DAWs (digital audio workstations) are used to record, mix, and master music – it’s essentially where music production takes place.
That said, DAWs are an integral part of modern music production equipment.
Although DAWs can be a bit complex, there are many beginner-friendly DAWs that will allow you to make music at home even if you’re a complete novice.
So in today’s post, we review the best DAWs for beginners.
It will take you some time to get used to your chosen DAW, but all of these DAWs will make that adjustment process much easier for you.
Let’s dive in!
1. GarageBand – Best DAW for beginners
Let’s start with one of the most popular DAWs out there – GarageBand.
Due to its handy tools and user-friendly interface, GarageBand is hands down one of the best beginner DAWs.
The DAW also comes with interactive artist lessons for guitar and piano, so it’s ideal for anyone who wants to expand their musical knowledge.
Also, GarageBand supports 24-bit recording and third-party plug-ins, and it has a ton of useful tools and features such as time quantization, automated panning, drumming, and pitch correction.
It offers a variety of built-in instruments and thousands of loops from popular genres like EDM, hip-hop, and indie music, so it’s ideal for making beats.
And if you install it on all your Apple devices, you can easily work on your music wherever you are.
All in all, GarageBand is an excellent choice for beginners and professional producers alike.
2. Ableton Live – Best for making beats
Many producers would agree that Ableton Live is one of the best digital audio workstations you can find.
Live is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering music.
It’s ideal for crafting beats, reworking sequences, and creative sound generation, and it provides a wide range of instruments and generators.
It’s suitable for beginners because it’s fast, fluid, and easy to use.
There’s also a free version of Ableton Live in case you’re searching for a free DAW for beginners – Ableton Live Lite.
Ableton Live Lite is the stripped-down version of Live, and it comes with many hardware products for free, offering an easy way to write, record, and produce music.
Lite provides a total of 16 tracks with any combination of audio and midi channels and allows up to four inputs and outputs at the same time.
Regardless of what you opt for, Ableton Live won’t let you down.
3. FL Studio – Best for EDM
When naming the top DAWs for making music, FL Studio is hard to leave out.
FL Studio is great for beginners because it’s fast and intuitive, and it allows you to arrange everything in the Playlist editor.
The interface is user-friendly and everything is easy to navigate.
Also, the DAW is known for its top-notch piano rolls and a wide selection of virtual instruments.
It provides carefully selected samples and loops as well as a bunch of presets made especially for FL Studio’s plugin instruments, so it’s great for EDM producers.
And there are many options and tools that will enable you to have a smooth, creative workflow.
All things considered, if you’re looking for a reliable DAW for beginners, you should definitely take FL Studio into consideration.
4. Cubase – Best DAW with a long-standing reputation
Developed by Steinberg, the first version of the Cubase digital audio workstation was released in 1989.
The software program has transformed and changed a lot over the years though, but it remains a top choice for many producers.
The program is generally designed to provide a fast and flexible workflow, and it’s suitable for all genres.
And Cubase Elements 11 is ideal for newcomers.
It offers a wide selection of great features, like the MixConsole, sampler track, chord pads, chord track, and chord and scale assistants.
There’s also a free version, Cubase LE, which allows you to record up to 16 tracks of audio and up to 24 virtual instrument tracks.
What you’re going to opt for depends on your needs, goals, and budget, but one thing is for sure – Steinberg’s Cubase has been around for a while now, and it won’t disappoint you.
5. Bitwig Studio – Best for creativity
Bitwig Studio is a popular music production software for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
It’s similar to Ableton Live, but it does offer a more diverse visual experience.
Bitwig Studio comes with more than 90 instruments, effects, and other creative tools ideal for recording, live performance, and sound design.
Its modulation system allows you to easily modulate any device.
And its Sampler features several playback modes, dynamic note-based modulations, and a powerful multisample editor.
So, this popular DAW has plenty to offer in terms of features and quality, and it’s a perfect introduction to the world of audio production.
6. Presonus Studio One – Best for instructions
PreSonus Studio One is another top-notch DAW for beginners.
The program’s Smart Templates provide step-by-step instructions designed to guide you through your first production.
And it won’t take you a long time to figure it out – its drag-and-drop tools make it very easy to use.
PreSonus Studio One is a great music-making tool for beginners, but it’s popular among experienced producers as well.
It also provides innovative songwriting and editing tools with its Score Editor and Lyrics Track features.
On top of that, it features a handy Customization Editor that allows you to create a custom user interface showing only the tools you need for the task at hand.
All things considered, PreSonus Studio One 6 is a top DAW for producers of all levels of expertise.
Presonus Studio One 5 Artist is another great option for beginners, as it provides an intuitive workflow and unlimited MIDI and audio tracks.
7. Audacity – Best free beginner DAW
When thinking about simple DAWs for making music, Audacity is probably one of the first things that comes to mind.
Audacity is very popular among beginners because it’s free.
It’s open-source software available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and other operating systems.
But affordability is not the only reason we recommend Audacity.
Audacity is a powerful tool for editing music, and it’s actually more of a digital editor than a DAW.
It allows you to record live audio through a microphone or mixer and edit your tracks with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete options.
Tracks and selections can be fully manipulated using the keyboard, and you can easily use effects and plug-ins or you can write your own plug-in.
8. Logic Pro – Best for more advanced features
If you’re ready to take your music production process to the next level, you should check out Apple Logic Pro.
This is still a relatively simple DAW though, and you should get used to it rather quickly.
Its powerful tools will allow you to produce high-quality tracks, and although it’s suitable for beginners, it does feel very professional.
One of the features that make it stand out from the crowd is the possibility to mix and export songs as spatial audio with its integrated Dolby Atmos tools.
Apple spatial audio creates a theater-like sound that will bring your tracks to the next level.
Logic Pro also provides a wide selection of sounds and plugins as well as powerful synthesizers and multisampled instruments.
And it makes the whole production process easier with tracks of audio, tracks of MIDI, and a reliable mixer.
That said, if you want to improve your music production skills, you should explore what Logic Pro has to offer.
9. Pro Tools – Best for versatility
Pro Tools is also often among the top DAWs for making music.
It’s very popular and widely used, and it has plenty to offer, both to beginners and professionals.
Pro Tools offers a variety of loops, effects, and instrument plugins ideal for creating any type of music.
And with new sounds and loops added every month, there’s always something new to explore.
It also offers easy-to-use MIDI tools and useful features like the Elastic Audio feature that allows you to easily fix timing, beat match audio, and correct notes.
Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose from several Pro Tools versions, including Ultimate, Artists, and Standard.
There’s also a free version if you’re looking for free music production software for beginners.
All things considered, this is a versatile DAW that will most certainly meet your expectations.
10. Akai MPC Beats
It comes with Akai’s Bassline, Tubesynth, and Electric instruments, over 80 onboard effects, and a 2GB content library.
There’s also a piano roll for MIDI notes and a sample editor for chopping and editing audio.
So, it offers everything you need to edit music with ease.
The arrangement features are limited though, but there are some great composition tools that make up for it.
Akai MPC Beats is ideal for DJing as well as editing music, and it’s a reliable option for newcomers.
Why Do You Need a DAW?
If you want to create songs from start to finish, using a reliable DAW is a must.
DAWs cover the entire music production process, from recording to mixing and mastering, and they can help you turn your ideas into reality.
DAWs are dedicated music production software programs designed to make music-making more flexible and creative.
With a DAW, you can record vocals and live instruments and you can then edit your track, finalize it, and get it ready for distribution.
It’s an all-in-one solution, in a sense.
So, if you want to become a producer or simply learn how to make music at home, finding a beginner-friendly DAW and learning how it works is arguably the best way to start.
How DAWs Work
Each DAW has its own set of features and the way it works.
But all good DAWs are based on universal music production guidelines, so they have many similarities.
Therefore, if you learn one DAW, you can easily switch to another one.
Besides offering an array of sounds, loops, and mastering tools, you can use a DAW to create a song from scratch.
DAWs allow you to record live vocals and instruments, and they do so through a microphone hooked up to an audio interface.
Now, DAWs work only with digital audio, so analog audio input must first be converted into digital audio signals – and that’s why you need an audio interface.
This is actually a great overview of how DAWs work:
When recording vocals or instruments, all the recorded tracks are fed directly into the DAW, where you can label, trim, and organize them as you see fit.
With a DAW, you also have access to hundreds of virtual instruments.
That said, you don’t need to have formal musical knowledge or advanced piano skills to make music with a DAW.
DAWs make creating music at home accessible to everyone, and the best DAWs for beginners are efficient and easy to use.
How to Choose the Right DAW?
If you’re new to music production, choosing a DAW might seem a bit daunting.
There are so many great options on the market, and each popular DAW has something cool to offer.
Nevertheless, you need to think about your needs and factor in things like your budget, level of expertise, and goals.
But first and foremost, you need to choose a DAW that works best with your computer or hardware.
Most major DAWs are compatible with both Mac and Windows, but some of them work best for only one operating system.
Another thing to factor in is the price, and the price of a DAW varies – they run anything from $50 to $2599.
Some DAWs are also free to download, so you can start making music at home even if you have a limited budget.
Using a free DAW is indeed a good way to learn the basics and see whether music production is something you want to dive into.
Either way, look for a DAW that provides an intuitive workflow and easy-to-use tools.
How to Start Making Music at Home
Once you buy or download a good DAW for beginners, it’s time to make your first track.
Of course, creating a track from scratch might be intimidating at first, but if you have a beginner-friendly DAW that meets your needs, you shouldn’t come across any obstacles.
You should just take it one step at a time.
First of all, take some time to get comfortable with your DAW.
Even though it’s designed with beginners in mind, it will take some time to get used to it and figure out how everything works.
By the way, it would not be a bad idea to check the manual or find an online tutorial about your chosen DAW.
You can then run your DAW and get it ready for use, which usually includes:
- Creating a new track in the DAW
- Setting the track input(s)
- Setting the levels by launching the mixer view and monitoring the level of the meter
- Enabling monitoring (the ability to hear what you are playing)
- Setting the tempo/metronome if necessary
If you want to record vocals or instruments, make sure you have the necessary equipment.
Besides a digital audio workstation, basic music production equipment includes:
- Audio Interface
- Extra gear
If you decide to record vocals and instruments, all the recorded tracks will be fed directly into the DAW, so you can then label, trim, and organize them.
You can then edit and finalize your track – add background vocals, percussion fills, sound effects, and so on.
The last part is mixing and mastering – this is a post-production phase that will make your tracks more fluid and coherent.
DAWs include mixing and mastering tools such as EQ, compressor, and reverb, allowing you to blend everything together, mix your tracks, master it, and add final touches.
Once your track is polished, you can export it and do whatever you want – a mixed and mastered track is ready for distribution!
And there you have it – making music at home isn’t as complicated as it may seem – you just need to learn the basics of music production and learn your DAW.
Eventually, you’ll gain some experience and improve your skills, and you’ll enjoy the whole process even more.
Best DAWs for Beginners – Final Thoughts
As you can see, using a DAW is an essential part of music production.
And that’s why we hope our reviews of the best DAWs for beginners helped you narrow down your search and find a DAW that meets your needs.
Regardless of what you opt for, we’re sure you’ll find a great way to start your music-making journey!
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