View Full Version : Software/Hardware Suggestions Needed for Pro Musician

10-26-2009, 03:51 PM
Hi all,

I love your site. Really great work.

Anyway, I'm hoping you can give me some guidance. I'm a pianist/composer/music theorist with graduate-level training in composition and theory.

I've been doing a lot of arrangement on my own on paper (i.e., Finale, etc.), but I'd like to start working with DAWs and samples (so I can actually hear the stuff). I have a grand piano at home, but for this I'd be using a relatively new Clavinova for midi throughput.

DP? Logic? What do I need to make this work?

Many thanks!


10-26-2009, 04:00 PM
What's your budget like, and what type of computer are you using or plan to use?

Also it seems that you only want this to preview your compositions, or are you planning to produce music as well as compose it?

10-26-2009, 05:22 PM
Thanks for the rapid reply. I can spend up to $1000 for now. I'd like to use this ideally to compose, AWAY from Finale (which is becoming a pain for me).

10-26-2009, 05:41 PM
Sorry - I have both a Mac and a PC. My Mac is just a standard 2008 Macbook. I have an external sound card, but nothing fancy (it's an Exigy, circa 2005).

10-26-2009, 06:16 PM
Well, keep in mind that most of the big sequencing and production programs (Cubase, Sonar, Logic Pro, etc) don't really handle notation that well. That may or may not be a problem for you but it's something to consider.

Do you plan to record performances as well? You mentioned your piano so I'm guessing that may be something you want to consider as part of your needs, since almost always a well-played, well-recorded piano performance outdoes one done with samples. Almost every program has the ability to record MIDI, and most allow you to record audio. Keep in mind that if you wish to do MIDI you need to have the appropriate hardware for it - most pro sound cards have a MIDI in that you can use to connect your Clavinova to, or you can get a USB<->MIDI interface at most stores for $30-50.

If you have a Mac, then Garageband comes on your Mac for free. That is a program that's definitely worth checking out. It's relatively simple but handles a lot of the simple needs very well and, considering the cost, is an extremely good deal. Most music software is set up similarly to Garageband too, so if you can navigate Garageband you can probably graduate to most other software without much of a big deal.

I'm a Mac User so I personally use Logic Studio which costs approximately $500 now. Logic is a big piece of software - comes with a lot of good plugins and samples. The lower grade version which comes with less samples and plugins is Logic Express - a bit cheaper but also provides an upgrade path to Logic Studio if you wish.

You'd have to talk with Windows folks about other options. Sonar is probably something you may want to browse (by Cakewalk). FLStudio may be an option as well since it's cheap and very easy to use, but it doesn't come with a lot of samples out of the box (correct me if I'm wrong please).

I'm sure someone with a bit more experience can help you out with some more specific questions. In general the more we know about what your abilities are and what you plan to do, the more we can help you out so keep posting :)

10-26-2009, 09:16 PM
if you go for the mac side, don't get Logic Express - you get so much more for not much more when you get Studio. If you want good virtual instruments along with the DAW, get Logic. Aside from the instruments, you'd get loads of loops and a nice variety of effects.

Also, GarageBand and Logic are kind'a compatible, you can open GB projects in Logic without losing anything. GB is limited, but if you're looking to just start with something where you can record and edit and hear how it sounds, GB should work just fine. When you're at the point where there's so many things you want to do an GB just doesn't let you do them, get Logic Studio. If you're comfortable with the GB workflow, Logic works about the same way.

Maybe you should start there and figure out exactly what you want from the DAW, try demos and watch videos of the DAWs in action.

10-26-2009, 11:30 PM
Thanks folks!

My main question is really about what gear I'll need. I have a MIDI setup already. I also have Finale. So here are two questions (thanks so much for your patience and help):

(1) Do most of you use a notation program like Finale in conjunction with a DAW? Or do you just do manual input with quantizing?
(2) Will I need more than a sample library, MIDI setup, and DAW? Is there any other hardware needed? Any specific soundcard needed?

As for my background/goals, I'd like to create and produce the sort of tracks featured on ocremix. I simply can't do this with traditional means. So many of the sounds, not to mention the percussion, are really more at home in a sampled world (at least to my ear). I don't care about not having the stuff notated, in other words.

Again, many thanks.

PS. I should note that I'm aiming to do the sort of thing you did, Rozovian, with "Braincooler." I have similar ideas laid out in terms of sections, harmonies (in reduction), but I'm totally clueless as to how to actually make such drum tracks and put the thing together in a DAW context.

10-26-2009, 11:44 PM
Unless you plan on recording audio, you may not need a separate audio interface since you can probably connect your Clav directly to your computer. One reason you still may one one, though, is if you want higher quality sound when listening back to things. Most people probably don't use notation software around here but I could be wrong.

Now, what I use is a combination of Pro Tools (which does have notation software with it's current version) and Reason. As far as what DAW you want to use, that's kind of subjective these days. It took me a number of tries before I found the right one that jived with my own personal work flow. You may want to try a few out before you make your purchase to see if you find one that feels like a good fit. Some programs, like Reaper, are quite cheap and there's enough people around here that love it.

As far as a sample library goes, there are a number of choices you can make to give yourself a good start. As I said above, I use Reason which comes with quite a bit. I mostly like it, though, because it feels more like using an actual piece of hardware due to its interface. You can pick it up for about $400 or less.

There are a number of people around here that are very much into the Native Instruments stuff. Their Komplete package is around $500 and it's fully loaded. Personally, I don't like NI very much but it's probably more of a personal thing rather than a technical thing. It could be your bag, though.

Hope some of this helps.

10-26-2009, 11:45 PM
I don't use an additional notation program, then again I don't read/write notes. Not in the classical notation sense at least. The Logic/GB piano roll gives me control over so much more than their respective notation editors anyway. Not only exact length and subtle timing but also velocity.

Been using my midi keyboard more and more these days. Can't really play, but I can enter melodies and them fix the timing. If you have the cables necessary to connect the keyboard to the computer you shouldn't need anything else. If you want to record audio (electric guitar as many here do, vocals, or a real piano), use hardware effects or amps, stuff like that you'll need some additional equipment but computer+keyboard should be all the hardware you need.

If your DAW doesn't come with a sample library, you might need one of those (make sure you get the sampler for it, not just a library); tho if it does, you might not need to get an additional set of samples (at least not right away). Accepted and posted mixes have been done with just GarageBand, so you should do fine with either of the Logic editions, especially if you can actually play. ;)

Do note that there's not one magical tool that does everything. For example, slicing and other glitchy effects aren't that easy to do in Logic 8 (should be easy in 9 tho), whereas other DAWs have other limitations/features. Ther'es no magical tool that does everything that anyone on ocremix has ever done. It should be obvious, but I'm just making sure you're clear on that. :D

10-26-2009, 11:51 PM
Thanks folks.

This is all incredibly helpful. It's incredibly humbling to be facing all these new tools. Despite my education and craft, I feel like an absolute neophyte!

I'll get started with your suggestions and go from there. Again, many thanks for your help.

10-27-2009, 12:55 AM
(1) Do most of you use a notation program like Finale in conjunction with a DAW? Or do you just do manual input with quantizing?

If you want to use Finale with a DAW, you can always export as MIDI from Finale and then import it into into the DAW. If you have stuff already in Finale format that you want to realize as an audio file, this is probably the easiest way to get started (although you may have to touch up note timings and velocities to humanize the performance). When writing concert music, I prefer to write in Finale and generally only move over to a DAW when I need a high-quality audio mock-up. I only begin in a DAW when I'm writing something that will never need a printed score (or for which DAW-based editing is essential to the composition -- e.g. pieces that include a "for tape" component).

10-28-2009, 04:02 AM
the DAW that I would suggest is Mixcraft 4(if you can find it). it's easy to use, works extremely well and is only $68.