Monday, November 30, 2020

SOUNDWARE: Project Zompler. Part 4. Acoustic Session Kit 1. FREE Rompler Sound Collection for Beat/Synapse Audio Zampler.

First drum kit for 'Project Zompler' is now available. A great sounding, dynamic acoustic drum kit. Acoustic Session Kit 1. 
Project Zompler is an ongoing sample/patch 'rompler' project for Audio's Zampler VST sample player/synthesizer.

You can get your free version at the link below:

Then start your library by downloading the free, ready to use Zampler patches. No additional editing or mapping is required, these are ready to use patches fully utilising Zampler's powerful synthesizer editing and effects section. 


Download link is available below. Simply download the entire Acoustic Session Kit 1 folder to your hard drive, open your copy of Zampler, select 'load patch' and navigate to where you've downloaded your patch folder.


The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software. 

TRAINING AND CONSULTANCY: Presonus Studio One (Prime) Introductory Course.


Presonus' Studio One 5 music software package is rapidly gaining in popularity and rightly so. It's a professionally equipped, beautifully presented DAW with features and content to rival anything else out there, and, of course, it's interfaces seamlessly with Presonus's hardware products including their mixing consoles, control surfaces, and audio interfaces. 

What's also great is that Presonus have supplied an freeware version you can use to get a taste of Studio One before investing in the larger versions. Studio One Prime is supplied with a suite of effects and Presonus's PrescenceXT instrument with a bunch of sounds, so your all set to start checking it out without having to download any additional instruments, and you'll also get a free additional sample library for PresenceXT. 

As with so many things in life, the first steps can be the most difficult. I can now offer informal consulting on Studio One, or more structured training depending on your requirements and goals. 

A thorough grounding of Studio One Prime from installation and setup to completing your first song with MIDI and audio tracks, mixing and effects. Course time depends a little on your initial knowledge, but I reckon 3-5 hours would do it. Three hours morning, two hours afternoon with a break for lunch. Something like that and you'll be up an running, all without spending months attending college learning about a bunch of stuff you don't need. 

 What The Presonus Studio One Course Covers:

- Installing Studio One Prime. 
- Setting up audio/MIDI interface and drivers. 
- An overview of Studio One's main graphic interface.
- A look at supplied instrument. PresenceXT.
- Setting Up Transport functions.
- Recording MIDI tracks. 
- Recording audio tracks.
- Mixing, applying effects and processing. 
- Exporting final song file. 

Studio One Bonus Soundware.

This course is also supplied with a bonus soundware sample library for Studio One's PresenceXT instrument so you'll get loads more sounds to work with and spark your creativity. 

I have a thorough knowledge of all the most popular music software packages including Cubase, ProTools, Reason, Ableton Live, and Soundbridge, so can also advise on the best choice for you depending on your music type, career requirements and goals.

Give me a call to discuss your computer music training and/or consultancy requirements. 

Tel: 07802 640373. 

Why not follow my Facebook Page for all the latest education/training updates as well as free soundware, sample libraries, music tech news, and music!

FREEWARE VST REVIEW: Vital. Spectral Warping Wavetable Software VST Synth. Free Version.


Much anticipated Vital wavetable software synthesizer is now available. 
A number of versions are available with increasing functionality from freeware to $80. Main differences between the versions are the number of wavetables and preset sounds. 

What we have is 3 wavetable generators plus noise. Two multi-mode filters, 3 six stage envelope shapers and 4 LFOs'. Complex modulation routings are available via the 'matrix' window and there's a powerful suite of effects and processors on board including EQ, reverb, distortion and modulation effects including phasing, chorus, and flange.

Although it's not modular in design, the whole thing kind of looks that way with each section looking as though it's placed into a slot, rather reminiscent of Kilohearts Phaseplant semi modular arrangement. 

Vital Waveform Generators. 

Vital's Waveform Generators

The power of the synthesizer really lies in the waveform generators and the amount of creative processing you can do before the sound arrives at the filters. Each wavetable can be edited, bent, and warped in so many different ways in terms position, phase, harmonics, formant, as well as frequency modulation and ring modulation from other oscillators. These 'warping effects' are applied using two controls to the right of the waveform display and can be be modulated to create motion over time. 
Various unison modes are 
Samples can be imported so you really do have infinite possibilities. Modulate the waveform' wave frame with a envelope generator to have the sample play from beginning to end or shorter sections. You can also decide on the starting point using the wave frame . 
Another interesting feature is the text-to-wavetable function which turns text into a waveform which can then be warped and modulated like any other. You can play just a short sample of the waveform or longer/larger sections by modulating via an envelope generator applied to the oscillator's wave frame parameter.

The free version of Vital is supplied with 25 wavetables, Plus version 75 and the Pro version 150. 

The fact that there are three such waveform generators and you really do have infinite creative possibilities. It really is one for the programmers and patch creators.


After the waveform generators things get a little more conventional with two powerful multi-mode filters with flexible routing. Offering no less than eight different filter types each with a number of sub-types. I counted 32 in total which include analog, 'dirty', ladder and comb filtering amongst others. Routing options allow each filter to be 'fed' from each and any waveform generator/oscillator. 

Envelope Generators.

Vital's Envelope and LFO Sections.

Three six stage envelopes are provided and can be used to modulate almost every aspect of the synthesizer. In a wavetable synth, envelope generators are critical to how the wavetable in each waveform generator is played. Given that you have to apply a modulator to the waveform generators in order for the wavetable to be played, I could actually have done with a couple more. If it had five, then you can apply a separate envelope to each waveform generator and have one each left for overall amplitude and filtering, although synths with five envelope generators are quite rare. I guess you have to weigh up complexity and ease of use and also space within the GUI. 


Four LFOs are available with 15 wave shapes. In addition to the regular triangle, square and saw wave shapes there are some more 'creative' options such as 'trance gate' and 'nervous groove'. This are great to experiment with and you can even take the cursor and edit/redraw these wave shapes so, again, there are infinite possibilities. 

Two 'random' modulators are available below the LFOs. These work in a similar vein to the LFOs but producing random waveshapes with four 'types'. Again, modulating the wavetable frame position of the wavetable generators can yield some very interesting results. 

(Correction: Vital actually has six envelope generators and eight LFOs. A certain number are only shown in the GUI at any one time.)

Effects Suite:

Vital's Effects Section

A powerful suite of effects is provided including chorus, phasing, flanging, delay, reverb, distortion and EQ. Again, effects parameters can be modulated from any modulation source. 

Voice Control:

Four 'macro' controls are provided which can be assigned to almost any parameter and can be controlled via MIDI with a MIDI learn function. Just right click whilst hovering over the required Macro controller and select 'learn MIDI cc' then send whatever parameter you want to use from your MIDI controller. In fact most of Vital's parameters can be assigned to MIDI control which actually offers greater flexibility than PhasePlant where you can only assign MIDI controllers to the Macro controls. Not really huge point, but assigning MIDI controllers directly to parameters may save a bit of time. 
Other standard voice controllers include polyphony and polyphonic glide. or portamento, is provided.


The left hand and right hand side of Vital's GUI remain static with four page options in the middle for voice, modulation matrix, effects and advanced parameters. Vital's graphic user interface provides a wealth of realtime information showing you in great detail exactly whats going on with 3d waveform graphics, animated frequency plots and scrolling random/LFO plots. It's all very useful feedback, showing you exactly what's going on.


I've only had a relatively short time to assess Vital, but it's very accessible and musical and I found myself coming up with some very pleasing concoctions in a relatively short space of time. It has to be the most powerful freeware synth yet.
The Wavetable VST synthesizer market is not exactly sparse at the moment, even within freeware there are quite a few around. The free versions of THORN and DUNE spring to mind. 
However, there are a number of things that I think set Vital apart. The 'musicality' of the supplied wavetables mean that Vital sounds a bit warmer to my ears. To my ears, wavetable synths do have a tendency to sound a little 'metallic' but Vital seems to sound a bit warmer and fuller and I can only really put this down to the supplied wavetables. 
There are other features too. Obviously the ability to load samples huge and the implementation of this seems to work really well, and the text to wavetable function is something I haven't seen before and is a genuine, creative, musical feature, not just a novelty. 
The preset sounds didn't really do much for me, at least on the free version, although this may be a matter of taste. However, it didn't take long to hear the potential of the synthesizer going beyond the presets.  
If I was being really greedy, I would love to have seen an arpeggiator/step sequencer on board. I love arpeggiators. 


More Vital stuff to come.......patches, videos, and demo tracks......

Why not follow my Facebook page for all the latest software reviews, education/training news, free patches and sample libraries, and know it makes sense!.

Thanks for stopping by.....


The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

TRAINING AND CONSULTANCY: Steinberg Cubase. Education/Training.


Informal consultancy or structured training is now available for all Cubase products including a Cubase LE introductory course.  
Cubase is a very popular music platform, but it's not the easiest software to navigate and master, with quite a steep learning curve, particularly in the first steps. 

I can take you through Cubase from installation and setting up your audio/MIDI interface through to producing, recording and mixing your first song or track, usually within about a day. Three hours morning, two hours after lunch is a very civilised way of doing things!

Possibly more quickly depending on your initial knowledge and skills. 

Steinberg Cubase Course Objectives:

- Installing Cubase. 
- Setting up audio/MIDI interface and drivers. 
- An overview of Cubase's main graphic interface.
- A look at supplied Cubase instruments. Halion Sonic SE and Groove Agent SE.
- Setting up the transport and recording first MIDI tracks. 
- Recording audio tracks.
- Mixing, applying effects and processing. 
- Exporting final song file. 
At the end of the session we'll take a look at some additional instruments and soundware and download and install them if required. See 'Bonus Plug Ins.....' below. 

Alternatively, I can offer informal consultancy sessions were you ask the questions and I'll answer them and/or demonstrate how to do things. 

All focused face-to-face, one-to-one sessions so you get the answers you need and not loads of stuff you don't. 

Bonus Plug-Ins, Soundware and Tools. 

My Cubase LE course is also supplied with a suite of additional plug-in instruments and soundware to give you even more creative options and really 'kick-start' your Cubase 'journey', including synthesizers and sample players as well as additional sounds, beats and loops.  

My standard hourly consultancy fees apply and sessions can take place either at my facilities in Rainham, Essex (RM13) or I can visit you with my laptop. I travel throughout South-East England. 

Contact Details:

To discuss any music software training requirements you may have, then please get in touch. 

Tel: 07802 640373.

Follow/Like my Facebook Page for all training/course/consultancy updates, free soundware, music technology news and music!

You'll also find more information on Cubase LE alongside other 'entry level' software packages in my DAW market survey post

SOUNDWARE: Project Zompler. Part 3. Strings. FREE Rompler Sound Collection for Beat/Synapse Audio Zampler.


The latest installment of 'Project Zompler' is now available in the shape of some rather lovely string patches. Eight solo violin, cello and string ensemble sounds all ready to use in Audio's Zampler sample player/synth. 

Project Zompler is my developing soundware library for Zampler. Turning this great sounding freeware VST sample player/synth into a monster freeware Rompler with a huge library of acoustic, synthesizer and drum sounds based loosely on the General Midi protocol. 

You can download your free copy of Zampler VST instrument from the following link. 

Then you can download your soundware patch folder from the link below. The patches are dedicated, ready to use files making full use of Zamplers synthesizer parameters and effects suite. 

Ideal for use with music production software that doesn't come with instruments or with limited instruments and sounds such as Soundbridge, and for training/education purposes. 

Zampler String Patches Download:

Use the link below to download the entire 'Strings' folder. The raw samples are stored in a nested folder inside this folder along with the eight .fxb patches. Just use the 'patch load' function in the main screen of Zampler to load your sounds. 

You can find parts 1 (keyboards) and 2 (bass guitar) from the following links:

Beat Zampler


The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

FREEWARE DAW REVIEW: Presonus Studio One 5 Prime


Further to the Freeware/Entry level DAW review from last month, I can now add a brief rundown of another contender, Presonus Studio One Prime which you can download free of charge from the Presonus website

Major point right from the start is that there is no third party VST support so anyone looking for an open ended freeware DAW that supports the vast range of third party VST plug-ins available, then you should probably head straight over to Soundbridge's website at  

Good news is that 'Prime' is supplied with a couple of instrument soundware packages. Pack 1 (155mb) and Pack 2 (1.53gb) As I write this I'm currently spending 2020's COVID lockdown 2 in the North East of England with a limited broadband package so I've only downloaded the smaller of the two packages, but the sounds seem of pretty good quality and variety, ideal for most songwriter applications. So Pack 2, being ten times the size, will hugely expand the available sounds. I'll check out Pack 2 and update this post when I have access to a faster, unlimited broadband connection.  

So 'Prime' as it stands is really useful only as an introduction to the larger Studio One packages with VST support or maybe for singer/songwriter/demo applications where a set of 'Rompler' style 'everyday' sounds is all that is required. 

Prime presented no real challenges in terms of setting up audio and MIDI and I was able to quickly set up my Alesis i02 audio/MIDI interface. 

Prime is essentially supplied with one instrument: PrescenceXT, a sample and preset player that is used to load the Presonus sounds. It has synth style editing and an effects suite and you can load up many instances of it and load them with different sounds to make up your song/track. 
Further good news here is that I did get PresenceXT to load some .sf2 soundfont files,though not .sfz type soundfonts. There are still quite a few sources of soundfonts around so this further expands 'Prime's' sound generating possibilities.  

Studio One Presence XT Instrument

So what you have is a really tidily and professionally presented multitrack audio/MIDI DAW with the 'standard' piano roll style editing with more 'in depth' inspection editing available within each piano roll 'block' (see below).

Studio One Prime Inspection Editor

Double clicking a track opens the mixer page where inserts and bus effects and processing can be setup and edited and, of course, track levels can be adjusted and mixed. 
A really nice suite of processors is supplied including a 'channel strip' processor for compression and 3 band parametric EQ, a reverb, chorus, flanger and a great sounding phaser with up to twenty stages are also supplied.

Studio One Prime Mixer and FX Browser

A guitar amp emulator called 'Ampire' is supplied with a single 'Marshall' virtual amplifier and cabinet choice which gives the guitarist/writer at least one amplifier option. When scrolling over the 'Ampire' logo the cursor becomes a hand in the shape of the 'sign of the horns'. An amusing touch. A distortion pedal called 'Red Light' is also supplied for guitarists.

Studio One Prime Ampire.

Presonus Studio One Prime Conclusion

So the 'elephant in the room' so to speak is the lack of third party VST support which really makes 'Prime' useful primarily as an introduction and training platform to Studio One. Given that Presonus' software DAW is gaining in popularity all the time, this is an important role for it. 
However the generous and varied supplied soundware packs for the 'Prescence' instrument and the powerful effects suite may provide enough ongoing facilities for songwriters and guitarist/writers for developing and producing songs and demos.

Automatic latency compensation is employed and finished works can be exported as MP3 files. 

Presonus Studio One Prime Essential Info:

Number of Tracks: . Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks. Limited only by CPU power.
Supplied Plug-Ins: Prescence XT with two additional soundware packs.
Third Party Plug In Support: No. 
Cost: Freeware. 

Quick and easy to setup and use. 
Varied and high quality instrument packs supplied. 
Unlimited audio/MIDI tracks.
Perfect training platform for the very popular Studio One DAW.

No third party VST plug-in support. 

Hope you found this post useful and informative, why not follow/like my Facebook Page for more software reviews, FREE instruments and soundware and music technology news and information. 


The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software. 


Thursday, November 19, 2020



Electronic cover version (excerpt) of Sting's solo career debut from 1985. 
Utilising Reason Studios ReDrum and DrOctoRex Loops, Steinberg's HALion 6 featuring ANIMA and Voltage synthesizers, Synapse Audio's DUNE wavetable synth and IK Multimedia's Sampletank 4 Custom Shop for the distorted Hammond. 

Publishing cover versions may be easier than you think. You need to pay a small additional fee to the distributor to license the version and a small percentage of revenues to the original artist and publisher thereafter. The licensing can depend on how long the song is but would typically be £18 - £24. You don't need the original artist's or publishing company's permission or anything like that, just focus on the promotion and marketing.

The original licensing fee and revenue percentage is easily offset by the fact that the song may already be well known and will therefore be searched more often and gain you additional plays and downloads. 

Cover versions can also be a great way to drive more traffic to your streaming channels through which you can promote your original songs and material. 

OK, so there's nothing quite like having a hit with an original song, but most artists have, at some point, developed and recorded cover versions with the best ones being tracks that do something different and creative with the original version. 

Original, creative and extended cover versions also make a great addition to any live set and will help you stand out from the crowd.  

So if you're a singer and you like what you hear and would like me to work on an exclusive cover version or two for you then let me know and I can work up some ideas/rushes for you. 

I also produce one or two cover versions per month which I either make available free of charge or make available to purchase. Check out the dedicated cover/backing track page for more information.

Why not follow my Facebook Page for the latest backing track and cover version news and developments. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

SOUNDWARE: 'Motorik City Workshop Vol 1 for Steinberg Halion 6/Anima. 'Motorik Town' for Halion Sonic SE3.

A quick preview of Motorik City Workshop Vol 1 for Steinberg Halion 6 ANIMA wavetable synthesizer. A short demo track featuring 4 ANIMA electronic arpeggios and a pad sound. 

All sounds are made by ANIMA except the drums. 

Motorik City Vol 1 for ANIMA features 64 patches and 128 arpeggio pattenrs and will be available at the end of November 2020. 
A free selection of demo patches will also be available, alongside some more demo tracks. 

Stay tuned........

Monday, November 2, 2020

TECHNICAL: Using Phaseplant as a Stand Alone Application


One of the first things the phaseplant manual tells you is that it is not a 'standalone' application. you have to use a host DAW. phaseplant is a great sound generating instrument, but sometimes the moment takes you and you want to be fired up and ready to go as quickly as possible. 

It is true that phaseplant is not a standalone application but you can turn it into one using a little application called Nanohost from a company called Tone 2. It's a free piece of software and you can download it here:

Here's a screenshot:

All you need to do is download (or copy) Nanohost into the same folder as the phaseplanet.dll file. Then rename the Nanohost file phaseplant.exe. Then launch phaseplant.exe and ......hey presto you have an instance of phaseplant all ready to go 'wrapped inside' Nanohost. Nanohost has on;y a few parameter just to set up your hardware audio and midi devices. 

But that's not all. You can create a desktop shortcut/icon for phaseplant.exe so you can literally have it open and up and running with just a double click. 

Everything works OK with phaseplant. I've tested it. All the patch loading and saving parameter editing. All of it. 

Nanohost is a really ingenious little bit of software. I have all the VST synths I program on desktop icons, and they can be open in no time. No need to open a DAW or saved templates/songs, etc. 

Why not follow me at my Facebook Page for more computer music technical hints and tips. 


The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

SOFTWARE DAW FEATURE: Freeware and Entry Level DAW Comparison and Review.


Please note: Review of Presonus Studio One Prime is also now available here.
A look at Tracktion Waveform Free coming in December.  

Every journey starts with a first step................

In this post we'll take a look at and compare and contrast some popular freeware and entry level music software programs, or DAWs as they are commonly known. 

The products here are both freeware and also the entry level versions of programs that often come packaged with interfaces. These are mostly versions with limited tracks or functionality that are designed to entice you into the larger paid versions of the programs, but which are often surprisingly capable in their own right and may well satisfy the requirements of many musicians as they are. 

Over the last month or two I've purchased some hardware devices that have come packaged with some DAW software licences so I've been able to check out a few of these and broaden my own knowledge of the different music software 'platforms' as they are often referred to. As a music software educator I thought it might be an idea to broaden my 'software base' and take a look at some of these entry level products so I can offer students or prospective students a view on what might be the best platform for them. 

So in this post I'll take a look at two 'packaged' programs:

Ableton Live Lite 10
Cubase LE 10.5

and compare them to a couple of freeware programs which can be downloaded, installed and used license free and without any other purchase:

AVID Protools First

My own background is as a musician, so I'm looking at these programs very much from that point of view. For songwriters, soundtrack composers, backing track programmers. Those sorts of users, rather than for more pure audio/broadcast type clients. 

Obviously, these programs tend to be the first step for those beginning a journey in computer music, so if you're starting out and would like an idea of what might be the best way to go to match your requirements, ambitions and musical style then stay tuned........

So What is A DAW Exactly.

Well, briefly and DAW (digital audio workstation) is computer software that offers multitrack MIDI sequencing and audio recording for music production, with recording, mixing and editing facilities. A complete studio as a piece of software you might say.  They do get used in broadcast and and video production and such, but here, as mentioned, we're really dealing with their capabilities as music production tools.

What is a VST?

A VST is an additional plug-in that adds functionality to your DAW. Most popular examples are instrument plug-ins in the shape of synthesizers or sample players, or effects plug-ins such as reverbs, delay, compressors etc that are used to process sounds. VSTs can be supplied by the DAW manufacturer or from third party companies, and they range from free to quite expensive!

Comparing DAWs

I think it's important to say from the outset that your choice of product will depend very much on what you want from it. All the products here offer something different and I tend to think your choice will depend very heavily on your priorities in terms of how 'easy' you'd like it to be to learn and use. Greater functionality tends to come with more complexity. 
I also think it's fair to say that certain product seem to suite certain types of music and musician and may well be designed with those genres in minds. Other programs may offer more 'all-round' capabilities. 

The bad news is that there are no easy answers. All these programs offer something to certain users and it's difficult for me to come up with an easy answer and say that one is the best. The good news is there's nothing bad here. All these programs offer a staggering amount for their price (even if they have one). So this will really be a look at the features and capabilities of each program in a positive and favourable light. I certainly have my favourite but it might not exactly match your requirements and capabilities. There'll be no marks out of ten or anything like that. 

Space will limit what I can say about each program in this single blog post, so the sections on each program will be relatively brief and deal with the main points. 

The Products

OK so let's take a look at the products listed above. 

AVID Pro Tools First.

I've known and used Pro Tools for many years. It's a staple product in many studios. It's high end associated hardware and broadcast and video capabilites have made it an industry standard in many pro facilities.
I must admit, I've never particularly been a fan of Pro Tools First as an entry level DAW because it has no third party plug-in capabilities and have only ever really recommended it as a training step towards the larger Pro Tools products. However, some recent additions and upgrades have lead me to re-appraise that position somewhat. 

In use, as a DAW, I really like Pro Tools. Despite the 'paid for' version being in widespread use in studios around the world, it is still a very accessible and easy to use program to learn and understand, yet offers abundant functionality. I think it's probably about the best combination of functionality and ease of use around. You can be up and running and composing music on First very quickly. 

The problem with Pro Tools First is that it does not support any third party plug-ins so your stuck with what it's supplied with or have to start shelling out in the Pro Tools plug in store. Pro Tools First has generally been supplied with an instrument called AIR Expand 2. This is what is generally referred to as a 'Rompler' offering a selection of acoustic and synthesizer sounds with some basic editing functions. And that was it. 

However, when setting up their AVID account and downloading First, users can now download and install UVI's Workstation instrument along with 2.2 gigabytes of sounds for it from Plugsounds. We are still very much in 'Rompler' territory here with Workstation only offering limited editing facilities but the choice and breadth of available sounds is now much wider.

It is also supplied with an excellent suite of effects both in terms of range and quality.  

So whilst it's not really going to keep synthesizer and electronic music makers happy, I do think Pro Tools First is now a more serious option for singer songwriters, backing track production and people writing music for their own videos. Stuff like that. 

It's quick and easy to install, all you need is to create an AVID account. There is no copy protect 'key' required, however, all 'projects' are stored remotely in your AVID cloud account rather than locally on your computer so you do need to be connected to the internet to use it.

The other thing I really like about Pro Tools First, and this may seem like a small point but for me it's quite important, is the documentation. A really nice, concise, well written manual is available specially written for 'First' so you don't have to wade through loads of information on features you don't have yet. Seem to remember it's about thirty eight pages long so once you've worked through that you've really got all the Pro Tools basics under your belt. A really bonus for career minded people using 'First' as a training tool. To put it into perspective the manual for Cubase LE is just sort of seven hundred pages, Ableton tops the seven hundred page mark.  

Number of Tracks: 16 Audio or MIDI.
Supplied Plug-Ins: 2. AIR Expand 2, UVI Workstation.
Third Party Plug In Support: No. 
Cost: Freeware. 

Perfect introduction to Pro Tools.
Excellent combination of functionality and ease of use. 
Wide selection of supplied sounds.
Wide range of great sounding effects processors. 
First class documentation/manual, etc. 

No third party AAX or VST instrument support. 
Projects are stored remotely so internet connection is required. 



Despite being a freeware (or more accurately donateware) platform, Soundbridge is a very powerful digital audio workstation and an excellent program for all types of music producers in all genres. 

Unlike every other platform covered in this piece, Soundbridge is not a cut down version of an existing product. There is no larger 'paid for' version. Download Soundbridge and you have the full version. 

Rather like Pro Tools First, Soundbridge offers an excellent combination of ease of use and functionality, really offering everything a singer/songwriter would need with a clear, great looking, colourful and three-dimensional looking interface. Despite being developed as a freeware project with (presumably) a smaller budget than the other products, I think it's the best looking of all. 

It's three section arrangement with browser on the left, a central recording, editing and mixing section and an instrument section on the right makes it quick and easy to navigate. 

Soundbridge comes with an excellent effects and processing suite more than covering what 90% of users would ever need including powerful and great sounding reverb, delay, and modulation effects and EQ and dynamics processing with very quick and clear (some might say sumptuous looking) editing windows.

What Soundbridge doesn't come with is a collection of ready to use plug-in instruments although Soundbridge have developed an excellent freeware drum machine called RitMix which also just happens to be the best freeware drum machine around.

However the great news here is that Soundbridge offers unlimited support of all 64 bit VST instrument and effects plug-ins so you have access to absolutely MASSES of third party products including free and commercial products. The only real downside of this is that you need to figure out the best instruments for you and download and learn them separately. But this really applies to all music software platforms. Very few users would simply stick to the supplied instruments/plug-ins. 

Unlimited tracks and unlimited VST plug-in support ( a combination no other platform here can boast) really make Soundbridge a contender. 

The only real downside to Soundbridge is that you're not using a fashionable widely used product which you're likely to find being used in a studio so it's not likely to be very useful to from a career perspective if your planning such a future.  

Soundbridge does require a log-in so an internet connection is required.

Number of Tracks: Limited only by CPU power. Audio or MIDI.
Supplied Plug-Ins: On board effects suite. No instruments. 
Third Party Plug In Support: Yes. Unlimited.
Cost: Freeware. 

Unlimited VST support. 
Unlimited tracks. 
Excellent combination of functionality and ease of use. 
Wide range of great sounding effects processors.  

No supplied instrument plug-ins.
Not a widely used platform. 



Cubase LE

Rather like AVID's Pro Tools, Steinberg's Cubase is one of the 'big' music software platforms with thousands (if not millions) of users worldwide. It has a long history with it's roots in the eighties. So you'll probably want to consider Cubase when starting a journey in computer music.  

Cubase LE is a popular software program supplied with a license with many interfaces, controller keyboards, and synthesizer workstations. It's actually very similar to Cubase AI (Steinberg's entry level 'paid for' version of Cubase), offering the same instrument and sound set with half the track count and a few additional effects processor. So learning and mastering LE really is an excellent grounding and introduction to the world of Cubase. But it is a powerful piece of software in it's own right and may well satisfy the needs of many musicians as it stands. 

The basic metrics of Cubase LE is that it offers 16 audio tracks and 24 MIDI tracks. The MIDI track count is complicated by the fact that you can only have 8 VST instrument tracks but this is still pretty impressive for 'starter' software and will be enough for many producers. 

Third party VST instruments are supported but limited to 2 per project or song. This is LE's major limiting factor although I think it seems a reasonable compromise. 

LE comes with a version of Steinberg's sound generation software known as Halion. LE comes with Halion Sonic SE3 which is basically a 'preset player' version of Halion loaded with 185 sounds. Another 'Rompler' if you like with some basic sound editing controls but no major synthesizer editing or sample importing. You can load and use sounds developed by third party developers. 

Groove Agent SE is also supplied. This is Steinberg's entry level drum instrument and it comes with a number of sounds and kits covering all the major genres. This has quite powerful editing, giving you control over a sound's level and pitch and you can route effects to individual sounds including an envelope shaper so you can alter a sound's 'shape'/length. You can use Groove Agent SE as a sound generator and program your drums into the main sequencer/recorder section of Cubase or you can use it like a drum machine and develop drum loops with Groove Agent SE's on board pattern sequencer. 

A comprehensive suite of effects is supplied with 23 effects generators and you can deploy 8 at a time within a project. 

Cubase Score Editing.

So a pretty powerful package. But Cubase LE has one more trick up it's sleeve that no other platform covered here offers........ a notation/score editor. If you like to edit or create musical phrases as traditional notation then Cubase LE offers this. A huge bonus for users involved in music education whether teacher or student. In fact the music notation editing of Cubase LE is only bettered by the full PRO version of Cubase. 

In my view, Cubase LE is not the 'easiest' of software packages to get to grips with. I certainly think Pro Tools First and Soundbridge offer much shallower learning curves. No dedicated LE manual is available so you'll have to wrestle with the (almost) 700 page Cubase manual. I remember the first time I set Cubase up (albeit without the manual). It took me much longer to get the hardware set up and running compared to other packages. I also don't particularly like Steinberg's 'browser' system which is common to all it's music software products. But once you're up and running and understand the basics, you do have a powerful package at your fingertips and one of the most widely used compute music platforms around. So if you're checking out interfaces or keyboards and see 'packaged with Cubase LE' it's not to be sniffed at.

Number of Tracks: 24 MIDI / 16 Audio / 8 VST Instrument.
Supplied Plug-Ins: Halion Sonic SE3, Groove Agent SE. On board effects suite.
Third Party Plug In Support: Instrument: Yes (limited to 2 per project.). Effects: No.
Cost: Supplied packaged with interfaces and keyboards. 

Powerful recording, sequencing and editing. 
Notation editor. Great for education applications.
Reasonable track count.
Third party VST instrument support if only limited. 
Wide range of great sounding effects and processors.
Wide range of supplied sounds. 
Excellent preset drum instrument. Groove Agent SE.
Ideal introduction to Cubase. Widely used software.

Limited VST instrument support.
No third party VST effects support.
Not the quickest download and setup.
Steeper learning curve. 


Ableton Live Lite

For me, Ableton Live Lite is probably the most difficult software platform to assess. It comes packaged with many hardware devices and is a successful and widely adopted music production platform. But it is a very different animal to the other programs we've discussed here. To me, the products it's sometimes packaged with don't really seem to make much sense. I got my license with a Korg Kross 2 and I'm not really sure Korg Kross 2 users would necessarily find Ableton such a great match to their creative ambitions. 

Ableton seems to use sampled 'clips' as a starting point for music creation. The ability to play samples and time-stretch, or as Ableton calls it 'warp' samples and trigger groups of clips seems to me a strange and somewhat irrelevant foundation on which to build a music production platform. From what I've been able to gather Ableton has grown from the DJ community. It has a popular hardware additional device called 'Push' which allows you to play and stop a variet of Abletons samples by pushing coloured buttons. Mmmmmm...... 

I also really don't like the way the whole thing looks. Ableton is grey and two dimensional. The thought of looking at that 'graphic' interface for hours on end does not appeal to me. 

Having said that, you can use Live Lite as a creative music platform. It is supplied with a number of instrument sounds and instruments including the 'Impulse'  drum machine instruments. And you can import drum samples in it. 

The good news is that Ableton Live Lite does support third party VSTs, the bad news is that you are limited to eight Audio or MIDI tracks. Again, since it seems to be more about triggering, stretching, and squashing samples, maybe so many tracks aren't required, but for more 'traditional' music creation I think this is going to be quite limiting.   

The fact is Ableton Live Lite really is just a blatant freeware loss-leader designed to tempt you into the full package and it really is, I think, designed almost exclusively for those looking to use ready made sampled beats and loops as the basis for their creative processes. 

Only user manual/documentation is the 700+ page Ableton Live manual, although as Ableton is such a popular platform, there are lots of third party video tutorials via YouTube and Ableton's own website. 

Third party VST support..
Decent library of ready made sounds supplied.
Powerful sample/loop/beat manipulation. 

Maximum 8 audio/MIDI tracks. 
Uninspiring 2 dimensional graphic interface. 


Freeware DAW Roundup and Conclusion. 

So all these software packages have something to offer depending on your application and the genre you're working in. Soundbridge and Pro Tools First differ from the other two packages in that they are genuine freeware and no other purchase is required. 
If you get, or are considering, a hardware product packaged with Cubase LE then it's well worth having and not to be sniffed at. 

I think I would summarise my recommendations as following: 

For Singer/Songwriter:
1st: Soundbridge
2nd: Cubase LE. 

For Education:
Cubase LE - for it's score/notation editing/printin.
Pro Tools First - for Pro Tools introduction. 

For General Music Production/All Rounder:
Cubase LE. 

For Beginner/Ease of Use:
Pro Tools First. 

For Dance Music/EDM/DJ Applications:
Ableton Live LIte (maybe)

Hope you found this post useful and informative. If you did, then why not like/follow my Facebook Page for more articles, synth patches, VST instruments, sample libraries and loops/beats as well as technical information and music technology news. 

In the coming weeks I'll also take a look at two other freeware packages. Presonus Studio One 5 Prime and Traktion Waveform, so stay tuned. 
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