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Best DAW For Beginners: How to Choose Your First Recording App

Best DAW For Beginners: How to Choose Your First Recording App

If you’re new to music production, you’re probably wondering about the best DAW for beginners to get started making music.

After all, your recording software is the centerpiece of your home studio setup.

To make things even more confusing, there are lots of different choices out there when it comes to which DAW app is best.

Part of the decision comes down to your personal preference. But there are other factors that make certain DAWs better for those with no prior experience.

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In this article I’ll break down everything you need to know to choose your first DAW.

Let’s get started!

What is DAW?

First off, if you need the basic definition, DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation.

It’s the software program that allows you to record audio files and MIDI, manipulate them on a musical timeline and apply effects and mixing processes to blend them together.

The majority of music produced today is made in a DAW, so they’re considered the starting point for all modern producer setups.

Today’s DAWs are highly advanced programs that are capable of everything you’ll need to do in the process of making a song.

The majority of music produced today is made in a DAW, so they’re considered the starting point for all modern producer setups.

And while many share the basic features, each major DAW has its own approach.

If you need a full overview of the DAW software available today, head over to our comprehensive guide.

But If you just need a quick refresher on the big names, here are the most common DAWs used by emerging producers

How to choose a DAW

Preview of youtube video

If you enjoy the feel and workflow of a particular DAW, don’t hesitate to make your choice based on that intuition.

As I mentioned above, a key factor in your choice should be your own preference.

If you enjoy the feel and workflow of a particular DAW, don’t hesitate to make your choice based on that intuition.

That said, you can narrow the choices down with a few general tips if you’re not confident enough to choose based on vibe alone.

1. Take advantage of trials and intro editions

DAW apps are powerful pro software that require lots of resources to produce and maintain.

It’s the reason why many DAWs seem expensive for producers just starting out.

Luckily, most manufacturers offer a free tier, demo period or intro edition of their flagship software for new users to try out.

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If you’re wondering if a certain DAW is a good fit, the best way to find out is to download the trial and take it for a spin.

That way you’ll have the confidence to know your investment will pay off.

Hot tip: Ableton Live 11 Lite now comes bundled with yearly subscriptions to LANDR Studio. If you’re looking for a single package to get started with the essential producer’s toolkit, Studio has you covered.

Learn more

3. Match your DAW to your production style

Your choice of DAW should match up with the type of tasks you typically deal with in your production workflow.

These could vary based on the material you work with, other gear in your setup or the genre of music you create.

With that in mind, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself before you settle on any choice of DAW.

Hot tip: Pro Tools is known for being the DAW of choice in professional studios. Consider starting with Pro Tools Intro If you plan to become a professional engineer and work in a commercial facility.

3. Decide on a budget

Even with trial editions and tiered pricing, some DAWs may be out of reach due to their high price tag.

Even with trial editions and tiered pricing, some DAWs may be out of reach due to their high price tag.

Don’t get too hung up on a choice that you can’t afford. Instead, set a realistic budget and look at options that fit.

While some features included with pricier offerings may seem essential, even today’s affordable DAW software is capable and mature.

After all, you can always upgrade later if you find you’d prefer some premium extras.

With that in mind, take a hard look at what you actually need in any DAW package.

Some bundles include additional content like samples, loops or plugins that can drive up the price.

In many cases, free plugins can provide a reasonable replacement if you need to cut costs.

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Unlimited mastering & distribution, 1200 royalty-free samples, 30+ plugins and more! Get everything LANDR has to offer with LANDR Studio.

My quick DAW advice

Finally, if you’re just looking for a straightforward opinion on the best DAWs to use, here are my recommendations—but take them with a grain of salt:

  • Start with Ableton if you’re producing loop-based, electronic music, but try Ableton Live 11 Lite before you commit.
  • Start with Logic or Garageband if you’re on Mac OS producing timeline-based music
  • Start with Pro Tools Intro if you’re hoping to be a professional engineer one day
  • Start with Reaper if you’re on Windows and have a limited budget

All DAWs make music

In the end, all DAWs are built for a single purpose—making music.

It doesn’t really matter which you choose as long as you feel comfortable learning its functions and features as you progress.

The important thing is to make the decision, dive in and start your music production journey.

If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have some helpful tips to help you choose.z

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Various contributors from the LANDR team of music mentors.

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