For the last of this series of posts we have Audacity – a cross-platform audio editing/recording software. Audacity is a must-have for anyone working on music, since it makes basic audio tasks quick and simple. I tend to use it mainly for when I want to convert file formats, but it has many other uses and comes with a lot of useful plug-ins for manipulating your audio. It’s not exactly the type of software you would use to produce an entire song from scratch, but it’s definitely a great tool to use amongst your other programs.
- Light-weight and free software
- Easy to use (cutting and pasting audio samples is a breeze)
- You can export /import many popular audio formats
- Lacks the advanced features of a full-fledged DAW
- Requires downloading LAME MP3 Encoder before you can export to MP3 (At no cost but a slight inconvenience)
And that’s it for this series of music posts! I hope that some of you check out the software I’ve recommended for yourselves as well!
Reaper is a cross-platform Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that I started using towards the end of college. Before Reaper I had used the industry standard software called ProTools. Again, I’m not going to get into the details of old software I used to use, but I’ll at least say that I had lots of frustration dealing with ProTools due to all of the crashes from heavy RAM use, bugs, and other things that resulted in lost work. So I was glad to have found Reaper.
In brief, Reaper is similar to most other DAWs in functionality but to me has a much lighter and more intuitive interface. It can record audio, load VSTs, and export top-notch sounding work. I’ve experimented with other mainstream DAWs in the past such as Logic, Acid, and Ableton, and in the end I found Reaper to work best for me.
- All the features you would ever need out of any commercial DAW
- Very affordable pricing, and free for personal use
- Usage is similar to other DAWs without the price tag or required peripherals
- May seem overwhelming to beginners
- Some of the default plug-ins it comes are limited or can be complex to use
- Mediocre MIDI editor
Reason is a cross-platform music production software that I started using after I began college. During high school I used a similar software which you might know of called FL Studio. I’m not going to talk about the problems I had with FL Studio in this article, but I’ll at least say briefly that I didn’t really like the extra emphasis on organizing your music in blocks of loops and patterns. I tend to use long melodic passages, so when I need to modify them I don’t want to deal with large loops.
The most notable aspect of Reason in my opinion is the sheer freedom the user has in manipulating the various devices within the program. You essentially have your own personal rack of synths, compressors, reverb machines, effects, and more, all crammed into one program. And the best part is that you can literally re-wire these devices to your liking to achieve the sound you want. (And by “literally” I mean actually go into the back of the devices and re-route the wires!) Also, while the default instruments are great (and of course you can always buy more), you can easily create your own sounds from scratch if you have the technical know-how.
- Extremely customizable
- Easily work with imported MIDI files and recording MIDI via USB keyboards
- Compatible with most DAWs
- Comes with thousands of great default patches
- A somewhat intimidating interface (especially for complete beginners, or those coming from an FL Studio-like environment)
- Doesn’t allow VSTs or other plug-ins (although you can buy “refills” which are essentially instrument patches unique to Reason)
- No audio recording capabilities (Although you would tend to use reason with a DAW anyway)
Finale is another musical notation software that I began using about half-way through high school. It’s cross-platform and contains many features that Noteworthy has, although I personally don’t use it for much except for when I need to print quality sheet music. When it comes to general audio work, I tend to start with Noteworthy. I would have liked to discuss a comparison with Finale’s popular competitor known as Sibelius, though unfortunately I have only used it very briefly. For me, Finale does exactly what I need it to, so I don’t have many qualms about it. I recommend searching some other websites if you are interested in the details as to what music notation software is truly best for your purposes.
- Great for producing professional quality sheet music
- Lets you export to many formats such as .mid, .wav, .mp3, and Music XML
- Lots of freedom for arranging articulations, expressions, etc.
- Allows the use of VST plug-ins for audio playback
- Contains tons of advanced features
- A bit expensive
- Very strict musical notation rules
- Can be a bit buggy at times
I’m often asked what software I use for composing music and such, so I figured I would finally post some articles about it to share some of my personal software preferences, as well as brief thoughts on some alternative software.
I will be doing a series of 5 posts, one for each day this week. So check by each day for more!
Noteworthy Composer is the first music notation software I began using back in middle school years ago, which I still use frequently to this day. Although it’s a rather old program, it makes music notation on the computer as simple as typing a text document. There aren’t many restrictions in how you insert notes, which makes it very easy for those who don’t have a significant musical background to use the program. It also lets you export MIDI files so that you have some way of transferring your music to other programs. Being a piano player I found this software especially appealing since I could write music so quickly and not necessarily have to follow all of the “rules”.
- Extremely light-weight program
- Simple interface with lots of freedom for those unfamiliar with music notation
- Great for drafting MIDI work that you plan to import into other programs
- Very affordable pricing (under $50)
- Not very good for printing professional quality sheet music
- Unable to use anything other than standard MIDI output for audio (this means no plug-ins, VSTs, etc.)
- The only viewing mode is each staff stacked in rows (no way view print layout while editing, so you will find yourself constantly scrolling)
- Limited placement for expressions, articulations, etc. and lacks any real advanced features
- Limited export formats (.mid and .nwc only)
Anyone who’s interested in composing music who want something cheap, and especially those who have experience in reading sheet music should definitely look into Noteworthy.