Non-DAW Computer Music Environments

I thought it might be fun for folks to share our favorite standalone, non-DAW software environments. I’m always on the lookout for something new and interesting that I can do with my laptop.

What is a DAW in this sense? ProTools, Reaper, Ableton, Bitwig, Cubase, Logic, etc. I think we are all familiar with them and their workflow, linear in time and usually involving some kind of piano roll. There’s a definitional discussion in there somewhere, but I think the list below gets what I’m driving at. Most of these encourage less-traditional interfaces and methodologies. There are also plenty on iOS but I feel like those are already well-documented on Lines.

I’m sure there are many more out there, especially in the standalone Max world. I’d love to find some more.

Not all of these links provide https if that matters to you

Modular Environments
VCV Rack ||||||||
Bespoke Synth |||||||
Nord Modular G2 Demo
Wren
Carla

Max-Based
Leafcutter John’s Forester 2022 (Needs Max installed, but not registered) ||||||||
Berna and Gleetchlab (Doesn’t need MAX pre-installed) ||||||||
ppooll (Requires Max license)
Granurise (Needs Max installed, but not registered)

Audio Mangling
Cecilia
ixiQuarks
Argeïphontes Lyre
Kenaxis
Composers Desktop Project
SC.CDP SuperCollider front end for CDP

These Do Lots of Things idk
MetaSynth
DIN is Noise
Blue

Visual Programming
Max/MSP ||||||||
Pure Data ||||||||
Purr Data
Plogue Bidule
Audiomulch
Usine
Reaktor |||||||
Nodal
Kyma (Requires hardware)
chipTuned |||||||| An arcade instrument, you just have to see it see link ←
OpenMusic

Programming Programming
SuperCollider ||||||||
Csound
ChucK
Sonic Pi

Livecoding Environments
TidalCycles
Strudel REPL (TidalCycles in the browser)
Orca ||||||||
IBNIZ wtf
Opusmodus
Cracked ||||||||

Sequencers
Leimma and Apotome
Numerology
Ossia
IanniX

Trackers ||||||||
Renoise
M8 Headless (requires something with a Teensy)
Sunvox
Jeskola
Buzztrax

Musical Notation
LilyPond
MuseScore

Libraries & APIs
Tone.js
p5.Sound
pyo

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Strudel is TidalCycles in JavaScript, runs in the browser.

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You could add ppooll to the ‘Max-Based’ list.

https://ppooll.klingt.org/

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First off, as someone who barely uses a DAW anymore, I love this thread :slight_smile:

I’ve been meaning to try it out, but Granurise looks pretty awesome; it’s a granular synthesis program that runs in Max. I’m pretty sure you don’t have to register Max to use it, but I’m not 100% on that. You also have to pay for the program as well, just a heads-up.

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I principally use Orca for everything.

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Sonic Pi definitely deserves to be in the Programming Programming list - really nice and beginner-friendly sound-coding environment.

Maybe Tone.js too? Depends if you want to start including sound libraries for coding languages…

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Leimma and Apotome
For microtonal rules based sequencing.
https://isartum.net/

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even though numerology has some daw-like features, i still think it fits here.

sunvox also definitely deserves to be mentioned under the tracker section. it’s incredible.

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Sonic Pi should also be in the supercollider based list, which does not yet exist :thinking::face_with_monocle:

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Visual Programming environment Plogue Bidule

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Audiomulch - i used it to write a couple full albums away back when, and i know a couple people who still use it a lot

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Well… norns is a non-DAW computer music environment, isn’t it :wink: Maybe add SunVox?

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I used Sensomusic’s Usine for years and years, not anymore though, but I really liked it for it’s intermediate level somehow in-between Live and Max… It has a timeline if you want it but is fully modular in its heart, yet you can drag and drop about anything in it, and can do stuff like connect MIDI IN to audio out and hear it clic if you want ! A VST host too… A good experimenting platform, just not fast enough to do synthesis on it (refresh rate way under audio rate at the time I used it, I don’t know about now), really inspiring though !
I remember a super easy integration of stuff like video game controllers (I used a joystick and a wiimote for the live sets at the time), remote controls, etc… Fun times !

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+1 for Sunvox. So inspirational, so lightweight, and so free! Truly amazing software.

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Another vote for Plogue Bidule. I’ve been using it for many years for everything from a standalone performance and recording tool to an environment for wiring together midi and audio stuff that I can’t do any other way to occasional integration with a DAW via the plugin version.
Could not live without it.

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I’m surprised no one mentioned Reaktor yet.

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I was so excited by the Scot Rail announcments drop that I just started playing them using SoX*, along with some bash scripting and SoX’s effects (e.g. stretch). Wonderful effort:result ratio.

* I realize sourceforge is very much This place is not a place of honor but I whistled past that graveyard using brew.

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first of all: great thread, I find Non-DAW computer music environments super inspiring

I think you could add the nord modular g2 demo to the list; it has a monophony limit but it’s easy to work around it, and it still sounds great. You have to record it externally someway though.

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There’s the somewhat similar and open-source Wren as well.

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I’m sad that Audiomulch seems to have been left to die. It is a great program. Also I wish Wren was available for macOS.

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