Heard of the term DAW but not sure what it is? Or perhaps you are interested in music production and want to know how to get started.
Whichever it is, this simple guide will tell you everything you need to know about DAWs.
Down below, we run through what DAW stands for, what are DAWs used for, as well as the best DAWs to start using today.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into what DAWs are.
Table of Contents
What Is A DAW?
What is a DAW, exactly? And what does DAW stand for?
DAW stands for digital audio workstation. Put simply, digital audio workstations are software products, or applications, used to produce music.
Almost all songs in contemporary music are created using a DAW. DAWs can be used on computers – macOS and Windows (depending on the software) – as well as mobile devices.
Examples of DAWs include Image Line FL Studio, Steinberg Cubase, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Reason, and GarageBand.
Some mobile DAWs include Cubasis, FL Studio Mobile, GarageBand, Beatmaker, and Soundtrap.
In general, mobile DAWs are less powerful than computer DAWs.
What Do You Use A DAW For?
As briefly mentioned above, DAWS, or digital audio workstations, are powerful software applications used to create music.
DAWs can be used to create music from scratch, or arrange and mix recorded audio files into a fully developed professional song.
Either way, almost all contemporary music is produced using a DAW.
Specifically, a DAW can be used to create virtual drum beats, computer-generated instruments and vocals, and record live instruments. Subsequently, you can use a DAW to arrange and mix these sounds into a complete song.
DAWs are used by everyone from bedroom producers to music recording professionals and professional music studios.
Do I Need A DAW To Make Music?
No – you do not technically need a DAW to make music.
Digital music (electronic music), in particular, can be made using lightweight music creation software, as well as hardware music sequencers, and hardware synthesizers.
DAWs are, however, the most popular and powerful tools for music production, used casually as well as professionally in the music industry.
Using a DAW to produce music will give you the most control over music creation, and is also the best way to learn about (and master) music production if you want to become a professional music producer.
How To Start Producing Music
To start producing music at home, a DAW is the first and most important thing you will need.
DAWs are computer software that can be free as well as bought. Of course, priced DAWs will offer the best features and the best overall experience.
To make sure your DAW runs optimally, you will also need to have a fairly powerful computer or laptop.
This includes an up-to-date processor, a high amount of RAM (at least 16 GB), and a large (ideally SSD) hard drive.
Optional music production equipment includes a good pair of headphones or studio monitors (speakers), as well as a MIDI keyboard.
If you want to record audio, you will also need an external sound card and microphone, or audio recorder.
DAWs – Beginner Guide
DAWs are popular music production software, such as Logic Pro, Cubase, FL Studio, Ableton Live, Reason, and GarageBand.
While the interfaces of these particular DAWs are different, a standard professional DAW will feature three main components: a sequencer, mixer, and piano roll.
The sequencer is where you organize and arrange individual tracks into a song. These tracks can include recordings, drum patterns, and virtual instruments.
The piano is where drum patterns and melodies are created, using virtual instruments (VST plugins).
It’s called a piano roll due to the piano layout, where you can input and edit notes in a sequencer pattern, either manually or live with a MIDI keyboard.
The mixer is where you mix the sound of your tracks as a collective production, including volume and panning.
The mixer is also where you can add FX plugins (effects), such as EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, compression, and so on.
What Are The Best DAWs?
Generally speaking, the best DAWs are Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Image Line FL Studio, Steinberg Cubase, Ableton Live, Reason, and GarageBand.
These DAWs are different in design and have different strengths. For example, Ableton Live is better for live use, while FL Studio is better for beginners looking to learn music production with a user-friendly interface.
For professional use, Logic Pro, developed by Apple for macOS, is the industry standard for both music production and live audio recording.
On the whole, however, these are the most popular DAWs, used by bedroom producers as well as professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Is The Best DAW For Beginners?
The best DAW for beginners is widely considered to be FL Studio. FL Studio offers a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for beginners to familiarize themselves with how music production works.
FL Studio is not free but is available on Windows and macOS.
GarageBand is a free DAW for beginners, however, it is exclusive to macOS. GarageBand is also limited in terms of features when compared to complete DAWs such as FL Studio, Cubase, and Logic Pro.
What Is The Most Used DAW?
The most used DAW for beginners and bedroom producers is FL Studio, due to its user-friendly interface.
For professional music producers and recording studios, the most used DAW is Apple Logic Pro, exclusive to macOS.
Logic Pro is widely considered to be the best DAW due to its interface, functionality, and compatibility with third-party software and hardware.
For live performance, Ableton Live is considered the best DAW for its powerful live capabilities.
Does It Matter What DAW You Use?
Ultimately, it does not matter what DAW you use, as long as you get to know how the DAW works.
Talented music producers will be able to make professional-sounding songs with any DAW. Therefore, it does not make you a better producer by simply using the best DAW.
Becoming a professional music producer will come with experience, experimentation, education, and patience.
To become a professional music producer, you will need to have a talent for songwriting and mixing, as well as a technical understanding of how sound works.
In short: DAW stands for digital audio workstation. DAWs are powerful software applications that are used to produce music. Almost all contemporary music is created using a DAW.
Examples of DAWs include Logic Pro, FL Studio, Ableton Live, Cubase, Reason, and GarageBand. DAWs offer the ability to create electronic music from scratch, as well as record sounds and arrange music tracks into complete radio-ready songs.