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The Little Piano Things

Being a pianist is full of lovely little moments. This blog is dedicated to all the little things we love, hate, or just find interesting about piano.
Jan 12 '13

5 completely free programs that let you make music without ever leaving your computer:

So, you want to make a song. Thanks to ~*technology*~, here’s five free things that will let you do it:

Musescore (Sheet-music making program)

So you’ve got the idea for a song in your head. You’ve got a melody and maybe a rough idea for the instrumental part. As long as you know how to read sheet music, Musescore has totally got you covered! Just write out all the different parts and hit play, and you can make sure everything sounds nice. Musescore not only lets you create complex sheet music (great if you’re composing for a symphony or choir!), you can also export the song directly from the sheet music into an audio file. If you like the quality of the program’s built-in instruments, then you’ve already got yourself an instrumental song.

Related link: musescore.com is where people share songs and covers they’ve composed using Musescore.

LMMS (Digital Audio Workstation [basically: Music-making thingy])

Musescore is great for making sure you have all the right notes, but it’s really limited in actually sounding good. This is where LMMS comes in! You’ve probably heard of FL Studio, right? That kinda really-expensive program? This is a free version of that. Those instrumental parts you wrote out in Musescore? Take those notes and put them into an instrument on LMMS. There are hundreds of instrument samples to choose from, and many more can be installed by you (google “free VST instrument”). You can add a bunch of effects, and overall, LMMS is just a really good music-making program.

Notessimo (A simpler music-making thingy)

LMMS and similar programs can take a while to understand, and they can be difficult when you’re just starting out making music. To compose music with Notessimo, all you need to know is how to read sheet music! The selection of instruments the program has is pretty limited right now, but that should change when it updates soon. While it doesn’t have as much “power” as LMMS, you can still make some pretty awesome things using it. Also YOU DON’T HAVE TO DOWNLOAD ANYTHING. NOTESSIMO IS COMPLETELY ONLINE.

Bonus link: The Notessimo website is where, like musescore.com, everyone shares the songs they make with Notessimo. There are a lot of talented people who post their stuff here.

Audacity (Audio recorder and editor)

Audacity’s main function is as a sound recorder, so if you’ve got a microphone, play or sing away! However, it also functions as an audio mixer! Just like LMMS, you can put multiple “tracks” in it (the vocals you recorded, the piano part you made on Musescore) and edit them together to make a comprehensive song. (It’s kind of limited, though, so I wouldn’t recommend relying on it to mix if you have a really complicated song.) 

UTAU (Vocal synthesizer [Virtual singers])

Let’s say you don’t have a good microphone, or a good voice. (I can sympathize with both of these.) BUT, you still want vocals in your song. Utau’s got you covered! A freeware answer to the Vocaloid editor, Utau basically works like a sheet-music making program - but for a human voice. Install a voicebank (singer), type in the lyrics you want the voice to sing, and put in a note for each syllable, like you’re writing sheet music. Then you can edit the resulting vocal part to sound more smooth, add effects like vibrato, and just sound cool. Using a virtual singer instead of a real one has several advantages - they have a range that most humans can’t reach, they won’t run out of breath, and some of them can sound shockingly realistic. (This song perfectly demonstrates all of those things.) Unfortunately, Utau is the hardest program on this list to use, and it can be VERY confusing when you’re just starting out. But once you get past the initial “What is this I don’t even” stage, it’s an immensely useful and fun tool to use.

Bonus link: The Utau wiki is a giant repository of over 3 thousand voices to download and use. There’s a huge variety of different voice types out there, with different genders, voice parts, and languages, so get browsing!

Extra: YouTube, SoundCloud, or any other audio/video hosting website - You wanna get your brand new song out there and let other people hear it, right? While Soundcloud is useful and nice, your songs will reach a greater audience through YouTube. And I’m sure there are lots of other websites you can use to say “Hey guys, listen to my cool new song!” The internet is how musicians are getting famous in this generation - why not get started early? ;)

Of course, there are dozens of other free music-making-and-editing programs. But, in my experience, these five are the most useful and easy-to-use tools to make songs that I’ve found. I hope some people can find this post helpful. Happy composing!

369 notes Tags: music composing LMMS musescore utau audacity notessimo

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