Serato Studio Music Creation App REVIEW
Serato Studio Music Creation App REVIEW
PAT PILCHER finds that he isn’t such a music ignoramus after all thanks to Serato Studio, a genius Kiwi-built music creation app.
US$14.99 or $9.99 per month
As much as I love music, I’m the first to admit that I have about as much musical talent as a brick. I’ve tried learning instruments but my sense of rhythm is terrible. It also turns out that I’m about as coordinated at plucking strings, thumping drums or blowing into brass as a squid that’s been plugged into a mains socket.
But it turns out that there’s still hope for me. It comes in the form of Serato Studio. Serato is a music creation app that even complete musical numpties like me can (with a little patience) learn to use for crafting surprisingly good tuneage. The secret of this comes down to a well thought out, intuitive and uncluttered user interface.
So, what do you get for your money? At the top of the screen sits what is called the Transport bar. Contrary to popular belief, the transport bar isn’t where you nip in for a pint before catching a bus; it’s where you choose the tempo, key and scale for your current masterpiece. There’s also a metronome, which drove me nuts when I kept activating it by accident.
Along the bottom of the screen is the Library area. Here is where instruments such as drums, audio samples, sound effects and third-party plugins live. These can get dragged into the Sequencer, which is where piano roll-style sequencing for samples/instruments (or step sequencing for drums) happens.
About the only fly in the intuitiveness ointment is the lack of playback of samples, loops and instruments in the Library area. You’ve got to drag them into the sequencer area instead, and then try them out. It isn’t a biggie, but it would be a hell of a lot more useful to have this feature baked into the next version of Serato Studio.
Drums, instruments and samples can get triggered by your PC’s keyboard, connected MIDI hardware or Serato compatible DJ controllers. I made do with my keyboard, which worked well.
Drums, samples and instruments are also able to be edited. For drums and samples, their amplitude attack and release can get tweaked, and they can also get reversed. Their tempo and key can get changed too.
If creating drum loops is your thing, the odds are that you’ll like the Drum Kit. The bundled drums work well with electronic music, and this gets helped along nicely with a liberal serving of pre-set drum patterns as well as a random beat generator.
The Serato Sample Deck allows for easy editing of samples. Cue Points get automatically placed. These can be manipulated separately, making Serato a potent tool for anyone keen on noodling about with samples to create trippy loops.
The bundled instruments consist of a collection of strings, pianos, synths, basses and others. They’re all sample-based. Third-party VST instruments and effects can also get added, which helps to expand Serato’s versatility.
Serato has a long history with the DJ crowd, so it isn’t a huge surprise that its mixer will be familiar to many. In the Mixer module, there’s an input gain, a three-band equaliser, plus low and high-pass filters and a fader. The Mixer section can be handy for crafting an instrument fade-in, but a 360-degree pan control would have been a great addition. That said, there is a mixer, as well as an FX section, and it’s here that Stereo Pan effects – including reverb and delay effects – can get added. It’s a useful addition that is almost as much fun to muck about with as the sequencer section.
Having crafted audio for use as part of a song, creating the rest is as easy as pasting in additional sections, also crafted in the Sequencer.
The selection of sounds/instruments is tremendous and works well together. While most of what I came up with will never win me a music academy nomination, it was fun.
If you have an itch to craft some tunes and have wondered what it’d be like to use a digital studio, Serato is a good pick. It contains nearly everything you’d need to get started. Once you’ve figured out the Serato interface, actual music creation (or random noise creation in my case) becomes crazily easy yet very powerful.
It’s not perfect and experienced digital musicians might find the lack of stacked tracks and the lack of mixer panning frustrating.
The one fly in the ointment is the pricing. With similarly powerful music editing/creation apps (like Garage Band or Cakewalk) available for free to Apple users, the subscription model of Serato might limit uptake. It’s a real shame as Serato Studio’s simplicity and ease of use make it a great digital music editing tool.