Acoustica Legacy Software (Opens in new tab)
Cakewalk by Bandlab (Opens in new tab)
The Beatcraft drum program from Acoustica lets you create and store great sounding drum parts. The sound and performance are better and more consistent than MIDI. Some of the drum samples that come with Beatcraft aren’t all that great. But with better samples, this program can create parts that are indistinguishable from real drums.
Beatcraft is one of the only legacy programs from Acoustica which still works with Windows 10, and with 64 bits. The next iteration of Windows might make Beatcraft permanently obsolete, but for now this program, which I paid $40 for back in the day, still works perfectly. They also offer a free MP3 editor.
Beatcraft is also a great tool for learning about rhythms, and how to count them. This can help you read staff notation better, not because it gives you any practice at reading or writing staff, but because it greatly reinforces your basic understanding of rhythms. Just playing around with it can teach you a lot about drum kits, cymbals and percussion instruments.
BandLab, not to be confused with BandCamp, has released a free, fully functional version of the recording and sequencing program Cakewalk. For writing drum parts, the Cakewalk sequencer is more versatile than Beatcraft, but the interface is more complex. Cakewalk includes many virtual instruments, including drums and a fantastic electric piano. You can hook up an electronic keyboard via USB. To record guitar requires an audio interface that connects to the computer with USB.
Cakewalk was one of the first programs for recording pro audio on PC. It’s even older than Cubase, and way older than programs like ProTools, Logic, Ableton, or FruityLoops. Just a few years ago, Cakewalk cost a two or three hundred bucks. Now, you can get a completely updated version for free – without having to go to Piratebay. It’s a big step up from Audacity, the old standby freebie recording program, because Audacity doesn’t record MIDI, though it can play MIDI files. Also, Audacity doesn’t support VST instruments.
Like Sony ACID, the new Cakewalk has a completely updated interface designed to give the look and feel of ProTools, the industry standard.