Friday, March 18, 2011

Which Daw? A Beginner's Guide pt. 1

Okay, you've heard some music you like, and you want to make music like that.  But where to start?

You're going to need a computer, some type of audio input/output from your computer and some speakers so you can hear the music you are making.

All of those are individual topics that I'll cover in later posts.  But for now, after you have all those elements sorted out, you need a DAW.  A daw is an old term for Digital Audio Workstation.  Back in the day people were freaking out about working with sound digitally, so had to come up with stupid names for things.

Now DAW usually refers to the audio software used to produce music.

There are many companies that have released daws, but I'm going to focus on what I perceive as the major players.  If you feel I'm not representing your daw at all, or inaccurately, leave a comment and we'll see what is up.

The big players I see now are (in alphabetic order, of sorts):
  1. Ableton Live
  2. Cubase
  3. Fl Studio
  4. Logic
  5. ProTools
  6. Reaper
  7. Reason
  8. Renoise

There are a handful of others, but others deserving mention are MOTU's Digital Performer, PreSonus' Studio One, and Cakewalk's Sonar.  DP has been around for a while only on the mac, but has a small number of users, mostly in the film biz.  Studio One is a brand new daw, with supposedly good native plugins (devices used to create and process sounds).  New really might be better in the daw world, antique daw's like Cubase suffer from some bad design decisions made at the beginning of computer music that unfortunately are too fundamental and costly for them to fix.  But Studio One has not totally caught on yet.  Maybe in the future we'll see more users.  And it is worth mentioning here, that learning a daw properly will take a few years, so switching is no easy thing.  Users have to be pretty unhappy with their daw to give up all that knowledge and start over again.  And for the last of the unlisted, Sonar... I wish I knew more about Sonar, but almost everyone I try to talk to has no experience with it.  No one I know uses it, I think that speaks volumes.

I don't know if this is relevant but one thing to think about is the parent company of the daw.  In the past, daws were independent companies, but they were bought up by larger hardware companies.
  • Ableton Live - Something going on with Alesis/Akai
  • Cubase - Yamaha
  • Logic - Apple
  • ProTools - Digi Desgin/Avid/M-audio
  • Sonar - Roland (too bad too, because Roland hardware is good stuff)

Really, I don't know what this tells you, but it is something to think about. These parent companies bought up all the daws in a daw rush, so I don't think there is any correlation between the parent companies and the daw's they now own, per se, but I expect that over time, the parent companies' general business ethic will work its way into the daws themselves.

On to pt. 2!


  1. Big up, this should be helpful to alot of people.

  2. Looking forward to follow up posts. I'm very interested in music production but know next to nothing. Beginners guides like this are really useful.

  3. Great post, insightful, consice and informative. Nice one, once again; your blog provides.