I don't count myself as a music maker, as I rarely touch it (for various reasons), and I have deleted the few tunes I've made since they would be rewarded with forced mental care if they should leak... Anyway, I fell into the gear trap, so got Cubase,Reason,Live, NI Komplete (a bunch of NI synths), Korg Legacy and a couple of others...
anyway, what I reckon so far is:
- it's easy to spend a lot of time on sound, without having a melody to begin with. A nice experiment would be to just use general midi, and when you have a good song there, start using the fancy equipment to make it sound right. If you think about it, all really good songs actually sounds pretty decent in GM too, while the minute of swoshing sound from the Pro53 preset that I worked on for half an hour wouldn't sound like anything if rendered with a regular piano.
- with loop based sequencers, it's way too easy to focus too much on loops
As for sequencers, I guess Live is the big thing nowadays, but for beginners that wanna make trancy instrumental stuff, Reason might be the best choice, and it's good for staying focused too... Cubase is pretty good for a straight sequencer, too bad it has that dongle shit. Haven't used Live enough to actually say anything about it, except that everyone seems to love it.
Also, don't rule out hardware, nothing like hands on. Just make sure it really is hands-on (like a.e. the K-Station). Had a Micron, and allthough the synth engine was brilliant, navigating through all the functionality with a couple of knobs and a small LCD was just too awkward to be useable).
Anyway, that was my 50 cent. Given my limited experience, don't take it too seriously...