Another consideration is an arranger keyboard.. I have a Yamaha Tyros 5.. The keyboard comes with a lot of great voices.. and a lot of styles, you can purchase, or find free styles online.. I've used Band In a Box for over 20 years.. It's great at flushing out chord progressions, trying ideas.. My process varies a lot, but sometimes I figure out the chords in Band in a box.. Import the midi files into Logic Pro.. Create a chord track.. This is just raw legato block chords for the entire song.. I then play parts, or use style generated parts from Tyros, even Band in a box.. I do a lot of editing in Logic to massage song into what I need..
Tyros or any arranger keyboard will need a chord track.. I go between using some parts from Tyros 5.. (check out http://www.psrtutorial.com They have a wealth of information about arranger keyboards, but cater mostly to Yamaha arranger keyboards..
There are a ton of VSTs and Audio Unit plug-ins to use with your DAW (Logic uses Audio Units only), most other DAWS use VSTS.. Real guitar (musiclab) does some nice guitar stuff. I have Ample guitars plug-ins, There are a bunch of plug-ins that are good.. .
I bought Synfire and struggled with it for a while, but ultimately gave up.. It is brilliant software, but designed to work a certain way. Getting it to bend to your will will require a HUGE amount of learning.. Something I'm not prepared to do.. It is the most expensive software I ever bought and it is poorly documented. And very much created to suit the composing needs of it's programmer.. A very brilliant man. It is very cerebral.. But it can also do almost miraculous things.. Take any notes, any chords, andy rhythm, and get them to make musical sense.. again a huge time investment.. If you just want to write ballads, BIAB, or an arranger keyboard would perhaps most suit you.
Arranger keyboards might be the most direct approach, The top of the lines, have excellent sounds, and come equipped with quite a large number of styles, including ballads..
I played with Rapid Composer for a while too, while certainly a lot less intimidating than Synfire it again is more of a composer looking for tools to help him explore new avenues. .. I ultimately settled on Logic and Tyros. I have a substantial number of sound libraries, (too many)
I'm not aware of any lyric writing software, other then a website or two which takes some of your words and spit garbage out. But a lot of music these days in my opinion is garbage anyways.. I've been playing music for 56 years (started when 10 writing songs, playing etc).. Music is many things to many people, so one mans garbage is another mans feast (and they are both valid).. When I was 20, I would never listen to what I write now.. And now I have no interest in writing songs with 3 or 4 guys trying to stuff as many notes together as they could, (but I was totally into all the different phases I've gone thru).. So you find what you like.. I assume since you are here posting.. you are talking more about traditional ballads.. not a 4 bar music loop lifted off a record, with some vocals thrown on top. So you're eventually gonna have to learn melody, chords, rhythm, etc.. Then again there is software out there to get you started.. Some folks write songs with Garageband (comes free with a Mac I believe)..
If you wanna write proper ballads, You're gonna have to do this the good old fashioned way.. Use the human brain..
There are a fair amount of lyric and songwriting books.. I have taken several of Pat Patterson's courses at Berklee online. expensive but good.. He is a genius. There is one of his song writing coursers for free at coursera.org.. It is basically the same as one of his courses at Berklee, condensed down, and free.
All of these things you are talking about are really large investments.. You can start as simple and take it as far as you want.. Indeed there have been hit songs, written by folks with little or no musical knowledge.. Like you can learn 3 guitar chords and play fistfuls of songs with those 3 chords in 15 minutes. But then spend the rest of your life perfecting it.
It depends on your goals, time, finances etc.. You can take your ideas, and go to an arranger/producer.. Indeed I spent much of my life doing that as a side job.. Singers would come with ideas, I would find the chords, create an arrangement. There were even some people I would write songs for. They would give me some ideas, and the flavor of music they wanted. Of course you're gonna get what you pay for..
I would suggest you 'do it yourself'.. Learn some chords,
I believe there is a free version of Reaper (not sure).. Some of the DAWS all have intro versions, that can run on a laptop..
I started like many others by mimicking or using ideas from songs I like.. One of my very early songs, were the chords to "She Loves You" by the Beatles backwards, I did a Beatle t type arrangements. It is original, but certainly reminds you of a Beatle song you never heard.. That's pretty much what all musicians have done, start by imitating and learning the musical devices their heroes used.
Band in a Box might be suitable.. They now come equipped with 'real tracks' which are one bar audio recordings of instruments, strung together, pitch and time corrected to fit your designated key and tempo.. You type in the chords you want.. It will even generate songs for you, with melody and chords.. Sometimes the melodies aren't bad. Once you use it a lot you will begin to recognize the algorithms it uses to create melodies. (melodies sometimes similar).. But it is a deceptively powerful; and useful tool.. You can certainly use it as an education device too. I only use the MIDI output of Band In the Box and drive my Tyros with it..
Hope this helps.
Thanks, Luis! Yes, I did use Garritan for this sound recording, the one that came with my composition software. I've always thought about making a fiddling suite with this piece as the first movement. I have another fiddling piece similar to this one which will be posted someday.
I was recently invited to participate in a festival in Yerevan, Armenia for which I wrote this piece.
It was inspired by the artwork of Nana Aramyan (which you can see in the background of the video) and performed by guitarists Joao Lima of Portugal and Lilit Maridyan of Armenia!
Hope you enjoy the work!
If anybody is interested, a similar event will be held in London and there will be an opportunity for composers to submit new works. Feel free to ask for details!