the song really feels like my own.
Max/MSP is the commercial version of the software and comes with integration into Ableton Live and a simpler GUI, but PureData (PD) is a free, open source alternative if you want to try your hand at programming. They are nearly the same language as well, so if you know one you know the other.
But I warn you, it’s a tough path to go down, and if you’re not computer savvy I would not recommend it. Both are very music programming languages.

Well then. I just wrote a fucking essay, but that’s because I genuinely enjoy computer music software. Like I said above, I recommend getting Ableton Live and a good software synthesizer, but you can definitely start with something with Mixcraft or GarageBand to start off, just don’t expect it to work for your music forever. And if you’re interested in programming or a different way to go about audio production, definitely download PD and take a shot at making some simple synths and sequences. It’s free, open source, and cross platform. If you want to try something new, I can’t recommend it enough.

Also, Youtube tutorials are your friend. Like really your friend. I would not know any of these programs if it wasn’t for them, and I mosltly taught myself how to use Max, PD, Ableton Live, Logic, and most software sythesizers by just watching tutorials online about the basics. I can’t stress enough how much you should get on youtube when you finally make your decision and watch some.

DeanV's avatar

I didn’t fully read the question, so that might not have been all that helpful, but I’m going to leave that answer up there because I’m kinda proud of it.

cookieman's avatar

@dverhey: You’re one rockin’ walrus.

2CDenzy's avatar

I’ve seen freeware called Musescore. I’ve also seen something called Finale Notepad but that may not be free anymore. These programs give you a blank music sheet and you use your mouse to plop notes on the page at your fancy. I personally like this a lot and it can be fun experimenting with notes and rhythms.

pathfinder's avatar

Tracktor program does

RareDenver's avatar

@pathfinder Traktor is a DJ program. It doesn’t actually create it’s own sounds, just manipulates existing ones.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

So, Flutheronians [bka] Jellies, if one wanted to create a background track for Webinars, or online tutorials what would provide the best creative abilities, be able to reproduce the sound of many different instruments, stich them together but not be so technical as to bog you down in all the science and technical manipulation? In short, the sound quality does not have to be “album production” quality, but sound good in the back ground or accompaning illustrations, and filling dead space and transitions.

DeanV's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I still like Ableton for that, but you could also look into FL Studio or Propellerheads Reason as they are cheaper and (some say) easier to learn.

RareDenver's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Reason is probably the easiest to get to grips with, especially if you are already used to working with hardware.

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