Frequently Asked Questions: Music Production Software
- What software do you use?
- Logic Pro X.
For my main framework, I use Logic Pro X for 49 out of 50 projects. This software is amazing and deep. The built-in samples are great, and the effects are enough to do most things out of the box. There are a few glitches here and there, but overall - I give Logic a 9 of 10 rating.
Should you buy Logic? No idea. There are other products that do a lot of the same things. Even GarageBand is a very capable editor for a lot of projects! Use what you like; the framework (Digital Audio Workstation - DAW) software means less than you think.
The DAW software does the work of capturing and arranging notes, but to make things into sounds - that takes synths and samplers.
Logic ships with a giant selection of samples and instruments. From best to worst...
- Organs - Brilliant - The Hammond sound is well captured in the EVB3 synth. I think this is better than the official Hammond synths.
- Loops - Excellent - Logic also ships with 15,000+ audio loops. This is significant, and can make sketching amazingly fast. I use these all the time in finished products as well..
- Synthesizers - Excellent - There are hundreds presets of pads and leads and basses. In addition to that there are 6 different software synths where you can make your own. I personally enjoy the ES2 synth... and like the Ultrabeat - it takes a while to learn.
- Acoustic Drums - With the release of Logic Pro X, the Drummer kits have gotten a LOT better.
- Electric Pianos - Very nice - These use the EVP88 synth, and the sounds are the best that I have.
- Acoustic Bass - Reasonable - These aren't bad, but I have better ones in other places.
- Electric Bass - Reasonable - Native Instruments' are better - so I rarely use these.
- Electronic Drums - Reasonable - There are a lot of electronic drums in here. Many of the really nice ones are found in the dedicated "Ultrabeat" drum sampler. This is a deep-featured sampler, and it is difficult to use. Don't expect to do much without putting in a good 8 hours of learning.
- Acoustic Guitars - Reasonable - Guitars are difficult to simulate, these are 'ok' basic samples.
- World Instruments - Nice - These are easy to play, and reasonably well done samples. Probably never the best in class.
- Vibes and Marimba - Meh - CinePerc is much better.
- Pop Strings - Meh - EastWest Hollywood Strings are much better.
- Pop Horns - Meh
- Electric Guitars - Meh - For synths, these are fine. Most of the time, they will sound like synths. These samples are well supported by the amazing effects that are set up in the presets.
- Orchestral - Okay - I'm not going to rate everything in here, because I don't use any of these anymore.
- Pianos - Bad - They ship 4 standard "pianos", Boesendorfer, Steinway, Yamaha, and Pop. None of these sound real. There are a selection of "warped" pianos, like an olde timey piano, and ghost piano. These are usable (for when you need highly effected pianos)
Trilian (Trilian Player)
Holy moses, this has bass. Electric, acoustic, and synth basses. I have always found something perfect in this set.
- CineBrass PRO (Kontakt Player) - This instrument is a life-saver. The legato French horns are so nice. The full brass ensembles can chop down production time by hours. It doesn't have everything, but it does a lot!
- CineWinds PRO (FULL VERSION of the Kontakt Player) - This one will never show up in your Kontakt Library, and you need the Full Version of Kontakt to use it. Now the up-sides: period instruments, bagpipes and tin whistes! Oh Yeah! Easy to use once you make a template for everything. Pretty playable live.
- CineBells (FULL VERSION of the Kontakt Player) - I bought this for the piano, but I use the autoharp and dulcimer more now. It has a very 'real' edge to the sound..
- CinePerc PRO (FULL VERSION of the Kontakt Player) - Best Vibes ever sampled. Lots of aux percussion like shakers and cow bells.
- CineStrings CORE (Kontakt Player) - Really good legato (which is the hard part). Excellent articulations, pizz, etc.
- CineStrings Runs (Kontakt Player) - It does runs... major, minor, up, down, really time consuming if you do it by hand, this is super fast. Also good.
If you can get past the annoying website design, these guys have some great stuff! Before you follow the link, TURN DOWN YOUR SOUND!! (They don't have product pages, so you need to find these products yourself.)
- CAGE Brass - Nice!
Excellent addition to your brass effects.
- CAGE Strings - Brilliant!
You want Hollywood sound without spending 8 hours on a single string effect? You want this.
- CAGE Winds - Nice!
Yeah... These are a time-saver also!
- EDM - Fun.
Not super tweakable, but very fast to work with. You get reasonable results in seconds.
- Flute - Quite Good.
Excellent Legato. Stands alone like no other flute.
- Oboe - Reasonable.
Quite reasonable. I use this for some oboe lines, and Hollywood Orchestral Woodwinds for others.
- Steinway 1969 Piano - Versatile.
Right up there with The Giant for cinematic uses. Love this thing.
- Majestica - Really good orchestral sketching tool. It doesn't go deep into solo instuments, just broad strokes.
I tend to use most of this library, and then replace the strings with CineStrings for more detail.
- Prepared Grand - Fun alternate piano effects. Not your every-day instrument, but it has some great effects.
- Electric Guitar Solo - This is a new one, looked great in the demos... not great in real life production. Just go get the stratocaster from Orange Tree Samples. They are way better.
- Evolution Strawberry - The best and easiest to use electric guitar samples. Excellent presets to get going fast. Excellent controls. Very highly recommended.
(In the order that I keep my library)
- Heavyocity Damage - Brilliant.
Big, big percussion. The oil drum is so well sampled... I need to find a use for that. Super control of all the samples in volume and stereo field. Oh, and the 3 recording positions means you can fit these right in your mix. So, so, so good. Warm distortion. Easy built-in compressor, reverb, delay.
- Heavyocity - Vocalise - Good. Pretty neat little deal for organic drones and... other things.
- Heavyocity - Natural Forces - Meh. I prefer Vocalise... but this one has a pile of 90's-sounding things if that's what you're into.
- Heavyocity - Gravity - Great. Lots of super cinematics going down here.
- Rise & Hit - Excellent. I use this even when I shouldn't. It is so easy... and so nice. It makes rises and hits.
- Heavyocity Evolve - Great.
This one is a LOT of fun to play with. Very modern and deep sounds. (See the Ghostpocalypse series to hear what this can do. It was built almost exclusively with Evolve.)
- Evolution Strawberry
- Rickenbacker Bass - Great
Honestly the most playable and perfect-sounding electric bass ever. I actually play this one at live gigs. Works great!
- CineBrass Pro
- CineStrings Core
- CineStrings Runs
- The GIANT upright piano
Very interesting instrument with a lot of film scoring extras like plucked and bowed piano strings. Good presets.
- Kinetic Metal - Fun
This one is super fun to play with, but has limited applications. (Sure all things have limits, I just don't need what this does very much.)
- Studio Drummer
If you've always wanted live drums - this one if for you. You can adjust darned near everything in these three very deeply sampled kits. Three doesn't sound like a lot - but the diversity of processing makes it feel like dozens... plus, you probably only need a couple.
- AbbeyRoad... - Super Usable.
All pretty good! Before Logic Pro X got its "drummer" track type, these guys were giving realistic beats to all sorts of stuff! More versatile than Logic's Drummer, way more styles are available... but is does take slightly longer to drag around the MIDI regions. They also sound really good!
- West Africa - Cool
Just when I thought I knew a bit about West African drumming, I got this and discovered a whole lot more. Great for... exactly what you think it would be great for.
- Session Strings Pro - Not great
Weighing in at almost 32 gig, I guess this is supposed to be a whiz-bang instrument... that never seems to do exactly what I want.
- Action Strings - Inspiring
Slightly more whiz-bang than Session Strings... I sometimes use this to get ideas... and then replace everything with CineStrings Core.
- Heavyocity Aeon Melodic and Rhythmic - Fun
Once you get into playing with the arpeggiator on this, there's no going back. The instruments sound great through their ranges. Highly recommended.
- Balinese Gamelan - ?
Not sure... Never used this. One day maybe!
- Evolve Mutations (1 and 2) - ?
Need to explore these more. They seem cool.
- Scarbee Funk Guitarist - Poor
I had high hopes for this one, but the tempo drifts around and it never synchs with a project quite right. It has become unusable to me except for very small bits that I can export to AIFF and rejigger back into the project.
- Kontakt Factory Library and Factory Selection - Existential
This is where you find instruments that... you didn't know you had - like a Zurna. Few of them will be amazing - but at least they exist!
- Retro Machines MK2 - Reasonable
I rarely produce in this realm, so I don't get a lot of time with these samples.
- Vintage Organs - Complete
If need an organ other than the B3, you'll likely find it here.
- Session Horns - Good try!
Yeah, this is another whiz-bang instrument. What they are trying to do with this is nearly impossible, it came surprisingly close to pulling it off. Just not close enough to be usable quite yet.
- New York Concert Grand - Pretty good.
I don't use this much, because the 8Dio 1969 Steinway is such a monster of awesomeness.
- George Duke Soul Treasures - ?
No idea. Never used.
- Vintage Keys - ?
I usually just go with the Logic EPs and Clavinets.
- Upright Piano - ?
I have Jim's Piano from Cinesamples and The Giant from Native Instruments... I've just never had to dig this deep in my library for an upright piano.
- Alicia's Keys - ?
I guess this is a Yamaha C3 Neo? Never used it.
- Symphonic Orchestra - Useful!
- Brass - Very good. They are sort of unplayable live because of the amount of articulations you get, for recordings they are reasonable.
- Woodwinds - Very Good. Also, difficult to play live, but they sound fine.
- Percussion - Brilliant. My favorite tympani and bass drums are these.
- Strings - Very good. Lots of recorded extended techniques, and easy to play large ensembles that are very reasonable sounding!
- Celesta - Nice!
- Harp - Also nice.
- Glocks - 2 kinds, both nice.
- Xylophone - Cutting and great for film score-like things
- Hollywood Strings - Great.
These are my go-to orchestral strings. The only times I don't use these are when I need the extended techniques that are only in Symphonic Orchestra, and for when I need a crappy-sounding string section. This sample set is amazing. Amazing. Did I mention amazing? It ships on an installation hard drive because it has to - the install runs over 300 gig. This set has no solo instruments, but the section articualtions are brilliant.
- Hollywood Brass - Great.
This together with Cinesamples' "Cinebrass Pro" are my major brass workhorses. This set includes solo, and groups. This is the first time I've seen a sample of a cimbasso. If you know what that is - you'll know why you want it!
- Hollywood Orchestral Woodwinds - Good.
I do use these. They have a decent amount of articulations... I'm also likely to use the basic Symphonic Orchestra samples, or even the Garritan samples if the line isn't super-exposed, and I need to get an expressive performance in quickly.
- Symphonic Choirs - Brilliant.
Word Builder (the bit of software that allows you to 'play' whatever text you like) takes some work to get right, but the results are incredible. On the simple side, oohs and aahs are very easy.
- Voices of Passion - Neat.
If you need this, you know that you need this. I use it rarely, but to pretty good effect.
- Goliath - Great Value!
- Drum Kits - Very good. There are a nice variety of kits in here, and they are all very servicable and realistic.
- Acoutstic Guitars - Pretty good. Both the steel string and nylon string guitars are well sampled and very playable.
- Choir - some ooh and ahh bits from the Symphonic Choirs pack as well as a couple of the solo voices from Voices of Passion.
- Electric Bass - Reasonable. I don't work with bass a lot, so I can't comment too much.
- Electric Guitars - Bad to Brilliant. Sometimes there is exactly what you want here, and sometimes there is nothing close.
- Electronic Drums - Good. Just, solid nice to good with the occasional perfect.
- Ethnic - Very nice selection of percussion, string, and wind instruments.
- General Midi Bank... Wait... This exists!? okay, thats 128 more instruments that I have to try out now.
- Keyboard Mallet Instru - This is a decent catch-all selection of intruments - most of which seem to be included in more complete forms in other packages I own.
- New Age Ensembles - Fun patches that are good enough to record quick improvisations with.
- Orchestra - Nice, but not as complete as the Symphonic Orchestra pack.
- Pianos, E Pianos - Some interesting effects, but I prefer Logic's EVP88 for the EPs.
- Bosendorfer 290 - The king of pianos. This sample set actually goes down to the looooow C, so if you need those notes - then you need this sample set. It has the character of the Bosendorfer pianos' dense overtone series. I can't put my finger on why this isn't my favorite - but long notes seem lacking. Fast bright passages work great.
- Pop Brass - (and also saxes) I've not used these much, but they seem nice for very specific things.
- Stormdrone - Great soundscapes. It will take a long time for anyone to understand what is all in this.
- Synth Bass - A good pile of new samples to compliment Logic's synthesized basses.
- Synth Leads - 11 distinct synth lead samples
- Synth Pads - Yes indeed. Dozens of them.
- Vintage Organs - Logic's built-in EVB3 is better and more versitile than these samples, but you do get a Farfisa - which Logic does not have.
- Gypsy - Nice acoustic guitars and accordions. The trombone and violin are not terribly versitile (but they weren't meant to be).
- Ra - World music instruments from Africa, Far East, Americas, India, and Mid East. They're pretty reasonable. You already know if you need this.
- Silk - More world instruments from China, India, and Persia. The Persian string ensemble is killer!
- Stormdrum2 - I have to comment on this. It has the biggest cleanest drum kit I have ever heard, I love using this thing. There are a lot of other great drum samples in this also, but I use the kit over and over again.
- The Dark Side - This instrument is a pack of dirty nasty ugly distorted grusome awesome things. Mostly drums, basses, guitars, and assorted oddness. I don't use this often, but when I need something like this... this is the fastest way to get the job done.
- Heavyocity Master Sessions Ensemble Drums. Yes. Big drums. Big drums yes! Kits and loops. Easy to use.
- Heavyocity Master Sessions Ethnic Drums. Like ensemble drums, but ethnic.
- Heavyocity Master Sessions Ensemble Metals. See above.
- SoundIron Drinking Piano - Neat aged and disused piano sound. I use this quite often to get a more realistic feel.
- SoundIron Voice of Rapture - The Tenor. This is by FAR the best singer in the SounrdIron series. I'm not going to get into the others... just... seriously... this guy is awesome... the others are... not as awesome.
I have more bits and pieces of other synths and sample sets laying about that you will sometimes hear. But this is well over 95% of my daily use.
Last Update: March 1, 2016
I used to use these all the time. There are still a few unique instruments in here. Steinway Piano (alternate tunings), Marching Percussion (Concert and Marching Band). Brush Kit (from Jazz and Big Band), Woodwinds are very playable (from GPO)... but I did not bother to reinstall any of these on my new computer. I'll wait until I really need them.
Steinberg Virtual Guitarist
One of the few instruments I've abandoned. The pain in working with this is no longer worth the result. The thing that I HATE is the USB dongle software license thingee. I would pay double to not have this.
Gone are the days where you set up a tower computer in a studio and plug in all the license keys and never move them. If you want to grab a laptop and a keyboard, the little USB license key piece of crap thing makes it nigh on impossible to use this softare on the go.
Screw you, Steinberg (and Vienna - which I've also abandoned... and Hauptwerk - which I will not buy).