Software & Educational Programs Buying Guide

In the musical products industry, there are a lot of items that qualify as software or education tools. Below you will find a listing of a few of the biggest categories, what types of products they may contain, and what are some of the things to consider when shopping for software or educational music related programs. If you have additional tips or would like to see additional items covered in this guide, please send us your feedback using the email form on our contacts page.

Multi-track Recording & Workstation Software

There are a number of vendors, such as Digidesign, Cakewalk, and Steinberg, who offer multitrack recording software that rivals or in some cases is the same as the products used in the big studios in New York, Nashville, and LA. These packages can vary from entry level solutions costing a few hundred dollars, to full blown systems that include hardware for several thousand. Some of the more popular products include Digidesigns Pro Tools and Pro Tools LE, Cakewalk’s Sonar series, and Steinberg’s CuBase package. While there are many different vendors out there, these are commonly known as the big three. These recording software packages normally include limitless tracks and mixdown capabilities, strong and flexible MIDI functionality, sampling utilities, rhythm track development tools, and burning utilities. Some times the best way to figure out which package most meets your needs is to check out demo versions of the software. This is a good way to find a solution that not only meets your technical requirements, but that you personally find easy or intuitive to use.

Instrument Lesson & Learning Software

Probably the second largest category in the software/educational section is the instrument lesson and learning software programs. This would include, but not be limited to guitar , bass, drum, and piano/keyboard lesson programs and DVDs, follow along song tutorial software, and tablature and sheet music training software. In this category, you can find everything from instruction on how to play various instruments, to specific lessons on how to play specific songs or tracks. Prices vary in this category as well. Sheet music can vary from a few dollars per song to 20 dollars or more for a songbook covering a specific album or artist. Instrument lesson software and instructional guides can range from under $100 for entry level programs to several hundreds or thousands of dollars if you would purchase all levels of some programs. The important thing to consider when making a purchase in this category is feedback others have provided on these items. By reading numerous reviews, you’re sure to start to see patterns and develop your own opinions of which products may or may not meet your needs.


The third big category in the software/education section are plug-ins. For those people who have owned any type of recording software or amp modeling interface software in the past, you are probably pretty familiar with what a plug-in is. A plug-in is a small software program that you can purchase or download, that expands the number or type of instruments, amplifier simulations, or other functionality in an existing software package or multi-track recording solution. Plug-ins are great because they allow you to develop a custom set of tools in your own home or project studio. One big example of a plug in is a reverb package. If you run a guitar signal into your recording software, chances are you’re going to want to apply some effects to it. How would you like to have a plug-in in your recording software that contains a simulation of nearly every reverb ever made? These types of things exist! Another type of plug in that is commonly used in recording software are amp simulations. Perhaps you’d like to hear your guitar as it would sound through an old Fender Bassman running through a tweed cabinet with four tens. Maybe you’re more into the Marshall stack or the Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, popularized in the 80’s hair metal days. All of these types of tone simulations are available with plug-ins. They help to expand the capabilities of software that you already have and can be instrumental (pun intended) in expanding your creative capabilities with your home or project studio.

Do Your Research

As always, we recommend doing your research before making a software/educational program purchase. Start with a list of at least three products that have the features you need, and are within your price range. Once you’ve identified these products, learn as much about them as you can by reading reviews on sites like and Then rank the products by the factors that are most important to you (features, functionality, price, feedback) and head online to look for the best possible price. If you take a strategic approach to your purchase like we are defining here, you’ll never go wrong. Best of luck to you, and thanks for visiting Please be sure to come back and submit a review of whichever item you purchase so that you can help others like yourself make good purchasing decisions.

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