DAW may seem like a silly word, and it is. Go ahead, say it. DAW. Silly, right? It’s an acronym that stands for ‘Digital Audio Workstation.’ However, DAW is much sillier and easier to say, so we’re going with that. Let’s say that lately you’ve been feeling pretty proficient at using your instrument. Your guitar playing and piano skills have become top notch. Maybe your voice has taken the sonic quality and timbre of a chorus of angels. Perhaps you’ve just become dang good at playing the triangle. So you think to yourself, “Golly, I’d love to share my talents with the world, but I have no clue where to find a studio to record, and no idea how to get started recording my music.”
Working musicians these days, believe it or not, can have a professional sounding mobile studio that fits in a backpack. We’re going to list three DAWs that can fit on your personal laptop and help you start to record the music that deserves to be shared with the world.
Let’s tackle one of the more obscure, yet somehow still popular titles. Propellerheads’ Reason, or Reason for short. This DAW is comprehensive, user-friendly, and has been around since 1994. With origins from Stockholm, Sweden, and a focus on electronic music, Reason/Recycle was the go to for many budding electronic musicians. Almost two decades later, Reason is used by some of the largest names in the music industry.
A major setback of the DAW is that even though it can run on the most basic of PCs and laptops, (as long as processing power is up to date) it requires either an internet connection at all times, or something called an ‘authorization key’ to work. With the constant threat of software piracy, Propellerhead takes no chances with compromising their intellectual property.
On the plus side, once you have Reason, the community is welcoming and darn near endless. Every week, with an app called ‘Reason Companion,’ new synths, loops, realistic instrument samples and VST (virtual studio technology) are added for your free downloading pleasure.
In my opinion, Reason/Recycle and pretty much anything else Propellerhead decides to drop on the Internet deserves their flowers. Audio production and conversion are clutch and easy to understand, even if you’ve never touched a DAW before. With a tutorial sidebar that goes away only when you tell it to, Reason is well on its way to becoming the industry standard. Jump in and start making the music you always wanted to. Here’s the link to Reason, just get out there and start making music to your heart’s content.
Avid Pro Tools
Pretend that fanfare is playing, with a complete pyrotechnics show and a fog machine that doesn’t compromise the health of folk in the audience. Pro Tools is of course, by most opinions, the ‘industry standard,’ and this is for quite a few reasons.
Thousands of commercial studios use Pro Tools to quickly and efficiently record audio or edit music. The ability to dump recording sessions from one computer to another without sending massive emails or plugging and unplugging flash drives is easily one of the most practical selling points. Record and produce with virtually no latency (that’s a sort of fancy word for ‘delay’), reshape and edit sounds in just a few clicks. Overall, it is a great tool for the beginning recording artists.
A drawback for some might be that Avid now requires a subscription to the Pro Tools service, but just like with Reason, new content and instruments are sent often enough to make the purchase worth it. Pro Tools also has a built in mastering suite, which you won’t exactly find with Reason. Also, Antares auto-tune, a complete virtual instrument bundle, and more come with your first download.
One of the biggest draws of Pro Tools is the ability to handle the distribution of your music straight from your DAW. You can record your song and immediately upload the masterpiece to TIDAL, Apple Music, Spotify, or just get that super hot mixtape on Soundcloud where it belongs.
The possibilities with Avid Pro Tools have always been endless, and it seems like the company is nowhere near slowing down. A bit pricier than Reason in some respects, but worth the money. You can learn more about it here.
Logic Pro has cemented itself as one of the go-to DAWs for live musicians. The live loops are a great tool to pull new music makers in, along with the option to sample virtually any sound you can think of and map said sample to your midi-device and manipulate it at will.
Authentic analog and digital drum sounds will also make sure that you have endless choice when it comes to percussion. This can be a big help, especially if you don’t have room in your home studio for drums or would rather not disturb neighbors based on where you live such as an apartment.
Another great feature is the option to control your sessions from a remote device such as your iPhone or iPad. This could be helpful when rewiring your gear or recording live instruments by yourself, where you can’t always sit at your console.
The biggest drawback of Logic Pro is that it is exclusive to Apple products like Mac. Honestly, though, that’s the only hangup that I could think of while writing this post, and it hasn’t deterred me from using the DAW to make great music. You can snatch up a copy of Logic and learn more about it by following this link – happy music making!
Last but certainly not least. Ableton Live emerged in 2001 with a focus on helping electronic musicians better complete their visions. Arguably it is the most intuitive loop organizing system out of all the DAW listed above, with the ability to add instrumental effects and samples while recording. Ableton is used by names like Diplo, Skrillex, and Deadmau5 to great effect.
It doesn’t just stop at instrumental or electronic beat matching either. Audio can be easily manipulated so that your guitar or bass can be overdriven, or clean with light reverb effects for texture.
The added third party software support helps tremendously as well. If you’ve found (for example) guitar amp modelers online and want to use them to take your sound to the next level, simply dump the VST into Ableton and instantly start recording and editing your music without waiting for a lengthy download to take place.
Though (in the grand scheme of things) a relatively new program, it’s used by musicians worldwide, meaning that the community is large enough to help out with any questions you may have. You can download the newest version of Ableton here, and get to making the music you always wanted.
There you have it, folks. Hopefully these four options have given you a bit of insight into how you can start making your music. Whichever program you end up choosing, just get out and make some killer music!