Finding The Right Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) For You
Now with that being said, there are DAW’s that have features that make them easier to use without an extensive background or education in the subject of music production. There is no right or wrong with the best DAW for singer-songwriters.
Many years ago, producing a professional sounding record or even demo meant dishing out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to professional recording studios in your given region. However, with the advancement of technology and personal computers, we are able to make quality recordings at home and with a much smaller upfront investment in both time and money.
In doing that, you have to pick one of your most important tools, your DAW or digital audio workstation. When looking at what would work for you, the good news is, there are plenty of quality audio recording and production products on the market today.
With options often comes headaches of making a decision between option A and option H so in the next few paragraphs I hope to make that decision slightly simpler for you!
In this blog, I’ll introduce you to my top four DAW’s for aspiring and professional songwriters that will help elevate your productivity while keeping it simple and to the point.
Many of those who have used Apple computers in the past may have the GarageBand icon floating around in your App Launcher without really knowing what it was.
GarageBand is a user-friendly entry-level DAW that comes on most Apple Products such as Laptops, iPod touches, iPhones and iPads. It is a very straightforward program that easily allows you to get started creating music in no time.
Because of its entry-level status, it does come with fewer features than a DAW you may pay for however if you are looking to simply record a vocal over some guitar and a few drum loops this may be the program for you.
The program has a decent amount of synthesized sounds for added creativity but really shines as a great way to lay down demo recordings using an external microphone and audio interface. If you are interested in what other audio gear you may want to check out our blog Keys To Become a Bedroom Music Producer, I cover exactly what you would need for a simple recording setup at home.
GarageBand is great for songwriters who want to produce tracks using organic instrumentation. It’s great for anyone whose not looking to spend a lot of money and can benefit from recording a smaller number of audio tracks.
Needless to say, due to GarageBand’s free price-point, it’s a great place for anyone with an Apple device to start.
If I mention GarageBand, I feel it only makes sense to bring up its older brother, LogicPro. Though this program does have a cost of $299.00 USD associated with it, it is a professional-level DAW offering everything from recording and mixing to warping live Audio.
If a user is coming from GarageBand they should feel somewhat familiar with LogicPro upon install. LogicPro comes with an extensive sound library that will get any songwriter, entry-level or professional, up and running in no time.
LogicPro is ideal for anyone looking for a functional and affordable DAW that can complete the simplest or most complex tasks while making music. The price is a barrier to entry for some, however, the expanded functionality makes up for it.
LogicPro is also packed with some of the leading audio plugins in the music business. From gates and compressors, too high-end virtual instruments, LogicPro is a program worth creating in.
Just like GarageBand, Logic Pro is only offered on Mac computers and needs to be downloaded digitally from the app store. It’s a good thing to note, that this program is large in size and will require ample room on your hard drive.
With that being said. It has a lot to offer to its future and current users.
Ableton Live 11
Ableton is a DAW that has been around for two decades and does have a slight learning curve for beginners.
Ableton’s layout can be slightly, how should I say this, “unique” as opposed to other DAW’s in the industry, but I promise it is just as robust as the rest. Once you get over the differences the versatility is unmatched in my opinion.
Ableton offers a clean and relatively intuitive layout across its program keeping everything you need for recording, editing and mixing on one window, eliminating the need of switching back and forth between your arrangement and mixer windows.
With the intro version of Ableton starting at $99.00 USD users have a lot to get them started. When looking at other DAW’s, over time someone who starts with the intro version of Ableton may want to upgrade to their midterm (Ableton Live Standard or even their complete bundle (Ableton Live Suit) however, keep in mind this is an extra cost, and the price does go up dramatically.
Though Ableton may be more expensive than some DAW’s it also offers musicians something other than recording capabilities, it offers live performance abilities, building background sessions and even DJ capabilities.
Unlike the other programs mentioned, you can also purchase Ableton’s proprietary software controller known as PUSH. This is a great way to control the software from something that sits on your desk, and it can even be played as a musical instrument.
With a price of $799, this may be something you think about adding to your songwriting gear list later down the road.
If you’re in the music industry or even trying to emerge into the business, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard the word Pro Tools being tossed around. Pro Tools is the industry standard and most popular DAW used around the world.
If you ever work in a large format recording studio like the ones you would find in Nashville, New York or LA, you can pretty much count on those projects being recorded in Pro Tools.
Now Pro Tools offers a wide array of systems at different costs. If you’re just looking to record your own music, an option called Pro Tools First may be the choice for you. This is a free version of Pro Tools with limited features, but it’s enough to get started.
If you’re a little more serious and are thinking of spending money, check out their subscription service. They offer the full version of Pro Tools at a price of $29.99 a month with a yearly contract. This unlocks the software to its full potential and if you’re serious about a career in music, you will end up using it.
With all this being said, there’s no wrong choice when starting out as a songwriter, you simply need a piece of software that will let you record your ideas.
Don’t let the price point influence your decision either. Just because it’s the most expensive does not mean it’s going to work for you.
I know plenty of people, myself included who don’t use Pro Tools because something else just works better for them. Most DAW’s on the market have a trial or free version so you can determine if it is the right fit for you. USE THEM ALL!
There are so many people who start using a program and dislike some features, or it’s too difficult. In reality, there is no single best DAW for singer-songwriters, do your research and decide what works best for you and why it works best for you.
Remember, music is something you enjoy and that’s why you started this journey.
Tie It All Together
If you are interested in a career in the Music Industry, Dark Horse Institute’s Composition and Songwriting, Audio Engineering, or Music Business Programs are a great way to take things to the next level!