5 audio software production tools

MIDI/loop music production

Even we tone deaf artist can create great soundtracks.

I'll preface this section with the admission that my musical skills stop at playing the kazoo, and that I cannot read or write a note of music. That said, I've created a good deal of entertaining music for many clients using the following software.

The two most well known programs in this category are:

01. Apple's Garageband

Apple's Garageband on the Mac and iOS, and...

02. Acoustica's Mixcraft

…package on Windows.

Both of these programs have grown into very capable DAWs, and they are both regularly used by a wide range of musically talented people for editing, recording and creating. But from the perspective of a multimedia producer, their real magic comes from being able to use both MIDI clips and "loop" tracks. These are basically "canned" bits of music that let the non-musician assemble entire compositions by adding multiple tracks of various instruments.

Loop tracks, as the name implies, are pre-recorded clips of instrumentation, generally played in a repeating loop. This is normal in songs for things like drums and bass. Each of these packages come with thousands of loops.

MIDI files on the other hand, are data files that just describe the raw notes of a song. Sampled instruments are then applied to the MIDI data. So you could take the Beatle's "Yesterday" in MIDI and set it to play with a piano, or guitar, or both.

Another program with similar music creating capabilities is the open source app with the catchy name LMMS (standing for "Let's Make Music Studio"). It is both DAW, and able to work with MIDI files. It comes complete with a nice range of music samples and synthesizers.

Should your musical needs exceed these tools, you would want to start looking into programs like Yamaha's Cubase, Apple's Logic, both focused on MIDI creation. Avid's Pro Tools is the other industry heavyweight, with a focus on multitrack studio recording.

How to move forward fast and cheap

Getting started isn't hard at all. Today's mid-priced computers and laptops are all very capable of running all audio software. But keep in mind that DAW interfaces are complex and thus easier to work with on a larger desktop screen.

Ideally you will want to set your workstation up with something better than those economical computer speakers. But until that happens, make the investment in a good pair of headphones. The sound quality you get from headphones are always going to be far better than speakers you could buy for the same cost.

Words: Lance Evans

Lance Evans is creative director of Graphlink Media.

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