Today's newest software gives you all of functionality of Analog Emulation hardware synthesizers while working conveniently with your laptop or desktop computer. Supporting both Windows and Mac operating systems, today's biggest names in programming software have packed sounds from every family of music into their newest bundles. You can pull up thousands of these pre-programmed sounds or build your very own from scratch. These "softsynths" serve as both the foundation for live performances and as valuable studio tools for producing exciting new music.
How does this software work?
Softsynth programs are often designed to look and function just like an actual hardware synthesizer module. When you open up the program, you'll see oscillators and effects displayed in an interface that looks like a modular, rackmount, or integrated keyboard unit. You'll see similar controls like the Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) and High, Low, and Bandpass Filters. So how do you capture your sonic creations? When you're using a computer or device in a recording space, it all starts with a specific type of software called a digital audio workstation (DAW). A DAW is a full-fledged studio platform, allowing you to record, mix (setting the volume levels), and edit numerous tracks of vocals and instruments. Popular DAWs include Pro Tools by Avid, Studio One by PreSonus, and Cubase by Steinberg. Softsynth programs connect to these DAWs as "plug-ins," allowing you to use its specific programming capability and record as a digital instrument straight to your DAW. Some softsynth software, such as Ableton Live and Propellerheads Reason, contain their own internal DAW – giving you the ability to program sound and record other elements all-in-one!
So, which software is right for you?
It all depends on what you want to accomplish. If you're drawn towards crafting traditional musical arrangements using winds, strings, percussion, and voice (think band, orchestra, small ensembles, film, and media composition) or would like to add those specific sounds to your existing music, a piece of software like Native Instruments Komplete will provide you with thousands of authentic orchestral, instrumental, and vocal sounds that have been digitally sampled at the highest quality. For those who want to experiment, programs like Propellerheads Reason along with the Massive and Reaktor programs from Native Instruments Komplete often start you with a single, simple oscillator in the style of a synth and allow you to expand from there, programming a sound to your liking using the same parameters that are available on hardware synths. Ableton Live is one of the most popular tools for DJs and producers of electronic music, allowing you to record, build sounds, edit, and construct personalized remixes. Start simply, and as you become more comfortable with one platform, you'll find yourself adding other software programs to your collection and combining their power together!
Softsynths pack gigabytes of samples, presets, patches, and audio for your use. These programs give you control over everything, which means you can customize every single element of every sound. Make a bassline rumble at just the right frequency. Have a lead sweep up to the highest frequencies at a steady pace. Use your keyboard and mouse to edit or connect seamlessly with hardware keyboard controllers and touchpads to give you the same hands-on feel at the synth.