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Help at choosing first DAW

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Help at choosing first DAW

Postby JMT » Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:13 pm

Hi there:)) I am new to this forum so sorry if I am posting this at the wrong place.

I have had the idea of messing around with some music production and maybe one day make my own songs. I’m really confused which DAW I should use. I tried the free version of FL studio and enjoyed how “simple” it felt and looked. I got annoyed how limited all of the free DAWs was so that’s why I want something more serious. Some people have said that FL Studio is designed for dj’s and electric dance music which isn’t the music I want to make.

So my question is: what DAW would you recommend for a guy that wants to mess around making his own song?

Thanks JMT:))
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby James Perrett » Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:18 pm

There are two serious DAW's that I know of that you can use for free for an extended period of time - Cakewalk by Bandlab which is free forever and Reaper which is nominally free for a 30 day trial period but you can extend that trial period for as long as your conscience allows you to with no reduction in functionality. So I'd suggest looking at those to start with.

It may also be worth checking whether you are entitled to any free software with your audio interface as many come with cut down versions of more expensive software.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby The Elf » Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:28 pm

You're going to need an audio interface (AI), and they do often come with cut-down/trial versions of the big DAWs to pull you in. So start by looking at which AI might suit you and see what you get.

A personal favourite 'starter' AI has been the Native Instruments KA6, but this has been replaced with a new model, which I haven't seen, so I can't comment. It used to come with a freebie of Cubase, but dunno now.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby JMT » Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:53 pm

Thanks for the reply James and The Elf.
I can see that some of the DAWs are quite limited. Some has the audio interface and others has the tools for creating the beats. I am looking at purchasing a DAW that has a broad spectrum of tools so I can make the whole song in one program.

Any thoughts on FL studio, Reaper, Ableton Live, Cubase Pro or others??
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby The Elf » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:24 pm

My personal preferences:
For value - Reaper.
For all other reasons - Cubase.

If you work with loops/pattern-based stuff then Ableton Live needs a look.

Others will justifiably differ! :D
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:40 pm

I use Reaper, years ago I had Cubase but reverted to hardware recorders for a few years. When I finally got back to using a computer (my pal sold me an old but high spec MacPro) I decided that Cubase had moved on so much that my prior would be no help so I decided, as I'd be learning again from scratch, to try Reaper. I'm very happy with it but, as I don't use anything else it's hard to make comparisons. I would say that either Reaper or Cakewalk will do everything you ask as both are fully specified 'professional' DAWs. Why not try both and see which one appears more 'intuitive'.

edit to add :- I record real instruments and vocals not using loops or VSTi's and try to get as near to a 'live' sound as possible.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby James Perrett » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:53 pm

I work mainly on other people's music creations these days but for the times when I'm starting from scratch I'll often use MT Power Drum Kit within Reaper to create a basic drum part and then build things up from there. With Reaper you usually need to add instruments as it doesn't come with much but there are plenty of free instruments that you can download to get you going.

If you want something with a variety of instruments included then you'd be better off looking at the alternatives.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby The Bunk » Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:29 pm

I'm not anything like a DJ-style musician / producer but I do use Reaper for experimental EDM stuff which is based solely around samples and I can't fault it. As has been mentioned, it's free to try (30 days I think) and then inexpensive, to say the least. SOS does also do a regular "how to do X/Y/Z in Reaper" feature. But yes there are a number of completely free DAWs around.
When you refer to other DAWs being limited, what specifically were your issues? That may help the wiser ones than me here being able to offer more detailed advice.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby JMT » Mon Sep 23, 2019 9:39 am

Thank you guys for all of your helpfull answers.
I can understand that the majority is recommending reaper as a great DAW. So, I think that’s where I will start. I like sampling and making beats in the software instead of recording me playing. Hopefully reaper can do that hmm? Anyone who would recommend any specific website for downloading the instruments + plugins?
Sorry for my lack of knowledge on the subject, thanks.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby blinddrew » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:26 am

Reaper comes with a very good selection of plug-ins as standard. They don't have particularly fancy screens (or a manual!) and sometimes I find them a bit hard to use but as a starting point they'll get you a long way. Once you've played around with them for a bit you'll be able to work out if there's something specific you want and then go hunting around for the right tool for that job. But I'd definitely recommend seeing what you can do with the stock stuff first and only upgrading when you have a specific need - otherwise it's far too easy to fall into the 'if only i had X plugin' trap, and you spend more time searching for a mythical plugin rather than actually recording and mixing.
I may be speaking from a bit of personal experience... ;)
If beats and samples are your thing I'd definitely have a look at Ableton as well as reaper though, I think there's a demo version available but I'm not sure how much it differs from the full-fat version.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:27 am

Note that Reaper has a pretty steep learning curve compared to most other DAWs, so it helps to know most of the basic DAW concepts before using it. You are either going to 'get it' fairly quickly, or you'll struggle without a lot of help. You will probably find one of the cut-down versions of other DAWs easier and quicker to pick up, and you'll probably find that they give you all you need to start with.

It's easy to get far too many plug-ins and VST instruments and spend all your time making decisions as to which ones to use. I'd suggest that you pick a few and get to know them well, and only then start expanding. You'll get a lot more music done that way.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby blinddrew » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:30 am

Oh yes, and the other thing I'd recommend is Mike Senior's book 'Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio'. Really useful intro and ongoing reference. There's a companion 'Recording Secrets' as well that's worthwhile if you're going to be doing any recording of physical instruments as well.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby Zukan » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:36 am

Can't you just download the trials of various DAWs and see which suits your workflow the best?

You will get a ton of varying recommendations here and none will really help you to decide which DAW suits you the best without actually trying them.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:18 pm

Further to that excellent advice from Zukan, don't be too quick to write any DAW off it it doesn't immediately make sense. Instead, work with the trial version of each one for at lest a few hours, and preferably a couple of days before calling time on it or declaring it the winner.

I used Cubase for many, many years, and reviewed various versions of Cakewalk Sonar, Reaper and other DAWs for SOS, but I finally moved over to Reaper someyears ago and haven't looked back since - it can as others have mentioned be a little intimidating at first, but it's just SO flexible and tightly coded that it has outperformed all other DAWs I've tried, and continues to amaze me with its versatility.


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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby JMT » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:56 pm

How would you guys compare Reaper and Cubase. pros and cons??
I think it's an excellent advice to just get started with one of the DAWs instead of overthinking it.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby The Elf » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:00 pm

I'd say that Reaper is perfectly capable, and the best value for money DAW of the lot. I find it a bit fiddly, but I can live with it for the limited functions I use.

Cubase, in its fullest form, is mature, slick and extremely powerful. The integrated editors, doubling/aligning and VariAudio are simply stunning (the latest versions integrate with Melodyne, but I don't feel the need for that, so how good it is I can't say). But you pay a fair bit of money for these slick features.

I find Reaper ideal as a travelling companion, meaning that my Cubase dongle can remain back in the studio.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby blinddrew » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:02 pm

Are you going to be doing a lot of midi-based work? Cubase tends to be pretty highly regarded in that area.
Another question might be 'which version of Cubase?'
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby JMT » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:22 pm

Becouse i'm very new to this world I find it difficult to know the different terms, sorry.
I don't have allot of instruments that I can plug into the computer or record myself playing. That's why i want a DAW with instruments in the software itself (don't know if it's called vst?? hmm). Don't know what this type of producing is called and if reaper is capable of this? Just watched a lot of tutorials on reaper and got the impression of it being a DAW that's good for working with audio files of you actually playing. Hope this makes sense. :D
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby blinddrew » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:36 pm

Reaper doesn't come with any VSTi's as standard (other than a very basic synth) but there are lots of cheap and free ones available. (the i is the important bit, it stands for instrument)
Not sure what Cubase comes with, I think it depends which version you're going for.
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Re: Help at choosing first DAW

Postby fatbenelton » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:49 pm

If you like FL studio why not stick with that. Also Magix Acid may be worth a look if you are into loops etc (but still has decent enough midi and audio) - pc only though.
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