DAWS Wars: The Producer’s Path
The lightsaber is to a Jedi what a DAW is to a producer! The role of a grounded producer encompasses beat making, sound design, composition, arrangement, mixing, mastering amongst others. Once you have found your calling and ready to commit to it no matter what may; then, you have found your path. One of the very first thing is to know the basics of everything there is to know. I believe that knowledge of music theory early enough would give you lots of advantage when starting out (and that is my personal opinion.),
Coming of The DAWS
DAW, an acronym for Digital Audio Workstation is an essential tool (perhaps the most important) for the modern music producer. Practically, DAWs, audio workstations or workstations (as i will inter-changeably use them) are pieces of software which makes it possible for sound (audio and MIDI) to be recorded into a computer in order for it to be edited and then exported into a consumer-friendly formats. In other words, DAWS are the foundation on which musical bricks are laid.
Audio workstations has made it possible to seamlessly create musical pieces that would ordinarily have required an ensemble or band of musicians playing different instruments simultaneously. From the biggest Hollywood studios to the bedroom ‘set-up’ of a passionate and budding beat-maker, audio workstations are the most important tool in this day and time.
Before the emergence of modern audio workstations as we have them today, music producers and composers used analogue recorders in capturing their ideas. These equipments allows mostly for one-take recordings unlike the endless and seamless editing luxury producers have today.
The first known form of audio recording were made with Phonautographs. Later it developed into Phonographs (both later and former were analogue recorders). With time however, it metamorphosed into tape machine with much more improvements over the earlier counterparts. Most notable among those improvements is the introduction of multi-tracking. The processes were tedious and the equipments bulky. It would take a fairly longer time to produce a song into the master version. Also, recordings were often low fidelity or distorted.
As time progressed and technology evolved, both hardware and software experienced huge improvements. This has to a great extent simplified the music production process (it can be safe to say a producer today is limited only by his imaginations.
The features of a modern DAW should include: tempo settings (BPM/metronome settings), instrument racks, file browser, sound libraries, multi-track recording, sequencer, piano roll, mixer, access to third party plugins amongst others.
The Battle of The DAWS
In the planet where content is king, creators – music producers, composers, beatmakers, sound designers and engineers are constantly looking for tools that allow for smoother workflows and maximum productivity. Factors often considered are cost, ease of use, plugins availability (extension capabilities) and software etc. All other factors can arguably be overlooked. While most DAWS in the market are OS neutral, a few are OS specific and would only run on particular operating system.
As at the time of writing this article there are almost twenty top-grade audio workstations available in the market all battling for the ‘numero uno’ position. This write up will attempt to examine the frontlines but the post would be incomplete without quick mentions of some of the others.
In the planet where content is king, creators – music producers, composers, beatmakers, sound designers and engineers are constantly looking for tools that allow for smoother workflows and maximum productivity.
Among the more popular DAWS in the world today are ProTools, Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Cubase, Studio One, Bitwig Studio and Reason. Others include Audition, Nuendo, Reaper, Cakewalk, Sound Forge, Reaper, Sonar and Audacity amongst others.
Comparism: DAWS on the Table
|DAWS||UI||Price||OS||Years In Dev||Vendors|
|FL Studio||Win||Image Line|
|Bitwig Studio||Win||2014 – Present||Bitwig GmbH|
In the final analysis, a producer who wishes to be very rounded in his craft should master or rather have good experience with at least three DAWS even if he/she would later decide to settle with a particular brand. This would make adaptability and ‘transitions’ when necessary much easier and seamless.
Ultimately, whatever DAW you choose is the path you will follow. While the very popular and successful workstations may seem to offer some people a lots of advantages, this may not necessarily for other people. With the availability of several third party plugins, there are alternatives for almost every feature of any major DAW. You are actually only limited in your mind.
At this point it is instructive to further suggest say that every producer should master at least two audio workstations as a regular go-to tools. Without any bias or prejudice, i’ve personally settled for Ableton Live and Avid ProTools. Above all other things, my reasons are:
For Live (Ableton):
- I find the Ableton Live session mode very productive for generating ideas; it makes my workflow much quicker and better. I can switch from an idea or pattern to an entirely new one while still retaining original concept
- Second reason is the minimalistic approach to Live’s UI (user interface) design. I believe this may have to do my design background – i find the interface quite calming. If you make LOFI, soul or jazzy type of music, just maybe be you will understand my point. This itself can be a boost to inspiration when creating ‘pieces’. I have lots of love for FL Studio, Logic Pro and Bitwig Studio but i would rather keep things simple.
For Pro Tools (Avid):
My second option is ProTools. The reason is not far fetched. It is arguably the most used audio workstation in professional studios across the world. Some Audiophiles have even at some point regarded it as the standard. My reason for Pro Tools is I do not want to be invited to a pro studio for a project only to start fiddling with a knob or a slider without knowing exactly what it does.
Before finally settling for a primary or secondary audio workstation, it is a good practice to try your hands on as many DAWs as possible. Almost all the workstations available today come in demo or trial versions. The insights you will gain from this familiarization would be very beneficial and make your life easier in the long run (sincerely speaking.)
Before finally settling for a primary or secondary audio workstation, it is a good practice to try your hands on as many DAWs as possible. Almost all the workstations available today come in demo or trial versions.
Now that you’re ready to start the journey, i say may the force be with you.