What tools do you use to compose?

Discuss and share compositions for the game here

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Roots
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What tools do you use to compose?

Postby Roots » Mon Apr 25, 2005 11:23 pm

Ryan/Joe/random-people-reading-this-that-just-happen-to-be-composers, what sort of hardware and software do you use to compose the music you create? I ask beccause I've actually been wanting to buy a keyboard for a while now and finally have the $BLING$ to do so. :heh: I taught myself piano during winter 2003-2004, but after that I found myself without time (or a keyboard) and even though I still don't have time, I eventually want to get back to practicing with it some more.


From a quick search today I found the following software that looks pretty good (remember I use Linux exclusively):
http://www.rosegardenmusic.com/

And they suggest that Evolution keyboards work well with Linux:
http://www.evolution.co.uk/

(holy crap, I just took a look at the price tags, they're between $180-$330 US :eyespin: )


Anyway, I was hoping to get some advice from our seasoned veterans. :angel: In the evolution models there are 61, 49, and 25 key keyboards. What are the pros/cons to having more/less keys (other than the obvious price tag and desktop space)? Keep in mind that my objective here is more for learning/enjoyment (I want to be able to play some of my favorite classical music and pieces from game soundtracks).


Thanks in advance. :approve:
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Postby Balthazar » Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:02 am

Rosegarden is kind of a neat program.  Mind you, since my comp hates any sort of midi or sound, I couldn't really get it to do anything.  But as far as OSS goes, it's quite well polished.
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Postby gorzuate » Tue Apr 26, 2005 6:09 pm

Just so you know, a regular piano has 88 keys. I have a keyboard at home which has fewer keys than that (not sure how many though) and many times I'm not able to play on it because it doesn't have enough keys. I don't use it anymore :uhoh:
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Postby Rain » Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:51 pm

Hi Tyler, I would say that you are on track as the RoseGarden program seems to generally be based off of Cubase which is an excellent program to begin with.  I will warn you that there may be a sharp learning curve when being introduced to its capabilities, but once you get past that I am sure you will be doing fine!
As far as the size of the keyboard is concerned... I just bought a small controller and it works fine for creating sound.  However, as I am a pianist of sorts, I prefer something of a larger size and a larger range because it is more comfortable for me.  Also, larger keyboards are considerably more expensive.  I would say start out with a smaller size keyboard and if you feel the need to upgrade to a larger size, do so.  It would be better to pay too little than too much for a keyboard that doesn't fit your particular scheme, whatever that may be.

I am currently using Digital Performer 4.5 along with Logic, which I haven't really mastered yet.  I use Finale 2004 for notation.
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What's in Joe's Studio

Postby Loodwig » Sat May 07, 2005 11:16 am

I use 3 computers to compose, first off.  Murdock runs osX and will run DP (when I get my hands on it).  This is hooked up to a MOTU MTP, which runs most of the studio.  I have a makeshift USB bridge (basically, I made it myself so that I could swap computer connections between usb devices and still allow the MOTU to think that it's hooked up to the mac... really silly device that I should get rid of honestly).

The next computer runs windows 2000, and has cakewalk pro audio 9, cubase SX, and reason 3.0.  This is the heart of the digital audio.  Very fun.  It has a simple m-audio audiophile usb-usb which gives me the midi in I need to run reason remote, as well as use re-wire to master stuff within cubase.

The last computer ran gigastudio, but since reason is 900% better and way cheaper, I'm going to 86 this one, and go with reason.  I might turn it into a pro-tools workstation, assuming I can rig something up... or I might just give my computer away, and save electricity :)

Now the fun stuff.

My pride and joy is my Technics SX-WSA1 which is a really cool digital synth... with just about everything on it that can be altered (all the way to the LFO combinations to design individual instruments).

I also have a Roland XV-3080, which has really nice sound, great for quick orchestral filler or electronic effects.

Also there is a Alesis QS-6, which has some nice patches, but really isn't as high up as some of the other stuff.  But 1 patch is reason enough to keep a synth, no?

Add to this my Roland Rap-10 (gmidi isa sound card) which is useful for some retro effects, and the Roland MT-100 which is also useful for retro effects, or pre-sequencing for live production.

And last but not least, we have the less fun stuff like the Kawai MX-8 that gives a nice 60hz hum to everything, due to some poor grounding.  Or my Roland monitors that are poor quality at best.

And I really would like an Emu Proteus 2000 to and a Yamaha OV-1 to add to this mix, plus some new monitors and headphones, and I'll be set.

*laughs* until I find something else I like ;)
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Postby Balthazar » Sat May 07, 2005 7:24 pm

I don't think I understood a single thing you said...
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Postby Loodwig » Sat May 07, 2005 8:48 pm

just listing off the hardware and software I use (abbreviated version)

Software:
Cakewalk Pro Audio 9
Cubase SX
Digital Performer (got my hands on a copy today!)
Reason 3.0
Gigastudio (antiquated)
Sound Forge 6.0

Computers:
Mac G3 550mhz 256mb ram os X.3
X86 Athelon XP 2200 1.5gb ram windows 2000
X86 Celeron 400mhz 256mb ram windows 98

Sound Cards:
M-Audio Audiophile USB-USB
Roland RAP-10

Synths:
Roland XV-3080
Technics SX-WSA1
Alesis QS-6
Roland MT-100

Interface:
Kawai MX-8 mixer
Midiman USB 2x2
MOTU MTP (in the mail!)

Speakers:
Roland MA-7
Signalflex SF-140
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Postby Jetryl » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:21 am

Consolidation, because someone from the outside is curious what mac-dudes use to make music. Since the people who would mind my doing this also happen to moderate this forum, they are free to delete this if they do ... mind.

Rain wrote:
Sylon wrote:Hey Rain (and Loodwig)

What music equipment do you use?

I use an old (dull and basic) Yamaha PSR-340 midi keyboard to write music, and there's so many problems I have with it but it'll have to suffice for me.

Then I take the songs I write in it (only allows 6 instruments per song) and play them individually through a wire that plugs into the microphone (line-in) jack in the computer and use Audacity to record it. Then I play with it from there.

What are your keyboards and how do you gets the variation in the sounds with the same instruments within your songs? Rain I hear once in a while you get a little vibration thing going on with your strings and stuff. Is that from Audacity or your keyboard?


Well...Theres a million different possible configurations when you are talking about audio specifications for a studio!

Here's my setup.

MAC G5 - comp with Dual 1.8 processor.
Digital Performer 4.5 - sequencing
Finale - notation
Edirol PCR 30 Keyboard. - keys
Focusrite Saffire with DSP - audio user interface
Shure sm57 - dynamic mic
Reason 3.0 - sampler (good one to have)
GarritanPersonalOrchestra - orchestral sampler
EastWestPlatinumOrchestra - Really kick ass orchestral sampler

The most important thing when composing music, IMO is finding the right sound with the samples. This can be done by plugging in software called VST's or Virtual Instruments into your sequencer and just tooling around.
I could literally spend days, weeks playing with the sound customization in the Reason soundbank. It sounds like your program is very limited in that it can only play 6 tracks, but if anything this will teach you to be more simple in your compositional element and will force you to be more structured and there is nothing wrong with that! If I had started with a 32 track sequencer, I probably wouldn't even know where to begin. You might want to check out either Reason or FL Studio (FrootyLoops). They have a nice number of sounds and are relatively cheap to get ahold of.

Audacity is good because its free, but the sequencing isn't extremely in depth like say Reason and to my knowledge, there is very little control over the nature of the sound. To get a vibrato for say, a violin requires to find the right sample and then to alter the sound using the extensive Reason sound shaping. Of course, some of the sounds are awesome right off the bat and don't require customization...
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Postby Jetryl » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:22 am

shizeet wrote:Lalala, though no one asked, here's what I'm mainly using:

"Workstation"
CPU: AMD 64 3800+ 2X
RAM: 2 x 1 Gig DDR400
HD: 2 x 80 Gig (30 partitioned for my music/sound stuff)
Speakers: Creative Inspire 2.1 L3500 (fairly decent consumer speakers)
Sound Card: Audigy 2 ZS (I also have an M-Audio 192, but stopped using it ever since someone stole my good headphones :( - no point in really using it without them or decent monitor speakers)
Keyboard: Yamaha PSR-550 (Old crappy keyboard with broken B4 key - I don't use it for MIDI though, just keeping it for nostalgia's sake ;)).

Software:

MIDI Sequencing: Sonar 5 - sadly, usually the only thing I use this program to do is sequence MIDI (and render them raw with DXi's, VSTi's or soundfonts). Probably because it's the like the few sequencers that I know of which has staff notation - Finale and Sibelius don't count since they are for notation mainly; Cubase I never could get the hang of; and Logic is no longer updated for the PC (Digtal Performer seems to have a nice notation view, but unfortunately, Mac only).

Audio Sequencing / Wave Editing: Adobe Audition 1.5/2.0 - I really love this program a lot :D - the non-destructive audio editing mode makes multi-track editing really flexible and intuitive, and the many of the other plugin-fx from the destructive audio editng mode are really nice (I've managed to get away with using the presets most of the time so far ;)). I don't know what I'd do without it.

Samples: Mostly soundfonts (have about +10 Gigs of them, though probably a lot of them overlap), but a lot of the newer soundfonts are really high quality. I thought about getting Kontakt 2, as it comes with quite a nice sample library (not to mention being a pretty nice sampler program, too), but it turns out the program tends to chug alot running very high quality sounds. So I think I'll just use the school's copy until I upgrade my soundcard sometime later.

Synths: I'm not too experience with using sythnesizers, but I have a few lying around (mostly, those that came with Sonar). Admittedly, I don't ever recall using them at all, except maybe just to play around.

Other Equipment:
A crappy Dynex dynamic
An "electric" mandolin which doesn't seem to work
A varity of consummer headphones / earphones that I use to get a different perspective on mixes.

Pretty much all my music is sequenced by mouse - I tend to make it more "humanized" by adding velocity/volume/tempo variation later, drawing controller curves or whatnot (though I don't usually bother doing all that until everything else is finalized).
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Postby Jetryl » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:22 am

Loodwig wrote:Lood's Studio (Lood just got 10 hours extra a week).

Hardware:
M-Audio Audiophile USB
M-Audio MidiMan
Roland XV-3080
Technics SX-WSA1 with Expansion Board
Really Bad Speakers
MX-8 Kawai mixer (also sucktacular)

Comp and Software:
Athelon XP 2100 with 512 Meg ram running Windows 2000
Reason 3.0
Cubase SX (1.01)
Cakewalk Pro Audio (obsolete)
Finale 2002 (windows)

I agree with Rain on the point that the studio does not make the music (to an extent... you can't do much if you have nothing), but the composer and the technique of the studio makes the musician. But to take it one further, a lack of understanding of your tools reflects a greater problem in a lack of understanding of theory and abilities. It is evident listening to Rain's music especially (can't really tell because I almost never post stuff :( ) that theory plays a big part in creation of sound.

But the gear does sort of define the sound, and not having a proteus or the software that Rain does, I cannot reproduce his sound with accuracy (obviously). Then again, if I did, I couldn't either.

I need new speakers :(
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Postby outside » Sun Oct 08, 2006 7:32 pm

For those of you in a unix-type environment, I just came across of this piece of GPL music software called "beast."

Here is the website: http://beast.gtk.org/

It seems to allow creating synthesizers, midi sequencing, and some form of tracking.
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Postby prophile » Sun Oct 08, 2006 7:54 pm

I'd just like to add my list in to this:

    * Logic Pro
    * RD 1000 keyboard
    * ProTools
    * GarageBand if I leave my logic key somewhere
    * Atmosphere synth
    * Kurzweil MicroPiano
Tyler Johnson
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Re: What tools do you use to compose?

Postby Tyler Johnson » Tue May 27, 2008 12:41 am

Some people here have way too much stuff for what can be done for cheap. I kept it simple:

MacBook 2.2GHz Dual Core running Windows XP with Boot Camp. - $1500

EWQL Silver Virtual Orchestra. - $150

M-Audio 88 Keystation Pro. $200 (used)

Pro Tools LE 7.3.1 $450 (w/Mbox)

So the whole rig costs roughly $2300, and I can create orchestra quality music without hiring an orchestra.

That's everything I need.
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Re: What tools do you use to compose?

Postby dariunas » Tue Jun 24, 2008 12:08 am

Hi all,

Randomly saw a banner in someone's signature on Mana World forums, so er... am checking this out :)

Le setup:

Machine:
Windows 2000 (it's the one!)
3.2Ghz Athlon XP, Asus Deluxe (last decent, AGP board really!) 120Gb Maxtor IDE + Dual 750Gb Samsung SATA II drives - I have a shocking amount of data on my system which is unfortunately not a dedicated DAW, but runs well due to some good data housekeeping and external drives :hack:
2Gb RAM

Soundcards (Dual in tandem):
Creative Audigy Platinum (playback master - WDM Drivers)
M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 (rec master via ASIO drivers)

Outboard:
Behringer MX 802A 6 channel mixing desk (small, good enough for my bedroom studio setup though)
60w Kustom Guitar Amp
Cheap Stratocaster electric guitar copy by 'unheard of make' :approve: (edit: it's KCC)
Palma Classical Guitar
Zoom 1010 Multi-FX pedal
M-Audio Radium 49 MIDI Keyboard + controller (16 assignable controls - 8 knobs, 8 faders... which I hardly ever use except for occasional, tricky automation!)

Software:
Cakewalk Sonar 3 (Producer Edition)
Reason 2.5
Soundforge 4.0
Acid Pro (don't really use this much anymore) :\

Currently use the excellent and versatile Reason for my compositions, though the sequencer isn't up to much. Use Sonar's MIDI tools and run Reason as a slave app within Sonar on more in-depth pieces :)

I must say, whoever composed the pieces available in the multimedia section of the main site is great! (Ryan Reily?) reminds me of the music back in the days of Alundra (I loved the music of that era) I know it's not exactly the high octane East West Platinum/top end Vienna samples, but the composition and sound selection is superb. Does anyone know what soundset he used?

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