Music Gear News
Which Music Software Is Right For You?
Which Music Software Is Right For You?
A DAW is software that allows you to create and edit music on your computer. Each DAW has unique features – here’s our guide to help you choose the right one for you.
A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is software that allows you to create music on your computer. It’s possibly one of the most important parts of a computer music setup, and it will make a huge impact on the way you make music.
What is a DAW?
A DAW is the control centre of your computer studio. DAW software allows you to organise audio on screen and process it further - whether that’s recording live sounds or using software instruments and audio samples.
Once you’ve connected your computer with DAW software to speakers and other studio equipment, you’ll be ready to make music.
DAWs can offer many features, all accessible from directly within the software - live recording, playing with built-in synths or software instruments, processing with effects, mixing with a virtual mixing console, inputting MIDI data (to control virtual instruments), creating musical notation, blending audio samples, and the ability to edit and play back a complete music track.
DAWs also allow your project to be exported into a compete audio track or piece of music.
Which DAW is right for me?
When it comes to picking a DAW, there’s a few things to think about. While they all include similar features to do essentially the same thing – create music and audio – they also have many different features, and some are more suitable to some users than others.
- Musicians, engineers, studios, arrangers, composers, film producers, music producers, podcasters
- Tracking audio, using MIDI instruments, mixing/mastering, complex studio work
Steinberg’s Cubase DAW has one of the best MIDI editing capabilities in the market. It’s focused on giving you an efficient workflow and is one of the most stable platforms, even if you throw a heavy load of plugins into your project session. Cubase excels at tracking instruments and audio, editing MIDI instrument performances, arranging music, mixing, and mastering.
Cubase also has strong notation capabilities, making it a go-to for many film composers. Users looking to take this further can purchase Steinberg’s Dorico for enhanced notation creation.
Cubase has a few versions. Depending on how many tracks you want to use and the complexity of your projects, there will be one that fits you best.
The flagship Cubase Pro gives you unlimited Audio tracks and a huge plethora of premium plugins, whereas the Cubase Elements gives you a paired-back selection to get started. So, think about whether you just want to create demos as a songwriter, or whether you’re a producer that could use more tracks. Cubase also has a free trial on offer, and there’s also audio interfaces that come with a free version of Cubase too:
- Recording studios, engineers, live instrument producers, songwriters, mixing/mastering engineers
- Complex audio routing in studios, mixing, mastering, rack mount gear connectivity
Pro Tools is the DAW you’ll find in many big recording studios around the world. That’s not to say you can’t make a number 1 hit on any other DAWs, it’s just that Pro Tools has become known as an industry-standard in professional studios for its extensive feature-set, before many other DAWs even existed.
Pro Tools works extremely well with rack-mounted gear, large mixing desks, and complex patch routings. The audio capabilities are fantastic, so it’s perfect for recording live instruments and editing. Pro Tools is also a solid choice for editing and mixing.
If you’re looking to get yourself into professional music studios around the world and work on a large format desk, Pro Tools should be on your radar. Something to consider is that Pro Tools is sold on a subscription service, so you will pay for 12 months at a time.
Shop now | Pro Tools
- Electronic producers, hip-hop, musicians, synth users
- Hands-on interface with rack design, virtual synths included, drum machines, effects
Reason Studios’ workflow is based around a rack design. It’s perfect for people who like to use hardware and patching, and it’s very realistic too! You’ll be able to create connections on screen, almost exactly as you would with a hardware setup.
Reason has a range of built-in virtual analog synths too, which is great it you’re an electronic or hip-hop producer. You can either use Reason standalone or include its rack system inside another DAW.
If you’re the sort of creator who likes to get hands-on, Reason could be the perfect DAW for you.
Shop now | Reason Studios
- Hip-hop, electronic producers, DJs, beat-makers
- Loop-based composition, making beats, collection of virtual instruments
Fruity Loops is the software that inspired a generation of creators to get started, and for good reason too! FL Studio is super easy to learn and make music on.
FL Studio is a favourite for hip-hop and electronic producers for its easy interface that lets you get started with making music off the get go. FL Studio allows you to create beats easily, even without a MIDI controller. It’s also has great virtual instruments, which makes it ideal if you’re wanting to make music with electronic elements. It’s great for beat making, loop-based compositions and doing lots of automation.
FL Studio has three versions. The premium Producer and Signature versions provide you with everything for a full song creation as well as extra plugins, whereas the starter Fruity Edition lets you create basic melodies and loop creation.
Shop now | FL Studio
- Electronic producers, trap, hip-hop, general music creation, home/project/portable studios
- Live performance, creating beats, chopping samples, recording instruments
Ableton is favoured by electronic, trap and hip-hop producers. If this is your style, Ableton should be on your list.
Ableton Live is great for speedy music creation, as you can tweak and edit fast. Choose this if you’re into sample chopping, tweaking, and loop editing, as Ableton is all about enhancing workflow. It’s simple to use and highly efficient at creating beats.
Ableton is also great for live use, letting you treat the software as an instrument in its own right.
Ableton are letting you try Ableton Live 10 Suite free for 90 days for you to try out! Try this out and see how many features you use. If you use a lot, then maybe the enhanced versions are more for you.
If you’re looking to get Ableton integrated with your studio, check out these products which include a free version:
You can also get Ableton 10 Live Intro free with the Ableton Push 2 Advanced Pad Controller - the ultimate hands-on music-making experience.
PreSonus Studio One
- Songwriters, general producers, home/project studio, musicians, podcasters
- Creating demos, quick drag-and-drop workflow
PreSonus’ Studio One is one of the newer DAWs. It’s “songwriting first”, which makes it easy to compose music fast as it is focused on creativity and inspiration.
If you’re a songwriter creating demos, this could be the perfect choice for you. Studio One is also great for producers who want to make a professional career. Studio One has a drag-and-drop workflow, which makes making music quicker. You can easily move an instrument or effect into the arrangement window and get recording. There’s lots of effects plugins and mixing functions too.
Here’s some audio interface bundles which include a version of Studio One software.
- PreSonus AudioBox iTwo Studio
- PreSonus Audiobox 96 Studio Vocal Pack
- PreSonus Audiobox Ultimate Bundle
Logic Pro X
- Producers, engineers, songwriters, podcasters, musicians, studios
- Recording instruments, mixing and mastering, playing MIDI instruments, songwriting, arranging
Logic Pro X is another good choice for electronic producers, but it’s also fantastic at recording live and virtual instruments, as well as creating arrangements. As such, Logic Pro X is a good choice for pop/rock producers and even film work.
While it’s for iOS only, Logic Pro X is an extension of the free Garageband software – another fantastic choice for making music.
Logic Pro X has a large range of virtual instruments and plugins included in the box. Logic is also very easy to use and has a smooth learning curve. MIDI and audio tasks are intuitive, which makes it a good balance between functionality and ease of use. Songwriters will love the included “Drummer” feature which can intelligently create a beat for almost any genre.
Logic Pro X only has 1 version – the full version. So, there’s no other versions but this also means that you’re getting the complete package and the price is very reasonable (providing you’re already an iOS user). Same as with Ableton, Apple are giving you a free 90-day trial of Logic Pro X to try it out! Perfect for anyone wanting to create music that combines recorded and synthesized elements
Summary - which DAW should I buy?
- Think about what genre of music you want to make.
- Decide whether you’re recording live instruments or mainly using synthesized elements (hardware or software).
- Trial free DAWs to get a feel for them to see if you can work with them.
- Think about the size and complexity of your projects.
- Does it feel right to you/does the software work for you?
All these DAWs are made to create music. They all do different things well, so find what works for you.
Try out the free trials of different DAWs to see which one you enjoy working with. If you like the workflow, but your chosen DAW doesn’t have the sounds or VSTs you like, there’s also 3rd party plugins and external sounds which can install into your DAW.
Your DAW should work with you, not against you. It’s different for everyone - that’s why DAWs provide you with free trials, so be sure to check these out and see what works for you.
The best thing we’d advise, is to get the demos and try creating a track. Is there one that feels a lot better for you to use? Techniques and learning can be done over time, so make sure it feels right from the start.
Related Music News
Denon DJ's Firmware V1.5 promises to make your workflow even more efficient with new Sync Manager, BPM Detection, Track Preview, and more.
The Mixtrack Pro FX and Platinum FX DJ Controllers mark another milestone in Numark's rich DJ history. Replacing the Mixtrack 3 series, these accessible controllers offer premium features and an intuitive user experience.
There are so many great headphones out there, it's hard to know where to begin. Here's our guide to help you find the perfect pair...
Submit your entry now to win an incredible home studio prize and recording opportunity from HARMAN. Find out more about the #StayHomeStudio challenge.
Making music at home can be enjoyed no matter what your age. If you have young children, here's some family-friendly instruments that are easy to play and great fun!
Get hands-on with your music making. Here's our top 10 analog synths for under 500GBP
Recent Music News
The acoustic guitar comes in a range of shapes and sizes, but what makes each one so special? Here's our rundown of the most iconic acoustic guitar types, and what they can bring to your sound.
Enter now for your chance to win free drumheads and drumsticks!
Neat Microphones combine premium tech with eye-catching designs. With a range covering professional and home desktop users, find out why Neat Microphones should be on your radar.
Studio monitors are an essential piece of kit. Letting you hear music and sounds in perfect detail. We've made it easy to choose which is right for you by compiling our top 10.
Akai Professional has just announced its MPC Live II. With built-in speakers and battery power, this portable production powerhouse is ready for whenever inspiration strikes.
Here's our pick of the best digital pianos you use to play and practise at home.