Mac software for electronic music creation
June 25, 2016 4:22 PM   Subscribe

My daughter took a songwriting class at school this year and they used Logic. Her laptop is a Macbook Air. Is there something similar or is compatible we can get for her Mac? She wants to make mostly dance type music. Is it worth getting a keyboard to go with the laptop? And do we want to think about getting something that she can record with? (she also has an acoustic guitar.) Any advice for the budding electronic musician would be appreciated!
posted by vespabelle to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know very much about this topic, but do you mean this Logic? It runs on Mac OS. Were you asking about a cheaper alternative? If she has a Macbook Air, she should already have Garageband installed, which can probably get her started. Forgive me if these seem too obvious. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something from the question.
posted by spelunkingplato at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

This Mefi post relates that Grimes made her album Visions in Garageband (although her software of choice from the original link is Ableton Live). There's some good tips in the link, and the comments on the post too.

From my experience as a working sound maker and educator, Garageband is a perfectly fine tool - it's more like a light version of Logic Pro, and they share a lot conceptually. You can pair it very happily with a hardware bundle like this Focusrite one which has headphones, a decent small audio interface, and a microphone. If you can purchase Logic, do: it comes with masses of audio content (samples, loops, synths and effects) to fool around with. Ableton is a hugely powerful package, and I'm using it more these days than I use Logic, but it took me a very long time to have the 'aha!' moment when I grasped how Ableton worked.

Both Logic and Garageband have "Musical Typing", so a seperate keyboard controller isn't an immediate priority. They're pretty useful though, and there are loads on the market. I use an older version of this one but it might be worth going to your Friendly Local Pro Audio Store with your daughter and seeing what she likes.

There are literally hundreds of free plugins that work with Logic and Garageband, so that's also useful. You could also go and buy a copy of Computer Music Magazine, which gives you access to their insanely large library of coverware plugins.

Most of all, your daughter should just play with things and find out what she likes doing, the sounds she likes making, and how to tweak things so it sounds like something she enjoys. I think that it's really, really important for young women to learn about sound on their own terms - music and audio are still very male dominated, and I so often see boys taking over lessons and workshops 'because girls don't know about gear'. So it's really important for her to be confident and clear about her own way of working. I look forward to the awesome noises she makes!
posted by prismatic7 at 5:29 PM on June 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Hi, Mr. Arnicae mostly does his work on an octuple-core Mac Pro, but when he is pressed, he does great work on our MBA with Logic. Yep, get a cheapo keyboard - Casio Privias make fine music. If you'd like to spend $1k for something with lovely weighted keys, you can do that, but you can find a used $150-250 keyboard on craigslist that will more than meet her needs (in fact, that's one of Mr. Arnicae's traveling backups).
posted by arnicae at 5:46 PM on June 25, 2016

Yeah, $150 on CL will buy you way more keyboard than she needs, just starting out. Depending on her tastes in dance music, she may be better served by an outboard controller with knobs and buttons but not a piano-style keyboard. You'd have to ask her.

Adding live recording of her guitar, or any other sound source, to the mix will be more expensive. That's probably an external soundcard and a microphone. Cheap controllers are not bad, cheap soundcards aren't bad, but cheap mikes are really, really awful. prismatic7's link to that Focusrite package is worth following; I have a much older Focusrite Firewire external soundcard that I love to death.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2016

Tracktion is a good, solid, and dead simple choice.
posted by bongo_x at 12:02 AM on June 27, 2016

Definitely see if she got Garageband pre-installed.

As far as free/cheap DAW software goes, there's also Reaper which has a non-restricted trial mode. Its paradigm is significantly different from Logic as far as I know.

For recording you're probably going to eventually want an audio interface like a Focusrite Scarlett (~$150-200 depending on how many inputs). You can maybe get away with just using the Macbook input for now (IIRC the Macbook air only has a single audio jack).

Just getting started with this stuff myself -- watch out, it turns into an expensive hobby fast! Mostly due to hardware though, there are tons of free/cheap options for software out there.
posted by neckro23 at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2016

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