You want to make music right now in your small home studio. But what DAW-software do you need? In this article we discuss the best music production software for beginners. You will learn what’s the best DAW software for any music genre.
I’m sharing my experience with Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro and Reason. I also discuss the alternatives to each program. Turn your PC or Mac into a fantastic recording studio and upload professional music productions to SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify!
- 1 What is a DAW?
- 2 Ableton Live: the best music production software for beginners
- 3 FL Studio: the most beautiful interface?
- 4 Logic Pro: the best DAW software for Mac users?
- 5 Reason: music production in the virtual studio
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DAW?
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, a device for recording, arranging and mixing digital audio. The computer with music production software is the most popular right now by far.
Ableton Live: the best music production software for beginners
I’ll get straight to the point: Ableton Live is my favorite DAW software. I also think it’s the best music production software for beginners. Why is Live among the best out there? It’s all in the interface of the software. Live’s interface is very clear. It lets you create musical ideas with ease. You can find all functions at a glance. This way you can quickly and easily create your first beats and melodies.
Did you know?
Live has been developed for live performances on stage
Live has ways to make music: Arrangement View with the traditional timeline and the creative Session View.
Live’s Session View is really special. Loops are clearly displayed in a spreadsheet-like grid. You can play them with the mouse or dedicated MIDI controller. Ableton has developed the sublime Push 2 controller for this. Session View lets you try out musical ideas on the fly without the limitations of the timeline. Did you come up with a great idea? Record them straight into the Arrangement View. You easily start a new song.
How to save money on DAW software
Do you need a new audio interface too? Entry-level DAW software is often included with audio interfaces. You can upgrade to the full version for less money.
In Arrangement View you have your music tracks displayed on the timeline for music composition and mixing. Effects and instruments are directly accessible for tweaks. That way, you can keep your focus on music creation.
Live’s instruments, effects and samples
Live has build in instruments, effects and samples. So you can make music right out of the box. Later you can easily expand Live with your favorite synthesizer plugins and effects (VST and Audio Unit).
Which version of Live?
Live comes in 3 different versions: Intro, Standard and Suite. Intro is the entry-level version that often comes with audio interfaces. Intro is great for getting to know some instruments, effects and up to 16 tracks live. But you will soon want to upgrade to Standard (349 euros) or Suite (599 euros) for more tracks, effects and instruments.
Live’s synthesizers are only in Suite. All versions support VST and Audio Unit.
Alternative: Bitwig Studio
Bitwig Studio is an alternative for Ableton Live. Where Ableton focuses on operation with MIDI controllers, Bitwig has been developed for touchscreens. The interface is similar to that of Live. It’s like a candy store for sound designers. Modular synthesizers are made with Grid.
FL Studio: the most beautiful interface?
FL Studio is equipped with one of the most beautiful interfaces. It’s available for Windows and macOS now. Famous users are Afrojack and Martin Garrix.
The flexible step sequencer is the central part. You can easily create beats and melodies. After making some loops, you create the composition of your song in the timeline. The MIDI editing is the best in the market.
A downside is that all virtual instruments and audio loops are connected to the master track by default. So you have to assign instruments to their own channel by hand for mixing. Furthermore, the mixer works very simply and is very flexible.
Not the best for recording audio
FL Studio may not be the best choice for lots of vocals and guitar. Recordings end up in Edison, FL Studio’s sound editor. This makes the recording process less intuitive than other music software.
FL Studio editions
Several editons are available for all budgets, which is nice. Fruity Edition is the cheapest version of (€89). However, you cannot record audio. That’s why I recommend Producer Edition instead (€189). With the more expensive Signature and All Plugins editions, you get more synthesizers and effects.
Lifetime updates are cool
You’ll never pay for future updates. That’s cool, isn’t it? Image-Line provides lifetime updates on the software, which is really special.
Logic Pro: the best DAW software for Mac users?
Logic Pro is one of the best music production software tools for Mac users. I am not surprised that top producers such as Stuart Price (Madonna, Coldplay) and Oak Felder (Drake, Rihanna) use this program.
The program started out as a traditional sequencer with a timeline. It has recently been expanded with a step sequencer and Live Loops. This way you can easily play loops, just like in the Session View of Ableton Live!
Integration with iPad and iPhone
Logic Pro can be operated via the touchscreen of your iPad or iPhone, a very cool feature. Did you create some music on the go with Garageband? Then you import it easily into Logic Pro for mixing and mastering.
Instruments and effects
Logic Pro comes with various instruments, effects and samples to make music right away. In addition, you can also use plug-ins from other software makers.
The price of 229 euros is very, very competitive. I would personally pay this amount alone for the included Alchemy synthesizer! Mac users don’t need to look any further. Or consider Live of course 😉
Windows alternatives for Logic Pro
Do you have a Windows PC? Then consider Cubase or Presonus Studio One, the new kid on the block. A great budget alternative is Cockos Reaper.
Reason: music production in the virtual studio
I really like Reason. The concept is very different from any other music software I know. Have you ever seen a vintage studio with hardware modules? Reason is the virtual version of this.
Reason has a huge arsenal of instruments and effects. After selection, they are placed in a rack and connected by means of virtual cables. It’s like using vintage hardware! It has also an excellent mixer.
Reason’s stock instruments: excellent sounds
The standard synthesizers and drum machines sound excellent and are easy to tweak. After dialing in a nice sound, you can make a MIDI recording in the sequencer. Audio recordings are also possible, for example vocals, guitar, bass and drums.
The cabling looks cool and invites you to experiment. What happens when you pull some cables to the different inputs of this synthesizer or effects module? You want to find it out, believe me. After creating the modular synth of your dreams, save it for usage in other songs.
Reason as a plugin
Recently, Reason itself is also available as a VST3 plugin for other DAW software. Try Reason as a modular synthesizer in your DAW of choice.
DAW software turns your computer into a professional music production environment. Commercial products offer the best workflow with all tools you need. Ableton Live is highly recommended for Windows and Mac. Logic Pro is also a great option for Mac users. Alternatives for Logic Pro are Cubase and Presonus Studio One. Have you made your choice? Then get to know your DAW software really well. This way you can easily record all your musical ideas. Learn how to setup your small home recording studio.
Frequently Asked Questions
What computer do I need for music production software?
You need a powerful computer with lots of storage and RAM. And preferably a large screen. Ableton lists the following minimum system requirements for Live:
- Intel Core i5 processor
- 8GB RAM memory
- 256GB flash drive
- 15 inch screen
Can I also use free DAW software?
Yes, that’s possible but there are limitations about functionality. An example of this is Garageband for macOS. Paid packages such as Logic Pro, Live and FL Studio offer much more functionality.
What is the best music production software for beginners?
It depends on what kind of music you want to make and which software you are most comfortable with. Be sure to try out some demo versions of the packages listed here. Make a choice based on your first experiences and get to know your software through and through.
Do I need anything else for my home studio?
In addition to your computer and DAW software, you’ll need an audio interface, studio monitors, headphones, and possibly a pair of microphones. This does not have to cost thousands of euros. In the article Setting up a small home studio you will learn what you need to create professional-sounding music at home.