Help me find a good software sequencer!
November 7, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a software MIDI sequencer/DAW that meets my needs.

Making electronic music used to be one of my main hobbies, but I gradually drifted away from it. I'd like to get back into it, but I'm having a hard time finding software that works for me.

A bit of background: I'm a hardware guy, through and through. I have no use for VST plugins or softsynths, or even virtual analog hardware. I have a few analog synths and a rack full of effects and other outboard gear, and I like it that way. There are two things, and only two things, that I want to do on a computer: MIDI sequencing, and recording/mixing the sounds produced by said sequences. (Okay, three things: a solid VST sampler would be very cool for percussion and the like.)

My first platform was an Alesis MMT-8 (a hardware sequencer), and I liked it. For a while, I used a version of Cubase (not sure which one) on a System 7 Mac, and that was probably the most ideal setup I've used. Later, I got Pro Tools LE with the Digi001 interface, and though it served me okay for a couple of years, I eventually realized that I needed something with a little more sophistication in the MIDI department.

It was around that point (maybe five years ago) that I stopped making music. Earlier this year, I tried to get back into it, so I figured I'd try Cubase again. Well, I quickly learned that things have changed a lot over the last few years: even with a tutorial, I found the latest version of Cubase to be overwhelmingly complex (mind you, I'm a computer programmer). I haven't completely given up on it, but I'd really like something more stripped-down and more focused on my specific needs.

What I'd really love is something like System-7-era Cubase, with DAW capabilities tacked on. Or, to put it differently, like Pro Tools LE but with the MIDI capabilities of System-7-era Cubase.

I have a Windows XP machine, with an M-Audio FastTrack Pro audio/MIDI interface.

Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated!
posted by greenie2600 to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cakewalk has a free demo. When I was looking for a Logic-like MIDI DAW I downloaded the demo and really enjoyed the experience. As a bonus, it comes bundled with Cyclone, an MPC-like sampler VST.

A possible drawback is that Cakewalk is a pretty deep program. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what it's capable of. However, basic functions are exactly where you might expect them to be.

Alternately, you might be able to get a copy of Emagic Logic on Ebay. I can't remember which version is the last Windows-compatible version, I think it might be Logic 5. It was VST-compatible (though the VST specifications might have changed since then) and featured DAW functions.
posted by lekvar at 5:35 PM on November 7, 2008

FLStudio has served me well for quite some time.
posted by knowles at 5:55 PM on November 7, 2008

Ableton Live. It's flexible, easy to use, and powerful. Plus, if you ever move to a Mac, you can move your software, whereas you'll be locked with Cakewalk and Fruity Loops.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:39 PM on November 7, 2008

Blazecock Pileon raises a good point about cross-platform support. One of the things I dislike about Cakewalk is the Windows lock-in.
posted by lekvar at 7:07 PM on November 7, 2008

Try Reaper.
posted by mutagen at 10:26 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: Depending on how complex your MIDI editing needs are I have two suggestions for you. Tracktion if you don't need to do any really complecated MIDI editing (anything outside of transpose, cut and paste, quantify...) and Cakewalk's Sonar on the other end - you can do extremely complex MIDI data manipulation thanks to thier built in scripting tools. (Both have sampler's for your beatmaking) Compare their review's here: Tracktion (There's actually been an upgrade since this review, so download the demo and try it out) vs Cakewalk's Sonar. Tracktion is very intuitive and Cakewalk is a lot more complex. I really enjoy using Traktion for for it's simpliticy and directness, (Tracktion is a bit snapper too) but I think Cakewalk's Sonar has them beat in terms of MIDI manipulation
posted by bigmusic at 11:09 PM on November 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I've experimented with a few of the suggested applications, and settled on Sonar. Tracktion felt clunky to me (and not intuitive at all), but Sonar is doing the trick nicely.

Back to the knobs!
posted by greenie2600 at 12:28 PM on November 20, 2008

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