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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Software Sequencers

7. The Main Programs

For many years, the two big players in the software sequencing market – at least as far as Europe goes - were the originals: Emagic’s Logic and Steinberg’s Cubase. Although Emagic is now owned by Apple, they are both still going strong, and have now been joined by two offerings from the USA: Twelve Tone’s ‘Cakewalk’ sequencing software was the first successful
WindowsA family of computer operating systems developed by Microsoft, using a Graphical User Interface (GUI) in which software programs display visual information, images, text and other data in independent screen areas ('windows') which may be moved and re-sized independently.
Windows
based
SequencerOriginally a hardware device but now almost always a software program, a sequencer stores and plays back musical performances, usually via MIDI. Early hardware sequencers used an array of sliders or switches to represent short sequences of notes; modern sequencing allows multi-track recording/playback via MIDI, combined with sophisticated editing features. Starting in the mid-nineties, sequencing software began to include hard disk recording functions and vice versa; almost all the leading music software packages now incorporate both functions, albeit with differences of emphasis.
sequencer
(always popular in the States), which has since evolved along with their name into Cakewalk’s ‘Sonar’, and Digidesign’s ‘Pro Tools’ which comes from the
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
side of recording and has only fairly recently added professional level
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
sequencing. Although not very popular outside the America, MOTU’s
DigitalAll digital equipment, formats and systems represent audio in numerical code or form. Digital information is a precise way of expressing any of information that can be quantified in some way.
Digital
Performer is also a very credible program.

At a broad level, these five software recording studios offer essentially the same facilities. They are very similar in layout, features and workflow, and choosing which is best for you will often come down to whose style of presentation you prefer, or which one your best mate uses so they can help you if you get stuck! The upside is that whichever one you choose, you can rest assured that it will do a good job of all the processes we have described in this article. There are a few caveats however - Logic now only runs on Apple Mac computers, Sonar only runs on
WindowsA family of computer operating systems developed by Microsoft, using a Graphical User Interface (GUI) in which software programs display visual information, images, text and other data in independent screen areas ('windows') which may be moved and re-sized independently.
Windows
, and Pro Tools only works with Digidesign’s own
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
InterfaceA device enabling the connection of two or more devices, or types of devices. Examples include MIDI interfaces, for connecting MIDI equipment to a computer, and audio interfaces.
interfaces
, or those of M-Audio in the case of the ‘junior’ Pro Tools ‘M-Powered’ version.

In recent years there’s been a healthy rebellion against the perceived monopoly of the big names, and some strong alternatives have emerged. Propellerhead’s Reason is a great way to get into software sequencing, offering an analogue based method of working, although it also contains the usual
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
editing features of piano-roll and
AutomationProcess by means of which fader movements and other parameter changes can be recorded and automatically recalled during audio mixdown.
automation
. Ableton’s ‘Live’ on the other hand approaches sequencing from the angle of looping and performance. Originally based purely on
AudioGenerally used to mean "sound"; technically it describes periodic fluctuations of air pressure or electrical energy at frequencies and amplitudes within the human range of hearing; sound, or electrical energy that represents sound; acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves.
audio
loops, it allows you to
StackA form of guitar amplification, generally associated with rock music, in which the amplifier circuitry ('amp') is separate from (and usually placed on top of) one or more speaker cabinets ('cabs').
stack
them up for triggering in
GroupThe combination of a number of audio channels in hardware or software so that they may be controlled together.
groups
, switching between verses and choruses with a single click, making it a very intuitive jamming and improvisational tool. As its potential was realised,
MIDIMIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a control language that enables electronic instruments to communicate with each other. In days gone by, if you wanted to play a sound from a given synthesiser, you had to physically play that specific synth’s keyboard - this resulted in performers being surrounded by huge arrays of keyboards.
MIDI
was bolted on, and it now includes the same sort of audio/MIDI recording as the traditional programs, while maintaining a heavy bent towards performance. Lastly, another program, ‘Tracktion’, now owned by Mackie, was reportedly originally written by a lone programmer, fed up and frustrated with the way that Cubase et al worked, who set out to create a working recording studio that was easier to use and a good deal cheaper – if you don’t consider yourself likely to become a ‘power user’, you may well find that this will cover all your needs.

Tracktion
Tracktion
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