Leftover Bucks Burning a Hole in Your Christmas Stocking?

Dear Squeak and Blat,

With just a few dollars to spend after Christmas, how can I get some rudimentary music software? I'd like to be able to score a bit, and it would be nice to be able to play on my MIDI keyboard. I've got a Mac, a Casio keyboard with a MIDI port and a burning desire to arrange music.

What are my options at the $50, $100 and LESS than $200 level?

Billy C.


Dear Billy C.

Let's see if we can help you spend that little money you have left burning a hole in the bottom of your Christmas stocking. You must have been good for Santa, because a hot coal didn't burn a hole in the stocking first!

You'll need to have a MIDI interface to connect that Casio to the Mac. That will blow the first $50.

With the $165 left I would go for Band-in-a-Box from PG Music and either low-end notation/sequencing program, MusicTime or Opcode's Musicshop. I saw MusicShop for $99 in a computer mail order catalog recently. Band-in-a-Box will let you perform and improvise with your MIDI keyboard and computer. MusicTime and Musicshop will let you notate and create music sequences with your setup.

There are two shareware Mac programs that let you do a lot with digital audio and MIDI sequencing: SoundEffects and MIDIGraphy. You can find both of them on the Internet.

So, for $50 get your Casio connected to the Mac, for $100 add the purchase of some shareware like SoundEffects and MIDIGraphy, and for $200 swap the shareware for the purchase of Band-in-a-Box and Musicshop or MusicTime.

Let me end my comments by saying that, as a music educator, it warms my heart to hear someone wanting to use their home computer for music creativity (shucks, I think I stole Blat's "creativity" punch line!).


Dear Billy C:

Well Squeak not only stole my punch line, but also my recommendations! You might find that you do not need MusicTime for notation because both MusicShop and Band-in-a-Box have notation capabilities in them. You can't do a lot of manipulation of the notation with either program but it will print out simple arrangements of music just fine. By the way, MusicShop was just upgraded to version 2.0. And Band-in-a-Box is up to 6.0.

Here is another tip. You might look for used software. Sometimes people sell off their computer materials and you can pick up older versions of software for very little money. Caution: You need to check to be sure this is allowed under the licensing regs of the company that sold the software in the first place.

Good luck with your computer and your arranging efforts. If you get good at this stuff, you can start to get paid for your work and soon can afford even more software and hardware.

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Last modified on Thursday, 19/12/2013

Peter R. Webster and David B. Williams

Peter R. Webster (a.k.a “Blat”) and David Brian Williams (a.k.a. “Squeak”) have presented workshops and other presentations together for CMS/ATMI conferences and workshops for more than 20 years.  Their collaboration has led to publications and presentations internationally on music technology as well as the co-authorship of the textbook Experiencing Music Technology (Cengage Learning/Schirmer Books, 3rd edition Update, 2009), a widely adopted and highly acclaimed music technology textbook for high school and college students. Dr. Webster is emeritus professor of music education at Northwestern University and Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Southern California; Dr. Williams is emeritus professor of music and arts technology at Illinois State University, a freelance consultant, composer and musician, and immediate past president of The College Music Society.

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