A list of things, for my own reference, that I have used or wish to try using, in order to make sound come out of my computer.
See also composition for the structure of the harmony/melody/bassline and all the non-DSP stuff.
DAWS and trackers of note
Reaper, Renoise, Sunvox, Non, bitwig. Renoise is actually incredible. Highly recommended for its well-designed scripting interface (using Lua) and consistent design quirk. Not open-source, but cross-platform and cheap. Non looks interestingly designed and if I want my project to work on Raspberry Pi, it fits the bill… Sunvox is also a contender there. blue is the weird quirky DAW for csound.
However, let’s deal with the gorilla in this room.
The default all-purpose stage-n-studio tool.
Full of irritating limitations, but then the competitors are historically full of even more, even more irritating, irritating limitations. It is scriptable, in an half arsed sort of way. That irritation can be soothed by certain hacks. See Ableton live.
Also the rather improved sibling…
A derivative of Ableton live that attempts to remove the irritations and bloat and address certain long-standing annoyances. It’s cheaper and in fact pretty good, if you can live without all the fancy Ableton libraries. I think I can. See Bitwig.
DAW-optimized Dropbox workalikes.
See “patchers” in audio software frameworks.
Libraries, frameworks, musical-domain-specific-languages
See audio frameworks
- Helm is an open source very-modulatable synthesizer
- Usuriously expensive, but cool:
Kontakt, a de-facto standard for sample-based instruments.
- If you want it to build new sample ambient libraries you might want to use in addition photosynthesis
- Fluidsynth is an open-source Sound Font synthesizer.
- polyphone is an editor of Sound Fonts, which you might want to use with lfuidsynth
- And DinIsNoise, the wonderful, quixotic, idiosyncratic project of peripatetic waveform genius Jagannathan Sampath, who is good value and deserves your support. I have no use for it personally, but my life is made more wonderful by mere knowledge of its existence.
- STEIM’s RoSa is a freaky sample-based synth which only the Dutch can ever truly understand.
- SIR sounds OK. Free: SIR1 (windows) Paid version does lots of freak modulation tricks: SIR2 (mac/windows USD185)
- $$$: Altiverb (mac/windows, USD600-1000)
- Waves IR*
- Reverberate: Fancy and free editions. (windows, GBP50)
- The name LAconvolver tells you all you need to know about the aesthetics and currency of that plugin (free, mac)
- freeverb3 is a fugly reverb library suite that does sophisticated hybrid convolution, allpass and physical modeling, oh my, and is open source, but is so oldskool they think your DAW is a text editor. You probably should get the freeverb3vst if you don’t want to compile your own code. (Straight to downloads.)
Modern versions of Logic and Ableton have convolution reverbs built in too.
- wacky delays:
- Celemony. (polyphonic autotune OMG)
- protoplug again (creates plugins)
- FaustDSP again (Of course, Faust creates plugins too. The polyphony handling is clunky enough that you probably don’t want to do this for synths without some other library.)
- Redux, the plugin version of renoise.
- csound can create plugins
Don’t judge me. See composition.
Jack and Soundflower route audio out of horribly limited software into differently limited software, giving you flexibility at the cost of confusion. Using audio effects software to effect audio synthesis software doesn’t sound like rocket science but turns out to be tedious. Jack on OSX has the only working version hidden deep in the github bug reports as opposed to the normal download page, indicating that development on this project has partially stalled. Soundflower is inflexible and periodically unmaintained despite intermittent commercial backing. Fragility hell in these free options is avoided somewhat by loopback, a rather expensive commercial competitor. Maybe owners Rogue Amoeba will use that funding to keep maintaining their product, having fucked up soundflower on their own watch? But should I reward that behaviour by buying a license?