I have a 15 yr old Yamaha Synth and my son is interested in creating Electronic Dance Music. He has a Mac and a USB midi cord to interface with the keyboard.

I am looking for some Mac music making software that will allow him the ability to lay down some dance tracks. So looking for high quality dance/modern sounds/patches and then maybe some type of sequencer, and effects, etc. Not looking for cheesy stuff or "midi sounding" stuff, but at the same time, not looking for crazy expensive either.

Maybe there is a workflow, i.e. 1. Use this software. 2. Download patches from here. 3. Use this software for drum machine. 4. Use this for sequencer.... I dunno... Been a long time since I created music digitally.


This is a very board question. I'll try to help where I can.

First of all you need a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Basically, it is a consolidated array of tools for music production. It functions as sequencer, editor, plugin host (instruments, samplers, synths, effects), recorder, and more.

You have many options, like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and Steinberg Cubase. In my experience, those three are the most used DAWs for electronic dance music production. Get the demos, take some tutorials, and decide through experience which one suits you better. Some people like to use Ableton Live to play live, compose, and design, and Logic Pro for mixing and mastering, to give one example.

The three are great DAWs, you can't go wrong with those. Perhaps the most popular is Ableton Live, which translates to more tutorials and guides for it, which can be of great help for a beginner. With that in mind, maybe Ableton Live is a good starting point, but test the three anyway to see if you like another one more.

Now that you have the DAW of your choice, learn it. Learn to use audio tracks, MIDI tracks, the piano roll, sends, inserts, etc. There are countless resources out there, so this is not a problem at all.

Instead of knowing where to download patches from, you want to learn how to patch, so in parallel with learning a DAW you want to learn sound synthesis. Here you'll learn about synthesizers, samplers, synthesis methods, effects, parameters, and so on.

Again, the internet is flooded with resources for this. One of the most popular is SoS Synth Secrets. It's a great synthesis course that anyone can take, even absolute beginners (make sure to go through it incrementally, starting from part 1).

Now that you know your DAW and some synthesis you can incorporate the Yamaha synth (and other hardware instruments) to your workflow. Maybe you want to control it through the DAWs MIDI tracks and record it in an audio track. Once you know the basics, incorporating external hardware elements in many different ways is trivial.

You don't need to go into crazy depths to have fun though. With a day or two of knowledge you can start producing, because the basics are really simple and intuitive. You can get an idea of what's going on by following a 20 min tutorial, like this one:

Let me know if this answers your question or if you have any doubts.

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You have an Apple Macintosh. Apple provides the GarageBand program free with all Macs, and it is exactly what your son needs. It has tons of tools for composing and performing electronic dance music.

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If your Mac is old, you are probably entitled to a free upgrade to the latest version of GarageBand which you can download through the Mac App Store.

If you already have a Mac, don't worry about fancy and expensive third-party tools like Ableton Live or Steinberg Cubase. Start with GarageBand. You may never outgrow it, but if you do, then you can look into expensive third-party options. Apple provides a more advanced, professional upgrade to the free GarageBand; it's called Apple Logic Pro, and it sells for US $200.

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  • Thanks @Wheat. I haven't played much with Garage Band, but figured it would be best from the price and start-up perspective. I just wasnt sure if there would be limits with sounds/patches or he would be limited to a cheesy set of presets, etc. I will likely have him get started with Garage Band and see what happens from there. – CRAIG Aug 5 '15 at 20:11
  • Exactly. You'll find it quite professional and not-at-all cheesy. It's a good place to start. If his needs are greater, he can purchase a higher-end app for more money later on. – user1044 Aug 5 '15 at 20:21
  • @CRAIG Garage Band is marketed as an easier to learn DAW, but it really isn't. It is nothing more than a very constrained and stripped down version of Logic Pro. It's not a terrible choice, but you can do much more better. It can be a good choice if your son is still not sure if music production is his thing and wants to try some stuff around first (but even there he might get the wrong impression, since Garage Band's overly constrained environment can make things very boring and uninteresting), but other than that I can't think of one reason to use Garage Band over other options. – Von Huffman Aug 6 '15 at 3:49
  • GarageBand is already on @CRAIG's computer and it's free, and it's integrated with the operating system that he's already familiar with. Those are all good reasons. – user1044 Aug 6 '15 at 23:56
  • Thanks guys. Both answers are great and I really appreciate BOTH of you being passionate in your approach. I think you are both right. Garage band is a great way to start and get his feet wet, but he is a pretty finicky kid and is already commenting on the sounds that come with Garage Band, "Why do these keep fading out?" and "Why does this sound so eighties?" LOL. While he can edit the sounds himself, I know I would rather start with something great than have to create something from scratch. So, will use GB for now, but already looking into Logic Pro. :) So, again, both great answers! – CRAIG Aug 7 '15 at 0:08

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