Music can soothe the savage beast, speak as a universal language, and reduce stress. And beyond these noble aspirations, it can generate truckloads of money. If we have musical aspirations but no instruments, instruction, or (in my case) talent, what can we do? Use these free music creation software tools to alternately soothe, speak, reduce and generate. From techno to classical, there's something for everyone.
So you want to be like Moby, and write techno dance music? To be just like him, though, you've also got to shave your head and stop eating animal products. To skip those steps, download ACID XPress and get “looping”. This is a tool for creating loop-based music, where a composer uses variations on repeating music samples to create songs. Download the software and use the built-in sound samples or your own recordings to make music. Also get free “8pack” sample songs.
Super Duper Music Looper
For the mini-Mobys in your family, download kid-friendly looping software called Super Duper Music Looper. Geared towards younger kids, its simple interface makes creating songs easy and fun. While you can purchase a full version for $20, a free trial is available.
FlexiMusic Kids Composer
FlexiMusic is another kid-friendly music creation studio. Kids can use the software to record vocals, mix them with preloaded "tunes", and save or email their songs. While you can purchase a full version for $15, a free trial is available.
If you want to be Mozart, great, but you'll have to move to Vienna and legally change your first name to the intimidating but unique “Wolfgang”. Or skip that and download Finale Notepad. It allows you to select your favorites from a few dozen instruments, and write sheet music for them to play on your PC. A little music background is required, but the software itself is simple. Visit the Finale Showcase for thousands of sample songs.
So Moby is too modern and Mozart is too classical. Get back to the primal essence of music: Percussion. Be the famous drummer Ringo Starr. The problem is not only do you have to amass a net worth large enough to make Britney Spears do a double-take, you also must develop a convincing Liverpoolean accent. No easy task. Instead, download Hammerhead and create drum samples. They'll stand on their own, or can be saved for use in other programs like ACID XPress. Due to the PG-13 website ads and installation verbage, parents might want to download and install this for their kids (the program itself is inoffensive, unless you're annoyed by continual drum riffs). Also visit the website to download more sound samples and drum tracks.
Excepting Hammerhead, the software above is slightly limited: You can't save the music you create without purchasing upgrades. Save money and use the free Audacity software to record all music your computer makes, add cool effects, and save it as an MP3 or WAV file, perfect for storing on your computer or burning to a CD.
To export files as MP3s with Audacity, you'll need the LAME Library.
See more Audacity questions and answers at the Audacity Q&A.
Stomper is software that can create drum and synth-like sounds from scratch. “From scratch” means working at the sound wave level: Modulate the frequency, amplitude and other aspects of a sound wave to create your own percussion and specialized sound effects. Export your creation as a WAV file for use in other programs like Hammerhead.
If you have ambitions to be another performer, like Ozzy Osbourne or Michael Jackson, we'll need some very unusual software. We’ll save that for another column.