Monday, 26 February 2018

MAGIX Music Maker 2018 Review

Music Maker 2018 Premium $79.99 / £59.99
(Regular price is quoted as £358.97 – this review is based on the software at the current offer price)

So you want some music for a YouTube video? You need a theme tune for a promo video? Or you  just want to create some music for your own pleasure? Only trouble is, you either have no musical training and wouldn’t know an interval from a semiquaver. Or maybe you have the musicianship but no musicians – and what you really need is a violinist, a synth player and a saxophonist? So what do you do? If you are a Mac user you probably fire up Garageband and create your music by dragging and dropping bits of ready-to-go music (‘loops’) onto tracks. But on a PC?

Can’t write music? No problem. With Music Maker you can drag per-recorded clips (loops) onto tracks in order to create a song.
One solution is to use MAGIX Music Maker. This lets you drag and drop clips from a variety of different musical instruments and genres, right onto tracks in a timeline. You can arrange clips so that the several bars of notes seamlessly transition into one another and harmonise with instruments arranged on other tracks.  You can also change the volume, tempo and pitch or apply effects such as reverbs and delays. In the jargon, this sort of software is sometimes known as a ‘Digital Audio Workstation’ or DAW.

If you really can’t spare the time or effort to create a composition yourself, there is even an automatic song-maker that lets you pick a genre and a few instruments then automatically creates a multi-track song. This works reasonably well though, in spite of a degree of ‘randomness’ to ensure that you don’t create the same song each time, I have to say that many of the songs do sound rather similar to one another.

If you can’t be bothered creating your own music there is even an automated song-generator that creates songs in a selected music genre.
There are rival products, of course. In fact, such as ACID which I first used many, many years ago, when it was released by Sony. Rather confusingly, MAGIX has since acquired ACID and this is still promoted as an alternative (probably, I would say, a slightly more ‘pro-level’ alternative) to Music Maker.

There are also virtual instruments provides so that, if you have the musical skills, you can record your own music from scratch by playing instruments using an onscreen keyboard. Your recordings can then be arranged or mixed in with pre-recorded loops to make the final composition. Virtual instruments include pianos, synthesizers and drums. Some instruments are fairly straightforward: you just click the keys of the onscreen keyboard or tap on various keys of your PC keyboard in order to make a recording. Others, such as the synthesizers, come with popup control panels with sliders, filters and knobs to tweak the sounds generated.

Some instruments, such as this synthesizer have their own, quite complicated, control panels to let you modify the sounds they make.
You can also buy extra instruments and loops and these are displayed in a docked panel. This, frankly, I find irritating. If I want to buy some added extras I’m happy to do so without being constantly nagged about it. Anyway, typical prices for additional instruments are around £25 each and these include lots more basses, keyboards, synths and other more exotic instruments such as church organs and Celtic harps. Loop collections or ‘soundpools’s cost anything from about £5 to £45 and they cover a range of musical genres such as techno, ‘80s, funk and jazz.

I first used Music Maker about a year ago in the Pro edition, which came as part of a bundle with the video editing suite, VEGAS Movie Studio (see review: The latest edition of Music Maker has, as far as I can tell, changed relatively little since that version. The main new features are the various add-ons and plugins. MAGIX regularly bundles together its own software with 3rd party programs to create discounted bundles. You can check on any deals currently available on the Music Maker web site:

On the whole, Music Maker is a decent product for creating and producing music on a PC. With its drag-and-drop loop-based editing, it makes soundtrack recording available even to the non-musician. If you have some keyboard skills and musical knowledge you can also use it to record original music from scratch or mixed in with some pre-recorded loops.

There are several editions of Music Maker. In this review I’ve been using the Premium edition. However, there is also a free edition which has most of the essential functionality of the commercial editions but has fewer tracks, loops and instruments. Bear in mind that there are lots of other DAW packages that compete with Music Maker, some of them are more powerful but they may also be considerably more expensive. Music Maker, at its current offer price, offers a good range of features at a fairly low cost.

My advice to anyone interested in this software is to start with the free edition. It may have everything you want. And it will also let you decide whether Music Maker really provides the features you need before investing in one of the commercial editions.

Monday, 19 February 2018

What is a pointer?

In C programming, you can't get away from pointers. So what exactly is a pointer? In this video, I try to make them really simple...