Hi there friend. You dont need any schooling to be a musician. I started music for the first time 8 years ago when I went into college. I took theory class for 4 years and managed to graduate with a B.A in electronic music Composition. I use Protool , FL studio, and Learning how to use cubase. I used to compose with finale and I'm also learning sibelius 6.2. The key to composing music not of your style is to go on youtube and listen to other artists and try to get a feel for that particular style. Don't be afraid of trying new things. New things can lead to unexpected results. Composing can be thought of as drawing. You have your initial pencil sketch ( tempo and time signature), Then thickness of your lines or brush...(( The sound level for each instrument (mp- FFF).. )), Palette of colors to use (Instuments) ,and finally the application of the colors (mixing down your instruments).
Mastering usually comes at very end of the tether of composing in any format.
Acoustic (live or real instrument recorded live) vs (vst) again depends on what you can get for each sound. I person love Vsts, but I always prefer the real deal when it comes to orchestral instruments. Its important to remember that this is art and its not objective when it comes to the execution of making sound.
If you want to venture out of trance, you could maybe pick up a book on Western Music Theory and any historical book on the creation of it. There are other systems and forums of composing music as well to consider.
Its a good Idea to study up on this evolution and history of western music. A good starting point would be from the Gregorian chant from the middle ages. Dies Irae (gregorian chant version) is a good composition to look at. Some historical composer you could youtube are
Johannes Ockeghem (1420-1497)
Josquin des Prez (1450s-1520s)
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Thomas Luis De Victoria (1548-1611) (O magnum Mysterium is a favorite of mine)
Jacopo Peri (1566-1633) (early operas... Euridice comes to mind)
Henry Purcell (1659- 1695)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Probably the best composer to study when it comes to Westernized Music. If you're looking to understand counterpoint or Tonal functionality, Bach is the man to study. I recommend all of his inventions to start off with.) Prelude and Fugue in A minor is another really good piece to study, especially for fugal writing. Bach's work great helped establish our common tonal system today in which most popular music and works are organized in. There is also serialism, A-tonality, Iching, Cell thoery etc... the list goes on. For example Serialism was pretty popular in hollywood back in the 60s, You may know the movie called planet of the apes. The lat e Jerry Goldsmith scored that movie using a technique called twelve tone. Its another new form of composing music mostly different from the tonal system used and solidified by Bach.
Haydn & Mozart - Nothing needs to be said. listen to there works.
Mr. Beethoven - Everybody knows him. Whats interesting is that around the time period of when he was composing, thats the transition from classical era music to early romantic era music. The music theory at the time Increases in using Augmented chords, Unsual Cadences, neopolition 6ths and alternate movement to different tonal keys.
One of the main principles of Romantic era music was that Instruments could convey emotion without the use of Vocals . So if your into trance that be a good historical part to begin studying music and understanding its functions today.
If your looking for Grandiose-inspiration I recommend studying form the german school of though under the practices of Richard Wagner. Everybody knows his Ride of Valkyries music, but whats less common is the Operas of Tannhuaser and Tristan Und Isolde ( Tristan and Isolde). Studying the Theory from those two operas should give you more than enough ideas on how to represent your music thematically. Richard Wagner is a good point for understanding the idea of a re-ocurring musical theme within a music piece. Now you may ask yourself what does he have to do with today's music? Well if you've been to the movies and heard you favorite scores by John Williams or the Pulsating music of Hanz zimmer, you'll notice throughout a movie you'll hear a batman or Anikin theme come up again. Well that was labeled and coined by Wagner as the Leitmotif (re-ocurring theme) and it was implemented in much of his works.
I could go on but I think i'll stop there for now as i dont have the time to write about American music history, the rise of rage-time, Jazz, big band era music, Rock and roll, Disco - electronic, heavy metal- techno and other modern forms of Pop-cult- music.
Its important to know the history of what you write so that you can better understand how to execute your own works.
As for DAWs. Pretty much anything will work if you like it and feel good about it. FL studio is a wonder DAW for my in terms of Work Flow. I have an Idea I get it out on FL studio much quicker and fast than having to play mr.audio engineer on cubase or Protools 8. The key is finding the balance between engineer and artist with these programs.
I usually compose all my work in fl and move it to protools for Final Mastering. I'd like to have the Waves programs, but money doesn't grow out of my butt. If it did, i'd be eating a lot of stuff. i personally dont like the sound coming of fl studio compared to reason or cubase. If the learning curve on cubase and reason was easier for me, i'd hop over real quick. Now if you're running a 32bit system You're limited on memory and that means the amount of plugins you can use. If you can try to get ona 64bit Os system and hope/find a daw that you like that is 64 bit compatibile. I can tell you right now that memory can be a hindrance to the amount of color you can use in your work. Not all programs right now can function stable wise on a 64 bit system. I know that my Protools 9 does not support 64bit plugins nor does it have the capacity to go about 3gbs of memory. It becomes quite a problem when your using HQ samples and are trying to organize your instruments for a particular composition.
Anyways good luck to you.