If you're on Windows, you can build your own instruments and
effects for $20 or even free, and you have an incredibly broad range of
free plugins. (Mac users, don't despair: some of the instrument and
effect links are Mac-VST or AU, too.)

  • Check out SynthEdit, the US$20 shareware for building your own VST instruments mentioned yesterday
  • O'Reilly has a full article
    on SynthEdit by Rick Jelliffe explaining the software and VST, with
    extensive links to commercial and freeware instruments built in the
    environment and even music made with SynthEdit instruments
  • SynthEdit's official site has a huge list of links to free instruments, effects, and hosts, and resources for making SynthEdit Stuff
  • Buzz
    is a similar modular environment for creating your own synths, and it's
    entirely free! System requirements are very modest. Also a

Can you put together an entirely free software music studio? Yes, you
can. If you want to build your own stuff from scratch, or just play
with fun toys others have built, or anything in between, you have a
broad range of choices. And if you're on Windows, your choices are
especially rich. Look for more coverage of this stuff soon; still
catching up this week!