Musical software is an area where I feel my knowledge is severely limited and that I should really try and learn more about what's available to musicians.
Anything musical and audio related, and free, is welcome. DAWs, drum machines, softsynths, plug-ins, audio synthesis environments, sequencers, spectrum analyzers, modular systems, programming languages, audio editors etc.
I recently downloaded SuperCollider and feel totally lost in it. I've heard some amazing things done with the likes of SC and PureData but I cannot get to grips with it at all.
Most of the music I create features lots of improvisation, and I've been performing a lot on a homemade 11-string electric lap steel/zither, using pedals to loop the sound and alter the timbre and phase and stuff like that. I'd like to augment my sound by using a digital MIDI-based instrument to provide a harmonic background to solo over and also to add texture/ambience. Problem being that I play in a system based off of Partch's 11-limit just intoned Monophonic fabric. I thought I'd be able to do something in SuperCollider, but I can't even get it to work at all, and then when I do it'll probably take a year to understand the language. I'm not sure it runs the best on Windows either.
Any and all suggestions welcome, as well as reviews of what software you are using at the minute.
Personally, I find good use in Komplete (for synths and a good VST that is sample based; it notably includes a good share of orchestral instruments from Vienna Symphonic Library), adding Imperfect Samples for piano and Cinematic Strings for ensemble strings. The sounds are about as good as you can get. Surely, you could change the Komplete for more Vienna Symphonic Library or EastWest Quantum Leaps, but that would be overkill, especially at those prices.
For the DAW/Notation editors, I got Cakewalk Sonar yesterday and haven't had the time to try it yet. I'm using it to replace my light version of Cubase mostly because my new controller works better with it. For pure notation, I use Finale and Notation is very good to bridge the gap inbetween; entering notes and playing back has never been so easy, with fairly good samples from the London Symphony Orchestra bundled with it and the interface is extremely intuitive, easy to use and quick - though it lacks on polish, which is fixed with Finale.
If you want good samples and a very easy interface, Notion can do a very good job at both Notation software and "DAW". I put quotes because it isn't a true DAW, though you can add audio clips and input midi data into the notation editor. It doesn't have all those fancy plugins, but that's not what it is for...
I think FL Studio is one of the more underrated DAW's out there. It does it all and quite well if you have the producing skills to make it work. I don't yet, but I'm learning. It is not free but fairly affordable. And the fully functional demo is free and there are several hundred free soft synths and samples available to use with it. You can render your creations in CD quality or up to 32 bit.
There is a bit of a learning curve, but I was able to cobble together these two grooves in about 1/2 hour (and I'm sure it sounds like it ). No presets involved.