pengwndude

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice?

21 posts in this topic

Hey folks, 

Searched for a topic about this but maybe search is broken cuz literally no hits showed up.

 

What's your DAW of choice? I'm running Finale 2010 and it sucks (for many reasons) and I hate it. The audio is garbage, which isn't crazy to imagine since its software more for writing sheet music more than for producing sound.

What's good? What is good for a person such as I, accustomed to writing music through sheet music? Should Is stick with Finale and mess around with improving audio with Soundfonts?

 

Much thanks. If a thread about this already exists, please definitely send me to it. 

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Well, Finale is not a "DAW". It is a notation program that can support MIDI and playback via proprietary samples.

In the case of orchestral music, Cubase if you're on a PC and Logic if you're on Mac are the way to go for DAWs. Load this up with 3rd-party orchestral sample libraries like East West's Hollywood or Symphonic Orchestras, Cinesamples, Spitfire, Orchestral Tools' "Berlin" series, 8Dio, etc. and you're good to go.

Be warned that this is an expensive endeavor with a steep learning curve, but it is absolutely worth it.

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Huh, thank you. 

As much as I enjoy orchestral arranging and composing, I find myself writing with a lot of rock instruments, to which of course, the guitar sounds like ass.

Is there a way to both have a true DAW and be able to write it out with traditional notation, regardless of what sounds I'm trying to produce?

 

 

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2 hours ago, pengwndude said:

Huh, thank you. 

As much as I enjoy orchestral arranging and composing, I find myself writing with a lot of rock instruments, to which of course, the guitar sounds like ass.

Is there a way to both have a true DAW and be able to write it out with traditional notation, regardless of what sounds I'm trying to produce?

 

 

Both Cubase and Logic (and maybe some others) support sheet music and I believe can export as sheet music (you can also load MIDI into Finale and Sibelius).

However, DAW capabilities with notation are not nearly as robust as dedicated software for notation like Finale and Sibelius. It is also input as MIDI data, but it will be ultra-rigid, inhuman sounding MIDI, so you'd be better off to do what most people do with DAWS: Play the parts in live with a MIDI-keyboard controller for the most realistic results and edit the MIDI data after if need be.

You could still compose the tune in Finale first if you want, of course — but a truly synergistic system between the two doesn't really exist, sadly.

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Ah unfortunate. Seems I got a ways to go if I want to go deep into this. Gotta look into learning a new way of writing music.

Is Audacity a good free place to start at least?

The capabilities of notation must be extremely limited if Finale can be considered "robust" xD (I hate finale so much)

 

Thanks, this has been very informative. 

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Audacity is only for audio editing and recording; it's not a DAW. If you want to get a feeling for a DAW, either try Reaper or free trial versions of the various big DAWs (iirc at least Cubase, Studio One and Bitwig have demo versions available, there might be more).

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On 7/8/2017 at 11:12 PM, AngelCityOutlaw said:

However, DAW capabilities with notation are not nearly as robust as dedicated software for notation like Finale and Sibelius. It is also input as MIDI data, but it will be ultra-rigid, inhuman sounding MIDI, so you'd be better off to do what most people do with DAWS: Play the parts in live with a MIDI-keyboard controller for the most realistic results and edit the MIDI data after if need be.

Gotta emphasize this.

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15 hours ago, pengwndude said:

Right now I'm looking into Reaper on a friend's recommendation, very largely based on its affordability 

Reaper is plain awesome. Robust and light software, highly customizable. The community/forum is vast and helpful. Many studios use it professionally and not just based on its affordability :-)
Its stock mixing-tool plugins are underrated mainly because of the bland looking GUI, they're far from perfect but they're actually more than fine as long as you know what you're doing... and that has been proven several times in various mixing contests.

Its biggest downside at the moment is the lack of decent virtual instruments, which means you won't find good sounds in there to create music. You need to look for external VSTs, external sample libraries, sample players like Sforzando or actual samplers like the TX16Wx. 
Start with freeware, a lot of nice stuff. Eventually upgrade to paid plugins if you like them and want to take it to the next level. 

Other more expensive DAWs come with better sounds and plugins (and this is one of the reasons for the price gap), but at least as far as I am concerned, the best plugins and libraries come from 3rd parties anyway regardless of the DAW you use.

So if you want to go with Reaper and you're a beginner I would highly advise to follow the official tutorials https://www.reaper.fm/videos.php 
Many people end up blaming the software because they don't get to know enough about it.

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I've tried a fair few DAWs now and could lump them into three categories.

There's Pro Tools, which i would consider the "Engineering DAW", as you can get deep into the nitty gritty but it tends to be far less intuitive and harder to get to grips with. I would never use it for being creative, personally. But if you plan on working in a studio then it's pretty much essental. At face value I'd probably lump Reaper in here too, though I have very little experience with it. Its super cheap though provided you're not releasing commercially.

Then for lack of a better term i have the "Creative DAWs, which are Cubase, Logic and Studio One. These are the most well balanced of the three categories, with exceptional workflows and a good range of VST's to use. Of the bunch Logic is easily the best value as it's very cheap for the full version and has some incredible bundled content. But it's only available on Mac. I also know it can export midi to score sheets but I don't know if you can compose in notation. I'm a Studio One user. I find its workflow to be the least hindering to creativity and super smooth. I also use it alongside Notion, which is Presonus' own notation software and it integrates well and triggers your scores on playback with Studio One. I do find it incredibly clunky to use though. I used Cubase for a year at university and didn't find it as intuitive as the other two and it's also more pricey for reasons that must be unknown to me.

Finally there's what i call the "Electronic DAWs", which are FL Studio and Ableton Live. I've never used Ableton so i can't comment much however i hear (as the name suggests) it's exceptional for live performance stuff if that's you're goal. FL Studio has a pattern workflow that is tailored more towards electronic music, but not limited to it. The workflow wasn't vibing with me and basic audio recording/editing felt super clunky and lackluster. I did use FL for about 3 years though because it's cheap and they have lifetime free updates so it's also amazing value. It's fun to look at too. It gets a bit of flak because it's seen by pro engineers as a bit of a toy, but I firmly disagree.

Hopefully this narrows your search :)

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My friend told me to download sforzando, but when I drop sf2 files into it it sounds like garbled trash. 

I also cannot for the life of me, figure out how to access the instruments via reaper after dropping them into sforzando -_-;;;

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FYI, there is both "sfz" and "sforzando". They are different soundfont players, so you should try searching for "sfz" (even though it should be shorthand for the word sforzando) to see if that works better.

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1 hour ago, pengwndude said:

My friend told me to download sforzando, but when I drop sf2 files into it it sounds like garbled trash. 

I also cannot for the life of me, figure out how to access the instruments via reaper after dropping them into sforzando -_-;;;

I might be wrong, but this suggests me you're opening the standalone version of sforzando, which is not made for usage within the DAW.

For Reaper or any DAW you need to put the .dll version (sforzando VST_x64.dll if 64bit, originated during the installation) in a folder dedicated to VST plugins, which your DAW can scan and get the software from.

It's easy to feel sort of disoriented at the start, but it gets better soon.

VSTs like sforzando get opened directly from the daw. Something like this video shows... 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CByHPXk3Flw

As far as formats, I have only been using .sfz files with sforzando, I honestly never used .sf2
Searching "sfz library" or "sfz instruments" on google should point to a lot of free stuff.

And they don't necessarily have to be sfz libraries. they can be actual dedicated VSTs
http://www.vst4free.com/index.php?m=VSTi

 

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12 hours ago, DarkEco said:

Reaper in here too, though I have very little experience with it. Its super cheap though provided you're not releasing commercially.

It's actually cheaper than all of the other industry-standard DAWs even if you are releasing commercially. It's 60 USD if you make less than 20,000 a year from it (which most do) and only 200 USD if you make 20k or more.

Anyway, I can vouch for Reaper. I switched over to using it exclusively like...3 years ago now? Can't go back to anything else.

I do wish it had superior video playback, but nothing is perfect.

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yes, I am opening what seems to be a standalone sforzando x64

https://www.plogue.com/downloads#sforzando

thank you thank you thank so much everyone. 

I think with this I can FINALLY start trying to produce music through Reaper. I don't know if there's an easy way of transferring my compositions from Finale to Reaper, or if I have to redo everything from scratch, but at least I can RUN STUFF 

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I mean, if you've got a Mac, I'd say start with Garage Band, but of course it's limited to just Mac, and it has a bad reputation for not really being a full DAW because of its lack of mastering tools and mixing isn't the greatest either. And the sounds are garbage. That being said, there was an update a while ago that added one synth engine to it with a whole host of usable and really customizable sounds, and they did actually add some more in depth mixing and mastering options such as an actual compressor now rather than just the one bar that you slide to add or reduce compression. They also added stuff like effects (tremolo, overdrive, microphaser, etc...) which is pretty great to add even more uniqueness to your sounds, and they improved stuff like track reverb instead of, again, just a slider. Garage Band also has a bunch of loops (while inherently not amazing as standalone, basically just short 1-4 bar samples of synths, drums, rhythm stuff) and if you can learn how to chop them up and use it creatively in a project without just throwing a loop in there, it can be pretty functional.

Not knocking down Reaper though, if you can use that it'd probably be better. It's WAY a more of a DAW than Garage Band. I'm just putting it out there that Garage Band is a lot better now. Still not amazing but good if you wanna learn basic stuff about production.

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It really just depends on you as a person, IMO. I don't think I'll ever switch from FL Studio because it just clicks with me, and I find the stock plugins (compression, EQ, etc.) to be fantastic on there own (Though stock plugins on any DAW are going to be good) You're just going to have to do a little searching to find good samples and sounds unless you just want to make electronic music. It's great for that.

 

But this may be different for you, you may prefer Reason, Studio One, or even Pro Tools if you're doing a lot of recording.

My suggestion is to pick 3 separate DAW's that interest you, and then download the trial versions of all of them. Find what clicks with you the most (What you enjoy using the most), and then stick with that DAW. Learn the ins-and-outs, the shortcuts, the tricks, etc. and learn a whole lot about the mixing process and what everything is doing to your mix. (especially EQ and Compression). I can guarantee you that if you find a DAW that you really like, you won't ever have to switch around. BAD IDEA, unless you're using something like Garage Band, you'll probably want to upgrade that eventually. You can still get great mixes out of it though :P

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On 7/14/2017 at 0:07 PM, urdailywater said:

It really just depends on you as a person, IMO. I don't think I'll ever switch from FL Studio because it just clicks with me, and I find the stock plugins (compression, EQ, etc.) to be fantastic on there own (Though stock plugins on any DAW are going to be good) You're just going to have to do a little searching to find good samples and sounds unless you just want to make electronic music. It's great for that.

As a further note, I wouldn't actually necessarily stick with the stock plugins the whole time, and I would be open to adding on or replacing some of them with better external plugins that you get elsewhere. For example, I don't actually think Fruity Reeverb or Reeverb 2 is nearly as flexible as ArtsAcoustic Reverb, and so I don't use them as much as I do ArtsAcoustic, but they are all reverb plugins.

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10 hours ago, timaeus222 said:

I don't actually think Fruity Reeverb or Reeverb 2 is nearly as flexible as ArtsAcoustic Reverb, and so I don't use them as much as I do ArtsAcoustic, but they are all reverb plugins.

While ArtsAcoustic is an excellent sounding reverb the developers have MIA for a long time now. Valhalla DSP Reverbs (Room or Vintage Verb) are excellent alternatives at a lower price point. Just demo both and see which one sounds the best.

A cheap way to get plugins or DAWs is through the KVR Marketplace. Make sure you purchase from a user who has been a member for awhile and made some posts. There is a feedback section to see if a user has made a successful transaction before.

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I forgot to mention in pc, so to me personally (though very helpful to any other newbie), GarageBand and logic are irrelevant. 

Turns out I can export Midi from finale, so that's my work style right now. I'm not super familiar with things like compression, gain, or even reverb, and my renders sometimes have mistakes and I have to do then over and over again. 

I'm making due fairly well with free VSTs. Not super satisfied with electric guitar, if anyone has any recommendations for free ones. 

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