Choosing the Right Software for Music Making.

One of the questions I am often asked is “Which Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is best for me?”. With the amount of options out there it can be hard to decide, but it probably isn’t as critical a decision as you might think.

In the early days of DAWs there were clear distinctions between the audio sequencers that were available at the time. For example, you would choose Pro Tools if you wanted to record or edit audio, and Logic or Cubase if you mainly worked with MIDI. However, nowadays each DAW has adaptations of the features used by the others. The result is that most DAWs have very similar feature sets. So when deciding which one to choose the first thing you can do is identify your needs as a musician, producer or engineer.

Do you want something that works more like a tape machine and is suitable for predominantly instrument recording?

Try Pro Tools, Reaper, Studio One, Digital Performer, Logic, Tracks Live, Cubase or Nuendo.

Are you looking for something with lots of high quality instruments included in the basic package?

Try Logic or Cubase.

Do you work with more electronic sounds and like to get stuck into creative sound design?

Try Ableton Live, Reason, Logic, Bitwig, FL Studio or Cubase.

Do you want to include electronics in your live gigs?

Try Ableton or Bitwig.

Do you wish to take projects from straight home to commercial studio facilities?

Try Pro Tools or Logic.

Do you want to work creatively with loops and samples?

Try Ableton Live, FL Studio or Bitwig.

Do you want to work with sound to picture?

Try Pro Tools, Nuendo or Logic.

Most companies have demo versions available that you can try for free for 30 days without restrictions. Some, such as Reaper or Tracks Live, are free to use long term, although they will request that you pay for a license if you are using them commercially.

Unfortunately Logic does not have a free trial version. However, if you’re on Mac and have Garage Band installed, give it a try. Garage Band is very similar to Logic and a trial in Garage Band will familiarise you with Logic’s interface.

People have approached me in the past and said something along the lines of: “if I had x, y or z software, I would be able to achieve so much more”. The thing is, the software doesn’t hold you back. All of the above mentioned DAWs have similar features sets and are capable of achieving high quality mixes. The most important thing about selecting a DAW is to choose something you like to look of, that feels intuitive to you, and does the job. And, you can always mix and match; you don’t have to stick with one piece of software.

Download some demos of the programs listed above, watch some online tutorials and get stuck in.

And of course you can always arrange a session with The Home Studio Doctor…

If you have questions please email me via the contacts page or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.


Trial version download links…

Tracks Live




Digital Performer

Ableton Live

Pro Tools

Studio One



Copyright © Matthew Smyth 2015 |