A Buyer's Guide to Music Software/MIDI
It's hard to believe that there was time when a musical group had to pay thousands of dollars for studio time to lay down tracks of their songs - or even worse, wait until they were signed by a music label to fund them the costs. Thanks to the many advances in digital technology, that's no longer the case, and you don't need to look any further than a modern recording studio to see just how far technology has come. To put it simply, it has never been so easy to make a professional-quality recording of your band's music, even in the comfort of your own home.
If you're new to the world of music recording, it's understandable if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the seemingly endless range of MIDI and recording software choices that are available on today's market. Of course, that's exactly why this buyer's guide was written: to make the first steps of your recording journey easier, and to give you a better idea of which software is right for you. So let's get started!
What Is MIDI?
Before we get into music software, let's touch on MIDI itself. Invented in the early 80s, MIDI stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface", and it allows electronic musical instruments, computers and software to share information and work together for the purpose of creating a sound. Since MIDI has been combined with home computers to compose, record and edit (using simple software called a sequencer), the recording industry has never been the same. Depending on the software you're using, there is no end to the amount of virtual instruments, MIDI controllers and keyboards you can incorporate into your musical compositions.
Different Kinds of Music Software
Created specifically for teaching purposes, educational software is ideal for beginners who are in the learning stages of playing an instrument or are still trying to get a strong grasp of various software techniques. For example, some educational software bundles teach music theory and even help you recognize different chords and notes through a wide range of lessons and tutorials.
For aspiring producers who love to compose their own music with the power of MIDI, songwriters software is a must-have. By using either your keyboard or mouse, you can write everything from simple 3-chord songs to complex orchestral pieces with all the correct notations, and even play and record your music straight into the program.
Used often in live performances, synthesizer software is designed to produce effects and instrument sounds that are not actually present. They're often used together with light shows at concerts for creating a unique atmosphere before the band hits the stage. With that being said, synthesizer software makes a great addition to recording studio setups too, because it can add instruments that may otherwise not be available for whatever reason. In fact, you can create the instruments of an entire band right at your fingertips with synthesizer software.
With digital recording software, you can record your music, vocals, or other sounds from a mic to your computer and later edit it and transfer it to a CD or mp3. You can even record audio from a CD or mp3 player and send it directly to your computer. This type of software is mainly used for transferring music from one medium to another. For example: would you like to listen to your old vinyl records in the car? If so, digital recording software is for you.
This type of software is a must for any musician who wants to finalize their recordings. It includes features that allow you to fade out of a song, pick a stop time, move around song parts and even mix tracks. Another cool thing about digital editing software is that it allows you to remove any unwanted background noises to make your finished product clearer.
What's Right For You?
The music software types mentioned above each have their own beginner-to-advanced packages available on today's music market. If you're just getting started, it's obviously best to go with the most basic package, but if you're serious about recording, you'll probably find yourself purchasing more than one type of software listed. These are known as DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), and they integrate more than one software program into a single unit.
Note: If a Digital Audio Workstation sounds like what you're after, WWBW has more than enough choices ranging from beginner to advanced. Look for brands like MOTU, Image Line, Sonar, Avid Pro Tools and Cengage Learning - they're all respected names among pro audio engineers and each of their packages are worth checking out.
Essential Software Features to Look For
What are you planning to record? A live four-piece death metal outfit? A full symphony orchestra? Maybe you're an electronic music artist who works alone and wants to create mesmerizing, hypnotic beats for your next club date? These are all questions to ask yourself before choosing music software, because not all software bundles offer the same features. After all, you don't need the largest database of digital instruments and effects if the music you're recording doesn't call for it. With that in mind, there are definitely some essential things to look for in any software package, regardless of your needs and preferences.
Go for something that offers more than one recording style. Having options like merging, cycling and replacing will give you more versatility to work your recording magic, especially when it comes to capturing a live performance.
Look for cutting and repeat tools. These features allow you to duplicate pieces in different parts of a recording, and eliminate any unwanted sounds like hissing. Having these options is ideal for creating new sounds during a live performance, as well as mixing together multiple recordings.
Some software bundles offer more effects options than others, but having the more common effects like flangers, phasers and reverb on hand is ideal for spicing up any live or studio recording.
Additional Factors to Consider
Along with everything mentioned in the last section above, there are a few other factors you need to take into consideration before you make any impulse buying decisions. In addition to what you plan on recording, it's important to remember that the price of music software varies greatly. You can find everything from basic beginner packages starting at $100 to advanced packages with every feature under the sun for several thousands of dollars. While there are many top-notch affordable software packages to choose from, it goes without saying that anyone with big recording aspirations are going to spend a little more money if they want as many options as possible.
Lastly, what you plan on recording should also play a role in your buying decision. Your skill level, technological capabilities and personal tastes can make the difference between software under $100 and software over $1000. The good news is that with enough effort, you can find many excellent software programs that are fitting for both live and studio settings.
With so many different types of software now available that are filled with a seemingly endless range of options, there's simply no reason why anyone can't express themselves through music. Wherever your imagination takes you musically, there's MIDI and music recording software available to turn those thoughts into realities for the world to enjoy.
On your search for software, remember that you have to decide whether you want to purchase each type of software separately or together in a DAW package. Or, if you're still not confident in your production abilities, you can always go with an educational software package. Just take your own tastes, needs and budget into consideration, and you'll know the right MIDI and software for you when you see it.
We hope this buying guide gave you the info you were looking for. Of course, you can always contact us via phone or email if there's anything else you're curious about. Woodwind & Brasswind is proud to help make your musical journey a more enjoyable one, and that most certainly includes helping you find the right MIDI and software.