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 automated composition for some ideas about structure of the harmony/melody/bassline and all the non-DSP stuff.
- DAWS and trackers of note
- DJing software
- Libraries, frameworks, musical-domain-specific-languages
- Sundry synthesizers
- Other Plugins
- Software audio routers
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, being a weird Russian tracker with extreme cross-platform compatibility. blue is the oddball 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.
AFAICT these all work with various DAWs such as bitwig, Ableton Live etc.
- Splice: Our desktop app syncs all of your projects, samples, and presets with the cloud — no need for “Collect All and Save” and up to 10x faster than Dropbox.
- Blend: Publish your projects on Blend to get feedback and invite fresh collaborations.
Realtime collaboration: Studio-link looks interesting and claims to connect many different software tools togethe over networks via standalone apps and VSTs.
noise-removal-focused. Expensive but useful; as such, my primary go-to tool.
General-purpose, open source. Has a bunch of surprisingly deep functionality behind the clunky interface.
The only one written by a Fields medallist.
Is a demixer of audio. (USD219) Works ok for standard western drum loops, but is not brilliant at anything else.
The most commonly cited contenders here are both undermaintained and aging, but have many devotees.
SooperLooper is a live looping sampler capable of immediate loop recording, overdubbing, multiplying, reversing and more. It allows for multiple simultaneous multi-channel loops limited only by your computer's available memory.
The application is a standalone JACK client with an engine controllable via OSC and MIDI. It also includes a GUI which communicates with the engine via OSC (even over a network) for user-friendly control on a desktop. However, this kind of live performance looping tool is most effectively used via hardware (midi footpedals, etc) and the engine can be run standalone on a computer without a monitor.
SooperLooper is currently supported on Linux and Mac OS X, and any other platforms that support JACK.
v1.7.3 release -- 11 Dec 2014
Mobius is software for the real-time creation of audio loops. It was inspired by the venerable hardware loopers of the past, but moves beyond them in many powerful and exciting ways. You can think of Mobius as 8 synchronized stereo loopers that can be used in any combination with extensive MIDI and computer keyboard control. Loops may be saved to and loaded from files. A powerful scripting language allows you to create macros or customize Mobius to support your unique style of performance.
Mobius is available for both Windows (XP and Vista) and OS X (10.4 or higher). It can be run standalone, as a VST plugin, or as an Audio Unit plugin on OS X.
It's hard to work out how old it is, which is a bad sign. the documentation claims to be at release v2.2.0 August 2012 but the binaries are at v2.5. Who knows
Instalooper is also free, and runs on windows, Linux, macOS.
INSTA LOOPER, is a looper, but not only. This tools allows you to loop your music with many different sizes, to pitch your loop, put some integrated FX on it and reverse it. This tools is useful for making live effects, or to program them when you create your tunes.
The creators, Audioblast, are shy about mentioning who they are, but they seem to be French.
See “patchers” in audio software frameworks.
Libraries, frameworks, musical-domain-specific-languages
See audio frameworks
- Fluidsynth is an open-source Sound Font synthesizer. Which sounds boring but is splndidly useful, producing audio with no fuss whatever. You will need SoundFonts.
- 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
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.
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 bareback.)
- Redux, the plugin version of renoise.
- csound can create plugins
Don't judge me. See composition.
Software audio routers
see audio routers.
KXStudio, the latest open-source-y sound OS. (There have been so many, and so many crushed dreams) See also Ubuntu studio, which will probably win by default, as Ubuntu is the de facto standard for random OS forks.