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The 14 pieces of software that shaped modern music

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  • published
    21 Apr 2014
  • words by
    John Twells
  • photographed by
    Barbu Cristian (photo used courtesy of Red Light Management)
  • tags
    Ableton Live
    Cubase
    FL Studio
    Music software
    OctaMED
    Performer
    Reason
    Tech
    Trackers
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The 14 pieces of software that shaped modern music

We’re at the stage in history where using music software isn’t so much an option as it is a necessity.

Sure, there are always going to be some contrarian sorts who take it upon themselves to record to dictaphone tape and pen their sheet music on rolls of dried human flesh, but nowadays they’re in the minority. If you’re going to be recording music, chances are you’re going to need some software to do it, and there are plenty of options.

It wasn’t always this way – back in the early ’80s, when the MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) protocol was in its infancy, computers were still glorified word processors, and while some brave souls were attempting to generate experimental sounds (Max Mathews, please stand up), most of us were simply stuck waiting half an hour just to load a copy of 3D Monster Maze, only to be met by a read error at line 348.

Over time, however, music software blossomed, and transitioned from fiddly time wasters, doomed to the forgotten directories on an Commodore Amiga cover disk, to the plethora of usable and sturdy apps we have available to use today. It wasn’t long before software actually started to surpass most hardware, and for all the times you hear Jack White harping on about dubbing to two inch tape, it’s far more convenient to just boot up your shareware (read: free) copy of Reaper and simply hit record.

In 2014, you can even make music on your phone – with software that would put a decrepit copy of Opcode Vision to shame – but those old programs that many of us had to plough through, crash after crash, were absolutely crucial in informing not only the digital audio workstations and suites of plug-ins that we have available to us now, but also the music itself. Can you really imagine how Chicago drill would sound without FL Studio? How quiet music might still be without L1 Ultramaximizer, or how T-Pain might sound without Autotune?

The following programs changed the way we think about the relationship between music and software, for better and for worse.

Also check: 

The 14 synthesizers that shaped modern music
10 legendary samples and the stories behind them
10 ghostwritten hip-hop tracks and the surprising ghostwriters behind them

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