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3.Music Theory Knowledge
4. Mixing Knowledge
5. Experience from Practice
1. For the software part, you will need a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW for short. This program is what you will use to record into, compose, create, and process audio. I would recommend REAPER. It’s $60 and once you get the hang of it, extremely powerful. You can also try it out for an unlimited time. There are other good alternatives. Fl studios is popular one, and depending on the version you get, cheap. Personally, I don’t like it for recording or editing. I would stay away from something like pro-tools which is $1000 and totally overkill. Likewise don’t use audacity or mixcraft as they lack many necessary features. Google free DAW's and you should get some good results.
You will also need something called virtual instruments. There are free ones and paid ones. Obviously the paid ones are usually of much higher quality and sound more realistic, but you can still make the free ones work. Once you install them, you’ll open them within your DAW and use them to create parts. So if you install a piano virtual instrument, you can manually input the notes you want the software to play and create a piano tune. There are many virtual instruments of real life instruments. Common ones include piano, drums, and orchestral instruments. It's important to mention that you need a DAW in order to use virtual instruments. Your own DAW will come with some virtual instruments and sounds for you to use. If you need more, google whatever virtual instrument you need by typing the name of the instrument, followed by vst.
2. If you plan to record, you will need something called an audio interface. It connects to your computer via USB and has inputs so you can connect a microphone to record with. Depending on what you plan to record, you will need to look up or research the correct method to do so. For example, recording an acoustic guitar will be different from recording vocals, a violin, or drums. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as pointing the mic to what your recording. You should also have a pair of decent headphones and speakers. Eventually you’ll want to get studio grade monitors and headphones for the mixing part.
3. You need to know how to create music, which means studying music theory. I would recommend reading books on basic theory and watching videos to supplement that. Or you could take classes. Music theory will teach you how to create melodies, build chords, chord progressions, harmonies, and understand things like time signatures, scales and song structure. You should also learn about any instrument you plan to write for and how they are played. This will help you compose correctly with them.
4. You will need to know how to mix. This is critical to having a good quality sound for your music. Mixing is the process of making all your parts within a song sound good together by processing them using things like EQ, compression, reverb and delay. Part of mixing is knowing and understanding what the things I just mentioned are. it's much to complex to go into here, so I would recommend reading a book and watching online videos on this subject. You will also need to know how to humanize parts you write with virtual instruments so they don’t sound robotic or unrealistic.
5. You need to practice a lot. You need to practice utilizing the music theory you learn to create songs, and you need to practice using your DAW. This way you’ll know all the shortcuts, and customize it so you have a fast workflow and don’t waste time within the software. The same goes for any virtual instrument you may use. If you plan to record, that’s another area you should practice. And of course mixing.
Naturally, all of this will take effort, time and money. But even on a cheap budget, if you have the will and passion, you should be able to create some decent tunes.
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Ableton Live Lite is a great software. If you are thinking loop based music, it is pretty much a no-brainer. I used it for a long while and can whole heartedly recommend it. They have good upgrade plans for the fuller versions.
Pro Tools First is a free lite version of Pro Tools. A decent DAW. The full version is great for audio, a bit of a tanker (not so smooth) when writing virtually. It comes with some really good beginner virtual instruments though!
Presonus has a free lite version for Studio One. I dont know of its MIDI functionality or virtual instruments.
Mac user? Garageband is amazing for being a closed environment and free. Then again Logic Pro is the best daw when we talk of what you get for your money. Third of the price for same functionality as the full versions of ProTools and Cubase.
Do some reading on the features of the various DAWs. Personally I'd recommend ProTools First because of the virtual instrument that comes with it. It is a bit more complicated but if you check a few videos, you will get a hang of it in no time.
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