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The Best DAWs For Each Type Of Producer


It can be difficult to choose a digital audio workstation. There are so many.

Here’s a tip: choose a DAW based on what type of producer you are.

That’s what this post is all about. I’ll share the best DAWs for each type of producer, including newbies, beatmakers, composers, and singer-songwriters.

What To Look For In A DAW

Before we dive into the specific DAWs for specific producers, there are some things to consider.

You have to know and think about these factors. Otherwise, you could end up with the completely wrong DAW for what you’re doing.

The first consideration is the DAW’s compatibility.

It has to work with your computer’s operating system. Most DAWs work with most computers, but make sure you double-check before you buy. Some programs work exclusively with macOS or Windows, not both.

The second factor to look at is what audio plugins the DAW works with. If you have a certain plugin you love, and it doesn’t work with your DAW, you’ll hit a wall of frustration.

The three main formats of plugins are:

  • VST (Virtual Studio Technology)
  • AU (Audio Units)
  • RTAS (Real-Time Audio Suite)

These aren’t the only plugin formats, but they’re the most common.

Here’s the compatibility of each plugin format:

  • AU: macOS (but not all DAWs that work with macOS)
  • RTAS: only Pro Tools DAWs
  • VST: any DAW on any operating system

As you can probably guess, VST plugins are the most common because they work with every DAW and OS.

The next factor is cost. Most DAWs you have to pay for, but there are many solid options that are free (or super affordable). I’ll talk more about this below.

And the last consideration: make sure the DAW you choose fits what you want to do. That’s what the rest of this post is all about…

Newbies: GarageBand

If you’re an Apple user, it’s worth buying a Macbook just for GarageBand. It is by far the most user-friendly DAW out there.

When I first started recording music — back when I knew absolutely nothing about engineering or producing — I went to GarageBand.

It’s easy to use. And it comes pre-loaded with all the virtual instruments and effects you’ll need to make a professional-sounding song.

Highlights:

  • Comes built-in with every Apple computer and iPad
  • Professional effects, virtual instruments, and editing capabilities
  • Easy to learn

Beatmakers: Cubase

Beatmakers love Cubase because it’s intuitive and comes with a big library of loops and virtual instruments. It actually has 3,000 built-in instrument presets, and 1,500 effects presets (Pro version only).

Plus, Steinberg, the company behind Cubase, has a ton of hardware and software that works across their DAWs, including Cubase.

If you’re working within a budget, you can pick up Cubase Elements for under $100. Or you can get the most complete option, Cubase Pro Full Version, for under $600.

Highlights:

  •  Thousands of built-in virtual instruments and effects
  • Intuitive interface for composing and beatmaking
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows

[Editor’s Note: If you’re a Cubase user and you’re already locked into that DAW, my good friend Chris Selim from Mixdown Online just came out with his brand-new course, The Ultimate Cubase Mixing Masterclass. (affiliate link). He has a giant $100 discount on it this week, and if you join through my link above, I’ll also throw in my Quick Mixing With Stock Plug-ins course for FREE. Just send me your receipt via email and I’ll hook you up.]

Composers: Logic Pro X

Logic Pro X is basically GarageBand 2.0. Apple makes it, so it’s easy to install and is relatively inexpensive on the Apple store. Logic Pro X has a huge library of virtual instruments, effects, and loops (more than 7,000).

It’s uniquely perfect for composers because you can import a movie into your project. This makes it super easy to match your composition with the visual media.

Highlights:

  • Thousands of virtual instruments, effects, and loops
  • Import a video into your project

Singer-songwriters: Reaper

Reaper can do pretty much anything the big-name DAWs can do, like the others on this list. But it’s much more affordable, costing as little as $60.

The reason it’s good for singer-songwriters is its simplicity. Sing-songwriters want their songs to be the highlight, rather than the beat or cool effects. Reaper’s intuitive interface and easy-to-use controls makes it perfect for songwriters who want to feature their songwriting.

Plus, there are plenty of built-in plugins that get the job done, like EQ, compressors, reverbs, and delays.

Highlights:

  • Easy to learn
  • Very affordable
  • Quality stock plugins included

How To Make The Most Of Your DAW

Choosing the right DAW for you is only the first step in making better music. You’ll need to know how to properly use the tools it offers.

And when it comes to producing music, EQ is one of the most basic things you need to be familiar with.

Fortunately, Audio Issues offers a free EQ training. It’s packed full of 71 EQ tips to help you make better music at home.

Check it out here.

– – –

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.

FEATURED IMAGE: screenshot of Logic Pro X from https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/


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About me

About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

We help home studio musicians and project studio producers make a greater musical impact in their lives by teaching them the skills needed to grow their hobbies and careers. We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use right away to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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