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01 MARCH 2017

written by Mike

WHAT IS DAW?

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It is a computer and software that we use when working with audio. There are different types of programs that we can call DAW. Every one of them has a set of unique functions and options that we can use.

But what is the best DAW?

Today DAW is an absolute fundament and basis for any project that uses a processed audio. Of course, you can use simple functions of video programs to add your sounds. But you will find them limited, narrow and boring. If you just want to add a music track or some sound effects to your YouTube video you don’t need extra software. Editor in Creator Studio will be enough for you.

But where is the fun in that?

Audio programs can be a little daunting when you first try to use one. But after a while, you will realise that they all share the same basic concepts. Once you learn how to operate in one of them, it will be easy to use another. You still will need to learn the new interface of course.

Let’s dive into four most basic functions of DAW.

To choose the right music software you need to check how they work as every program will be a little different. And aimed at different things.

RECORDING

Pretty much every single audio program has an option to record sound.

It is rather a question of what you will record and how you will process it later on. If you were going to send recordings to someone else, then it would be a good idea to use the same software. It will be easier to save it as a ready session with the correct settings.

It is also critical to decide what kind of recording it will be. If it is a live recording of a band or orchestra, then Avid Pro Tools is a standard. The reason Pro Tools is so popular is its stability and control over audio input options. Recording a large music band requires a lot of power. And it is not the best if the whole thing was to crash during the performance. The issue of stability is important in that instance.

Recording digital sounds is different. A MIDI keyboard is required to send a signal to a computer to generate sounds. And not much else. You’ll find MIDI controllers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed so here are a few tips to help you with the decision.

Quick Tip For Selecting a MIDI Controller

The best way to decide what controller is best for you is to make a list of all of the tasks that a controller would simplify for you. Once you’re done, you’ll have a much easier time pinpointing a controller that fits your needs. For example, if you’re simply a piano player looking for a realistic way to record piano progressions into your DAW, you might opt for an 88-key keyboard that supports MIDI, such as the Yamaha P115. If you’re a beat maker that will be playing some simple chord progressions, but will be focused on percussion, a 49-key MIDI controller with drum pads, such as the MPK249 would be a great choice. At the end of the day, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all MIDI controller. It all depends on your personal studio workflow.

A program with a focus on working with MIDI will be a much better choice for this kind of projects.

Apple Logic, CubaseNuendo are just a few from a vast range of choice. For example, Logic comes with a selection of synths that can create a whole orchestra on a computer. And with a focus on MIDI control it is much easier to use it for that purpose. Of course, a lot of sound engineers work on multiple platforms. We do like to live on the edge.

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SAMPLING

We know sampling from electronic and rap music, but today it can be a part of any great production, and in most cases it is. Samples are short snippets of audio. It can be a musical theme, a sound effect or a drumbeat. Bands such as Daft Punk rely on sampling. And they do it quite well.

Not only during a creation of their music but during live performances too. Software with a focus on sampling will be useful if your project requires a responsive interface.DAWs such as Ableton Live or FL Studio aspire to be easy to operate and work when it comes to producing music. Or performing music that uses a lot of samples.

MIDI instruments such as Novation Launchpad are great tools when it comes to the art of sampling for the reason that they are easy to program and connect to your DAW.

 EDITING

We describe editing as cleaning recordings from unwanted noise. Cutting sounds into smaller pieces, moving sounds around or just creating a clear session layout for later work. All above is editing.

And you can get an Oscar for it too. When it comes to editing audio, there are three things that you want to take into consideration.

Stability, speed, and interface.

Stability is important when it comes to a big project. Editing audio on full feature movie or game means working through thousands of sounds. An unexpected system crash is the last thing on your wanted list. Especially if you forgot to save for some time. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you will also need to use simple processing such as reversing, adding volume or slowing down/speeding up.

Stability and processing power will make the whole process smooth and error free. Speed it important, especially when you are on tight schedule. In fact, speed is linked to an interface, our third variable on the list.

A well-designed interface will result in greater speed. That results in meeting deadlines. That results in you sleeping better at night. And less coffee and longer life (probably!). By speed, we mean how fast you can edit and not the actual speed of your system. And that is where Avid Pro Tools is the most popular system.

A vast set of keyboard shortcuts and a clear interface is the selling point of fast-paced editing when it comes to Pro Tools.  Of course other programs such as Apple Logic Cakewalk Sonar or Steinberg Cubase are well designed too, so it is best to try out different kinds of DAW before deciding on one.

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MIXING

The art of mixing sounds today is different to the past. In the past, you needed an expensive analog console with many buttons and faders. In present times, you can do all the mixing on your laptop. Maybe not all, but that is not the point.

Each DAW is capable of creating a sound mix but like in everything else some of them are better than others. The industry standard is once again, Avid Pro Tools. It is due to its stability, clear controls but also hardware that comes with it. When it comes to creating a mix at home, I recommend trying a range of different programs.

Some of them might be easier to use than others but in the end, everyone works in a different way. Delivering a good mix depends on many variables and choosing the right software is only one of them. Deciding on a right DAW can cause you more than a headache. There are many on the market, some more expensive than others. Most of them have as many supporters as bad reviews, so download a demo and test it yourself.

In the end, it is important to remember that audio software is just a tool, learning how to use in the best way is another story.

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