When I want to learn more about a MIDI sequencer or DAW I do a cover. It frees my mind from having to think a lot about the actual music and more about just getting it into a computer.
I also apply the same exercise to virtual instruments. If I want to get my feet wet with a new instrument, I make music using nothing but that instrument – every part. Drums, leads, pads – whatever gets me to really explore sound creation and design on nothing but the instrument I want to learn.
My latest exercise was with the EFM1 synth that was introduced in Logic 7. It’s been out for a few years, but I never use it that much because my first reaction to it was that I don’t really want to make anything that sounds like a Genesis game.
But maybe I do from time to time, so I decided to try it out and came out with this: FM This
Just a basic 12-bar blues sort of thing, but it got me twiddling knobs.
If you’re overwhelmed with that collection of soft synths and effects I encourage you to do the same. Make a short composition using nothing but that instrument. Within a half hour you’ll be much more comfortable working with it.