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I'm going to shape my music ideas in any more professional tool than Guitar Pro but really can't choose between huge amount of music composing software. The main aims I need to achieve:

  • Realistic-sounding (as possible) drums track writing;
  • Catch MIDI keyboard input and applying synth effects to it;
  • Record audio from microphone;
  • Basic audio manipulations like equalizing, pitch, volume control etc.

My current solution is Cakewalk but it is not really friendly from user interface point of view. What software would you recommend to achieve described above functions?

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closed as off-topic by Dom, American Luke, Ben Miller, Shevliaskovic, Dr Mayhem Dec 17 '13 at 22:45

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking recommendations for equipment are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve." – Dom, American Luke, Ben Miller, Shevliaskovic, Dr Mayhem
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2 Answers 2

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This is a pretty open ended question, but what you're asking for will be covered in any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_digital_audio_editors

1. Realistic-sounding drums track writing; You will most likely achieve this through a VST plugin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Studio_Technology . People write drum plugins that will work with any DAW that supports VSTs, which is almost all of the popular ones. "Realistic sounding" is a little subjective, because no plugin will perfectly capture the real thing, but they can get close, and maybe that is good enough for you. http://www.musicradar.com/us/news/tech/the-14-best-vst-plugin-drum-machines-in-the-world-today-410653/1

2. Catch MIDI keyboard input and applying synth effects to it; Again, this will most likely be done with a VST plugin. All DAWs will allow you to record midi, and there are countless plugins that will take your MIDI instrument and turn it into whatever you want.

3. Record audio from microphone; Any DAW will do this. How is your microphone plugged into your computer? Through the mic jack on your computer, or do have an external sound card? Either way, this is one of the most basic functions of any DAW.

4. Basic audio manipulations like equalizing, pitch, volume control etc. Almost all DAWs have basic effects, and you can get other ones, and again they will be VST plugins.

What DAW is best for you? I'm assuming that you have Windows, because you said you're using Cakewalk. Audacity is free, and you can get a plugin that will allow you to use VSTs. That would probably be enough for you to get started. Other than that, there are plenty of non-free DAWs to choose from. You've probably hear of ProTools, and there is also Cubase, Logic, Ableton, FL Studio, Reaper, etc. They will basically all do the same thing for you though, and if you're doing this non-professionally, and you don't have a bunch of expensive gear to plug in, then I would go with the free option.

Audacity - http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

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Thank you for deep explanation. What about Reason? I heard many good recommendations of it. –  Sergey Metlov Dec 17 '13 at 22:18
Sure! They all do basically the same thing in your case, it's just they layout of the interface that changes between them. Reason is $400. Audacity is free. I would start off with the free thing, and if you ever find it lacking something, try to find a more professional DAW that includes that feature. –  MattDiamant Dec 17 '13 at 22:43

What you're looking for is a program called a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). A DAW lets you record and import recordings, write MIDI music for synthesized instruments, and configure synthesized instruments and effects. All modern DAWs perform the features you asked for.

Be aware that most DAWs are somewhat pricey. They typically cost about $200-$500.

This is a list of some DAWs:

  • GarageBand is a free DAW that comes for free with OS X. Its built-in synthesized instruments and effects aren't as powerful as the ones in other DAWs, and it doesn't run as fast, but it has all of the basic features of a DAW and doesn't cost anything.
  • Logic is a $200 DAW that runs on Macs.
  • Acid, Sonar, and Fruity Loops are DAWs for Windows.
  • Reason, Cubase, Reaper and Ableton are cross-platform.

I personally recommend starting with GarageBand if you already have a Mac and are pretty new to working with a DAW. After you've gotten used to working with GarageBand, other DAWs will be easier to work with and you'll better understand what their somewhat high price tag gets you.

EDIT From your question and comment, it looks like you already have been using Guitar Pro as a DAW and are looking for a way to pick from all the different DAWs that are available. So my list of DAWs probably is very helpful to you =P

If you think Reason looks good, you should go for it. All of the different products will have the same basic features, so any of them would be a good choice.

The one other consideration I would add is that getting started with a new DAW can be challenging since they're complicated pieces of software, so if you have any friends who also write music, you should consider buying the same software they have and asking them to help you learn how to use it.

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Unfortunately (from sound-processing side) I'm not a MAC user. So going to look at Reason or any another Windows tool. –  Sergey Metlov Dec 17 '13 at 22:20
If you think Reason looks good, it's probably a good choice. =) –  Kevin Dec 17 '13 at 22:28

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