Good intro music creation tools?

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clagnaught

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Hey y'all,

With the whole quarantine thing happening right now, I'm thinking about things to help preoccupy my time into something productive. A thing I have thought about doing for years was trying to make some music. I have no idea what the current state of music creation tools are, so what are some of the good ones?

I only have a Windows system, and I don't mind paying (some) money, so it doesn't have to be free. In terms of what type of music I'm interested in, the best way I can describe it is like electronic Mono or Godspeed You Black Emperor.

Also has anyone used Massive or anything from Native Instruments before? I remember reading this blog by Lena Raine about how they used their synthesizers to make the music in Celeste. (Not that I want to make music that sounds exactly like Celeste's soundtrack; I just remember that article because of how they broke down their process)

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cLoudForest

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Hi,

If you want to compose electronic music using virtual instruments such as Massive, you'll probably want to start looking for a Digital Audio Workstation (often referred to as a DAW). This is where you'll put together the individual tracks for each part, do the recording and editing of notes for those parts and set up all the routing, mixing and effects and so on. Basically, it's your virtual studio and composition tool. This will also host any of the virtual instruments that you choose to use, whether that's Massive or one of the many other virtual instruments that are available. Most of these instruments conform to the VST standard and will work in any compatible host application.

On the Windows side DAWs such as Cubase, Nuendo and Ableton Live can run pretty expensive, so you might want to start by trying out less expensive options such as Cockos Reaper. I don't have direct experience with it, but it seems to be regarded quite highly by the people that use it and there's a demo you can try out for free to get a feel for it.

The Native Instruments stuff is generally pretty good. Massive has been used by several notable game composers, including Disasterpeace. I think it's generally better at the more spiky, aggressive and digital-ish end of things but it's pretty versatile. It's probably not much help to you right now, but their NI Komplete package is often discounted pretty heavily around Black Friday and includes pretty much everything you could possibly want and more. So if you do buy some standalone NI stuff just bear in mind that you might get a better deal later in the year rather than buying lots of their stuff individually.

Hope that helps!

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mellotronrules

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#3  Edited By mellotronrules

garageband (if you have access to it) is where most people start these days to wrap their head around DAW software- it's a little basic, but that's kinda what you want if you have no experience.

honestly there are so many robust options these days that it almost comes down to work-flow preference and organization. a lot of people like the meat and potatoes approach of logic or cubase, electronic performers are fans of ableton, etc.

personally i'm a big fan of propellerhead's reason- mostly because it is organized around a physical-gear metaphor. i'm primarily a guitarist with a lot of pedals and effects, so i like being able to visually route inputs and outputs- plus a lot of their synths are modular and fun to mess with. also i'm mostly not interested in running a billion VSTs, and reason is a decent all-in-one package. not the most popular pick, however.

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BrunoTheThird

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#4  Edited By BrunoTheThird

The first thing I did was buy FL Studio - Producer Edition, and spent a month learning basic stuff like how to quantize (sync the music with the DAW's tempo), how to chop beats up, basic panning, etc, plus learning all the useful hotkeys and whatnot. Same goes for any DAW. Ableton and FL Studio are the most popular ones on Windows, I believe. Once I was comfortable and familiar with it, I started to invest in VSTs and learn/apply more intermediate mixing/production techniques.

VST Recommendations:

1. Native Instruments Komplete 12 comes with high quality pianos, basses, etc., but also three of the most popular instruments/suites ever: Massive (an extremely versatile synth), Monark (a high-quality bass-synth inspired by the mini-moog), and Battery 4 (an amazing drum sampler with heaps of kits to play with). Together, these three were a musical playground for me, and crucial for getting my feet wet quickly. For guitar nerds, it also has Guitar Rig 5, which is great. Just plug in a guitar and go. I just use it to run my bass-synths throught its bass amps, though... always delivers.

Once you have mastered Monark, you may want to expand your bass-synth options. Monark is amazing, but a little limiting after a year or two. I bought a VST called SubBoomBass2 which has a vast selection of bass-synth sounds and an XY pad for quick sound-shaping, and it sounds ridiculously good.

2. LABS - a free VST with a lot of organic, beautifully recorded instruments made by the legendary Spitfire Audio.

-

I would advise avoiding purchasing any dedicated reverb, compression, EQ, or other thirdy-party effects VSTs until you've learned how to use the ones included in your DAW. In fact, you may never need to upgrade. I WILL, however, recommend a couple that really add an analogue feeling to your music, and stop it feeling so cold or digital:

1. J37 Tape - this lets you add a little noise and other desirable qualities associated with classic genres. It makes your music sound like it was recorded on a tape machine, basically, like they did back in the day.

2. Decimort2 - GREAT for turning dry or dull sounds into dirty, distorted monsters very quickly. Sounds amazing on drums. I use it on every single Trip-hop and electronic song I make.

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csl316

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#5  Edited By csl316

You can do a lot of stuff for free, as I used Audacity and a cheap mic for awhile.

But Reaper is pretty powerful, customizable, and relatively cheap, and you can download a bunch of free plug ins to get started (stuff like drums, synths, etc.) If you learn it, which I'm still doing, you can produce a ton of stuff. Just find some Youtube videos for "top plug ins" for whatever you're looking for. Reaper itself also has an endless well of tutorials.

Then you can buy a MIDI keyboard (I have an LX49+ but you can get the one with less keys). You can use that to control all your different plugs ins, mess around with percussion pads, even download a piano plug in to learn piano.

Really, with just that you can go down a rabbit hole to learn so much. I'm still bad at mixing but I'm surprised how many tools are available these days. I was learning basic recording in high school nearly 20 years ago and I WISH this much information was out there when I had nothing but time. I think Reaper might actually have an extended free trial going right now because of everything going on.

Once you get a handle on things, that's when you can start spending more money on stuff. Good luck!

@brunothethird: LABS seems pretty awesome, thanks for the tip!

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clagnaught

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Thanks everybody for the suggestions! Appreciate the insight.

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BrunoTheThird

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@csl316: You're welcome, it's a real gem.

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zombiepenguin9

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I've been using Cubase for years, and it's a solid DAW that's been around for a long time and is used in all kinds of genres. I'm planning on switching to StudioOne by Presonus this year after demoing it, and would honestly recommend that at this point. The workflow is the most intuitive out of any DAW I've tried, it comes loaded with tons of really good sounding effects, as well as some synths, a sampler, and amp modelers. Personally, between StudioOne and the Native Instruments Komplete that others have recommended, I feel like there isn't much else I need to make both the rock and electronic music I'm into.