Almost all recorded music uses digital equipment and synthesizers these days. So we have three new programs from Cakewalk, a software house well-regarded by both amateur and professional musicians.

·  The best deal for those just starting out is Cakewalk’s USB Music Pack. It’s $49 from www.cakewalk.comand contains software plus the cables you Cakewalk USB Music Packneed to connect a MIDI instrument to a USB computer port. We paid much more than that for just the cables when we wanted to connect our Yamaha keyboard to the PC. (MIDI is an acronym for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.”)

The software includes a synthesizer program for composing music and thousands of instrument sounds to choose from. More than 250 sound loops let you move sections of music around the composition. When you like what you’ve done, you can add reverberation and other effects, burn it to disk and even print out the sheet music. Can’t beat it for $49.

·  Moving up to Cakewalk Kinetic 2 costs $299. No cables included here. This synthesizer software also has thousands of pre-recorded instrument sounds and hundreds of loops, and includes lots of special effects and an equalizerCakewalk Kinetic 2 board, like the ones used by recording studios. Almost everything is mouse-controlled with “drag and drop.” You can tap out your own rhythm with the mouse or keyboard.

·  Dimension Pro is $359 and definitely professional level. The synthesizer has an infinite number of instrumental and synthetic sounds to compose with, and comes with two extra DVDs of 1,500 extensive instrumental recordings Dimension Proand programs. The program can be loaded in English, Spanish, German or French. You are safe in assuming you can do anything here that you can do with the lower-cost programs, but again, no cables are included.

Dimension Pro is for Windows XP or Mac 10.3.9 and above; the others are for Windows XP.

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