Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

DAW, known as Digital Audio Workstation is a software that most composers, arrangers, or orchestrators use nowadays to program the music into it. It is mostly used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. It requires at least one input device for adding or modifying data. This can be simple as a mouse and keyboard or as a piano-style MIDI Controller Keyboard or Audio Control Surface.

We can do lots of stuff in the DAW, such as inputting mono or stereo tracks, adding effects/plugins such as equalization, reverb, panning, etc. 

Most of the DAWs are compatible with both macOS and Windows, but Logic PRO X works with Mac only. 

The industry-standard software for film composers used nowadays are Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic Pro and Pro Tools. Where most of the DJs use Ableton Live.

The Good news for you, some of the DAWs below have an educational discount if you are a college/university student or lecturer. Go and ask them for more details, it can save you lots of money! Or, if you have any other software that you wish to cross grade, some of the software below allow you by switching it to your desired software at a lower price! 

Logic Pro X (macOS) – $199.99 USD

The latest version is in Logic Pro X. It has an app named “Logic Remote” where you can download from AppStore. It allows you to use your iPhone or iPad to control the Logic Pro on your Mac. Use Multi-Touch gestures to play software instruments, mix tracks, and control features like Live Loops and Remix FX from anywhere in the room. 

It also has its own sample libraries and effects/plugins for beginners to start up writing their music. If you know how to use GarageBand, then Logic Pro X will be easier for you because it’s the same interface. 

You can share your projects and tracks with Air Drop, Mail Drop or a comprehensive set of features for exporting stems. 

*Film Composer that uses Logic Pro is John Powell*

Cubase Pro/Nuendo (macOS/Windows) – (from €99.99 [Cubase] / from €999.99 [Nuendo] )

Cubase Pro and Nuendo both are from Steinberg. The differences between both:

  • Nuendo can export music/audio along with video, where Cubase can’t.
  • Nuendo can support up to two Video Tracks, and Cubase can only support one.
  • Nuendo can do lots of post-production stuff, such as ADM Authoring for Dolby Atmos, Field Recorder Audio Import, Netflix Loudness Meter, etc.
  • Nuendo also mainly designs for Game Composer, where they can link Wwise with Nuendo seamlessly.
For your information, Steinberg also has a notation software named “Dorico”. I think in the future, either of these DAWs will work with Dorico perfectly too. Either of the DAWs provided the sample libraries and effects/plugins for you to start writing music as well.

*Film Composers that use Cubase are Alan Silvestri and Hans Zimmer*

Digital Performer (macOS/Windows) – $499.00 USD

The latest version is DP 11. One of the powerful features of Digital Performer is to allows you to create multiple sequences in a single project. It also includes a 5GB library of multi-sample acoustic instruments, synths, loops and phrases for you to kickstart. Digital Performer also can display the spectral content of each audio track, side by side with their waveforms, directly in the Sequence editor timeline. 

Ableton Live (macOS/Windows) – from $99 USD

There are the products from Ableton, Ableton Push and Ableton Live. Ableton Push is an instrument that puts everything you need to make music in one place – at your fingertips. Where Ableton Live is the software itself. Ableton Live comes with 3 editions (Intro, Standard and Suite)

Basically, Ableton is designed for live performance because you don’t want to be getting dropouts in that setting. Being said, many DJs use it for beatmatching, crossfading and other different effects used by turntablists. 

FL Studio (macOS/Windows) – from $99 USD

FL Studio is the result of over 20 years of continuous development. Many of the world’s top DJs and producers started by downloading the FL Studio trial, making their first beats in a bedroom studio. One of the biggest advantages of FL Studio is when you get their product, it’s LIFETIME UPGRADE without any additional charges! 

They also offer a range of extra plugins, synths and effects which are highly respected instruments. It has FL Studio Mobile as well which you can create and save complete multi-track music projects on your Mobile Phone or Tablet (Android or macOS).

*Artist that use FL Studio are Murda Beatz, Martin Garrix, TM88, etc. Composer that use FL Studio is Alex Moukala*

Studio One (macOS/Windows) – from $99.95 USD

Studio One’s features include Audio Clip Versions, Autosave, Backup and Archive, Drum Notation, Export Multiple Formats, Live Arranging, Live Chord Information, Musical Symbols and Dynamics Processing, Safety Options, etc.

ProTools (macOS/Windows) – from $29.99 USD/month

ProTools is an industry-standard software for recording engineers and film composers. It is mainly used in Audio Post Production. It allows you to edit, record, produce as well as mix and master your track. 

It also has its own plugins/effects that starters can use. It has an avid link where you can share your project files easily with other users who use ProTools as well. 

Reaper (macOS/Windows) – from $60 USD

Reaper is a complete digital audio production application for computers, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset. 

It supports a vast range of hardware, digital formats and plugins, and can be comprehensively extended, scripted and modified.

Recently is is very popular for Game Composer to use it, for example Wilbert Roger II (Mortal Kombat 11, Call of Duty:WWII, etc)

How to choose the best DAW for you?

In my opinion, I personally like Cubase because of the interface of the software and also compatible for both macOS and Windows. All of the DAWs work pretty much the same. You have to know what your needs are for using the DAW, are you a DJ, or a Film Composer that requires you to write music to the picture. And of course the BUDGET!

As always you can first try out the free trial and see which works best for you. Hope you enjoy reading my sharing! Thanks and have a nice day! =) 

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