What I want to know is specific.

I want to start experimenting and developing skills and knowledge in music production and composition by computers.

I have read that Digital Audio Workstations like FL Studio require no compositional and technical musical skill and knowledge.

I am a composer and musician. I've been composing and playing the piano and the guitar for almost a decade now. I was wondering if there were any range of softwares that would take advantage of someone's technical knowledge of music in theory, composition,etc. who wishes to start experimenting with computer music in general.

My experience with computer (music-wise) is using score writers like Sibelius for composition. And my technical knowledge of computers is in programming(Java, Python, PHP, etc.)

Thank You.

  • 1
    A) I don't think it's really true that you don't need any knowledge of music to use a DAW and 2) even if it is true, all DAWs will take advantage of whatever musical knowledge you already have. It's like a word processor. If you don't know a lot about writing, you can still use a word processor, but if you are an excellent writer, then what you write with your word processor will be consummate with your writing skills. – Todd Wilcox Nov 22 '17 at 21:32
  • So, let me specify my question even more. Now I get that DAWs can also be used by people with technical knowledge of music. But is there any variety of music softwares specifically designed to take advantage of technical knowledge to produce music?? – Amir Nikzad Nov 22 '17 at 21:36
  • Well, there are musical scripting languages and construction tools like Max. Is that what you mean? Frankly, any DAW that supports MIDI can lead you deep into the weeds of different types of MIDI messages and MTC and stuff like that. And customizable control software like Lemur get pretty technical. Most DAWs are actually fairly complicated. There's a lot to do in music that is also challenging technically. – Todd Wilcox Nov 22 '17 at 21:40
  • Just building and using a set of Mi.Mu gloves would be a significant technical and musical challenge, and would open up all kinds of interesting composition and performance possibilities. – Todd Wilcox Nov 22 '17 at 21:45
  • @ToddWilcox Actually your mentioning the musical scripting language and the link you that you added is interesting. I need to check it out. Thanks! – Amir Nikzad Nov 22 '17 at 21:48

People generally use computers to make music in two main ways.

You can construct a musical collage from pre-packed 'loops' and 'beats' without any musical knowledge (beyond 'this sounds good!) at all. FL Studio is aimed at this end of the market. I believe the leading producers of a genre called 'Grime' favour FL, and it seems to be making them a great deal of money!

Then there's the people who COULD score for an orchestra, play in a rock band, whatever... but use a computer to emulate these expensive and sometimes unavailable resources! They use programs such as Cubase, Sibelius etc.

And, of course, there's a whole LOT of people between these two extremes, who trial-and-error their way to a result.

Then there's a few people who experiment with composition algorithms, pure 'computer music'. Here's some starter information:



If you have even a basic understanding of music composition, you'd benefit from using a DAW in order to compose music. What is said about DAWs not requiring any prior musical knowledge is correct in that it is easy to make a sound and it is easy to layer it on top of other sounds, and it is easy to sequence them together until you have something that's track-worthy. However, this doesn't mean that they are so abstracted that someone as a musician or composer would not be able to utilize them.

In my experience with FL Studio (as it is my DAW of choice), I find that my prior musical knowledge, of rhythms, notes, harmonies, and so on, make it easier to navigate and get accomplished what I'm hoping to do. This is also augmented if you have a MIDI keyboard and are able to record your playing into the DAW to lay down a sequence. I spend a lot of time in the Piano Roll in FL Studio getting melodies and harmonies assigned to individual instruments, then I layer them on top of each other and set automation values to get my desired results.

One big important thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to venture into the world of VSTs a good amount to be able to make music solely out of a DAW install. FL Studio comes prepackaged with some simple VSTs that will allow you to get your feet wet, but depending on the style of composition you'd like to develop, you'll want to hunt around for the VSTs that give you the sound you want (for example, if your aim is EDM, z3ta+ is common, as is reFX's Nexus. You could look at Miroslav's Philharmonik as a good starter for orchestral instruments, as well, though there are probably better.)

Lastly, the fast way to bridge the gap between a DAW and engraving software like Sibelius is to understand the corollaries. For example, a track in a DAW is like an individual instrument in the score. You assign a VST or Sample to this track, and then use the piano roll to decide at what time (which measure, beat, etc.), for how long, and which note. That's sort of like putting down the notation. You can then map these tracks to mixer i/o tracks, in order to control their gain, panning, and other effects, and apply effects to them. This is sort of like applying dynamics and other style markings in written notation.

EDIT: Forgot to mention: FL Studio comes as a demo (in which you can't save your work), but should give you full enough functionality to try out and see if it works for you. There are different DAWs for different ways of conceptualizing the idea of music composition in software. Check a few of them out this way before committing and see if you can find one that matches your style.


I was in the same position as the OP twenty years ago: plenty of experience with guitar and piano, along with music theory. I started off with a MIDI sequencer, playing back through the sequencer and computer's sound card. After several changes of computer with different sound cards, I started work with Reason, which is a DAW. I never did get to grips with the sequencer in Reason, so I still work on the notes in the sequencer, outputting MIDI files which I then import into Reason, where I work on the sounds.

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