There are countless programs available for making music on a computer. However, a few have emerged as top players, and those are the ones we'll focus on here. All of these programs basically do the same thing: they allow you to record MIDI and audio and to arrange and mix music, all on a computer system. The only differences are how they go about the task.
Don't worry about spending a lot of money for Pro Tools and not knowing how to use it. Digidesign offers a vast support system, including classes, online resources, and its DigiZine magazine. You can choose from individualized study programs, in-person training classes, and online courses through Berklee College of Music.
Digidesign: Pro Tools
No other name is as synonymous with studio recording as Pro Tools. Until a few years ago, the only system you could get was its expensive TDM system, which went for well over $10,000. In 1998, Digidesign introduced Pro Tools digi001 and entered the home studio market. Currently, Digidesign markets a number of home studio products—the Mbox 2 family of USB audio interfaces; the 003 family FireWire interfaces, including the 003 Factory eighteen-input interface plus motorized control surface, and the 003 Rack, an eighteen-input FireWire interface; and the ProTools M-Powered capable series of interfaces from M-Audio. The Mbox 2 and 003 series ship with the same version of Pro Tools LE software, which is capable of playing back forty-eight audio tracks and unlimited MIDI tracks. ProTools M-Powered is available for compatible M-Audio interfaces, and features much of the same functionality of ProTools LE.
One of the biggest things Pro Tools has going for it is compatibility: Anything created on a Pro Tools home system can be taken to a larger professional version. This is great when you want to share your ideas or get expert mixing and mastering. As discussed earlier, Pro Tools is proprietary so you can run its software only with Digidesign hardware, or supported M-Audio interfaces. As a music tool, it's a mature product that works on both Mac and PC equally well. It's also completely portable because the current versions work on USB and FireWire formats—great for laptop use.
Figure 6-1: Digidesign Pro Tools 8