So here's the scenario: I play drums and mallets (marimba, vibes, etc.) and currently own a drumkit and a 4.3 octave padouk marimba. However, I'm looking into buying a Pearl MalletSTATION. The versatility of it is very attractive, being able to play all those percussion instruments on this one thing. I'm also quite interesting in jamming by building up some layers/loops; such as playing a bass marimba line, drums, chords on vibe and finally play solos on xylophone for example. On the other hand, I regularly help out small town orchestras with their melodic percussion and they usually don't have the right instruments (vibes, tubular bells etc.) so hooking the malletstation up to a PA would be very useful.

For context: I'm a software developer by profession. I use linux (ubuntu) or otherwise Windows if necessary for better software. MIDI is not an entirely strange concept to me, but DAWs mostly are (used cubase years ago but it looked like a maze to me). I read that Mainstage is good at this, but it's not for windows/linux and that ableton live can do this, but I'm not sure if it's overcomplicated. And to get mallet samples I need the suite version of the software voor €599...

So the question is: what is the most straightforward setup for me that I can use to play the malletstation at home but also bring to performances?


a clearer overview of what I basically want to do, preferably as many of these as possible through programmable buttons on the midi-controllers:

  • plug midi-controller into laptop
  • choose an instrument
  • hit record
  • play some notes
  • hit stop so it starts looping those measures
  • change instrument
  • hit record again etc. (or play without recording)
  • If you say so I believe you, but I had no clue what a rack module is (just googled it) and would prefer not to invest in more hardware. Also, to be able to use any midi-hardware I need a midi-expander for the malletstation since by default it only outputs midi over USB Jun 7, 2020 at 12:25
  • If you spend some time you can roll your own, the midi specification is not super long and at least Windows have built in midi api. Not sure if you can use plugins and soundfonts with it though...
    – Emil
    Jul 6, 2021 at 6:17
  • What do you mean Emil? Build my own midi-hardware? So far I've been using Ableton with very mixed results Jul 7, 2021 at 7:29
  • I got the impression you wanted a software which could record midi into tracks easily, and possibly play it back. I have only converted touchpad to realtime playback so I am not an expert but it is certainly not impossible to make your own if you are a programmer.
    – Emil
    Jul 7, 2021 at 10:45
  • Oh I see you are a professional musician, you probably don't want to waste time making your own in that case.
    – Emil
    Jul 7, 2021 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


I don't own any instruments, synthesizers, or physical plugins, so I can't help you with that.

As for DAW, most have a high learning curve and the difference is hardly noticeable if you're a beginner. However, it is extremely recommended to own a professional DAW if you plan on composing or mixing. It is not worth saving your money on free DAWs like Audacity, GarageBand, the ones you find on AppStore, or rent in on a browser.

The main decision on which DAW to own depends on if you're on Windows or Mac. FL Studio is great for Windows and is beginner-friendly. If you're on Mac, I hear good things from Logic Pro or Cubase.

Most of the main challenge in maneuvering the DAW is on the plugins itself, not the DAW's interface. It is important for your DAW to be able to support important 3rd party plugins such as Kontakt Player, Serum, or certain special slicers or voice harmonizers.

Some awesome and super professional plugins for voicing, orchestration, or beat making seem to be exclusive to certain DAWs. If any of those were your purpose, be sure to check out if your DAW supports making certain genres of music/sounds.

If you are still unsure, just get either and expand your knowledge from that platform. Most of us get our current expertise and career that way anyway, by jumping in after enough time of fiddling and not over analyzing.

  • Just want to add (as it has been forgot here ;) ) that, if you are on GNU/Linux, Ardour is a very good choice, especially these last years. It is free, or very cheap, and interface well with the plugins you can find on GNU/Linux like Calf Plugins.
    – Tom
    Jun 7, 2020 at 22:52
  • Thanks both for your suggestions. I'd like to add though that recording/composing/mixing is not my goal. The goal is looping my plays on top of eachother live (so without creating new tracks with mouse/keyboard preferably) and just playing the instrument. So isn't a DAW over-featured? I basically just want to: - hit record - play some notes - hit stop so it starts looping those measures - change instrument - hit record again etc. (or play without recording) I'll add this info to the question Jun 8, 2020 at 13:04
  • Again, on GNU/Linux ;) I would advice the fantastic sooperlooper which is much more suited for looping purposes and which can be completely controlled by MIDI, for instance a foot controller.
    – Tom
    Jun 9, 2020 at 10:16

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