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Free music composition software
Johan Halmén
Member #1,550
September 2001

It doesn't have a fancy GUI like the rest of the pack (in fact, it doesn't have a GUI at all)

I bet you use a command line version of Gimp, too.

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Years of thorough research have revealed that the red "x" that closes a window, really isn't red, but white on red background.

Years of thorough research have revealed that what people find beautiful about the Mandelbrot set is not the set itself, but all the rest.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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I bet you use a command line version of Gimp, too.

Only through a shell script. ;D

Jeff Bernard
Member #6,698
December 2005
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Going with trackers, I still like pxtone. It only comes with basic instruments, but there's tool that come with it so you can make your own. Or you can grab instruments that other people've made. I made some cool tracks back in the day, not sure if I've still got them anywhere, though. It's been a while since I've done anything musical, there's actually a lot of good free royalty-free music out there.

--
I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

Gideon Weems
Member #3,925
October 2003
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Haha, that's the guy who made Cave Story. I like pxtone. It's fun cranking out tunes with it, but the format itself pales in every aspect compared to modules.

larienna
Member #3,185
January 2003
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Trackers are probably way too complex for people with no knowledge about music. When I compare a tracker interface with a music score in interface, the music score interface learning curve seems much smaller.

Another problem with trackers is the lack of instrument bank since they must be supplied yourself compared to general midi and sound fonts that comes with their instruments that you just select from a list.

Gideon Weems
Member #3,925
October 2003
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Very, very true. You can only get comfortable with trackers after overcoming those two obstacles.

Once you do, however, it's smooth sailing. I used to find tracker notation absurd. Now, I feel the opposite: Rows and columns are extremely intuitive in terms of rhythm.

If I remember correctly, the interface of pxtone blends the two schools of thought rather well--and there's a cute, little chicky to top it all off. :) If you're looking to get used to tracking, you might want to give it a try.

Jeff Bernard
Member #6,698
December 2005
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larienna said:

Trackers are probably way too complex for people with no knowledge about music. When I compare a tracker interface with a music score in interface, the music score interface learning curve seems much smaller.

I've always felt trackers have pretty simple interfaces. They're just keyboards, after all.

--
I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

gnolam
Member #2,030
March 2002
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larienna said:

Trackers are probably way too complex for people with no knowledge about music. When I compare a tracker interface with a music score in interface, the music score interface learning curve seems much smaller.

Tracker notation is entirely straightforward. Sheet music notation takes a ton of theory to grok.

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Move to the Democratic People's Republic of Vivendi Universal (formerly known as Sweden) - officially democracy- and privacy-free since 2008-06-18!

Bruce Perry
Member #270
April 2000

I've always sworn by NoteWorthy Composer, although perhaps not in isolation.

It's great if you want to meticulously enter every note (although of course you can copy and paste). That lends itself to the same level of detail that classical composers went to; you can end up with a composition without a single note out of place. This is in contrast to typical sequencing software where you define blocks of notes that later get visualised as black boxes and can then be copied around and transposed and so on. If you're not careful with those programs, you can end up with a loop that sounds cool, and then you decide you want a new chord and you do it, but the melodic elements of the loop don't get joined up properly. For example.

It's also nice to have everything presented clearly in musical notation, rather than either glorified hex (trackers) or hidden away inside black boxes (typical sequencers). If you're trying to get multiple parts to sound good together, you never have to memorise what you've written for the other parts, because it's right there.

Another thing that's nice about NoteWorthy Composer is that it doesn't contain any 'magic'. Everything you do feels well specified and predictable, just like in programming. Also, for the most part, everything you do is specified directly on the source data; you never make a tweak on anything 'generated' and then find it gets horribly disrupted when you change something. This all makes me trust it more than I would trust Sibelius (possibly the only giant I've tried in fairness).

There are downsides. It always seems to lack those one or two little extra things you want. For me, the main things still missing (that I can think of) are trills, 8ve marks and n-tuplets where n isn't 3. (Multi-bar rests were recently added; double accidentals were added not long after we first bought it.) Development of new features is always very slow.

It does have a human-readable text format and user tool support though, so if you get into it, there are usually ways to hack the features you want. Before multi-bar rests were added, I still managed to download a font with the necessary symbols, and write my own tool to fake them.

Finally, the developer has always been exceedingly generous with how long the licences last. My mum bought it for me nearly 20 years ago, and I've only ever had to buy one upgrade. I don't think we've spent more than $50 or $60 in total.

If you're aiming to produce printed music, NoteWorthy Composer certainly gets the job done with the caveats described above. If you're aiming to produce computer music, then its playback (and MIDI export feature) supports all the articulations (staccato etc.) and does so very consistently. It's mechanical but at the same time rather well tuned, so, if you're just getting started, it will give you something pretty nice and solid - as if the performers involved have flawless technique. But if you want to make it sound expressive, then it doesn't really do it. I have in mind that next time I want to do that sort of thing, I will probably plan it all in NoteWorthy Composer and then use some other methodology to make a performance of it. The first thing I'll try is using my MIDIBoard with the East West virtual orchestra, but it'll be interesting to see if I end up with shoddy timing and unreliable articulation that way.

[EDIT]
Mark, do you have an opinion on the look of the printed page with this one?

--
Bruce "entheh" Perry [ Web site | DUMB | Set Up Us The Bomb !!! | Balls ]
Programming should be fun. That's why I hate C and C++.
The brxybrytl has you.

beoran
Member #12,636
March 2011

Hey, that sunvox seems brillliant, as does the rest of this guy's software. Thanks for the tip.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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Mark, do you have an opinion on the look of the printed page with this one?

You make me not want to say something bad 'cause you seem to like it so much. ;D

I'm trying to find some examples to look at. Do you have a PDF example of some relatively complex notation?

[edit]Oh neat, there's an exporter for NoteWorthy Composer to LilyPond.

Bruce Perry
Member #270
April 2000

No, please speak your mind :) Having thought about it, I think the printed stuff looks a bit clinical compared to professional editions of stuff; but I'm not familiar with the printed look of any other software.

I guess you could download the viewer and try printing one of the samples? I don't have any PDFs to hand...

[EDIT]
Actually wait - at the risk of dredging up a sad memory though... https://www.allegro.cc/forums/thread/599306/795906#target

[EDIT 2]
Since I did that score, they've added support for collapsing systems that don't contain any notes for a while. They also have a feature for compressing all the semiquavers together so that the timpani roll looks less spacious. Of course, actual trill notation is still missing.

--
Bruce "entheh" Perry [ Web site | DUMB | Set Up Us The Bomb !!! | Balls ]
Programming should be fun. That's why I hate C and C++.
The brxybrytl has you.

LennyLen
Member #5,313
December 2004
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gnolam said:

Tracker notation is entirely straightforward. Sheet music notation takes a ton of theory to grok.

I agree. I've had enough musical education that I can read music, and can pick up most instruments and play basic pieces, but I can't compose anything using classical notation. I've created several pieces of music using tracker software however, (especially back in the Atari ST/Amiga 500 days) and it was very easy.

Bruce Perry
Member #270
April 2000

Surely they both have advantages. Traditional musical notation gives you a visual up and down contour you don't get with trackers. It also gives you extra semantic information such as key signatures, a choice between F# and Gb, a choice between two-groups-of-three and three-groups-of-two...

Maybe it's like comparing English and Chinese. Chinese is harder to learn because there are more symbols, but you can then lose the language-processing part of your brain and still understand it, because you form a direct association from the pictures to the things they mean.

--
Bruce "entheh" Perry [ Web site | DUMB | Set Up Us The Bomb !!! | Balls ]
Programming should be fun. That's why I hate C and C++.
The brxybrytl has you.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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I bet you use a command line version of Gimp, too.

No; image editing is one of those things where a mouse-driven GUI is actually appropriate. I also use ardour, which also has a very mouse-heavy GUI; it makes sense for audio editing. But for music notation, I prefer a source-code-compiler setup a la LaTeX, because it gives me full control and allows me to work on the actual data structures instead of taking the detour via the graphical representation. There are actually quite a few things about lilypond that annoy me, so I wrote my own... it's not quite there yet, and I'll have to rewrite it from scratch some time, now that I have developed my Haskell skills a bit more...

LennyLen said:

but I can't compose anything using classical notation.

Nobody can. You compose music in your head, most likely with frequent feedback from playing it on a convenient instrument like a piano or guitar. Classical notation is merely a vehicle to write it down so you don't forget it. The misconception stems from the fact that many composers like to write down their ideas and such while they work, but you "use" classical notation to compose things about as much as a poet "uses" the latin alphabet to write poems.

That said, being fluent in traditional music notation is definitely an advantage for a composer, because it means you can easily fixate what you have so far - but it is not a substitute for good musical intuition and composition skills.

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Me make music: Triofobie
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"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Raidho36
Member #14,628
October 2012
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There was aleady milkytracker suggestion, so I just second it.

Don't bother with LMMS. Last time I checked it, it was garbage, and windows version would consistently crash and forget settings. If you're not afraid of Flash and actual hardware stylized interface, then use http://audiotool.com/app . If you own touchscreen device and midi keyboard, then you can actually play your music the way you would do with real hardware, with minus, well, real hardware in your hands.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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Raidho36 said:

Don't bother with LMMS. Last time I checked it, it was garbage, and windows version would consistently crash and forget settings.

You do realize that the "L" in "LMMS" is for "Linux", right? Because this means that a windows version (which I am surprised to hear even exists) is probably an afterthought and a second-class citizen at best. If anything, my complaint about LMMS would be that it doesn't integrate into the rest of the Linux audio ecosystem as nicely as other solutions do.

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Me make music: Triofobie
---
"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Raidho36
Member #14,628
October 2012
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I had Linux and it was trash there, but it worked. With windows it didn't even let me write a dozen of notes dare I pick the wrong one plugin to generate sound.

Admittedly, LMMS is a cheap Fruity Loops clone, that is a clone of a program that was garbage to begin with.

Dizzy Egg
Member #10,824
March 2009
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Raidho36 said:

clone of a program that was garbage to begin with

NOOB.

Also, has anyone mentioned ModPlugTracker yet? I used to use it for game music, sounds very FF7.

----------------------------------------------------
Please check out my songs:
https://soundcloud.com/dont-rob-the-machina

Chris Katko
Member #1,881
January 2002
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FL Studio is fairly cheap and I've been using that for years. Honestly, if you're serious enough about writing music that doesn't make people's ears bleed, then you're serious enough to at least spend a little money on your hardware/software to get an ASIO compatible setup and software/synth patches that don't suck complete ass.

Here is an example of one of my last songs (before my back went out and took a break from music) with FL Studio.

media player
(Warning: Severely draft quality vocals! I suck.)

The song uses my ~$100 acoustic guitar, a free bass with a broken neck, synths/drum patchs, and a $1 microphone I got from a church sale. Recording is with an Audigy ZX 2 and FL Studio 8 XXL that I got for ~$150 on sale.

p.s. I also lost a ton of my music to a harddrive failure a week or two ago. :'( BACKUP YOUR STUFF.

-----sig:
“Programs should be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.” - Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Dizzy Egg
Member #10,824
March 2009
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Whilst I appreciate that you've clearly put this together with craft, and as an FLStudio connoisseur, and also whilst not receiving the best response for my OWN music made in said software, I think it could have been better in places in order to support my slating of Radio or whatever he's called (na-na-nana-na), circular panning laws and the knowledge that reverbs are just mental delays, along with the science of compression/eq, could have made this pound a bit more, and fit the 3-4 bands into their proper slot.

That said, some of my stuff is proper shit, and 99.9% of the time I sample my vocals, and I also synth/step-sequence EVERYTHING (no guitars here), so I have to give you props on this song, good work.

----------------------------------------------------
Please check out my songs:
https://soundcloud.com/dont-rob-the-machina

Edgar Reynaldo
Member #8,592
May 2007
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gnolam
Member #2,030
March 2002
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I just tried out MuseScore. And I can't tell if it's a case of "all music program UIs suck" or "all open source UIs suck". :P

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Move to the Democratic People's Republic of Vivendi Universal (formerly known as Sweden) - officially democracy- and privacy-free since 2008-06-18!

Chris Katko
Member #1,881
January 2002
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gnolam said:

or "all open source UIs suck".

If you find one that doesn't, I'd sure be surprised. It seems like that's the last thing to be implemented or refined (if at all) so people in the OSS community become super attached to the "it's hard to learn but it's super easy if you weren't so stupid" elitism.

It's like suggesting UI improvement to Dwarf Fortress. They'll burn you at the stake even though it's a pathetic pain in the ass to do military management so much so that third-party tools have been made just for that purpose. So third party tools exist to patch the problem, but saying "there's a problem" gets you yelled at. It's like trying to argue with a bowel of spaghetti.

-----sig:
“Programs should be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.” - Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Dizzy Egg
Member #10,824
March 2009
avatar

Listen, I want to end things here by saying I made all of this with FLStudio and Windows Movie Maker, and if you don't like it you can certainly inform me of that, but I think to date it's my best work (in 'this' field), I mean, I get paid a shiteload to work my arse of 6 days a week but still...wait what am I doing? Oh yeah, check out this song/video I made, it's great ;D 8-)

video

----------------------------------------------------
Please check out my songs:
https://soundcloud.com/dont-rob-the-machina

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