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Hello Composers!

My daughter, Kay (14), is interested in composing and working with software that produces instrumental sounds. She has composed several pieces for the school ensemble she plays with. She is self-taught with regard to composition although her music teacher gives her (a little bit) of feedback. She has also found internet resources.

My job is to figure out the computer and software. Right now she only has a very old laptop (it's Windows XP...). It is time to buy her a laptop and, given her interest in composition, I wanted to get advice on what is best for running a DAW and whatever other software she will need.

Where do I find information about different DAWs and what they do? How do we choose one? This may also influence what sort of laptop we get for her. Is it better to get an iOS or Windows operating system?

She has learned to write music notation by hand. Is there a DAW that can read music notation?

She thinks that she should write music notation in a software program, then feed it to the DAW, then use the DAW to work on expression by adjusting speed and volume locally to each instrument. Then she would get a sound file from playing the DAW. Does this make sense? Or is it better for some reason to use the DAW directly without first writing in music notation? She wants to have a score at the end. If she uses the DAW directly will she then write the score herself or can the DAW help her write the score for what’s been entered into it?

So here’s my questions to you if you don't mind:

  1. What DAW software(s) should she use? (I don't mind spending some money if that means lasting longer as she improves her skills - she's a fast learner!)
  2. Should we get an Apple or MS Windows operating system?
  3. Internet resources on how to make use of different instruments to create the sounds you want?
  4. What should I be asking you?

Her style is classical though very unique and in a way very modern sounding. She has so far used string instruments (violins and cellos), piano, trumpet, trombone, some kind of flute, and percussion. She is essentially isolated as a composer but not as a performer, and the pieces she came up with so far are appreciated within her circle of friends, school and family.

Thanks for your time and trouble!


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Im not familiar at all with Studio One but Ive found that many times a great deal can be learned about a product -both technically and user sentiment--by reading their forums.

The Studio One forum is here:

and Notion is here:

Hope this helps:)

Thanks Bob

Sinead Morrison said:

Bob, Chitpong, and Dave, We took it all in and ‘are processing the data…’

I am a bit afraid of stretching your time too much at this point. Don’t feel bad if you need to wave us ‘bye bye’ at this point. We got great information from you already that helped us get moving with our own research last night, so THANK YOU!!!

We have some difficulties because we’ve never seen any of these DAWs in person, and their online descriptions assume we know the terminology. I can’t quite figure out what a midi even is. I think we will only understand what is being talked about once we use it.

I’m looking for something that does what Logic Pro does but is not Mac based. Having Windows seems best because Kay will be needing MS Office in highschool. I know that a Mac can run Word and Excel and that it can even run Windows, but Dave said that Logic Pro doesn’t operate well in the newer Macs, and if I buy an older, refurbished Mac, then who knows whether it will run Windows. The learning curve on those hardware aspects are a bit intimidating.

So we were looking for a DAW that would be Windows based, but would do what Logic Pro does in terms of working with a score as either the input or its output. It looks like Studio One works together with Notion (both are sold by Presonus). They cost $100 and $150, respectively, which seems okay, though I don’t know how much we will need to add for sound libraries. (The more advanced Studio One costs $400).

Kay had used Notion at school before, where everyone said its orchestral sounds (playing the score) are the best, even compared against Sibelius. So we’re leaning in the Presonus direction right now.

Gotta get the kid a summer job! 

Bob M., Thank you very much for suggesting the software forums. I think you are right, they are a great way to get more detailed information, which we will need once we start using the software.

Hi Sinead--

Youre very welcome:)

And even before using the software Id really read those forums and see what the greatest majority of the user base thinks of the programs, support etc--its very telling and something that might be importantly missed and not known by a possible new user, only to their dismay later on, after purchase.

Thanks Bob

PS On the subject of Notion (vers 6.2 just released) and its integration with Studio One (vers 3.5 just released) , this excellent blog was just posted:

Hope this helps!

Thanks Bob

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