Music Composing Software

Okay, I'm sure this has been discussed many times before, but I'm gonna ask it anyway:

I love composing music, but I lack the tools to get the ideas in my head out into something real (to be honest, it feels like It's going to drive me crazy sometimes, I'm sure you know the feeling). By tools, of course, I mean music production software and orchestral instrument libraries. I know all about things like EWQL and VSL and the like, but I can't really afford anything like that (not to mention the sheer size of some of those high-end libraries would probably kill my somewhat-obsolete iMac). I've seen free stuff also (Sonatina Symphony Orchestra, DSK Overture, and oh so many soundfonts), but most of it is, shall we say, unrealistic at best.

So the question is, what should I do? I know this is rather vague, but I'm at a loss. Composing isn't one of those careers that is expected to produce a high income, I just compose because, well, I NEED to compose. This makes me wary of investing large amounts of money into it as it is more of a obsession hobby than a career, and I don't expecting anything I buy to pay for itself, as it were.

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  • I started out using Reaper as a DAW (still use it). It costs $65 for personal (non-business use), in 2009 I paid about $99 for an IK Multimedia virtual instrument package that included Miroslav symphonic instruments, Sonik Synth, and SampleTank 2.5. There are also musician/composer forums on Google+ where you can ask other musicians and composers about the software they use.

  • Frankly: quality means bigger price. If you aren't willing to pay money for decent sounding libraries, well, you'll be stuck with the bad ones. Note: I don't say "realistic" because you can squeeze realism out of just about anything with enough tinkering (and if the music is written to match the available samples). The question is: is it worth it? Perhaps it's better to instead spend the tons of time you'll waste with bad samples on earning money, and then buy a VST that's actually fun to work with. Your call.

    As for DAW, imho Reaper without question. It's cheap AND good. What else can you ask for :)

  • Yes, Greg, Reaper is a great tool, but I wish when I started out someone had to me the East West Quantum Leap's Symphony Orchestra and other products can be difficult to work with. Mike, If you do decide to spend some money on VSTs, do your homework and ask people about products that may be easier to manipulate than EWQL. There's a podcast for film composers called Scorecast, and they have at least two archived episodes about VSL software.

  • @Deborah Young, Thanks for the suggestion about Reaper. I didn't know they had a free trial till now, so I'm definitely gonna try it out. As for EWQL, the downsides I've heard about it are the sheer size (which wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have such an old computer), and like you said, the difficulty of use.

    @Greg Brus

    You're absolutely right. Even some of the cheapest stuff can sound real if you use it right. This is my best attempt at getting realism out of GarageBand's Orchestral JamPack: Orchestral Sample

    Thanks for your replies.

  • @michael diemer, I had no idea Vienna's Special Edition was that cheap! Thanks for the heads up.

  • Notion 4

    Notation based DAW including a library of the entire LSO, recorded in Abbey Road, plus Bass and Drums by the Wooten Brothers.  It's the best deal around I think because it's half off ($49.50) at the moment.(new version about to drop so they are clearing stock).

  • Thanks for the tip. I've been using MuseScore with the built-in sounds and it suffices, but it's not great.

    Bob Porter said:

    You might be surprised at the results of using MuseScore with Sonatina Symphony Orchestra.

    Music Composing Software
    Okay, I'm sure this has been discussed many times before, but I'm gonna ask it anyway: I love composing music, but I lack the tools to get the ideas…
  • What do you mean by composing? Producing sheet music? In that case what do you care what your music program sounds like, as long as it gives a good enough impression.

    Or do you want to produce sound files to put on soundcloud or so? Yeah, then you need decent software, but your skill will still be the larger part of the story.

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