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DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION (DAW)

 

What is DAW… we live in a world of acronyms and it’s not always easy to know what people are talking about. But everything is learnable and here’s some info to help you out. 🙂

 

Producing great-sounding music used to be only one option of paying hundreds or thousands of pounds hiring a professional studios for each recording – or spending much more money to create your own. Today, you can make loads of good-quality music on a laptop literally in your bedroom using either free software or high-end software for a few hundred pounds.

 

If you’re a music creator, learning about different DAWs can be a useful tool to support you in the creative process. DAW also known as Digital Audio Workstations are used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. 

 

The good news is there is no shortage of choice – you can choose a DAW that suits both your level of skill and your budget, which will fit with all computers and operating systems.

 

With so many options available choosing a DAW might be confusing. And while there isn’t a single “best” DAW for everyone, if you’re considering starting with a new DAW – or upgrading to a more professional one – you’d want to know what each DAW is best for and why.

 

Here’s a list to help of the most popular DAWs in the industry:

 

GarageBand

 

What is it?

 

GarageBand is an entry-level digital audio workstation that comes included with Apple devices. GarageBand is a fully equipped music creation studio right inside your Mac — with a complete sound library that includes instruments, presets for guitar and voice, and an incredible selection of session drummers and percussionists. 

 

The DAW is really simple and easy to master, and it’s a great place to start if you’re new to music creation. Because it is an entry-level DAW, it comes with way less functionality than the other ones, but it is still possible to record, multi-track, and produce your original music. 

 

As a songwriter, for example, you won’t need much – the DAW works well with your Mac’s built-in microphone – or an external one – it’s an easy setup and doesn’t require lots of experience. Though bear in mind, with your laptop’s built-in mic, it’s more a ‘sketch book’ as a professional sound quality requires a professional mic pickup.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – mostly for complete beginners who are just starting in music production and don’t want to spend a lot of money on high-end software.
  • Songwriters – if you only need to record basic demos (for example, to share the recording with your band members or other musicians), GarageBand is well suited for that.
  • Basic editing (sketchbook) – Cut and shut editing

 

FL Studio

 

What is it?

 

Fl Studio, like GarageBand, is a beginner-friendly DAW with a wide range of sounds and features, allowing you to progress from a newbie to a pro-level producer without having to learn a new DAW.

 

The FL Studio interface is designed for pattern-based music production (it was known as FruityLoops until 2003), making it perfect for generating rapid beats with loops.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – Because the DAW is focused on looping, you can use a variety of samples to make something that sounds great, even if it’s your first production.
  • Professionals, especially those working in electronic dance and dance genres – because of easily made loops and layering, the FL Studio is one of the top choices for electronic music creators.

 

Ableton Live

 

What is it?

 

Ableton Live is suitable for entry-level, but once you become more familiar with it, you can find some high-powered functionality. 

 

Ableton’s clear and intuitive interface makes production simple and straightforward, while its vast sound collection, MIDI features, and powerful audio editing and warping capabilities provide lots of options.

 

Plus, the latest versions of Ableton allow you to create projects with an unlimited number of audio and MIDI tracks, so the rest is up to you.

 

Ableton Live is known for one thing that others are not – its functionality in live performance. 

Ableton works well both as an independent software or when integrated with live instruments and is used by numerous DJs and performers/producers who perform live concerts.

 

Ableton Live may also be enhanced by adding Ableton Push, a hardware controller (trigger) that makes working with Ableton considerably easier, particularly if you want to record and programme songs in real-time, whether in the studio or on stage.

However, you can use anything as a trigger, assigning individual keys on your keyboard for specific functions, or a series of loop pedals etc.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – Ableton Live is simple enough that even complete beginners can get started quickly, but it has enough complex features that more advanced producers won’t outgrow.
  • Professional producers and those who are interested in live performance – Ableton Live is a fantastic DAW for generating various types of music, but it has an advantage when used by musicians that want to not only compose in the studio but also play live performances with Ableton. As a result, Ableton is particularly popular among hip-hop and electronic producers, while it is also utilised by musicians working in a variety of genres.

 

Logic Pro X

 

What is it?

 

Logic Pro X is a professional-level DAW that allows advanced songwriters and producers to create professional-quality recordings. Actually, in a word, it’s a huge, professional improvement for GarageBand that’s only accessible on Mac.

 

Logic Pro X, like Ableton, comes with a great library of sounds, audio effects, and plugins. While certain complex production tasks, such as automating pitch bends or distorting audio, are more difficult in Logic than in Ableton, for example, it’s a great DAW for songwriters and producers, and especially for those who work with recorded sounds.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – Logic Pro is a pro-level DAW with a lot of features you could experiment with, but it’s not too difficult to get started with, just like with all the other DAWs in this article. As a result, logic is an excellent choice for newbies who want to learn a DAW that will grow with them as they gain experience.
  • Advanced producers – Logic Pro is a great DAW, especially for working in more conventional and less electronic genres, or where recorded instruments play a big role.

 

Cubase

 

What is it?

 

Cubase, like Logic, is an excellent all-around pro-level DAW. However, unlike Logic, it is compatible with both Mac and PC, making it an excellent solution for PC users.

 

Cubase is wonderful for live recording and comes with a great number of virtual instruments, making it ideal for the ‘bedroom studio’ producer who wants to make music with nothing more than a laptop or desktop and MIDI instruments.

 

Some people find Cubase to be less obvious than other DAWs at first, but it’s worth investing time and learning it because it’s a superb DAW with a lot of features that are well-suited to nearly every type of music creator and genre. 

 

Just a slight comparison, if you are a PC lover, Cubase can be a great choice over Logic Pro X and is as professional as the Logic Pro X DAW.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – not too difficult to get started with, but because it’s a pro-level DAW, it does have a slightly steeper learning curve and therefore, it takes time to master the software. However, once you’ve mastered it, the DAW will open with so much functionality and possibilities.
  • Advanced producers – Cubase is a great choice for pro-level music creators working in any genre since it is ideal for live recording, MIDI sequencing, and combining live and generated sounds.

 

Pro Tools

 

What is it?

 

Pro Tools is another good DAW that specialises in recording, mixing, and editing live audio. For professional recording studios, it is the industry standard.

 

Other DAWs on this list do a good job recording and mixing wise, but Pro Tools truly shines when it comes to mixing and editing separate audio tracks inside a single audio project – even when recording 100-piece orchestras with several takes. 

 

Pro Tools is therefore the DAW of choice for songwriters who wish to specialise in recording, mixing, and mastering live music, whether it’s simply a vocalist and guitar or more sophisticated productions. Plus, Pro Tools has a good collection of virtual instruments, sounds, and effects, allowing it to be utilised for MIDI sequencing.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners focusing on the live recording – Pro Tools is a high-end DAW, but it’s also popular among home studio musicians, and it’s not difficult to use. While it has limited MIDI capabilities, its ability to record, mix, and edit live sound is where it really shines.
  • Advanced producers – Pro Tools is suitable for professional recording, mixing, and mastering. Pro Tools, just like the other mentioned DAWs, is a worthwhile purchase if you want to set up a high-quality home studio or work professionally as a producer or sound engineer.

 

Studio One

 

What is it?

 

Studio One is a software programme for creating, recording, mixing, and mastering music and other sounds.

 

Here you can start with just a first idea and sketches and go all the way to the mixing and mastering stages without ever leaving Studio One.

 

The Studio One’s workstation is straightforward and intuitive, so if you’re ever confused about how things work, try dragging-and-dropping or right-clicking with your mouse, and chances are it’ll work.

 

The DAW has some impressive features going on; unlimited audio and instrument tracks, shortcuts, advanced ARA integration, chord track, pattern editors, a dedicated mastering suite, etc.

 

It’s best suited for:

 

  • Beginners – the good thing about this DAW is that it can be used by a wide range of users. The DAW is easy to learn for newbies because of its straightforward and intuitive features, and there is much room for improvement and mastery.
  • Advanced producers – Studio One is a great choice for professionals or a high-quality home studio. The software is used with many different genres. 

 

We must understand that learning a new DAW will require a great time and financial investment on your part. That’s why it’s important to do further study on each of these DAWs before committing to one.

 

Reading reviews online or watching detailed YouTube tutorials for each DAW is an excellent way to get a good understanding of them.

 

If you’re still undecided after watching YouTube reviews, you can always download a free trial version of each DAW and check it out for yourself (the free trial’s duration depends on the DAW). 

 

While you’re doing the free trial, consider your long-term job ambitions. Why do you need a DAW? Do you want to become a professional sound engineer/producer, do you need it only as a ‘sketchbook’, or do you have a specific genre you’d like to concentrate on? 

 

It’s worth considering these questions, as the answers will guide you in determining which DAW is most suited to your talents, budget, and objectives.

 

You can find more information here:

 

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