Writing and editing midi files on a Mac
March 3, 2010 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find cheap, easy-to-use, music recording/MIDI software for Mac.

I know versions of this question have been asked before, but they don't seem to address what I'm trying to do: create multi-part MIDI compositions by manually entering notes one at a time. I don't want to record anything live with a MIDI instrument or use keyboard typing or whatever. I want to go "click, half note, click middle C." etc. It would be great if it played the pitch while I was placing the note. It would also be nice if it let me drop .wav files into projects in case I want to import my band's recordings and see what they sound like with, say, orchestra hits.

I've tried using GarageBand, and I know it has some step entry, but it seems more geared toward recording MIDI instruments or for musical beginners who want to use premade riffs and beats. I'm not looking for any premade stuff, and I also don't care that it's going to sound like the soundtrack to a geocities page; I just want to write and have it played back to me. Ten years ago, I used the cheap versions of Cakewalk to do this and it was great. I tried installing the same software on XP in Boot Camp and Parallels, but for whatever reason, I get no MIDI output in Windows.

Also, when I was messing around with this stuff ten years ago, I wrote a fair amount of songs that are saved in the Cakewalk-proprietary formats .bun and .wrk. The .wrk files I can convert to .mid in my semi-functioning Cakewalk, but does anyone have any idea how I can convert the .bun files (which contain some actual audio I recorded) into something usable? There's supposed to be an Export as MP3 option, but it's not working, so a program that would open these files would be great.

Since I don't plan on using any of the fancier features that exist in things like Logic, I'm hoping there's a very basic application out there that is under $50. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.
posted by jalexc to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking more for like a score editor? Like MuseScore? Or a tracker?
posted by tmcw at 5:20 PM on March 3, 2010

Supercollider is free, but you'll be writing code to make music, as opposed to clicking-and-dragging notes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:52 PM on March 3, 2010

There's also Pure Data, which employs a graphical interface for programming sounds (main site).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:01 PM on March 3, 2010

Response by poster: MuseScore has a lot of what I'm looking for, and I guess "score editor" was the magic phrase that I wasn't using during my search. Thank you.

It doesn't look like there's any way to add .mp3 or .wav files though; do you know of any score editors that let you do this?

And I'd still love to find something that can open .wrk and .bun files on a Mac.
posted by jalexc at 9:04 PM on March 3, 2010

Reason has some features that work great for this, but it's more expensive than you're thinking of. Might be worth it if you have the cash, or you might be able to get a "Lite" version of it with a hardware interface.

Maybe Reaper? $60. I've never used it myself, so I can't tell if it's good for step entry, but I'll bet it's more flexible that GarageBand.
posted by weston at 9:09 PM on March 3, 2010

You might also look into Renoise. I don't know if it supports importing audio files, but it's a fairly full-featured program. If I remember correctly, the demo has minimal crippling and no time limit, so you can test it pretty thoroughly.
posted by lekvar at 1:21 AM on March 4, 2010

I use Reaper, which weston mentioned, for note-by-note entry. It works just fine, and you can easily drop in wav files as well. It will play the pitch for you as you mouse up and down on the piano roll.

Reaper is complex and not terribly friendly. You can ignore 99% of its functions, but it will still take some time to figure out the basics. The OSX version is usable but buggier than the Windows version. You can try it for free.
posted by moonmilk at 7:23 AM on March 4, 2010

Back in the day, I used Finale on Windows. I haven't used it on Mac, but I know they make Mac products.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:39 AM on March 4, 2010

Clicky clicky.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2010

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