DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)

Author: sleepfreaks

DAW software for making music

It is absolutely necessary to have a DAW to make music.

DAW is an acronym for “Digital Audio Workstation,” and is often pronounced as “dawh” or “d.a.w.”


Computer Music and DAWs work hand in hand:

  • Computer Music
    using a computer to create music
  • DAW(Digital Audio Workstation)
    software installed into your computer that can be used to make Computer Music

There are a variety of DAWs from a variety of companies available.

How to choose a DAW

We are often asked “which DAW is the best to use?” in our lessons.
With so many options available, it certainly seems difficult to choose!


The first point we want to get across, it that there is no limitation on which genre you can pursue depending on your DAW.
It is better to look at the features of each DAW, and see which would fit your work flow best.
Picking the same DAW as your favorite artist is also justifiable.

Although there are many professionals who utilize multiple DAWs, as a beginner it is important to focus and master 1 DAW first.
Without this knowledge, it is difficult to tell if another DAW is truly compatible with you, and ends up clouding your judgement.

Free DAWs recommended to Beginners

For those who are new to Computer Music, you may not want to spend money on it yet.
Here we have some free DAWs that we recommend to beginners.

Studio One Prime


It is compatible with Mac and Windows, and even includes sample instruments.
The basics of Midi sequencing, vocal and instrument recording, and mixing are all possible providing a more than satisfactory introduction to DAWs.

As you become better at creating Computer Music, and want a wider variety of sounds and features, by upgrading to Studio One Professional, the skills you learned can be transferred over.

URL : https://shop.presonus.com/products/new-noteworthy/Studio-One-4-Prime



This is a free DAW that is compatible with Mac platforms.
Similar to Studio One Prime, you can sequence midi, record audio, mix, and a wide variety of samples and loops are also included.

For those who want more editing capabilities, upgrade to Logic Pro.

URL : https://www.apple.com/mac/garageband/

Popular DAWs

From here on, we will be discussing paid DAWs.
Each software has its own characteristics and features, and provide tools to do more advanced editing and music production.
You can narrow down your choice depending on your musical preferences and genre you wish to pursue.

Pro Tools


Product URL : https://www.avid.com/en/pro-tools

Industry standard DAW

Because most professional recording studios/editing is done with Pro Tools, we recommend this DAW for those who wish to record in studios and share files between them.

In addition, sound engineering and editing jobs generally require you to know Pro Tools, and those who wish to pursue this career path should learn this DAW.

Ease of editing audio/mixing

Recording live instruments and editing audio is optimal, and mixing is made easy.
What previously had been its downside (difficulty of sequencing Midi) has been improved, and allows for smooth music production.

Unique plugin limitations

Protools runs AAX plugins, and certain third party software, as well as freeware is not compatible.
Those who want to use these must keep this fact in mind.
In addition, to use Protools you must use a USB key (iLok), which some may find to be an inconvenience.

Logic Pro

Product URL : https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/

Great bang for your buck

Logic is the most affordable DAW, available at around 20,000 yen.
You might think “is it worst because it’s cheaper?” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The attention to detail in the design and features has many professionals using this as their main DAW.

It is categorized as the upgraded version of GarageBand, and the software has a similar feel, allowing you to open projects created in GarageBand directly in Logic.

Rich variety of sounds and effects

From instrument samples and synth patches, to effects for music production and mixing, Logic Pro provides a wide variety of tools allowing you to create top-tier projects.

Also, audio files called Apple Loops are included, and these instrument phrases can be added into your music, allowing you to make music without ever having to learn music theory or play an instrument.

Pitch correction is also built in, allowing you to edit your vocals to perfection within Logic Pro.

Smooth use with external Midi devices

Logic Pro’s synth parameters are easily compatible to the knobs on Midi devices, and allow for smooth integration.
This makes it popular among producers of electronic music and live DJs.

Slight difficulty dealing with audio files

Computer Music production is based greatly into the 2 categories of “Audio editing” and “Midi sequencing.”
Audio editing can be a bit complicated, and you must take caution when dealing with audio files.
Depending on the function, audio that is recorded over may not be able to be recovered, so backing up files before making big changes is a must.

Only compatible with Mac

Logic Pro is only compatible with Mac products, and does not work with Windows.
Those who wish to make the change from Mac to Windows, must find a new Windows compatible DAW.

Cubase Pro

Cubase Pro

Product URL : https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/start.html

No1 shares in Japan

Cubase is the most popular DAW in Japan.
With its Vocaloid compatibilities and many editing techniques, it allows for a wide range of production regardless of genre.
Due to the high number of users in Japan, there are many articles and info available on the internet.

Good balance for Audio/Midi use

There is a good balance between the ease of audio editing and Midi sequencing, allowing for both to be done smoothly.
There are also a wide variety of editing tools provided with many customizable shortcuts, and once learned, greatly increase your workflow.

Compatible with Vocaloids

It is extremely compatible with the popular Vocaloid software, and allow for easy in-DAW editing.
Also, because pitch correction is provided in Cubase, vocal edits can be completed as well.

Overwhelming amount of features

Cubase is incredibly diverse.
However, due to the wide variety of parameters to choose from, it may feel slightly convoluted at times.
It is better to start by learning the features you think you will need for your productions, rather than go all in right away.

In addition, a USB key (eLicense) is required to run the DAW, and which some may find to be an inconvenience.

Ableton Live

Product URL : https://www.ableton.com/en/live/

Best for looped music?!

Ableton Live has a special window that other DAWs don’t have called the “Session View.”
You can collect a variety of loops and phrases that you like, and craft them together effortlessly to create music.
This DAW is incredibly useful for those who produce music that is loop based.

Rich variety of Midi effects

This connects to the point of being good for loop music, but Ableton allows for smooth sound routing and provides a variety of electronic style effects.
There are many loop materials provided as well, allowing for you to utilize these ideas to make music.

Smooth use with external Midi devices

A characteristic of Ableton Live is its straight-forward usage.
There are no over-complications when utilizing external Midi controllers to control synth parameters as well.

In addition, the company has a unique Link Technology, allowing users to use Wi-Fi to connect devices to play and perform.
This is an innovative technology that allows for multiple performers to play live together.

Not compatible with VST3 plugins(as of 2017/12/1)

Ableton is not compatible with the Mac-only VST3 plugins.
Please keep this in mind and check with certain free/third party software.

Studio One


Product URL : https://www.presonus.com/products/Studio-One

No frills and perfected

Studio One is a newer DAW than its counterparts.
Because of this, it does not have any out-of-date functions, and has a clean layout.
Of course, all of the necessary functions for music production are included, and we highly recommend this for instinctual individuals, people who prefer simple layouts, and beginners of Computer Music.

It is also highly compatible with the software “Melodyne” (sold separately) allowing for smooth vocal editing in Studio One.

Complete the mastering process

Besides from completing an entire song in DAW, Studio One has great features for mastering.
You can input song information, and export as DDP for CD-pressing as well.
Studio One allows you to complete mastering tasks that previously required a separate software.

High quality sound

This is more of a personal opinion, but I find Studio One’s sound incredibly clear.
The low end is especially detailed, and the sound quality remains great throughout the mastering process.

No notation capabilities

Studio One does not have built in notation capabilities.
Those who want to produce music and utilize music notation will need to purchase a separate notation software.
Studio One has a separate software called “Notion” that can be used to notate music.

FL Studio

Product URL : https://www.image-line.com/flstudio/

Pattern capabilities for loop music

FL Studio has a unique “Pattern” function, and using these patterns with multiple instrument phrases, you can create music.
This is optimal for loop based music, allowing for a quick flow of ideas to turn into music.

Rich variety of sounds for EDM

There is a variety of sounds provided for EDM, and many popular sounds are found in the presets.
Those who have never/dislike sound design can utilize these sounds to smoothly make music.

No notation capabilities

Those who want music notation capabilities, will have to purchase separate software.