The Best DAW Software For The Beginners
Oh, hey, guys! So you are looking for the best DAW software for the beginners? Well, unfortunately, there is no such thing. Are there some bad ones? Yeah, but you have to do a lot of digging around the Internet to even find one!
Back to my point! All DAWs are good, and you can make fire beats on any one of them. They are just different: unique design, plugins, workflow, and so much more. On some of the less popular ones it’s harder to find tutorials, for example, but these days you can find literally anything on the internet, so don’t worry!
So yeah, here is the best DAW software for beginners list, enjoy!
*There is no particular order (it doesn’t go from the best to the worst or the opposite)
1) FL Studio
I use this DAW since I was 16. Therefore, I am really comfortable suggesting it to you.
Fairly simple, but not the easiest to navigate through in the beginning interface. Very clean, especially since FL Studio 12. A lot of features you’ll have to google, but that’s how it’s gonna be with any new software, trust me! Unfortunately, you can’t just press 2 buttons and get your track ready, it takes a while.
What’s good is it has a few built-in synths and generators (more in Producer and Signature editions) and packs of samples to start producing right away. Of course, I suggest purchasing more samples later, but in the beginning, it will be just fine!
Plugins that come with it are high quality, I still use some of them to this very day. Plus you can download a bunch of free VSTs off the Internet after, it’s pretty simple!
Okay, the pricing…
It comes in 4 versions, which are:
I) Fruity edition – the most basic version, you can’t even record a song on it. Yeah, there is no record function, how crazy is that? You could technically record through Audacity and insert the WAV files, but it’s going to be so much pain, trust me!
*Update: I actually went to their website to double-check, and you can’t even insert audio clips. Also, there are restrictions to a lot of plugins. Therefore…
Verdict: not worth it.
II) Producer edition – basically all you need for music production. You can record, use audio tracks, and do literally whatever you want. It unlocks all the capabilities of FL Studio, besides a few plugins such as NewTone (Pitch correction), Harmless (Synth), and Pitcher (kind of similar to the best in the industry Antares Autotune, yet not the same).
Verdict: The most suitable for beginners
III) Signature bundle – identical to the earlier one with a few more plugins, that’s it. Has almost everything to it, except a number of synth plugins (Poizone, Sakura, Sawer, Morphine, Ogun) and so on. Honestly speaking, it will come in handy if you already have some knowledge. It’s overwhelming as it is and all these new plugins you don’t know how to use will just add more stress.
Verdict: The best for a user who has at least some experience.
IV) FL studio + all plugins – everything you’ve ever wanted in terms of plugins. Is it really worth the price, especially when you are just starting out and not making any money out of it? No!
Verdict: amazing bundle as a whole, a lot of useful plugins, but not worth it if you are just starting out.
Oh yeah, every single edition comes with lifetime updates, so you don’t have to renew the license every year, or pay to get the newest version.
There is also the free version which is identical to the Signature Bundle, but you won’t be able to reopen the files you saved. So you can check it out, see how the interface looks, tweak a few knobs, try out a couple plugins. Pretty handy, don’t you think?
Therefore you can try it out and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.
A lot of DJs such as Martin Garrix, Avicii, Afrojack, and so on are using FL to make their music.
I promise I have nothing to do with Fruity Loops in a financial way, just been using it since my day one.
A little nostalgic about it, you know…
Here is the FL Studio website for the reference.
I’ve heard people calling it the alternative of Logic for Windows, due to it’s clean and simple interface. I have to admit, kind of simpler than FL. I’ve seen it do wonders and I’ve personally even purchased the Intro version just to see how it is.
It lacks a few functions here and there, but you can understand the general workflow pretty easily.
Moreover, I loved the stability of the software, especially the live shows. It tends to be superb in how stable it is with the constant incoming signal on the top of which you apply VSTs. It makes sense though, as it’s been designed to be used by DJs to start with.
Ableton Lite, which is pretty much identical to the Intro version, comes when you purchase different hardware, such as midi keyboards, mixers, or interfaces. You should ask when you buy, or check the product description, as it depends on the brand.
Personally, I’ve received the activation code when I bought my Focusrite Scarlett interface and my Alesis V49 midi keyboard. A nice perk, in my opinion.
Ableton comes in 3 editions:
I) Intro – to be honest, almost the same as Lite, which you can get for free when purchasing certain music studio equipment. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the only difference if that Lite lets you use 8 audio and midi track, while intro lets you use 16. Both are more for learning about the interface, workflow, and plugins and not the actual music production.
Verdict: not worth your money
II) Standard – okay, you know how you usually pick something in the middle, cause it’s usually the best bang for the buck? Well, that’s the case with Ableton also. Why? The Standard edition offers you everything to produce entire songs, EPs, albums, and whatever else you want to produce.
All the functions are unlocked, you got a bunch of instruments, audio and midi effects. The only difference is the number of those instruments and effects. If you are like me, you probably want it all, but do you need all this stuff? I am pretty sure you don’t. You got over 1800 sounds in this package, tell me how many do you need to finally start producing?
Verdict: pretty pricey, but the cheapest version of Ableton to be able to actually make music on it. With all the freebies included, the best bang for the buck.
III) Suite – oh hey rich boys, let’s talk about the top tier edition! Double the number of midi effects (went from 8 to 16), twelve more audio effects (from 34 to 46). Hold on, what’s that? Triple the instruments (5 to 15) and sounds (1800+ to 5000+)? Well, take my money already!
But seriously, if you have extra cash laying around and you ready to commit to making music for at least a few years, Suite is the best option. If buying all the perks separately, it can add up to a few thousand, so if you feel like you need it, go for it!
Verdict: A little pricey (or a lot), but if you know a thing or two about Ableton and feel like you can make a living off this, it will be a great choice.
Here is the Ableton website for the reference.
3) Steinberg Cubase
You’ve probably heard of it at some point in your life. If not, shame on you! C’mon, it’s been around forever, since 1989. One of the very first DAWs released, it has changed dramatically over the years to keep up with the modern workstations.
Nothing, but respect for them as they were the ones to invent VST plugin format, which is probably the most popular format these days.
Moreover, have you ever heard of ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output)? That thing you use that decreases latency when you record instruments and vocals. Well, they created it too.
Oh God, have I told you they have this neat feature called VST transit? You can collaborate with another Cubase user anywhere in the world. Like how amazing is this? To be honest, sometimes I think of giving up on FL just because of this little feature! So futuristic! Even though Pro Tools got a similar feature, it comes at a bigger price.
So no matter what, without them, the music industry would’ve not been the way it is. Enough talk, let’s get to the point already!
It’s been around for so long, I can sometimes find people who used it before I was even born. Therefore, no wonder still owns a fair share of the market. It’s the best choice for someone who wants to make more complex melodies with a lot of instruments, as it’s pretty much midi and VST instrument based workstation.
If you are just looking to make trap beats with one or two melodies, Cubase is probably not for you. I mean you won’t be using it to the fullest potential, so why pay for it, you feel me?
It comes in three edition (what a surprise):
I) Cubase Elements – pretty much a “Great Value” version of it. You can still make music on it, as opposed to the budget edits of the previous two (FL Studio and Ableton). You only get 16 tracks on the mixer, most of your plugins are not available. In a few words, you can make this work if you want to save money, but I wouldn’t call it a bang for a buck.
Verdict: worth the money, but a better version is required to produce professionally.
II) Cubase Artist – pretty average settings, a lot of cool plugins. You get access to around 5 hours of tutorials on YouTube. Oh, I forgot to mention that YOU CAN COLLABORATE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I still can’t believe it’s the only DAW that lets you do this. I can’t emphasize enough how cool and potential this idea is.
Verdict: outstanding for someone who records a lot of instruments and uses a lot of VST synth in the same project. You can collaborate with other users across the globe.
III) Cubase Pro – offers a lot of extra features on the top of Cubase Artist, such as VST Connect SE (a unique remote recording plugin) and Profile Manager (you can keep your settings and preferences and recall them when needed). Moreover, you get enhanced downmixing quality and so-called “control room”, which lets you create performer mixes and monitoring setups.
Verdict: outstanding features which will help you step up your game. If there is no game though, and you just starting out, go for something more budget.
Here is the Cubase website for the reference.
4) Cockos Reaper
I couldn’t write this list without mention this DAW, mostly because I feel like the developers who created are so principled and genuine. Why? So here is the deal, they offer you two licenses: discounted and commercial.
Before you buy one, they suggest you use the trial version first to evaluate it, which is 60 days. And after that, they don’t just block the access to it. They just ask you to buy it, but you can always click “keep evaluating” and keep using it for free.
At some point you feel like they brought so much value to you, so you go and pay the $60. Yes, that’s how much it costs. No add-ons, no extra features if you pay more, and no, it’s not a yearly subscription. It’s such a power move, I am speechless.
Reaper is heavily user-feedback based, so the updates come every few weeks. Hundreds of high-quality effects for midi and audio, a bunch of cool plugins, ability to fully customize the user interface.
To me, just feels like the most personal and friendliest DAW, nothing flashy or above the roof, just things you need with a moderate design.
Verdict: not the biggest shark in the tank, maybe not the smartest shark either, but still a shark. The biggest bang for a buck you can get, with all the necessary features. The biggest drawback, for now, is the number of people using it, which is actually growing because of the passionate fan base and cheap pricing.
Here is the Reaper website for the reference.
It’s famous for its clean, very straightforward, and user-friendly interface. As everything else Apple makes, it got this nice touch to all its native plugins and features. Also, you can think of it as a little brother of Pro Tools. Unfortunately, it is only available for Mac users, so unless you install Mac OSX on your PC, you won’t be able to use it.
Some people say Apple is too busy focusing on new fancy and colorful plugins and not really necessary features such as integrating the touch strip into the Logic workflow, instead of fixing the actual bugs in the software.
I can see how they try to make their new devices integrate with Logic Pro even better, which kind of makes sense. If you bought a MacBook with the touch strip, you want to use it, but I feel like they look the wrong way.
One other thing, you pay for a certain version of the DAW. When they release a new one, you better get your wallet ready again. This is no problem for bigger studios and self-made producers, but if you don’t make any money from it, this can be a problem.
It’s being used by David Guetta, Hardwell, Armin Van Buurtn, and other big artists. So hey, look into it as well, especially if you own a Mac.
Verdict: As expected from Apple, Logic has one of the most intuitive workflows, which comes at a price of overlooking little things and underdeveloped, yet necessary features. With my right hand on my heart, one of the greatest DAWs, but only if your wallet is thick enough.
Here is the Logic Pro website for the reference.
6) Pro Tools
Well known and fancy, easy to navigate, simple to browse, very user-friendly. It’s the so-called industry standard, which I understand to an extent. If you are looking into audio engineering, Pro Tools is the way to go for you.
The features being offered are the best on the market, no doubt. It also comes in 3 packages though, so the more you pay, the better and higher quality plugins, generators, and the perks you get. Let’s look!
I) Pro Tools First – hopefully you’ve noticed already that the budget version doesn’t offer much. 16 tracks on the mixer again, no advanced tools whatsoever. Pretty much something to play around so you can tell people you use PRO TOOLS.
Verdict: not worth downloading, no ability to grow.
II) Pro Tools – moderately priced package (By Apple standards!). A lot of features are still unavailable, but good if you are just starting out. The price for it doesn’t sound like anything for the beginners though. One of the priciest on the market.
The option to work in the cloud is enabled, so that’s something. Remember how excited I was about it when writing about Cubase? Well, the two are at completely different price points. Therefore, even though it’s such a great feature in Cubase, I feel like more should be included in this package of Pro Tools.
Verdict: honestly, it’s great. The workflow, the plugins, everything. I just feel like you can get all these and a lot more for cheaper if you go with another software.
III) Pro Tools Ultimate – when someone refers to Pro Tools as an industry standard, they refer to this particular edition. It literally has everything you’ve wanted and more. Think about something you wish a DAW had… That’s very possible the ultimate package has it. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one little thing. The price is ASTONISHING!
More expensive than any other workstation out there, plus it’s a yearly (or monthly) subscription. I realize that some people want all the quality they can get and they don’t care about the price. Or they make money with their music already, so they try to upgrade to make even better music.
I understand that. I also respect that. It’s not for the beginners though.
Verdict: leading DAW of the market. Quality plugins, insane features, advanced automation, audio and video editing. Everything you asked for pretty much. Unfortunately, it all comes at a price, at an astonishing price…
Here is the Pro Tools website for the reference.
7) Garage Band
Now let’s look at something free, after all these hundreds of dollars DAWs – Garage Band. Even though not as advanced as the previous ones, it’s probably the simplest ones. If you have an iPhone, you can even use it on your phone (even though it’s such a pain to actually write something good, trust me). Again, it’s for Mac Users only.
It’s probably the easiest to start, but you can only go so far! It offers premade drum packs, instruments, some plugins. Nothing too crazy, but enough to make your first beat maybe?
The interface is so simple you will have a hard time switching to the more advanced ones though.
Verdict: to keep it short, offers a lot for its price (free). Basically a sandbox to play in. In my opinion, don’t use it if you have any serious plans.
Here is the Garage Band website for the reference.
Conclusion: The Best DAW Software For The Beginners
By no means, these are the only ones you can use. There are tens of them on the market, these are just the most authoritative and respected in the industry. Moreover, they’ve been around for a while. I am sure there are new ones being released with even better features, but it’s a long way for them to beat the industry giants.
After a long research, I tried to put as much information into this as possible. If it was any more detailed, you would’ve probably skipped all the technical parts, as they are usually the hardest to grasp, especially in the beginning.
I hope you found this helpful and learned something new today! If you want more articles and educational posts, make sure to share on social, so more people can learn this! Let’s make the music industry a better place together!
Are thinking about building your own home studio to save costs in the long run? Do you want to make high-quality beats and records tracks in the comfort of your own house? Well, there are few things you need to know when building one from the ground up, but no worries, I gotcha!
Check out my very in-depth article – “How to Build a Budget Music Studio: Best Guide for the Beginners“, where I describe the hardware you need in a detailed step-by-step manner.