Free, cheap or otherwise

Commercial music production software

The tools for producing music using computers can be expensive. The current list price of Ableton Live, which is my all time favorite production software, is now US$600! ($500 for the download version.) If it weren’t for the fact I’ve been upgrading (at a $100/$150 cost each time) since version 2, I would have a really hard time plumping for that amount.

It turns out, however, that there are many Options. If you look around, you can find many cheap or even free software synths and applications. GarageBand, which is a perfectly fine loop manipulation program, even comes free with new Macintoshes.

Even though I love Ableton Live past all reckoning and will probably continue to use it as the centerpiece of my production techniques, I’m always open to New Things. In the past year or so, I have been particularly interested, in two applications which are associated with the Open Source and university communities; “ChucK” and “Csound.” These are both FREE systems (I don’t know if the source code to ChucK is distributed, but the Csound source is available.)

Free/Open Source music production software

There are many, many applications, instruments, sound banks, and more stuff available completely free and legally on the net. It just takes a small bit of digging.


ChucK, is a “strong-timed, concurrent and on-the-fly language for real-time synthesis, composition and performance.” ChucK is fairly new (at version as of June 2008), has a few gaps in the documentation and some bugs, but it is an incredibly rich and powerful system even in its current form.

For instance, on its forum there was fascinating thread (“One-line ChucK crazy”) about how much you could get ChucK to do in one line of code. An entire cool tune could be created by something as simple as this:

// Dizzy Chuck Gillespie
    SinOsc a => SinOsc b => dac; b.sync(1); while (120::ms => now)
        (b.last() => a.phase) * 100 => a.freq;


On the other end of the spectrum is the 600 pound gorilla of computer music: Csound. This has its roots back in the ancient days of computer music and is (currently, 30 Apr 2009) at version 5.10. This is an enormous and sprawling system that basically allows you to do anything you can imagine to generate sounds and music. But it will require research and work.

So a question you might ask yourself: can I spend $600 and pretty much start making tunes immediately, or can I spend $0, and read a bunch of scattered documentation and forums, and start building instruments and compositions from scratch?

Of course, the other option is to download cracked or pirated commercial software applications and work with those, but for argument this site will assume that’s not your route.

Free/Open Source sounds, samples, and loops


This should be one of your first destinations.

This is a gigantic repository of all kinds of software, sound and video files.

page order #40 / last edited 20090914

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: