Music Software

Music Software #

Some tools on this page are not-free. As such, I’ve tried to list prices as best I can. Music software usually goes on sale pretty significantly around Black Friday or Christmas, so when I can, I’ve tried to list ‘street’ prices. Regardless, I’m not affiliated with any of these projects in any way and I don’t make any money from these links- so don’t complain to me if the prices are wrong ╮(─▽─)╭

Live Coding Tools #

Name & Link Description Screenshot / Demo
Learn Orca
Extra Tools for ORCA:
  • Cassetter for ORCA
  • Aioi - UDP to complex OSC for ORCA
  • Pilot - 16 voice synth for ORCA
  • Noton A minimal logic gates playground, written in ANSI C. Made by the same developers as ORCΑ
    Chuck “Chuck is a programming language for real-time sound synthesis and music creation. It is open-source and freely available on MacOS X, Windows, and Linux. Chuck presents a unique time-based, a concurrent programming model that’s precise and expressive (we call this strongly-timed), dynamic control rates, and the ability to add and modify code on-the-fly. In addition, ChucK supports MIDI, OpenSoundControl, HID device, and multi-channel audio.”
    Mutateful Requires Ableton Live “enables live coding in Ableton Live’s session view. Set up transformations that trigger whenever a source clip is changed, including arpeggiation, shuffling, and ratcheting/retriggering.”
    Pure-Data and Purr Data (a better fork)
    Zerobrane Studio and Moonlet
    Krill Krill is a livecoding environment inspired from TidalCycles.
    Overtone - Live Code
    Siren (Github) Tracker meets livecode
    FoxDot Livecoding with Python
    Extempore Lang “Extempore is a programming language and runtime environment designed to support cyberphysical programming
    Bespoke Software modular synth
    Music Pattern Generator Music Pattern Generator is an app to create musical rhythms. It sends MIDI data, so it won’t make any sounds by itself. For that you need to connect it to MIDI soft- or hardware that can handle MIDI data to produce sound.

    DAWs and almost-daws #

    Name & Link Description Screenshot / Demo
    VCV Rack
    Bitwig-Studio Bitwig is a lot like Ableton, but has the neat idea of ‘The Grid’- basically a little built in modular synth system. It’s not like VCV, as it’s a bit lower level but it can still be used for Generative Music or doing complex routing, like fading between effects. It also has really easy to use routable modulation, basically letting you drop an LFO, envelope, etc. onto any parameter of a VST.
    Audacity Not a full DAW, but super useful for trimming audio and quick fixes
    Ableton Live
    Pro Tools
    Marabu “Marabu is a free and open-source music tracker built from Soundbox.”

    NOTE: this list is far from exhaustive. Instead, I’ve tried to list the main ones and some that I think are particularly cool.

    Digital Audio Workstations or ‘DAWs’ come in many flavors, so let’s look at the differences between the above in depth [TODO]

    Trackers, vs non liner, vs modular, etc.

    How To Ableton Like a Pro (YouTube)

    VSTs and other Plugins #

    [TODO] Daws usually have built in instruments and effets I Made A Song Using Only Ableton Stock Plugins (YouTube, Composerily)

    This is probably where the most bias of any of the lists on this page will show as I obviously can’t list every possible VST. Instead, I’ll list those that I think are particularly good both in terms of value and function.

    VSTs are a really weird standard, for one, unlike most standards that are ratified by a collection of involved interests, VST is the child of a single company - Steinberg.

    Generally, there are a few things you need to know:

    1. Some VSTs are distributed as VST2 others as VST3, obviously one is newer than the other. Unfortunately, not all DAWs support VST3 and worse, new applications by new devs have to be VST3 due to Stienberg no longer issuing new licenses. Generally, VST2 will be downloaded as .dll files while vst3 will be .vst3
      • VST3 does support a few extra features, and tend to perform better
      • Some VST3’s can do neat stuff so that if multiple instances are loaded they can communicate together, this is useful for some mastering plugins.
    2. Some VSTs are 64 bit, some are 32 bit. Not all modern DAWS support running 32bit VSTs
    3. VSTs can do 1 (or a mix of) three things
      • act as a virtual instrument (guitar, synth, etc.)
      • act as a virtual effect (delay, reverb, etc.)
      • act as a midi effect (arpeggio, quantizer, etc.)

    There are some other, not-VST plugin formats you may encounter, namely LV2 and Apple’s Audio Units, as well as the various plugins for particular DAWs, like Reason’s ‘Rack Extensions’ or Ableton Live’s M4L (Max For Live) Devices.

    While VST3 does have a linux SDK, most plugins aren’t released for Linux. You may still be able to make it work using a bridging program like Yabridge.

    You may also see VSTi or VSTfx, these aren’t anything new, ‘i’ or ‘fx’ just denote if the plugin is an instrument or effects plugin.

    Free (But might have better paid version) #

    Audio Sources #
    Name & Link Description Screenshot
    Ample Percussion Cloudrum Steel Tongue Drum
    Alter Ego Virtual Singer, Text to Speech
    Dexed Yamaha DX-7 Emulation
    Surge Synthesizer FOSS hybrid synth
    Daichi Synth 1 Emulation of Nord Lead 2, but better. You’ll probably want the preset pack
    Distocore Bazz::Murda Bass Drum maker, looks like it fell right out of 2004.
    Lord Of The Springs Physically modeled synthesis with a bunch of Springs
    Spectral warping wavetable synth (Free and Paid tiers)
    Effects #
    Name & Link
    Other #
    Name & Link Description Screenshot
    An amazing VST Oscilliscope, Vectorscope, and general analysis tool
    No prices are listed below because they can fluctuate so much. VSTs and other music software tends to go on sale a lot, and usually quite good sales at that. You probably shouldn’t pay full price!
    Audio Sources #
    Name & Link Description Screenshot
    ABL3 Emulation of the classic TB303. You can buy a Behringer hardware clone for not much more, but this is easier to use imho, and Behringer is a horrible company so please don’t support them.
    Various from SugarBytes I really like
  • Consequence - Chord Grovebox
  • Factory - Mod Matrix Polysynth
  • Guitarist - Guitar Emulation, easy to program
  • Drum Computer - Drum Synth
  • Obscurium - I don’t even know, but it’s cool.
  • Cyclop - Neat Synth, good for bass
  • Egoist - Weird audio stem re-groover?
  • Thesys - MIDI Sequencer
  • Various from Artuira (Go to Software Instruments)
  • CS-80 V - CS-80 Emulation
  • DX7 V - DX-7 Emulation, better UI than the free ‘Dexed'
  • SEM V - Oberheim Sem Emulation
  • Modular V - Moog Modular Emulation (Could just use VCV)
  • Pigments - Artuira’s take on a modern digital VST synth it’s pretty awesome
  • Effects #
    Name & Link Description Screenshot
    Other #
    Name & Link Description Screenshot
    Kontakt Libraries #

    Music Apps (Android) #

    Name & Link Description Screenshot/Demo

    Websites #

    Google Drum Machine (Like XO)

    Tools dependent on other hardware or software #

    Max4Live Devices

    These devices only work inside of Ableton Live using Max For Live

    lil' pup - “Tools for generative music and live performance”

    Survey - “Survey acts as a kind of macro control for your project’s most important parameters. Save collections of settings across multiple devices and tracks for simple recall or to creatively morph between them.” $20

    Scenery - Convient ambience tool $10

    Cartographer - “When the Follow feature is engaged, the Loop Brace will always follow the set’s playhead, meaning you’re ready to loop whatever you’re listening to at any given moment without breaking your flow.” $5

    Swatches - Easily recolor everything in Ableton Live

    Clyphx old, free version & Clyphx Pro - Scripting Language for live, seriously recomend this one. Paid version is $43.33, not sure it supports the latest live or is getting worked on?

    Magenta Studio - AI based MIDI generator for live. Honestly spits out some really good progressions. Can do drums, extent what you’ve writen for a melody, and a lot more. Tons of fun.

    Various tools from Zuzuki Kentaro - these include some great complex complex modulation tools that are free, along with paid tools ranging from granular synths and reverbs.

    Nestup - “[…] approaches rhythm in a completely new way. It embeds Nestup—a powerful language for expressing complex rhythms—directly into Live.”

    Szk! Devices - A bunch of crazy devices, including fractal and chaos tools. Some real crazy stuff here

    Ctrl-Z’s Talk To Machines - weird ASCII→Binary→MIDI conversion as well as some DNA inspired stuff

    4phgp by Ferenc Vincze - a free ‘Four Playhead Granular Player’

    Monme Norns Devices

    I previously maintained a ‘best of’ list for Norns scripts, but the community has now made a much better resource

    These ‘plugins’ only work on Monome’s Norns hardware

    Segments Audio Looper

    oooooo - 6x digital tape loops (demo below)

    euclidigons - euclidian sequencer but not like that™

    Audio backends #


    Windows #

    ASIO #

    Direct Sound #

    WSAPI #

    Linux #

    Seriously check out Making Sense of The Linux Audio Stack on Venam’s Blog. It’s a rather painfully long read, but if you’re trying to do Linux audio it’s probably less painful than trying to figure it all out by stumbling though it.

    ALSA #

    Pulse Audio #

    Jack #

    A few programs you wouldn’t expect to run directly though jack, one of the more annoying is Telegram. To fix Telegram at least, just use alsoft-config and go to Backends->General, then right click Disabled backends and add JACK.

    Pipewire #

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