The three audio computers in the lab are all equipped with the following:
Here's why you might want to use any one of them over the other:
Pro Tools is the most famous name in the audio software industry, mostly for its use in high-end recording studios. They make systems that range from relatively inexpensive to tens of thousands of dollars. While you might know the name, odds are it's not the best application for your use at ITP — it's a great program when you're recording and mixing many tracks of live audio, but it's not the best for midi and software synths, and using it to edit a single file is like using a shotgun to kill a housefly. However, for heavy audio editing, it's a powerful tool. Here's two great tutorials from the Transom folks: A Beginner's Guide to Pro Tools and Pro Tools Shortcuts.
Also, when using Pro Tools, be sure to check that the MBox hardware is plugged in. Pro Tools won't turn on without it — and make sure your headphones are plugged into it.
Ableton Live is a professional loop-based audio sequencing program, and unlike most of the other software on this page, it was designed to be used as a performance tool first and studio tool second. It's remarkably flexible, and will let you get your first project up and running in no time. If the end goal is to have an audio setup that can be tweaked on the fly, Live is your program.
Max for Live works directly with MAX/MSP making it a great program for a variety of performance and installation scenarios.
The Live Suite features a number of great soft synths and sample players to create a wide range of sounds.
Reason is a music software program that emulates a rack of hardware synthesizers, samplers, signal processors, sequencers and mixers. Reason can be used either as a complete virtual music studio, or as a collection of virtual instruments to be played live or used with other sequencing software.
Most folks here use it as an instrument in Pro Tools or DP, using the Rewire protocol.
Digital Performer is MOTU's entry into pro sound work, and excels with handling midi, softsynths and audio alike. For composing and re-arranging music, this is an excellent choice.
DP also comes with a pile of DSP plug-ins to help in composition/editing, and can tap in to Reason as well.
The audio extension of Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro is a great program for editing audio in a video, rearranging pre-recorded audio, doing voiceovers and doing simple editing.
It's a simple program that looks and feels much like Final Cut, making it a great choice for editing your movie's audio.
Garage Band is part of Apple's iLife suite of applications, and comes free on most new Macs. It's a great program for messing around with the basics of recording and composing, and has a library of Apple Loops that let you instantly add time-synched pre-recorded content to your work.
Audacity is a free, open-source sound editing program. It's easy to use for recording, but not the most fluid for editing or re-arranging. It's fine for doing simple recording and some editing, but its inflexible timeline and destructive editing can be a problem for more involved work.
It's a good program to learn the basics of audio with, and there are some great tutorials here
The all-powerful swiss-army knife of audio dataflow programs, along with its open-source cousin Pure Data.
VST and AU Plug-Ins
Along with these Audio Workstations, plug-ins can be used to create and effect sound. There are many free VST and AU effects and instruments available online. Search for "free vst" for your operating system and you should find many places to download plugins from developers. Here is one such site for Mac operating system. If you do not have a DAW to work in, VST/AU host software can be used to operate the plug-ins.
In addition to free plug-ins, there is some very high quality, professional level software instruments from companies like Native Instruments, Spectrasonics, Arturia, MOTU and others. These come in the form of synthesizers and sample players with sounds ranging from realistic to far out.