For most aspiring musicians and bands, money runs tight and booking studio time isn’t in the beyond budget. Luckily, with the advent of the computer age, musicians benefit from a myriad of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) that allow them to record and compose songs relatively cheaply and easily. With a few microphones, an audio interface box, a midi controller and your instrument, you can be well on your way to making high quality demos.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of working with a DAW is that you’re on your own time instead of the studio’s clock, so you can really get those creative juices flowing. Some of the most promimenet DAW’s include Pro Tools, Logic Pro (Apple), Reason/Record (Proppellerhead), and Ableton Live. Let’s tackle them one by one.
Pro Tools has been the industry standard for years, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Nearly every professional study is equipped with a Pro Tools system, and it’s a very powerful DAW. But inherent in powerful features is a pretty steep learning curve. If you’ve got the mind of an audio engineer or the time to learn its functionality, Pro Tools could be the DAW for you, but beware, it’s not for the feint of heart.
Logic Pro is the natural progression for any musician who has ever tooled around on Apple’s Garage Band. With a wide array of high quality virtual instruments and effects, Logic Pro combines the easy of use that Mac owners have become accustomed to with a professional grade DAW. While Pro Tools is still clearly the top DAW, Logic Pro is nipping at its heels due to its user friendly layout.
Reason & Record by Proppellerhead work in tandem. Record facilitates tracking while Reason provides users with a ton of virtual instruments and drum machines. For artists interested in complex routing and synthesis to create unique sounds, Reason is the software for you, and it also links up nicely with its sister software Record. It is worth noting that Reason can be used in conjunction with other DAWs if its placed in “slave mode”, so if you don’t like the setup of Record but want access to Reason’s massive synth library, you have options.
Ableton Live is one of the most unique DAWs out there due to its easy midi configuration. It’s equally a production tool and a performance tool. Many producers of Electronic Dance Music lean on Ableton Live for their production and performance in addition to bands playing livetronica that rely on advanced effects and sampling. For artists really looking to explore where they can take their sound, Ableton provides a user-friendly platform that encourages experimentation.
For beginners, there are tons of free tutorials online you can access to get you going, regardless of what platform you choose. Whether you’re part of a band and trying to lay down a new song or a solo musician looking to simulate the experience of playing with an entire band, knowing your way around a DAW (or two!) can be a really useful tool-set. Happy recording!