When you're happy with the various elements you then press a global record button and trigger the clips live, usually via a MIDI controller. It takes a bit of time to get your head around the concept - essentially you're almost being a DJ for your own music - but when you do it's incredibly liberating.
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Ease of use: Ableton Live is almost like playing a new instrument, so the learning curve can be a little steep. Ideally you'll need to invest in some sort of control device as well, but a computer keyboard can be mapped to trigger the various Clips. The program has a wealth of sound creation modules and sample libraries, plus innovative editing controls that are executed in real-time.
Features: One of the true stalwarts of music production is the Cubase platform that for many years has provided musicians with excellent creative tools. Those wanting to sample its delights without emptying their wallets will find the Elements 10 package an enticing proposition. It might bear the budget name but Elements comes equipped with many of the features that makes its more august sibling so popular.
Pro-level mixing and editing tools give the user an enviable amount of control, while a plentiful selection of audio effect processors, plus the ability to simultaneously playback 48 audio tracks and 64 MIDI tracks gives you a very broad sonic palette to play with. Ease of use: Steinberg has created a number of tutorial videos to help newcomers adapt to the sometimes complex environment of Elements Even with these helpful lessons Cubase remains a sophisticated product for those new to digital music. If you're already versed in the system from previous versions of Elements then this will represent a significant upgrade.
This slimmed-down edition still packs plenty of punch and is a great place to get familiar with the Reason approach. While this is in many ways a normal, complete production suite, the standout feature is the rack-style nature of the excellent synthesisers, sound modules, and virtual instruments. Each one comes complete with dials and sliders that look distinctly analogue in nature. You can even turn the rack around and run virtual cables to keep things old school.
Design choices aside, tonally this is a beast, with wonderful effects that can create sonic landscapes, mangle audio into fascinating new textures, and allow you to build detailed and stomping drum patterns. Intro offers 10 instruments, 11 effects, 16 tracks of audio and midi recording, plus a large collection of editing features.
Ease of use: As with all the platforms in this roundup there is a definite learning curve at the beginning. Reason 10 Intro scores highly though, much like Ableton Live, as it's just so much fun to experiment with due to the high quality sounds it can create. One consideration is that a MIDI controller is a must have accessory, as many of the best features reside in those realms. Features: While GarageBand has one of the richest companies in the world backing it, another free option is Audacity, which is an open source project built and maintained by volunteers.
At first this might seem like a basic, no frills product, but in fact Audacity is a very capable system that can achieve impressive results. Alongside the general recording and editing functions that you would expect, there are also the options to record multiple channels at once, add cross fades, and even overdub an existing track - say for clever vocal harmonies or Queen-style multi-octave solos.
Advanced tools such a noise elimination feature also allows you to sample any background hums and rattles then apply filters to a track. It might not eradicate everything, but its still a great improvement. Another interesting tool is the ability to change the pitch of a track without altering the tempo and vice-versa , plus a decent amount of built-in effects that can be applied to recordings.
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Ease of use: Audacity is powerful, but it certainly isn't pretty. The user interface is probably the biggest problem with the software. Whereas GarageBand is neat, tidy, and sports a modern design, Audacity feels very much like a program built by engineers. Menus and buttons are somewhat colourless, with an initial impression that can be a bit intimidating.
Once you get used to the perfunctory nature of it though, things make sense and you can produce complex projects in relative comfort. The latest updates have introduced navigational improvements, refinements to the light and dark themes, plus a built-in LAME mp3 encoder, which all shows that the enthusiastic developer base is as dedicated as ever.
Supported third-party hardware: No official list, but many USB devices and microphones are known to work, with a user-created list kept here. With the amount of thought that went into the name alone you know this is going to be something good. The program itself boasts an extensive list of features with which you can create entire albums from scratch. Multi-track recording for live audio or MIDI, layering takes, deep editing functions, and even pitch correction software come included in the price.
It is a hugely detailed program though, so expect to spend more time working things out than you would with GarageBand, but conversely this also means that you can achieve a great deal more once you've mastered the environment. The REAPER forums are also well populated by friendly and wise users who can help you learn, many of whom also create new plugins for the platform.
Features : This production suite is another complete studio that can handle recording, editing and mixing. It comes from a good pedigree too, as the designer was responsible for the free CMusic sequencer that used to arrive with copies of Computer Music Magazine.
Now on its seventh major version, MuLab is probably aimed more at the newcomer to DAWs, with a simplified UI, colourful palette, and drag and drop features for selecting various functions. This doesn't mean that the tools are minimal though, as the built in synthesisers and editing controls mean you can get some good work done from the outset. Ease of use : The MuLab interface has received some very contradictory reviews, with many saying that the UI is easy to get to grips with due to its basic layout, and the use of menus and pop up boxes means that they now what's happening all the time.
The other school of thought is that things are more cumbersome than they need be for precisely the same reasons. Thankfully the trial allows you to decide for yourself. Features: Ardour is an open-source project that offers a fully featured DAW, allowing recording unlimited tracks, importing files or MIDI, editing features that include crossfade, transpose, quantize, and just about anything you need to put together cool-sounding audio.
Ease of use: If you've used any kind of music production software before then Ardour will make you feel right at home. For newcomers it's no more intimidating than any other capable system, plus the community seems vibrant and helpful if you do run into any problems. Features : Making music can be a solitary affair. All those hours tweaking parameters, programming MIDI drums, and designing sounds in synthesisers is one of the attractions for some, but can be a burden to others.
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If you hanker for a more collaborative form of creation the Ohm Studio is a fascinating idea. Essentially you create projects in the cloud using Ohm and all its varied, fully functional recording tools. Then you can invite other musicians to play and record tracks in the project wherever they may be. So you could create a song structure in England, ask a friend in America to lay down a guitar part, then wake up to find it sitting there in the project.
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There is even a function where you can record simultaneously, but we're not sure how much latency might be involved there. Tracks appear on the timeline, you can edit the audio, record MIDI, and apply effects as you would expect. The social layer is also well designed, featuring the ability to put notes on your project requesting the relevant needed part, how you'd like it played, and for how long. Share all of your creative moments and collaborate in real time with your bandmates, other artists or anyone else. Make new music with friends and new friends with music.
The online studio gives you the ability to record, edit and collaborate on any device, anywhere you go—so you can create a track whenever you feel inspired! Even better, all of your projects are stored online in the cloud. Your everywhere studio Join Now. Get 3 months of Music Makers Supreme for less now!
Music making is in our blood Make some noise, explore a new sound, create a song or collaborate with others. When you have the urge to create Explore our extensive collection of beats, loops and instruments or connect your own instrument. Power features. AutoTune Soundtrap's AutoTune feature offers you the ability to pitch and modify your voice recordings.
Powered by Antares. Automation Create professional sounds with this powerful tool. Amplifier Connect your own microphone, guitar or any other instrument.
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