Days gone by:
Back in what people always seem to refer to as 'the good old days', composing was done using your instrument of choice, be it piano, guitar etc and a pencil and paper. Musicians would have the ability to notate their music on a score and actually write down what they were playing. Now there are so many pieces of software available to musicians that the task has become a lot more advanced. I'm resisting the using the word 'easy' for the moment as I think it would be unfair to say that composing any kind of music by whatever means is easy, but I am going to challenge whether software has lessened the art form to an extent.
Virtual Instruments and Samples:
For the modern day stock audio composer, there is a plethora of software available. A traditional set up for a budding musician would be a half decent mac computer running either garageband or Logic Pro. I'm focussing on Logic as it's much more geared towards the working and serious composer, whereas I feel Garageband is more suited to the hobbyist.
Packaged into Logic are pre-cleared samples for use in your productions. These are copyright free and can be used as they are and simply slotted into your tracks. Drum loops, string samples, basslines - it's all there. So in theory a composer does not even need to have an understanding of the instruments to even be able to program a track. Drum loops can just be slotted in behind a track within minutes. No need to be able to actually play the drums of have any programming skills.
Logic also has a suite of virtual instruments and plug ins such as reverb, compression, delays and flangers to enhance your production. These are tools previously only available to high en production studios.
The effect of software:
So has all this amazing software actually made composers lazy and for want of a better word - worse? My honest answer is no. What it has done is made making music available to anyone with a decent computer and a midi controller keyboard. However what it can't do is replace talent, and I believe that is the key here. As software evolves I believe it the composers job to evolve with the changing software. For me, a d great production music or stock audio composer has to be incredibly versatile and able to create quality tracks in a short timeframe. The software allows you to do this, but it does not guarantee success. I write music myself and listen to a lot of the talented composers out there. For me, the best ones are the ones that combine the technology such as virtual instruments with real world instruments to create that natural sound. You simply can't beat a real guitar being played well by a talented musician.
And conversely, where the composer has limited musical ability, the end result can sound amateur and thrown together. They often lack composition structure and notes are often out of place. You can't teach musical talent and nor can you recreate it through software. That's why I believe that the talented and hard working will always have a job and need not worry too much about the 'bedroom' composer.