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Commercial Audio Production at Home: The Most Essential Software
You’re not alone if you’ve built a home studio or do much of your audio postproduction work or music composition from home. By mid-2020, as this Economist article reports, the pandemic had created a home studio boom.
Multi-location collaboration between colleagues in audio postproduction, music production, audiobooks, and other audio industries is becoming the norm. Several trends in audio postproduction are encouraging, offering new opportunities. These include:
- A global choice of collaboration partners, both corporate and individual.
- Smoother, faster collaboration via high-speed broadband and cloud-based services.
- The increased affordability of compact, home-based studio set-ups.
- Remote working as a cost-effective and COVID-19 safe alternative.
When you work remotely, either from a compact studio or from home, you need reliable technology and collaborative tools like Pibox to do a lot of the heavy lifting to deliver your projects on time.
We’ve put together a shortlist of music composing software and related tools you’ll find most helpful if you’re setting up an audio postproduction home studio or getting used to working with a laptop and a pair of cans.
Best DAW software
Let’s start with one of the legends in Digital Audio Workstations – ProTools 10. Made by AV Editing giants Avid, this scion of the audio industry has been in production since 1989 – that’s right, over thirty years!
There’s a reason why Pro Tools is often considered the industry standard in professional audio recording and editing. It’s extremely powerful, offers great audio editing tools, can be used in a desktop or laptop set-up, and comes with 8GB of loops.
As one of the best-known apps for composing music, Pro Tools also offers many virtual instruments to incorporate into your mix or create orchestral demos with. One of the highlights for electronica creators is the UVI Falcon 2 virtual instrument, which allows you to sculpt otherworldly sounds.
However, it’s a little pricey since you pay a monthly or annual subscription to use Pro Tools. The standard version starts at around $33 per month (or a one-off yearly payment of $220), although a reduced-price subscription is available to students.
If money is no object, opt for the Ultimate version, which throws in a bewildering array of virtual plugins, compressors, EQ, and other audio tools.
Other DAWS you might consider:
- FL Studio 20 – The latest version of the Fruity Loops brand, great for music producers
- Ableton Live 11 – Comes with over 5000 sounds, making this a strong contender.
- Steinberg Cubase 11 is the DAW scene’s other grandaddy, with great sequencing and visualization tools.
- Logic Pro – Well-respected, intuitive, and MIDI-friendly DAW from Apple.
Budget option software:
Audacity is a great piece of software for composing music. It’s an open-source recording and editing tool aimed at the beginner, although its visual interface could be a little more intuitive. Still, that’s a minimal gripe, given that it’s music composing software for FREE.
Pibox will be ready to host and share your creations for speedy collaboration and comment on whichever solution you opt for.
For Music Transcription / Notation:
Sibelius is the brand leader if you’re a freelance music composer looking for a clever tool to take your piano compositions and transcribe them into beautiful sheet music. Yes, it’s another Avid product, but it seamlessly fits with ProTools and only costs around $20 per month.
Import an audio file, and Silbelius will interpret it and produce a score, which you can amend, alter (tempo, instrument, pitch, key), print or share. It’s a great teaching tool, particularly for students learning notation.
Other Transcription Tools:
- ScoreCloud – this listens and transcribes and is available in free, plus, or pro versions.
- AnthemScore – generates a MIDI version of your audio tracks for further manipulation.
Loop Pedal Apps:
For musicians who need to seize the moment when inspiration strikes, a loop pedal app is a great piece of software. You’ll need a good microphone, a pair of earphones, and your phone, and you can effectively create a multi-layered piece of music in minutes.
For Apple, Loopy HD is a great choice, as featured on The Jimmy Fallon Show on NBC, where Fallon and Billy Joel used it to record a version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” together. The app allows the simple creation of loops that can be layered and mixed down as you see fit. Loopy HD supports up to nine tracks.
Android’s best offering in this respect is LoopStation from Zuidsoft, whose paid version allows you to balance input track volumes in real-time, alter playback speed and add reverb.
In an ideal world, you record your audio in an acoustically perfect space, with great microphones, no feedback or distortion, and no volume clipping, then share it to Pibox for comments. However, there are times when you’ll need to fix an audio problem or two using a clever piece of software in the real world.
Era Bundle from Accusonus offers probably the best set of tools to satisfy both beginners and pros alike. Fix issues like wind noise, vocal pops, and “ess-ing” at the touch of a few buttons.
Other Audio Fix Tools:
- Adobe Audition CC – comes as part of Audition in the Adobe Cloud suite of tools.
- Izotope RX9 – choose between a slate of audio fix tools for a professional finish.
For sound design work, it’s helpful to have something at your fingertips to modify sounds in cunning ways quickly. Affect pitch, speed, and timing while keeping other variables the same, add unusual effects or create lush audio atmospheres with these clever software solutions.
iZotope produces a suite of useful plugins, including tools for EQ, reverb, mixing, and vocal synthesis, should you need to create sci-fi effects. These are available in great-value bundles, ideal for game audio producers or film music composers. They offer a subscription model, which provides access to a range of their cloud-based audio postproduction products.
Other FX Tools:
There are simply too many to list – it’s a major growth area right now. Here’s a great rundown of 21 of the best audio FX tools to get you started.
Mixing and Mastering
When you’re ready to deliver, you’ll want a plugin that mixes, EQs, and limits your sound to produce a perfectly balanced, harmonious final music track.
Here at Pibox, we love the Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain from Waves. Yes, that’s right, you can mimic the mastering process used on such legendary records as Dark Side of the Moon and OK Computer! There’s a lovely retro feel to the dashboard, and at $30, it’s a steal.
Other Mastering Tools:
- iZotope Ozone 9 – yes, it’s iZotope again, with a sophisticated AI-assisted mastering tool.
- Eventide Elevate Bundle – 4 tools in one for EQ, limiting, saturation and maximization.
Workflow and Collaboration:
Don’t neglect the most important aspect of the process – your colleagues! Although there’s much you can do by yourself at home or in the studio (even in a coffee shop), there will come a time when you’ll want to brainstorm, exchange notes, and collaborate.
Pibox was created to replace seven commonly used tools, thus speeding up audio-visual collaboration significantly. Tools like YouSendIt, email, DropBox, and others become redundant when you upload and download files, leave comments, share and track projects on one platform.
Universal Music Publishing said that using Pibox saves them “days per month”. Previously, executives would send and receive emails containing feedback on tracks. They’d scour their inboxes for notes, then try to relate them to specific moments of tracks, making sure they were listening to the latest version, painstakingly downloaded, or dug out from DropBox. Finally, they’d have to check Trello for the project’s status.
This cumbersome workflow became redundant with Pibox since all these activities were captured on one platform. Version histories, project status, and comments were quickly accessible, and notes could be pinned to specific moments in the track’s waveform. A chat feature proved so popular that the team stopped using email for this purpose.
“The point for us is to have all communications about a project in a single place. It is a waste of time to fish through email about a project and then go to Trello about the status, Box for the files, and finally, my desktop folder. Pibox allows us to keep all of these things in a single place!”, – said Damien Chock, Senior Director of Production, Music Integrations and Special Projects, Universal Music Publishing Group.
In Pibox, you’ll find our Audio-Visual Collaboration Module. This solution provides quick and detailed feedback for the entire team. The Module includes visual elements, comments, replies, and the ability to mark sections alongside collaborators. Pibox’s File Sharing Module allows users to combine file management, file sharing and project status tracking, and process automation.
Smart File Manager helps teams automatically generate content pipelines and define project statuses without manual folder navigation or manual searching. Pibox’s Team Chat Module replaces emails, team and private chats, manual messages, follow-ups, Google docs, and written reference notes. Here, you can easily discuss general content ideas, share references, and track production status with improved speed.
Our Content Task Manager is integrated into File and Chat Cores and replaces task management solutions, spreadsheets, Zapier integrations, and checklists.
Pibox’s Data Module helps you analyze collaboration data and actions to generate performance or prediction reports.
You can switch from the Pibox web version to mobile and continue your collaboration on the go. Pibox can help you organize and confidently complete your most difficult project, regardless of your experience level.
You can start with our simple and free version. If you want to try all the available tools, the standard version starts at around $10 – 20 per month, a price to suit even student budgets.
You, too, can experience this integrated, time-saving, and intuitive approach to the creative workflow. Collaborate clearly, consistently, and quickly with Pibox.
For more on how to optimise your shared audio workflow, click here.