Why is my buddy telling me my music wasn't made on a real Digital Audio Workstation?

Is my buddy right when he says I’m not using a “real
Digital Audio Workstation” when I’m producing songs just like he is?

What does a DAW allow you to do and what are the components that makeup a DAW?

Digital Audio WorkstationIn the spirit of gearing up to report from the upcoming 2017 ASCAP Expo, provided, is some essential information on popular software programs and gear, that clarifies what types of software programs qualify as Digital Audio Workstations that can be used in the music production process.

A thorough explanation with examples of successful artists and the specific software they use in the independent music production process is discussed as well. Reports from the ASCAP Expo will include updates from the manufacturers of music gear and software programs commonly used for independent music production.

Information regarding reviews of emerging gadgets available for demo purposes at the ASCAP Expo will also be provided in future updates.

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The ASCAP Expo is coming up April 13-15 2017 in Los Angeles, California. It is an event set up for music creators to network, demo music equipment and gear provided by vendors, and to attend workshops to learn more about the industry.


There are well over 20 different popular Digital Audio Workstation types out there. In the music production community, they are referred to, in short, as DAWs.

What is the true definition of a DAW?

To determine what software programs qualify for independent music production, we must first consider what the definition of a DAW is.

According to one of the top results on Google’s search engine, a Digital Audio Workstation is defined as, “A digital system designed for recording and editing digital audio. It may refer to audio hardware, audio software, or both.” It also says, “They could be used to record, edit, and play back digital audio.” This is probably one of the simplest most sensible definitions out there.

For all practical purposes and to further support this definition, another reputable source was a thesis written about disambiguations of DAWs and various factors involved in the way we view music production using these systems today. It was stated that a,” ‘Digital audio workstation’ (DAW) often refers to a multifunctional computer-based audio system offering the means to handle most of the typical audio production tasks.”

They acknowledge a cause of conflict when defining hardware and software suitable for music production within this newly developed community of sound designers by bringing attention to the fact that,”The boundaries between sound design, composition, and music production are somewhat vague.”

An ongoing question that has caused quite a bit of controversy among those who take pride in building their very own home audio studios includes,”What current music production software counts as a Digital Audio Workstation?”

To fully understand and properly address this concern with an educated answer, the specific uses of these DAWs need to be dissected. The different components that make up popular DAWs need to be explained. We need to examine why users adopt and are loyal to particular DAWs by understanding factors that influence these decisions. We also need to discuss what particular DAWs are on the market and who has found success with using them for music production purposes.


What are the different components of these popular software options that can be broken down to further define their functionality within the realm of music production?

Sequencers

Many DAWs are interchangeably referred to as sequencers. They typically use blocks of data or synthesized sounds to organize and arrange this data in a way that produces the desired sound or effects.

Multitrack recorders

Originally, multitrack recorders were analog tape recorders capable of recording in 2-24 track formats. Today, popular DAWs use software that provides a graphical user interface that mimics these old-school analog multitrack recorders. It makes it easy to record audio into a digital format with use of processors with adequate processing speeds for processing information that can be stored and quickly recalled on a hard drive.

Audio interface

Audio interfaces are basically glorified dedicated high-quality sound cards. Audio interfaces grew in popularity with early adopters, as a solution to a latency issue commonly experienced during playback or recording. This latency typically caused noticeable delays that made it difficult to record. For those who are serious about recording quality audio files, an audio interface is typically used with most popular DAWs to allow multiple instruments to be recorded simultaneously into a mixer or single channel for playback and editing.

Mixing consoles

Just about every DAW on the market comes with some type of mixing console built into the software. This is the section of the program that allows you to control the volume, panning, and effects for each channel. Some people still use analog mixing consoles along with their digital interfaces because they prefer a more tactile experience. Some also prefer the analog sound to digital. In professional recording studios you’ll still see a good bit of analog equipment. However, a lot of people do without the expensive, bulky hardware and just rely on the digital interface that mimics the analog equipment to mix their tracks.

MIDI controllers

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI controllers are becoming a huge component of the home audio production studio. Synthesizers, mixers, drum machines, and other various devices that connect through MIDI or USB are becoming incredibly popular instruments used to enhance the usability of dedicated DAWs. This is giving a lot of home audio production workstations more of an appearance similar to actual professional studios.

As discussed in previously published articles on the advancement of Microcomputing and adoption of it as a hobby, we see the same interest for those looking to create their own home audio studios. The cost and practicality of these hobbies are generating a lot of interest. It is also causing an increase in the production of more gear and different types of MIDI controllers as well as Internet of Things devices. It’s common to find videos all over the net on how to create your own MIDI controllers using Arduino kits.


What are popular DAWs used by both professionals and amateurs?

Considering the definition of a DAW and after examining components and general functionality of DAWs, it is safe to say that each one of the followings qualifies as a DAW. The simplest way to back up this claim is with consideration for how each of these DAWs is used and what they are capable of producing. Anyone who has the working knowledge, or the mental capacity to manipulate each or any of these software options to produce a song can safely say that they use any single one of these as a Digital Audio Workstation.
Although many would say that some of these are not true DAWs, in actuality, anyone who is capable of figuring out how to manipulate certain functions of any of these DAWs to record, arrange, and playback a song is rightfully justified in claiming that they have used the stated software as a DAW. What’s more, they could also say that they have used any one of these software programs as a component of a more complex Digital Audio Workstation and they would also be correct.

Digital Audio Workstation

Popular DAWs

In no particular order here are at least 24 different popular DAWs used by consumers.

Imageline: FL Studio Propellerhead: Reason Steinberg: Cubase
Apple: Garage Band Ableton Live Cakewalk: Sonar
Native Instruments: Maschine Steinberg: Nuendo Audacity
Avid: ProTools Cockos: Reaper Bitwig Studio
Harrison: Mixbus Presonus Studio One Magix: Acid
Sony: Acid Pro Renoise Tracktion
Mutools: Mulab Motu: Digital Performer Audacity
Open Labs: StageLight Protracker Ardour

 

Who has found success with the use of these DAWs?

Digital Audio Workstation Com Truise
Photo by: Graceless Lacy
Com Truise Feb. 2012

Who uses them? Seth Haley otherwise known as, Com Truise is a perfect example of someone who has found success with using one of these specific DAWs. I approached him one day to ask him what software he uses and he told me that he uses Reason. He has been a huge influence and has actually set the bar in the electronic music community by helping to define genres such as chillwave or synthwave. Brian Lingren or Mux Mool is also an excellent and highly multi talented producer. I’ve seen him post videos using Ableton Live. Even Bonobo uses Ableton. There are countless, amazingly talented producers who use these DAWs.

There is a whole list of “Power Users” on Imageline’s website. Imageline manufactures FL Studio. Popular acts include Avicci, Martin Garrix, and Solja Boy.


 

Subscribe to Techdigg.com updates for a follow-up article where we will look at the reasons for preferences in adopting a particular DAW. Included will be a discussion of what factors influence loyalty to a certain brand. During the week of April 13-15th 2017 I will be reporting from the 2017 ASCAP Expo. We will delve deeper into the world of MIDI controllers and music gear. Also look for reports on upcoming discounts and exclusive specials provided by the manufacturers of some of these popular DAWs.

 

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