Best DAW For Producing Songs At Home (Music Production Tips For Beginners)

music production tips for beginners

There's Photoshop for photo takers, Final Cut Pro for video makers... what about song makers? What software can we use to bring our songs to life? Thankfully, we can use a powerful piece of software called a "DAW," to make producing our own songs at home much easier. DAW stands for "digital audio workstation," and it is your key to adding layers of sounds, vocals and instruments to the songs you write.  

But, "with great power comes great responsibility." Uncle Ben wasn't joking, and neither am I! (Spiderman... anyone?) DAWs are so powerful that if you use the wrong one, it can bring your creativity and motivation to a dead stop. Leaving your songs in a creative purgatory on your phone or device, only ever reaching your ears and no one else's...

Okay yeah that's intense and a little dramatic... But on the flip side, using the right DAW can be a catalyst for new ideas. It can also be the very reason you're excited and motivated to write a song... because here's what's intense and a little dramatic in the BEST way: with a DAW, you can take what you hear in your head and turn it into what you hear in your speakers. Totally killer right?? Let's dive in!

Quick review, what is a DAW?

DAW stands for “digital audio workstation,” and is a piece of software that acts like a digital canvas for your music creations. It’s where you can add sounds, instruments, vocals and put them all together to make a song. A DAW is the next step after your phone or device. Maybe you’re using voice notes, or just recording videos of you making music or playing your original songs. Which is awesome, you gotta capture these things so you don’t forget about them and can remember your creative decisions... but a DAW is the ultimate tool to make and store your creative decisions, in a simple and easy to recall format. Not only does a DAW make it easy to store and catalog your music creations… it also makes it easy to edit and add to them. To add more sounds and layers through additional instruments, vocals and anything else you hear in your head to effectively produce your music. Remember, that’s our definition of music production in this music production series for beginners. “Song production is using tools and processes to take your written song from where it is now to how you hear it in your head.” So think of a DAW as your toolbox, it has everything in it you need to build the songs you want to and that you know you’re capable of!

How to choose the best DAW for you.

There are a lot of options out there for digital audio workstations. The good news is, all of them functionally do the same thing. Which is allowing you to record audio, add sounds and edit things all together. From there, things branch off into different styles and different layouts. Kind of like photo editing software, or video editing software. There are a bunch of choices that really do the same thing at the end of the day. It’s just the additional tools/resources, the intuitiveness of the program, the design and workflow that results in a personal preference. And it’s no different with a DAW. We’re all wired differently and certain things about a piece of software may appeal to you more than to another music maker. So it’s important to do some research and check out some walkthroughs on youtube to get a feel for the DAWs that might be a good fit for you.

I’m going to narrow down the search for you. So you just have to worry about deciding between a couple and not 10. 

So, what are the best DAW options for making original songs?

There are free options and there are paid options for DAWs. Some also depend on your computer’s operating system.

Free options include: Garageband (Mac only & iPhone app), Ableton Live Lite, Cubase LE and Audacity.

**It’s worth noting that both Ableton Live Lite and Cubase LE both have restrictions because they are the lightweight versions of their flagship DAW.

⚠️ Click Here For Ableton Live Lite’s Limitations

⚠️ Click Here For Cubase LE's Limitations

Most of these limits won’t matter if you’re a beginner who just wants to start writing, recording and producing your own songs. Chances are, you won’t need the additional features until you get some songs under your belt and start to crossover to that intermediate level of songwriting and producing.

Paid options include: Logic Pro X (Mac Only), Ableton Live, Studio One, Pro Tools

As of now (June 2022), their retail prices:

Logic Pro X $199.99

Ableton Live (Standard) $449

Studio One $399.95

Pro Tools $299/year

🚨 My personal opinion (and not financial advice) is to OWN your gear... steer clear of monthly payments! It feels better creating when you aren't paying an "entrance fee."

Here's to more finished songs!

– Nathan

No more half-finished tracks

Download my free guide on beating writer's block and 
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