[Music Discussion] What DAW do you use and why do you use it?

Scythuz

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Hello folks, this is a topic that has always had me curious.  I've noticed over the years that the people on this site and others like it are very different when it comes to their software needs. Some prefer a modern DAW like Pro Tools, Cubase or FL Studio.  Some prefer the old school approach with trackers like Famitracker, or sheet music editors like Sibelius or Finale.  I personally use Cubase Pro 8.5 because it allows for a high amount of versatility and offers great performance when my work demands many instances of samples with various plugins and effects attached.  Before that I used Pro Tools M-Powered 8, which was a constant chore to get set up properly and keep going when work became demanding, I hear the newer versions are much better though.


What is your favourite Digital Audio Workstation and why do you use it over other products? 
 
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Ms Littlefish

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You already know this about me, Scy. But, I start out by making a notation in Finale. I've been reading and notating music since Kindergarten so it ended up being a very intuitive way for my brain to communicate music. While I can do music by ear and can use a piano, I find for me that the notation is the most efficient and mistake free avenue. It definitely does slow things down, but I prioritize my accuracy.


I export a MIDI and open it up into Reaper. I enjoy it because I find it easy to use and flexible. It was also very affordable and didn't crash like LMMS did. I'm interested in Cubase 8, but it's a pretty significant cost for what is mostly a hobby for me. A passionate, passionate hobby. But, not a major livelihood for me. 
 
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Scythuz

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@Ms Littlefish - Yeah, to say the very least, it took a fair bit of saving up to get that and the new pc.  I can't really recommend the pro version to a hobbyist like yourself, even if having the score editor within the DAW would be useful to you, it'd be costly and take a while to learn the ins and outs of.
 

HexMozart88

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I use StaffPad to score, but if I need more instruments I use Mixcraft. Mainly StaffPad though because I can print the sheets ad export the actual music. It does playbacks so I know what I like and what to change. 


Mixcraft is also good because I can hook it up to my keyboard and it comes out with the sound of whatever instrument I want. 
 

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Ah, here is a great thread! Let me talk to you, not only on DAWs but also any kind of music software I use.


First off, I started trying different DAWs long ago. I really appreciate Cubase Steinberg in general. I appreciate Ableton too. But Propellerhead stole my heart back then.


So I bought Reason 4 then got Reason 6 upgrade. (a)


I also use LMMS. (b)


I use Audacity (c) and also Magix Audio Cleaning Lab (d) for waveform editing and finally, ffmpeg (e) for converting files to other formats.


(a) Yes so, Reason 6 is a great All-in_one DAW that doesn't have VST support. This has pros and cons. Pros are that any Rack Extensions made for Reason, is almost 99% guaranteed that it won't crash your system. This is relatively new technology and it works great. High stability is important especially on live performance right? VSTis or VSTFx are excluded though. And that's why I use another DAW.


(b) LMMS is a great piece of software. Free, Open Source, ready to use, great tutorials. Supports vsti. The best OS/ALT around for music.


(c) Audacity is a great way to manipualte sound too.


(d) Magic Audio cleaning Lab is really neat and I don't regret the money I spent (15Euro with a pacgage)


and finally...


(e) An open source converter.
 

djDarkX

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Well, I've mentioned a few times that I use trackers like Famitracker, Deflemask, MODPlug Tracker (for SNES conversions), but I also use Cakewalk SONAR for my modern music projects.  For the trackers, they obviously offer a specialized and specific form of music creation.  Fami for NES production, Deflemask for Genesis & Gameboy (not Advance) music and MODPlug for SNES music.  That's a bit more tricky to explain, but essentially creating 8-channel music with limited samples and then converting using a tool with the emulated echo effects and not using plugins since they can't faithfully recreate the echo effects like the emulation community has since they have been working on it for a couple of decades by this point.


Now for Cakewalk SONAR, some people think it's outdated software, but I think it serves me just well.  Easy to see and use plugin browser for my VSTs, easy cloning of tracks when remastering music so that I can split single tracks into several for articulations, changing of events being easy to do per track, easy automation and simple creation of additional buses for routing several VST instrument plugins to a single output for easy global application of effect VSTs like reverb and mastering.  Every tool has it's advantage and I find the ones I use currently to work best for me.  I used to use FL Studio, but it was not what I really needed, tried to use Anvil and it was far too confusing for me and I tried my hand at Cubase once and it too was far too confusing for me.  I could not makes heads or tails of how plugins worked in there, so I got lost easily.  SONAR is my DAW of choice for remastering music and, soon, original music creation.


I'm interested in hearing what others might use as well.
 

Scythuz

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Yeah this is exactly what I mean, I haven't even heard of a lot of this software and that's always cool!


@HexMozart88 - Midi controllers are always fun, I've got a midi keyboard hooked up but atm I still seem to only use it for auditioning sounds and automating certain things with the modwheel, I really need to fix that >.<


@Dreadshadow - We used to use Reason 4 for synth/sound design exercises in university, I've always sort of wanted to get a plugin version of it (if they even still exist) but I'm a bit hesitant because I'm pretty sure I can already do what I need with my existing plugins.  You wouldn't so happen to know how it compares to Native Instrument's Reaktor would you?


@djDarkX - Woah, I haven't seen you in a while haha, hello!  I really struggled with Cubase at first as well, there's a lot take in and I feel like even though I can use it now, I've still only scratched the surface.  The rabbit hole goes deep with cubase.  If you've looked into/heard it, what do you think of the SNESVerb effect used in Impact Soundworks Super Audio Cart (and now standalone snesverb plugin)?
 

djDarkX

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Yeah, I don't trust it to be accurate.  It's very close.  They did really well in trying to capture what it can do, but the thing they left out is what makes the SNES SPC700 APU (Audio Processing Unit) so special, which is the 8-Tap FIR Filter, which not only applies the echo effect, but a Gaussian filter for the samples which "smooths" them out to not sound so jagged like you'd hear on old MOD music from back in the Amiga days.  Plus the samples being 16bit instead of 8bit helps a lot to not hear hiss. ^_^


But yeah, for Cubase, just wasn't able to get a handle on it.  Maybe it's due to my relationship with SONAR.  Either way, great tool and it's used by a lot of pros, but SONAR personally does the job for me. :D
 

Scythuz

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@djDarkX - I wish there was a comparison video/track somewhere, I'd love to be able to quickly hear the difference.  Maybe I'll have to stop being lazy and look into it, I'm getting more and more Snes requests lately haha.  
 

djDarkX

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Hahaa, that's great.  I started working on a guide to do the tracker version of SNES music creation, but there is a way to do it via sequencing that is still, more or less, authentic due to using emulated sound via a VST plugin called C700.  Just have to learn how it works, which if you have prior experience with SNES music creation is pretty easy to figure out.


If I ever get the chance to grab the Super Audio Cart library, I'll make a comparison video with some custom music I made between the XMSNES conversion and SNESVerb.  Won't include C700 since XMSNES and C700 use the same FIR Filter emulation code as evidenced by the source code I checked out for both applications.


I did forget to mention something in my last post.  I don't begrudge people for using something like SNESVerb in lieu of more authentic means because it does take a lot more time and effort to work on authentic SNES music than it does to simply sequence it and apply an effect.  When making it all authentic, you have to be sure you create custom, very short single samples with a precise length (in samples) and a loop point that must be divisible by 16.  All that work, plus making sure you don't over do the it on the sample load PLUS the echo effect makes things tricky, at best.  Honestly, the way I do it is for the more advanced people that want to really get their hands dirty, but I'm still not at the level of others that write their own drivers and software to create the music natively on the SNES itself.  THAT requires some major programming skills along with musical skills of which I lack the programming skills, for the most part. :guffaw:
 

Scythuz

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@djDarkX - Yeah I really don't have the time to go too in-depth with it, I'm more asking for the super rare occasions when I write music for myself.  I like exploring these kinds of things, even if it's only briefly, it's nice to know my options  :)  
 

djDarkX

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If you're limited on time, use Super Audio Cart.  It will fit your needs on those rare occasions where you need to drum up some quick SNES-like tunes.  I still highly recommend it to anyone wanting to start out with that.


But, of course, for those that have time, I recommend exploring more authentic routes so they can get a really good understanding of not only how that type of music works, but how samples work to have more technical knowledge when they start heading into the audio engineering field.
 

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@Dreadshadow - We used to use Reason 4 for synth/sound design exercises in university, I've always sort of wanted to get a plugin version of it (if they even still exist) but I'm a bit hesitant because I'm pretty sure I can already do what I need with my existing plugins.  You wouldn't so happen to know how it compares to Native Instrument's Reaktor would you?


@Scythuz yes I really do, but it's complicated. :p Reason as you might remember from school, has a unique sound. Many producers might say the phrase "It sounds like Reason" by listening to a sound. The way I feel it is weird, I can not express it. Imagine a crystal clear sound with a lot of trebble, hi frequencies, like bells and stuff. Imagine that as very "shiny". Now a Reason mix is hard to sound THAT shiny. By default most sounds come a little more "darkish" reson-like sound. Of course, you can mixdown things bright and great, but it needs a lot of experience with the program and you always have to know what you are doing. Other than that, it has synths to combine, you can pass a signal through filters of other devices and use LFOs from somewhere else to sculpture sounds. Matrix pattern sequencer comes with infinite copies :p and you can cable singnal anyway you like. You can group devices into a Combinator and yes you got a freaking fancy synth ready to use. In theory you can do whatever Reactor can do, but you get also a sequencer with a great time stretching algorithm, you get the old Propellerhead Record implemented, you can record samples as loops and use a mini-recycle editor (!!!) and the new Reason comes with Players now.  See spoiler. It is fantastic and I can't think of anything Reason can't do.
 








And now, you ask  me to compare Reactor, from NI to Reason. TO start with, it's two different things. But let's talk about it, why not.


Whatever comes from NI is top quality in my opinion. It might be expensive, of course, but what you pay is what you get.  $200 for a program that can crate any sound you like, using tecnology to simulate any modular synth you might wanna make. I mean... wow! THIS is REALLY strong! I mean look at this giant. You actually make VSTIs snd VSTFXes and since you already got a sequencer... I don't know man! It's a tough one. I mean Reason output sound can be inserted into Cubase and Reason sequencer syncs with Cubase using REWIRE.That's an old feature, thanks to Steinberg.


On the other hand, if you like Reactor... well... if Reaktor can create something like a VSTI, then it will be more neat to be used in Cubase, since it will open just its own GUI. I am not sure how Reaktor-created Synths combine with Cubase, that's an issue to be researched further here, but if you CAN open them in Cubase, then it would be nice to get it.


It's more what features you need.


Reason is shipped with DAW power. Reaktor is shipped with modular design and easier reverse engineering power. It is certainly a tool for professionals and all people that make experimental music LOVE Reakttor.


Gee your question is really a tough one, cause I don't really know YOUR needs. :)


Sorry I will do this to you, but I will point you to a place that you might need to get-a-life after diving into.


I haven't... yet but there it is! Consider yourself warned.


https://cycling74.com/products/max/


This is like a true playground. A VERY HARD program to master, but a super powerful enviroment. I think THIS is what Reaktor should be compared with. :)


Oh! There is also an Open Source alternative, but hey... you know how things go with OS software.


http://repmus.ircam.fr/openmusic/home


Hope I helped you out! :D
 
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KayZaman

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@Ms Littlefish Reaper?! My lil' sis' wishlist!


@Scythuz Man, never heard Cubase Pro before.


@HexMozart88 That's why your name's HexMozart88. I'm barely-able to read the notes.


@Dreadshadow Reason by Propellerhead? I used Figure.


@djDarkX Nostalgic!


Me? I used Garageband.


Why? I work at Apple Store.
 

Scythuz

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@djDarkX - Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! :)  


@Dreadshadow - Looks like I completely forgot to mention the part about me owning Reaktor 5 haha, I was mainly asking about the comparison because I see them compared a lot and they seem like similar programs at the core (designing synths and sequences), but with completely different methods.  One of the other reasons I asked is because Reaktor 6 adds the ability to add specific blocks/parts of each synth easily and it reminded me a lot of my time fiddling with wires in Reason.  I guess I'm curious because I kind of like the idea behind the analogue approach but, I can't afford big shiny things like actual hardware synths so it's nice to be able dabble in that sort of experimentation, even if it isn't perfect.  When I have a bit of spare time and creative energy I usually like to create my own synth patches using the various Native Instrument synths I got in Komplete 10 Ultimate.  Thanks for the in-depth overview, I'll be doing extra research when I've got more cash to spare  :)  
 

_Shadow_

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@Dreadshadow Reason by Propellerhead? I used Figure.


Me? I used Garageband.


Why? I work at Apple Store.


Well then, you can also get Renoise. Reason is still an option for you of course. Figure is an app to make a few melodies on the go really. It is like a game but with serious core software hidden behind the simple GUI. :p
 

djDarkX

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@Scythuz, no problem buddy.  If you have any more questions on the subject of retro music, let me know.  That goes for anyone else.  I know quite a bit! ^_^


Oh, you know, I forgot to mention what VSTs I use.  I use Kontakt and some libraries, but I recently got Composer Cloud X from EastWest, which comes with their PLAY engine, and it's pretty nice.  A few glitches in the way the software handles updates and even an issue with the Close Mics for the HOW Gold legato Oboe, but support is working with my on fixing these issues, which I find to be amazing.  Honestly, I recommend anyone with at least 1TB of space to spare to get the CCX plan.  If you REALLY want to spend the extra money on all microphone positions and the ability to have sections and divisi, then get the CCX Pro plan, but you'll need to purchase their Pro HDD for it.  Upside to that is no downloading and if you have a limit on your bandwidth per month, which we just got into effect in November, that would be useful, even for the CCX plan.


I'm so used to other libraries offering everything as an all-in-one, so the EWQL series of instruments is taking me some time to get used to, but it's nice.  The QL Spaces Reverb is really nice as well.  The IR's and reverb are very good.  I was using Altiverb, but I might just switch it and use it in conjunction with EZMix.  Either way, it's nice.  Only bad thing is that due to the other sampler libraries I have, I have no space left for the remaining products from EW on my 2TB drive, so it's become a bit of a problem. :guffaw:


Hopefully next month I can buy another drive, 1TB instead, and place all my PLAY libraries in there and free up space on my 2TB again for other libraries I might get in the future.  Either way, highly recommend getting CCX if you can afford $30/month.  I would suggest Complete instead of X due to being able to just stop paying at any time, but it's the same price per month and with X, while you have to pay $30/month for a year (and you can do the monthly or annual plan), you also get access to the close mic expansions for all of the orchestral libraries.


OH and a nice little tidbit of info.  When they release new instruments, those get added to the list and you can use those as well with all articulations available.  If you are a student, they do also have a student plan that has you pay less, but you only get access to 7 instruments...but of your choosing, so that's something, right? lol


Anyway, enough of my droning on.  This thread was about DAWs, not VSTs, so I'll cut it off here, but at least the info is available!
 

HexMozart88

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@KayZaman Yes, that is the origin for most of my name. The beginning part is a mystery to most, but if you want to know, you'll have to PM.  ;)  Also, don't sweat not knowing how to read notes. Most guitarists don't. (That's why I have problems talking to most of the guitarists about music, because they have a completely different style than pianists and it drives me insane D:< ). 


I used to use Reason 8 for a brief period, but it didn't work with my specific keyboard so I ditched it. 
 
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KayZaman

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@HexMozart88 I was a guitarist so don't mad at me. Yeah, Reason is really cool but no budget for me. Except for my iPad, I tried to create song with certain key. Sometimes I plug my guitar to my iPad and amp it. I can read the notes like computer but I can't read like Beethoven or Mozart.
 

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