Choosing a DAW
A question of choice for beginners
I would like to try myself in music production, what software would you recommend? What’s the different between them?
Digital audio workstation, or simply DAW, is a question of choice of many beginners. There are so many DAWs out there! I bet you read many forums, but everyone suggest what they love and the “holy war” never ends. So which one to choose?
Here is the hint: you can achieve the same results in any DAW, like Cubase, Logic, Ableton, Fruity Loops and more. I repeat: you can achieve the same result — a quality produced track — in any software. But nevertheless, programs differ by four criteria.
- Platform. Ones only for Mac, ones for Windows, the others – for both.
- Price. Keep in mind It doesn’t affect either the process or the result. The cheaper doesn’t mean the worse, and vice versa.
- Built-in plugins. There are different numbers of built-in instruments, plugins, and effects with various functionality.
- User interface. Buttons, windows, menus — all that stuff. Ones look like the space operation center, the others much simpler. There are no good or bad interfaces, its perception is subjective. As for me, this is the most important criterion.
|Ableton Live||Windows, OS X||$99—749|
|Apple Logic||OS X||$199|
|Bitwig Studio||Windows, OS X, Linux||$299|
|Steinberg Cubase||Windows, OS X||$99—599|
|Propellerhead Reason||Windows, OS X||$399|
|Image-Line FL Studio||Windows||$99—737|
|Avid Pro Tools||Windows, OS X||$0—899|
|Reaper||Windows, OS X||$225|
|PreSonus Studio One||Windows, OS X||$99—399|
|Cakewalk Sonar||Windows, OS X||$99—499|
Odd one out
The program choice is not important in the sense of music production. However, when it comes to live performances, one software stands out – Ableton Live.
Ableton developers made up such unique system that doesn’t exist in other programs. I know the musicians who write music in Cubase due to preference or habit, but still perform with Ableton. If someday you are planning to go beyond the walls of your house with your music, I recommend considering Ableton as the main program – both for writing and performing. It’s easier and plus cheaper.
Fortunately, these programs are available as trial versions (except Logic Pro), so you can try before buying. Demo-versions usually have a 30-days period and may have limited functionality, but these are enough to understand whether you like it or not.
For me, one day was enough to test out Cubase and FL Studio: I just run them, horrified, and closed. On the contrary, 30 days were not enough with Ableton: I installed it on three different PCs to make a final decision. The choice of the program is subjective, that’s why I recommend trying all of them.
I wrote above «buy» purposely as I know in this digital era many prefer to download «cracked» software, and beginners especially. I recommend to actually buy DAWs not just because it’s right, not because of legal things, and not because it’s a very complex product and developers deserve to be rewarded. I recommend to buy software because you’ll feel different about it: something that took you efforts to get, in the end, will get more attention rather than something you’ve got for free, play around for a week and then forget.
Buy licensed software if you have serious intention to begin music producer’s career.
P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.