What Is Music Production? – Part 2: DAWs
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
In today's world, a Digital Audio Workstation or a DAW is a software application (or a hardware device) used for recording, editing, and creating audio files. Most DAWS also incorporate MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) creating and manipulations as well. DAWs will also use plugins which are software component that adds a specific feature to the software. Examples of plugins include equalizers (EQs), compressors, software instruments, or reverb units.
There are many DAWs on the market. Some are free and some cost upwards for $2,500 or more. Some are simple, like a digital version of a tape recorder, while others are capable of producing high-end film scores and platinum records "in the box." Each DAW has positives and negatives and much it's important to consider your goals when deciding which DAW is the best choice for you.
Audacity is a cross-platform (Mac and Windows), open-source, and free. It features a simple, no-nonsense interface. It does not have the advanced functionality that commercial DAWs feature, however, it is a great place to start if you are new to DAWs and would like to explore, especially if you are not working in Mac OS or iOS. From my experience, there have been times when I have used it for specific tasks, and I know professionals in the radio industry who use it daily. You can download Audacity on their website at https://www.audacityteam.org/download/.
If you own a Mac, you have access to GarageBand. GarageBand is an intuitive and relatively easy to use DAW. It provides you with a wealth of studio-quality digital software instruments, audio effects and access to thousands of AppleLoops. It is a great choice for a beginner. It is nearly foolproof. You can correct pitch and rhythmic errors in what you play on a MIDI controller, or even record from an instrument or voice automatically. (In the professional music world, we refer to this as "quantization.") It even provides you with a musical score option for the MIDI for those of us with a Classical music background and like to see notes on a page when we are working. What's really helpful is that is that the Apple OS version syncs up with iOS version. You can adjust the software instruments, the piano roll, or the score at the bottom of the screen. It also features free music lessons which include basic lessons as well as Artist Lessons in which well-known musicians teach you how to play some of their hits. GarageBand includes a large collection of plug-ins, sounds, and electronic drummers that "play along" with your songs—even adding fills.
The GarageBand for iOS is a great option for musicians on-the-go. You are able to create songs virtually anywhere inspiration strikes you. I've used in on a plane for example. It also offers unique software instruments called "Touch Instruments" that make use of the touch screen, such as a the Chinese Erhu or the Smart Guitar where you are bow or strum a virutal instrument simply by using your fingers on the touch screen. GarageBand comes with many useful presets, including ones designed for recording narration, which make podcasting a breeze even with little audio experience. It is also upgradable with an extended catalog of additional loops and software instruments available for download. GarageBand's ease of use make it a great choice for beginners, podcasters, and anyone who wants to create music on the go.
Apple also offers a sister-software "Mainstage 2" which includes 40 built-in instruments and features an interface for live performances.