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Production Tips

Episode 7 – Music Production and DAWs

Outside of my life as co-founder of SendMusic, the fastest and most secure way to send music files, (sorry had to get that in there), I am a published music producer. What does that mean I hear some of you say.  Well basically I have made music and it’s been published by a publishing company called No Sheet Music. They like the music i’ve submitted to them, signed it so they own the rights to it for a period of time and have then put it on their website so others can browse their whole music library and choose music for specific purposes. In my case my music has been synchronised to television globally, in commercials mainly. I have had syncs with Audi, the BBC, ITV etc. Quarterly I get a payment for any work that I have had synced and it’s wonderful to see my music being played as far afield as Australia, China, India to name a few places. I get a quarterly statement and it shows me how much I made the quarter gone and where my music was played.

We’re very lucky now in that making music is readily accessible to nearly anyone using the most basic of device. I remember back in the day when I started out, getting into a recording studio was almost a dark art. I mean it when I say I used to scour my local area looking for studios to somehow get into as I had so much music in my head that I wanted to get out there into the world. Nowadays however there are literally just two things, in my humble opinion, that you need to start making music in the digital realm – a computer and a DAW.

I’m sure you know what a computer is but what is a DAW? Well DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is basically either hardware or software used to record, edit and produce music. I’ve used a number over the years and they all have their own pros and cons but they’ve all gotten really good over the years. As such which DAW is best for you really boils down to a few things – what style of music you are doing, how easy is it to use (this is subjective really and depends on how much effort you put into learning the DAW) and the cost. Over the years i’ve used the following DAWs in chronological order starting with oldest first:

  • Cubase
  • Pro Tools
  • Logic (sparsely)
  • Ableton
  • Bitwig (sparsely)
  • FL Studio

Notable exclusions from this list are:

  • Studio One
  • Reason
  • Reaper
  • Digital Performer

I think the above lists highlight the plethora of options that are available now.

So what sorts of features do DAW’s have? While each program has its own unique layout and features, all DAWs are capable of recording digital audio, editing and processing it, and mixing multiple tracks together. Most DAWs also incorporate MIDI functionality, allowing notes to be programmed or played via MIDI controller to control virtual instruments like synthesizers. Plugins are also a major feature of DAWs, doing everything from simple EQ and compression to vintage amp modeling.

To wet your palette there are free DAWs out there you can play around with to get started, things like Audacity, Reaper and Garageband on a Mac are great starting points. Beyond these the industry studio standards are really either Pro Tools or Apple’s Logic. Some DAWs could be considered specialty, almost genre specific. For example Ableton is very popular in Dance music circles, encompassing genres ranging from House to Drum and Bass. FL studio on the other hand is extremely popular in the hip hop / rap world. The best thing to do is do some research, think about what style of music you want to make, look up the biggest producers and see what they use. Then get it, legally! Go onto youtube and watch tutorials, there are thousands for every type of DAW and then start finishing whole songs, not just loops (like I did for a long time). Most importantly also, have fun and enjoy the process and journey!

My own personal set-up now consists of the following 2 DAWs, Ableton 10 and FL Studio 20 (beta) which i’m testing. I must say i’m very happy with this setup as I can open FL Studio as a plugin within Ableton. This for me is amazing as i lean towards making dance stuff and hip hop so all bases are covered with my DAW choice. Any questions do ping me a question:

[email protected]

About Pal

Co-founder @ SendMusic // [email protected]

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