A list with recommended commercial music making software for the serious or professional musician

When I made the freeware list of Music Making software, someone asked if I could make a list with Commercial Software.
Well here it is. A list with Interesting & Recommended commercial software to make great music with.
Sequencers, Instruments, Filters, Effects, Plugins and more for all you professional or serious musicians out there.

1. Ableton Live (Pc/Mac)
Ableton Live is the only solution designed for each stage of the musical process, from creation to production to performance. In the creative stage, Live is transparent, intuitive and responsive, capturing inspiration and encouraging the flow of musical ideas. During production, Live provides all of the professional tools and studio compatibility required to complete and perfect projects. On stage, Live delivers the expressive control and stability that innumerable performing artists have come to rely on. Live — from inspiration to studio to stage. Create. Produce. Perform.
Ableton Live is the number one for me. I am still using version 3 for my own music compositions, but the newer versions have only got better. Live is an audio/midi sequencer you play like an instrument. That's why it's by far better than Cubase, Sonar and Logic.

2. Native Instruments Reaktor (Pc/Mac)
REAKTOR fuses all audio applications into a single, extremely versatile and powerful tool. Musicians, producers and sound designers are all catered to by the very broad range of instruments and sounds already included. Due to the open engine architecture, the potential for building your own highly individual instruments is endless. Whether you are using the instruments from the library or creating your own, the only limit is your imagination.
This is a HUGE and amazing music making software. You can practically create anything you want with it. Even if you are non-musician you can have great fun with it. You can build & use your own instruments, effects & filters. Not always so easy but with a great community you get all the help you want and a free User Library for registered users, with thousands of ensembles/instruments to download and hack for your self.

3. AudioMulch (Pc)
AudioMulch is software for real-time sound synthesis, music composition and performance-oriented audio processing. AudioMulch has been trialware/freeware with every beta version. With version 1.0 it's going to be a commercial product. Still one of the best audio manipulating software out there. Infact you can use it to make a whole composition with the built in sequencer if you want. I have used the older versions to make audio files for my own compositions. It's easy to create unique loops and audio samples with AudioMulch.

04. EnergyXT (Pc)
Advanced MIDI and audio sequencer. Folder tracks for grouping and saving screen space. Envelope tracks for sample accurate automation of any VST param and mixer. Cool features like multi out VST freeze, ghost clips and marker tracks for fast arranging, navigation and zooming. High level modular design lets you split, layer and chain instruments and effects with MIDI and audio connections.
If I didn't choose Ableton Live as my sequencer and instrument, I've probably have choose EnergyXT instead. This is one fine example for a creative and useful software with a different approach to sequencing, instead of the sterile and boring interfaces of Cubase and Logic (another fine example is Ableton Live). You can even run EnergyXT inside another host! For example in an Audio Sequencer that don't have Midi.

05. Plogue Bidule (Pc/Mac)
Bidule is a modular audio software.
Bidule has been free in the early betas. Now it's commercial (you can still try it for a limited time for free though). With Bidule you can connect and combine different VST's and modules in all kinds of ways, and then ReWire it to your Sequencer. Bidule is a good utility and a creative tool.

06. FL Studio (Fruityloops) (Pc)
FL Studio must be one of the most open virtual studios currently available. If you want to use your existing sequencer, just plug FL Studio in any host you can find. It works as a multi-out client.
One of the most exciting things about (the online version) of FL Studio probably is that all updates are FREE for LIFE !

07. Mackie Tracktion (Pc/Mac)
Tracktion is a revolutionary, easy-to-use music production application that contains everything most people will ever need to professionally record and mix music on a Mac or PC - without all the hassles and limitations of other audio software. Tracktion's hallmark is a clean, single-screen interface and streamlined operation, whether you're recording tracks, MIDI programming, or mixing down songs. It offers rock-solid operation, VST and ReWire support, and very low CPU usage. And it contains a whole host of professional features that you can actually use from day one.

08. Propellerheads Reason(Pc/Mac)
Making music should be as easy as powering up a computer, loading up a powerful piece of music software, and getting down to business. And it is. Reason is a virtual studio rack with all the tools and instruments you need to turn your ideas into music. And it's more than just a set of excellent synths and effects. It's a complete music system. Less fuss, more inspiration.

09. SynthEdit (Pc)
SynthEdit is a Modular Synthesizer for Windows (Win 98 or better). With SynthEdit you can design your own Synth from the ground up. Drag and drop modular components, connect them with virtual "patch cords". "NI Reaktor on a budget". SynthEdit is perfect to make some crazy VSTi's with - that you can use in your sequencer. SynthEdit can help you build up your VST Instrument arsenal the way you want it to be.

10. Melodyne (Pc/Mac)
The unique audio recording software Melodyne offers a completely novel - and creatively, far more useful - way of accessing audio data than conventional music programs. With Melodyne, you can edit the pitch, timing, phrasing and formants of an audio file independently of one another, with total freedom. Melodyne is an invaluable aid in the professional recording studio for ironing out intonation and timing problems, whilst as a remix tool, it offers access to undreamed of creative possibilities for the manipulation of audio.

11. Steinberg WaveLab (Pc)
WaveLab is the all-in-one solution for professional mastering, high resolution stereo and multi-channel audio editing, audio restoration, sample design and complete CD/DVD Audio production. WaveLab is the editing software of choice in top-flight mastering and restoration facilities yet its affordability has made it the ideal choice for the experienced engineer or discerning musician. The ease of use and workflow makes WaveLab such a fast and powerful application.

12. BIAS Peak Pro (Mac)
BIAS Peak - Is an stereo audio editing, processing, and mastering application for the Macintosh.
For serious sound design for film, video, or multimedia, to rapid-fire broadcast editing, to music production and mastering limited only by your imagination. Create unique dance loops and remixes. Optimize audio for Podcasting and Internet streaming. Dust off that pile of vinyl records or analog tapes and convert them to CDs, ultra-portable AAC (MP4) or MP3 files, or to just about any audio file format on Earth. Craft soundtracks or fix audio problems for digital video. Maximize your music's sonic quality - and then burn your final masters directly to CD - with 100% Redbook compatibility. Fastest and most powerful nondestructive & destructive sample accurate mono and stereo editing, processing, and CD mastering application for OS X.

13. MAX/MSP (Pc/Mac)
Max/MSP is a graphical environment for music, audio, and multimedia. In use worldwide for over fifteen years by performers, composers, artists, teachers, and students, Max/MSP is the way to make your computer do things that reflect your individual ideas and dreams. Max/MSP is a graphical programming environment, which means you create your own software using a visual toolkit of objects, and connect them together with patch cords.
Autechre use it, so why shouldn't you? :) To complex for me but with endless possibilities.

14. Numerology (Mac)
Numerology is a modular sequencing and audio plugin environment for Mac OS X. It takes sequencing and modulation metaphors established by the analog sequencers of the 70's, and implements them in a structured and highly interactive software environment designed for experimentation, improvisation and live performance. By using Numerology in conjunction with your choice of Audio Unit plugins and hardware synths, you can create an open compositional environment that is truly your own.

15. Cakewalk Project5 (Pc)
Project5 is simply everything you need to create and perform today's music. Straight out of the box, you get a complete set of superb quality instruments and effects; powerful recording, looping, sequencing, and arranging; dynamic creation tools; and the ultimate open synth host. Project5 has been streamlined to put the features you need most-and larger than life sounds-easily in view and right at your fingertips. Project5 delivers the solid real-time performance, stability, and ease of use of traditional hardware music workstations-but, with the additional power, flexibility, and portability of PC software.

16. ACID Pro (Pc)
ACID Pro software is a good and creative environment for composition, recording, mixing, and production. Its unique fusion of professional power and exceptional ease of use sets ACID Pro apart from most other digital audio workstations. With multitrack audio technologies, comprehensive MIDI sequencing, and legendary ACID looping functionality, ACID Pro software redefine the way you make music. Now someone probably say: How can ACID be a Serious software? I think you can be really productive with ACID. You can make compositions fast and easy while you still have and idea in your head. And the ACID 6 seems promising.

17. Native Instruments Absynth (Pc/Mac)
ABSYNTH 3 is a powerful instrument combining synthesis with sampling. The clearly structured user-interface and innovative features turns the sound design process into a creative and enjoyable musical journey. Let your imagination be heard.
Sublime, Seductive Sounds. From futuristic synths to rhythmic mayhem, vintage sounds to ambient layers and completely unique, alien soundscapes - ABSYNTH seduces with sublime sounds. The possibilities offered by its semi-modular architecture and powerful, unique features stretch well beyond the boundaries of existing synthesizers, creating an extremely diverse spectrum of amazing sounds.

18. Native Instruments Guitar Rig (Pc/Mac)
GUITAR RIG is a professional all-in-one software and hardware set-up for guitarists and bass players. The fantastic sound quality won GUITAR RIG 16 industry awards and artists' praise the world over. A huge range of authentically emulated amps and effects are perfectly complemented by a robust foot controller boasting an integrated, studio-quality sound card.

19: Steinberg Groove Agent (Pc/Mac)
This innovative virtual instrument puts a top studio drummer at your fingertips! Grove Agent provides great-sounding, ready-to-go drum rhythms from the past 50 years with an extra focus to hypermodern styles. Replete with dozens of fresh, up-to the-minute styles and a battery of quality new drum sounds, Groove Agent offers a raft of the latest drum grooves and styles within the comfortable confines of modern DAW environments supporting the VST, DXi, Rewire or AU plug-in formats.

20. µTonic (pronounced "MicroTonic") (Pc/Mac)
Sonic Charge is a VST / AU plug-in for Windows and Mac featuring a unique drum and percussion synthesizer combined with a pattern based drum-machine engine. You can use µTonic as a sound module to play drum sounds from your MIDI keyboard or sequencer, or you can use the built-in pattern engine to play drum patterns in sync with your sequencer.

21. CamelPhat 3 (Pc/Mac)
CamelPhat is a "phattening" processor engineered to work wonders on guitar, bass and drums, adding warmth, punch and presence wherever they're required. Four characteristically different distortion effects are included, which can be used separately or blended together to create an endless variety of tones. The 'Magic EQ' enhances the low end. On top of that, you also get an analog-modeled compressor, three resonant filters, two LFOs and an envelope follower.

22. Basement Arts Frantic filter (Pc)
Frantic Filter introduces an analogue sounding dedicated filter into the modern digital production environment. The VST-Plugin, modeled after such famous analogue legends as the Korg MS20, Oberheim Xpander, OSC Oscar, Sherman Filterbank and the classic Moog Filter, sets a new standard in digital signal processing. Features such as Filter Separation inspired by the lovely Oscar, gives your sounds that creamy delicate sound as well as offering more filter combinations than the original. The easy-to-use interface offers the user basic modulations as well as allows one to perform complex audio surgery via the central modulation matrix.

23. VirSyn CUBE (Pc/Mac)
CUBE is a musical instrument and the ultimate tool for sound designers who wish to have instant and intuitive access to all principal components every imaginable sound is build from. Every sound can be decomposed in a sine spectrum representing the harmonic and inharmonic partials and a residual noise spectrum for the noise components. The spatial character of a sound can be represented by a pan spectrum. The temporal evolution of these three spectra is a very convenient way to describe every sound. CUBE is built around this model and allows you to manipulate the structure of a sound with all its components in a comfortable and musical way.

24. ManyGuitar (Pc)
ManyGuitar is a Bass and Guitar Sample Synthesizer with an included Library of approximately 1 Gig of 24 Bit Guitar and Bass Samples. ManyGuitar was built with Dash Signature and uses the Dash Eve One Engine with a Custom designed and built Amplifier and Speaker Cabinet emulator built exclusively for Manytone. This takes the already incredible Manytone Guitars to new levels. The amp section also has a deep amp mode that is perfectly suited to our Bass and other low toned Guitars.

25. RoomVerb M2 (Pc/Mac)
RoomVerb M2 is reverb designed to deliver top-quality reverberation into native sound processing platform. It is based on Virtual Room Acoustic modeling technique that allows to simulate various acoustic spaces from small bath rooms to huge open spaces using a single set of parameters. Rooms, plates, halls, gates, reverse reverbs, open spaces with up to 200 second long smooth tails, full tone control, air damping and walls material simulation, reverb tail modulation and a huge library of 260 ready-to-use presets crafted by working studio sound engineers are at your disposal!
The plug-in is perfectly suited for any type of audio production when acoustic space simulation is needed from music recording to post production.

26. Rob Papen - BLUE (Pc/Mac)
This fresh new synth delivers FM Synthesis, Phase Distortion Synthesis, Wave Shaping Synthesis and Subtractive Synthesis in one creative combination! BLUE has six oscillators which can be connected in various ways. Rob Papen has teamed up with music software developer Jon Ayres to bring you this cross-fusion virtual synthesizer.

27. RealGuitar (Pc/Mac soon)
If you are serious about creating truly realistic sounding solo and accompaniment guitar stuff for your songs, RealGuitar is just what you need. RealGuitar is a sample-based virtual instrument with an innovative approach to guitar sound modeling and guitar part performing on keyboard. RealGuitar allows to use rhythm patterns from MIDI Pattern Library for easily creating guitar accompaniment.

Some of you will probably notice that none of the "Big three" are on the list. No Cubase, Logic or Sonar.
That's because I don't recommend them. I don't think they are interesting enough. They are so sterile, non-inspiring and boring. For a long time they have ruled the world of music making, but not anymore. Nowadays there are new, much more inspiring software that rules the same world. What the companies behind the "big three" must do to take back what they have lost, is to develop software that is fresh, inspiring and creative. Software can not look and feel the same in decades - they must evolve.
So all the software on this list are the new dawn of music making! :)


  1. Anonymous13:19

    Boring? I use cubase sx3 and its most fresh still. You can rewire ableton live to it, bidule.. you name it. They STILL are the masters, or do you think eg. autechre uses bidule for main sequencing? no in hell.

  2. No not Bidule, but not Cubase either... :)

    You don't need to rewire Ableton Live anywhere. It's a full featured sequencer nowadays. You only have to re-think the way you work and you will be much more creative than you ever will be with the "old school" sequencers.

  3. Anonymous11:39

    Where's Orion?

    One of the original software studios, if not the original. While commercially minded people were going on and on about mega expensive Reason, there was much less expensive Orion quietly creating its own following.

  4. You are absolutely right. Orio should be there. I will remember that when I create part two of this list.

  5. I would choose Orion.

    But ProTools is what many professional studios use and that is not a bad either.
    I recommend to try the ProTools FREE version to see if you like it.

    And for many users Cubase is perfect for what you want to do.

  6. Anonymous09:47

    To say that Logic or Cubase are boring and sterile prove to me that you dont have a clue about what you are talking about.
    Show me one pro or semi-pro studio that dosent use one of the 'big three' or ProTools for that matter, and I'll rest my case. You simply cant be wihout'em if you are recording multitracks etc. FL Studio for instance has an audio engine and a midi part that sux big time. It just sounds awfull and are a pain to work in if you wanna do anyting else then creating loops.

  7. Yes I know studios running the "big three", but I think they are non-inspiring anyway.
    They have looked and feeled the same for decades. No innovating features.

    Of course it depends on what kind of music you create.
    If you make music that need to be recorded in a studio, and not in your own home - Then you have to use the "big three".
    In your own home you have the choice to be more creative and inspiring, so there you can use Ableton Live, Tracktion etc.
    I make Ambient music in my own home and I want to use tools from the "new generation".

  8. Anonymous18:58

    You mentioned the "big three" and forgot to mention Pro Tools completely from the entire list, why is that? You say that because they have basically the same look and layout as Ver. 1.0 they are uninspiring? How is that? For a professional/commercial musician/engineer wouldn't mastering and being familiar with your workspace be more advantageous than trying to relearn a myriad of new audio environments? I have made sounds from scratch in Pro Tools, using nothing but white noise generator, pencil, reverse, cut, paste, busses, a basic parametric EQ, a basic reverb, and a basic delay. When you throw in the plugins like Moog Modular and Pluggo and integrate extensions such as Reason , Reaktor, and Live the possibilities are endless. I am always looking for new toys and love to play around with new sound modules which is why i visit the page as often as I do and with a VST to RTAS adapter I try out many of the modules you mention. I am not selling or touting any one DAW over the other (though I do have strong opinions on that matter). I thought it odd that you would skip over the big DAWs in the professional list section.

  9. Maybe it was wrong leaving out the big and popular sequencers and DAW's such as Pro Tools, but I just thought that a change in the "pro" studios is about to come, and some new thinking in the mastering and DAW business is a good thing.
    I will probably update the "commercial music making" list.

    Thanks for your comment.

  10. Anonymous03:46

    I would have stuck the big three on the list - but only to give people who are new to the area the options.

    Good list though

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Sorry! I accidentally deleted my comment...I dk how. Haha.
    Okay so,
    Me and my friends arn't exactly a completed band yet, so we are using her application on her Mac called GarageBand to help us out for the time being...I am really familiar with it, and love how easy it is.
    The only problem is that it only plays at most 8 tracks.
    So which application/program is most like garageband in the sense that it uses a keyboard to produce music and you can also add vocals?
    Which one is more realistic sounding?
    And are all of these only downloadable on the computer?
    I was looking at the Ableton Live and I'm really interested, would that fulfill what I need?
    Sorry for all the questions...I've just been looking for applications for a really long time.
    Thank you for your help!

  13. I can really recommend Ableton Live. It will fulfill what you need and much more!

  14. I am interested in making dance/house music (seriously not just for fun) and am a little overwhelmed/confused at the number of products out there. Can anyone help me. Also i stumbled across this program called Kore2 http://www.native-instruments.com/index.php?id=kore2&L=1
    How does this rank compared to the 'recommended' list of programs above?

  15. Anonymous23:38

    ohh, i like this software, it is great!!!

  16. Anonymous02:11

    Probably any music software is good, but it also depends on who is using it, the person who is using that software.


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