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What is the best DAW for me?

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What is the best DAW for me?

Postby L James » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:24 pm

After decades of composing music on my keyboard (all genres), I'd now like to begin producing my songs properly on my Windows PC. I've never used a DAW before, so please could anyone suggest the best one for me? (I'm not worried about learning curve, or budget.)

Things I'm not interested in…
  1. Working with recordings - I'll be using MIDI 99% of the time
  2. Synths/creating new sounds - I only want to use sample libraries
  3. Plug-ins/VSTs/inserts - All I want is a few good quality built-in DSPs/effects
  4. Dance music/loops - That's not how I make music
  5. Large number of tracks - Most of my songs are 1–6 instruments

The most important features to me is being able to quickly and easily adjust…
  1. Each note's duration, release length, portamento, vibrato settings
  2. Track reverb, DSPs, echo, stereo width and panning
  3. Track EQ (important I can do this "live" while the song is playing)
  4. Track envelope for volume or filter
  5. Track delay in ms (for stereo effects)

Also, I would like an interface that is…
  1. Lightning fast and responsive
  2. Controls are attractive, elegant and "solid" (I hate floating panels that you have to move around to see what you're doing!)
  3. Ability to assign a color or picture to a track
  4. Instant access to my entire collection of sample libraries, organized under groups (or tagged), so I can change instruments with one click
  5. Ability to mix track volumes in the main project window (I don't want to have to use a separate mixer panel, never understood the point of that)
  6. Ideally would prefer small, lightweight software (just a few megabytes ideally)

Also, I'd like the ability to record a MIDI track 1 note at a time so it only advances a beat when I hit a note, or the "rest" key.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby desmond » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:42 pm

Seriously, *any* of them (the good ones at least).

They are all broadly comparable in features and the way they work.

Demo some (or watch some company tutorial/overview videos or YouTube videos), pick the one that most takes your fancy, and start working with it.

You won't get a full DAW in "just a few megabytes" and this shouldn't really be a benchmark of anything. Reaper is about the smallest "full DAW" out there and it's about 70MB...

I'd suggest looking at Cubase, Sonar, Reaper, Studio One, probably not Ableton Live as it works a bit differently and it's strengths are things you're not that interested in - though it will work fine you your needs as well), maybe Pro Tools as well...
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby Scramble » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:52 pm

Things I'm not interested in…
Working with recordings - I'll be using MIDI 99% of the time

Do you mean you're not interested in making audio recordings of your own music? You just want to record MIDI in order to control your keyboards? But if so, then how are you expecting DSP effects and track reverb, etc. to come into it? Some more explanation of your aims would be helpful.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby L James » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:03 pm

Scramble wrote:Do you mean you're not interested in making audio recordings of your own music?
Yes, correct. I'm not a performer, player, or singer I just have a bunch of tunes I've written and want to produce them.

Scramble wrote:You just want to record MIDI in order to control your keyboards?
No, I would like to make music entirely on the computer using MIDI and samples. I don't want to bring my keyboards into it at all (except to input the notes of course).

I hope that makes sense?
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby CS70 » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:55 pm

L James wrote:After decades of composing music on my keyboard (all genres), I'd now like to begin producing my songs properly on my Windows PC.

What Desmond says. They all are quite huge beasts offering tons of functionality. It takes time to learn any of them, not to mention master. Functionality wise, at least when it comes to the mature ones, you can do the same stuff with most (with some exception, but usually not so critical - for example VCA faders). It used to be that some where better for MIDI and some for recording, but now I would say it is no longer the case, at least when it comes to the well establihed ones (Cubase, ProTools, Sonar etc).

A lot of the "expansion" work is made by effects, which are tiny bits of software components pluggable in practically any DAW thanks to a few standards, so the differences are mainly in the user interface, the cost or licensing model, and what comes bundled with each of them.

Since you're only producing electronic music, I would look to the ones which cost less and offer bundled in the bigger amount of synth plugins. If your compositions include vocals, you may also want to have a version of Melodyne or Autotune, which comes handy at times with less than perfect singers (ain't we all at times?). Sonar and Protools (I think) also offer monthly licensing rather than software purchase, which can come handy depending on how your cash flow looks.

If you don't have any experience, the best way is to download trials and start trying to make some music. You'll feel better with some and that will stimulate you to do and explore more, and that subjective feel is really all there is.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby L James » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:23 pm

Thank you very much CS70, that's very helpful :)
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:28 am

Whilst they're all more than capable of what you require, personally I'd recommend Cubase. Partly because it's fairly simple to customise the user interface to see what you need & hide what you don't. Partly because it also has Vari-audio built in, so you can live without Melodyne or Autotune. But mostly, and I can't stress how useful this is, because there are a couple of unbelievably generous people posting here, who will selflessly get you out of any hole you dig yourself into (& trust me, you will) in terms you can understand.

If The Elf worked full-time for the Cubase helpline, production on all other DAW's would have been abandoned years ago!
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby resistorman » Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:36 am

Interesting list of requirements. It seems to me that you will be using midi controlled software samplers on each track? With channel strips for each track? If so, do you have the sampler already?

If you want a tweakable channel strip on each channel with eq and dynamics, you might look at Harrison Mixbus 32C version 4 which is coming out in March. I don't know how good the midi implementation will be.

Reaper is very configurable, almost too much! It might be able to do your step sequencing.

Studio One has a very integrated workflow.

Tracktion has a one window workflow and some very interesting features, have a look at that for sure.

And all the rest... geez, there's a lot to choose from...
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby Matt Houghton » Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:06 am

As others have said, most DAWs will do what you want. You really just have to choose one and learn it.

In terms of features that not all share, given what you say about the style of music, I'd suggest looking to see whether an 'Arranger track' facility such as in Cubase or logic might be helpful, which enables you to playback in a non-linear way to sketch out arrangements.

You might also want to take a look specifically at the the compositional aids (eg Chord Track), at VST Expression, and at VST Note Expression and in Cubase. They *might* be perfect for you. Or they might be unnecessay bells and whistles.

Depending on what sample instruments you're using, Reaper also has a particular strength: you can have a template track with lots of instruments loaded, and 'drive' that with arrangements from a second project. That way, you can keep the template open (so you only have to load all those instruments once) but close and open new arrangements/compositions very quickly.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby The Elf » Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:48 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:If The Elf worked full-time for the Cubase helpline, production on all other DAW's would have been abandoned years ago!
:lol:
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby rrudolph » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:44 am

I am new to this group so I apologize in advance if I’m in the wrong place. I am an intermediate piano player looking to improve. I have been using BandLab which I love but it only allows me to record for 15 minutes. I’d like to hit the record button on just record my whole hour practice so I can listen to it to improve. Other than that BandLab has everything I need. What would be the best DAW software that would allow a longer recording time. Please feel free to reply to this post (we do not encourage the use of email addresses for replies --ED) as I don’t check for responses too often I thank you very much for your help.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sun Jan 10, 2021 3:19 am

rrudolph wrote:Please feel free to email me ... I don’t check for responses too often

Hello there, welcome to the forum but two things you should probably take note of:

1) Your question is really something that belongs in a new thread rather than adding to an old one.

2) You should check for responses more often if posting a specific question to a forum.

We do not expect forum members to post responses to an email address, and nor should you. Answers to such questions as you are asking are almost certainly relevant to a wider audience and therefore should be posted in the forum so that others can benefit from them.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby JohnButtigieg » Sun Jan 10, 2021 3:51 am

Try and use a free trial on some and see how it suits!

My two favourites are Reason and Ableton Live!
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby Zukan » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:35 am

Forum responses will help you understand certain features available but TBH the best way to decide is to trial the various DAWs and decide which best ticks all the boxes and suits your workflow.
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Re: What is the best DAW for me?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:36 am

Rrudolph has started a new thread on this so best to direct any replies there instead i think.
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