If you are new to the world of home music recording, you may be trying to figure out what you need to get started. Once you have your gear and songs ready to go, one of your most important decisions will involve which digital audio workstation, or DAW, you will use. There is a range of DAW options out there that cater to different styles, requirements, and budgets. But how do you go about deciding on the best DAW software for your music?
Read on as we take a look at a few considerations & tips you should keep in mind when choosing a DAW.
What Is A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)?
A digital audio workstation (commonly referred to as a DAW) is a type of software that is used to record, edit, and mix & master your songs. Think of it this way- when you walk into a physical recording studio, you will likely see common recording gear such as a console, outboard gear, and tape deck.
A DAW is essentially all of these combined into one program that runs on your computer or laptop. When you are working with a digital audio workstation, you will be able to record live instruments or vocals, in addition to virtual & midi instruments, directly to your computer using an audio interface.
Once you have recorded your audio tracks, you will also be able to edit your audio in different ways to ultimately shape the kind of sound you are after. This includes everything from applying effects such as reverb & delay, EQing your tracks to sit well in a mix, or fixing up your sound with tools such as compression and pitch correction in Studio One.
Different DAWs Cater To Different Needs
A quick google search will reveal there is no shortage of DAW options out there, each with its own strengths and unique capabilities. Some of them may be designed to accommodate the workflow of singer-songwriters, who are more focused on capturing vocal-forward performances, while others may offer powerful midi & virtual instrument tools that cater to more electronic music-minded artists.
When researching and deciding on the best DAW software for you, we strongly recommend that you take time to research your options and weigh them against your goals.
How To Choose The Best DAW Software For You (3 Tips To Keep In Mind)
Below we break down 3 major factors that you should consider when choosing a DAW. Remember, take your time and consider your options before committing to any options. Checking out reviews and talking to people who have actually used the DAWs you’re considering can be hugely beneficial as well.
#1) Consider What Type Of Music Will You Be Recording
As we already mentioned above, the DAW you ultimately choose to work with may be influenced by the type of music you plan to record. Each DAW has its own interface and workflow options that were created with artists and engineers in mind.
Another way to look at this question is to think about how you will actually be recording your music. Will it be more artist-performance based (such as recording a live take of a song with a singer and a guitar), or will you be working more with virtual & midi instruments with heavy automation?
Some DAWs, such as Garageband, make it easy to “plug in and play,” whereas other DAWs such as Ableton offer powerful synths & sound libraries that were developed to allow electronic music artists to create complex & detailed sound designs.
While many DAWs do in fact have plenty of overlapping capabilities, they don’t necessarily all offer the same level of customization & functionality. For instance, it’s relatively easy to set and change tempos in Pro Tools, but what if your song features several complex tempo changes that you need to account for? Other DAWs, like Logic Pro offer tools like SmartTempo which allow you to easily detect and map out tempo changes in your song.
Before choosing your DAW, take some time to consider what you will be using it for, as well as what tools you may need to achieve those goals.
#2) Your Budget May Influence The Best DAW Software Options For You
The next major consideration when choosing a DAW is, of course, your budget. There are popular digital audio workstations out there that run the full gamut of price ranges- from free DAWs to ones that cost hundreds of dollars!
On top of this, your DAW may involve a one-time purchase or it may require a recurring subscription to access. For instance, Pro Tools offers monthly, yearly, and lifetime subscription options which all come at different price points. These are also available at different levels that allow access to certain tools and capabilities.
Finally, some workstations come pre-loaded with plenty of native capabilities while others offer more of a blank slate for you to customize with free & paid VST plugins. If your chosen DAW naturally lacks some of the functionality you will need later on, you may end up having to shell out extra bucks down the road for various plugins to achieve what you need.
Overall, finding the best DAW software for you will involve determining which software best suits your needs while remaining within your budget. While you can always spend some extra to add more features down the road, you don’t want to get caught accidentally paying for features you may never even use or know about.
#3) How Much Recording Experience Do You Have?
It can be tough to gauge your own level of experience, but being honest with yourself about your knowledge and skill level can help inform your decision when choosing a DAW. While you can certainly spend the time learning how to use just about any DAW out there, some are naturally a little more intuitive and beginner-friendly than others.
In reality, there is no one perfect beginner DAW, just as there isn’t one agreed-upon “professional” level DAW. Finding a DAW that is suitable and comfortable for your skill level will be a combination of considering your goals and how much time you want to spend learning the ins and outs of your software.
Some DAWs allow you to access a free trial period or a “lite” version of their software, which is extremely helpful for helping you get a better feel for a potential workstation. After all, nobody wants to shell out a couple of hundred dollars on software only to find the interface to be confusing, overwhelming or both.
Final Thoughts: Choosing The Best DAW Software Ultimately Comes Down To Your Needs & Preferences
As you have probably already realized by now, determining the best DAW software for your projects is not exactly a straightforward task. It will ultimately require you to take the time to consider a number of personal factors and preferences, such as your needs & goals, budget, and skill level.
There are a lot of great DAW options available and at the end of the day, each one has the potential to be a great choice for you if you are willing to spend the time and effort to learn how they operate. Remember, take your time and do some research before you make your decision. This will ultimately help ensure you end up working with a program that you are both comfortable and happy with in the long run!