Let us first understand what a DAW is, DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It’s essentially a software program that lets you access, record, edit and playback audio. Different DAWS serve different purposes and each has its own set of pros and cons. Today we will discuss some of these software and which one you should choose if you’re starting your career in the field of sound. Working in the field for over 10 years and slightly dabbling into all these software I have a fair understanding of the usability and functionality of each of these software.
|Easy and Intuitive Layout||Expensive|
|Regular Updates and Fixes||Not good for working with MIDI|
|Commonly Used in Studios||Not many inbuilt Sounds|
|5.1 Flexibility||Inferior Instruments|
|Easy to Manipulate I/O||CPU Intensive|
|MIDI Functionality||Inferior audio editing capability|
|Great Stock Sounds||Only on MacOSX|
|Complex to use for Film|
|Pros||Cons||Quality Sounds Out of the Box||Hard to use for Post Production|
|Not CPU Intensive|
|Easy to use with controllers|
|Easy to Use||Can’t be used for Mixing and Post Production|
|Great Stock Effects||Can’t be used for Recording|
|Clean looking UI||Hard to learn|
|Great Features and Tools||Doesn’t come with a lot of Instruments|
I have an interesting story to tell with this software. We were once tasked with the job of doing a live multi-track at one of the biggest events in the country and we were recording through UB MADI. We were using Pro Tools but as it turns out last minute pro tools refused to record more than 64 tracks simultaneously because you need a pro tools HD system to be able to do that. Thank god for reaper, using my phones internet we were able to download and use reaper to record. It took us exactly 5 minutes to download and install and start the recording. This DAW is a lifesaver. It is extremely light, easy to use and has a robust engine. The best thing about this DAW is that it is absolutely free to use! You can trial this for 21 days and if you want to purchase it post that, the copy costs very little money. This DAW can be used for recording, mixing and even editing. It also has a feature called Real-script that lets you customize all kinds of layouts and interface look and feel.
|Regular Updates||Hard to learn|
|Customizable||Doesn’t come with a lot of Instruments|
|Features specifically for Songwriters||Uncommon in studios causing compatibility nightmares|
Apart from the ones I spoke about, there are a number of other DAWs out there. Now the question of which DAW one should use is a personal one. My approach would be to get some hands on experience on one of these DAWs and see if it works for you or not. Unlike other engineers today, I didn’t have too many options when I started out, so it was an easy choice since the decision was made for me. In my opinion, one should identify the tasks one wants to execute from a DAW.
Do you want to produce music? Or do you want to be able to record, mix and master? Or do you want to work on Film sound? Once you narrow down which of these tasks you expect your DAW to excel at, you can then make your decision based on the aforementioned list. Again, another common mistake I see a lot of students make is that they are masters of none!
Instead of trying to get to know a little bit about all of these DAWs understand how one DAW functions so comprehensively, that it becomes an extension of you, almost like an instrument.
Imagine a client sitting next to you, you’re sitting in the engineers chair and the client wants the track re-arranged. You should be quick enough to understand what the client wants and execute it quickly without wasting any time. The quicker you are the more time the client saves, and the more likely he is to call you in for another session.
So to summarize, find a DAW that works for you and learn it inside out. Practice it like a musician practices his instrument and you’ll be on your way to becoming a competent audio professional.