Making music is not easy.
I’ve been on-and-off making music for the past 4 years. It takes dedication, passion, skill, and most importantly money. Whilst the days of spending 1000’s of pounds on studio time, tape, and mastering are still held dear to those who choose it the computer revolution has made being a home musician not only possible but a viable source of income.
With this comes a slew of Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs. This is the backbone of creating music. Here you record, mix, master, do everything and as such your preferred DAW is quite a divisive topic amongst recording artists. People pick on many factors: Cost, accessibility, operating system and recording hardware.
Music Maker Premium is one of the many DAWs available. In sum, it is a great starter DAW for those who wish to dip their toes into making electronic music. A simple interface and a brilliant line up of good virtual instruments means you can dive straight in as a beginner, but a veteran will tear their hair out and their monitor off thanks to several huge oversights and a sports shop worth of dropped balls which limit its use as a commercial DAW.
At the beginning, Music Maker did not make a good impression. Straight away you are denying the installation of freeware – a registry cleaner called Simpliclean – which is just unacceptable in a product you are paying money for. While it can be opted out of, the bonus Magix software cannot be such as Magix Speed Burner which for me is just taking up hardware space.
Once through that danger the first thing Music Maker did was attempt an update, fail, and now continues to harass me to download the update. There are ways to force the update to work, but these again should not be problems for a product you are paying good money for. If a game did this you would refund it before you have finished the uninstallation. Be prepared, there are quite a few bugs hidden in the software as well so your experience is going to be marred, but your learned gaming skill of saving will help in case of full blown crashes.
What makes Music Maker fun is the fact the once through these difficulties you can pretty much get on with making music. Loading up gives you access to the 12 virtual instruments: A jazz and pop drum kit as well as a drum machine, 4 synths, a concert grand piano, a choir, a church organ, a cinematic soundscape generator and a sampler. Combine these with a bank of over 6000 samples ranging across a huge number of instruments you are pretty capable of making your chillout-ambient-trap album just out of what you get from the box.
And that is the strength of this software. The instruments vary in quality though all seem quite strong and I have a personal love for the cinematic soundscape generator for filling out background sounds. The drag and drop, especially for sample-based music, will have you going quickly.
Even mastering, a multi-1000 pound process can be done automatically to various presets, you do not need to really touch the effects of any channel at all, though if you do there are not many to play with, well below average. The more features I rattle off for this review, the more it becomes obvious Music Maker is designed to simplify the process for beginners: Pitch change by key, huge sample library, auto-quantize and legato.
But also sadly this drag and drop style limits the use for much more seasoned producers. Take for example MIDI programming, the essence of virtual instrument writing by scribing the notes by hand. The maximum number of bars you are allowed to work with is 8 at a time, and when I want background notes to float longer you get a noticeable ding as the note is struck every 8 bars.
It doesn’t stop there. A limiter across the top of the track window does not expand as you add tracks stopping your playback. The sampler seems to pick audio at random rather than to a specific algorithm. Getting other virtual instruments to work went through several crashes. Imported MIDI tracks can sometimes reset velocity, launching in volume when you edit or quantize them. You are limited by 2 effects send and plugins per channel. It goes on and all these things would be problems for a high-end studio and strong grounds to not use it.
Here’s my issue: I use Reaper, a free DAW by Cockos (though licenses are required dependant on the amount of money your music generates.) By a mile Reaper is better for my styles of music, hundreds of studio-quality effects straight out of the box, far less bugs, better MIDI scribing and naturally far cheaper. But with Reaper, you are building a song from scratch. You get no banks, no virtual instruments, no samples, and no mastering support. You are responsible for everything and even though it is considered the entry level DAW the learning curve here is still huge.
And that is the advantage that Music Maker Premium holds. Not being a blank canvas means that someone who needs music quickly, such as a Youtube channel, can throw samples together quickly to make something relatively unique and have the mastering program and pitch correction fix the rest for you. Hell, they’ll even just make a song for you from presets if you are that damn lazy.
That’s the summation of this rambling. No longer do I feel Reaper sits as the beginner DAW. For me now Music Maker has stolen that spot by finding that niche of giving a beginner a semi-coloured palate to work with and simplifying the functions a beginner would find the most difficult into automatic processes.
Will this become my go-to DAW? No. Because the caveat is that this has come with limitations that a professional piece of software should not have. Odds are this will become part of my music process but it must accept its place as supplementary and nothing more. For a beginner who wants to mess around, or if you have a continuous desire for quick music for other projects then you may find some use for Music Maker. For anyone who wants to get deep into music making you are best picking up a more professional piece of software like Reaper, as you will quickly meet the limitations and want to push past them.
So for a score. While I would like to give this a higher score, I’m afraid I must stick it with a 4. The program is fun to use, finds it niche and stick to it well. But in 2017 I should not have to deal with bloatware, freeware attempts in installation and forcing updates to work, especially on music production software. These should very much have been sorted beforehand, and I can only hope they get sorted by the time one of you readers picks up a copy.
Head to http://www.magix.com/gb/music-maker/ for even more info on Magix Music Maker Products