DAW – digital audio workstations – free, of course!


This group of applications belong firmly on the creative side of life!  The ability for the average person on the street to create a professional sound track of any genre, the ability to create and precisely mix 4, 8, 16 or more sound tracks and author an original creation didn’t exist a few years ago.  Today, it is possible to do all this and more with your PC.  And, like many other categories of software, the versions that are free are quite often the best available.

Now, that doesn’t mean that a paid version isn’t worth upgrading to, but depending on your use and the level of sophistication you are able to achieve, you may never need to advance to the paid version.  Digital audio workstations have been around for a few years, and of these, Cubase is one of the more popular and pricey packages, along with FL Studio and Sony Acid Pro 7.  There are free versions of these, but limited or expiring demo versions.

Below are some excellent references to learn more about setting up your own digital recording studio, some links to some of the great software available, and also some links to VSTi’s or VST’s, which are the virtual instruments that can be plugged into your workstation application to allow you to create all the cool new sounds you will be making!  All free, of course!

First, the references.  Here you can learn about the best ways to use these very complex tools, make a determination on which one is for you, and some suggestions on how to learn how to use the tool you select.  Youtube is a great place to go after selecting a specific piece of software.  Many of the creative people using this software have original compositions available on youtube for you to hear.

  1. Paperplanepilot – great blog that covers several DAW applications, and explains much of the what and why of digital audio composition.
  2. Wikipedia tutorials – Several DAW applications have entries with detailed ‘how-to’ instructions.
  3. 25 free audio editors – Great list of several excellent DAW applications.
  4. Best for newbies – A post that has several great questions and answers for those just getting into digital music creation.
  5. ProTools, Logic9, Cubase5 – Interesting post conversation discussing the merits of primarily these 3 DAW’s and which to use for various purposes.
  6. Powersound Tools – Great programs, great price!  Check them all out & use the ones that work for you.

Software list.  Below are some excellent free tools.  My rating and some quick info on each.  I must confess that while I have created a couple of audio tracks, I had to rely on my son and other experts for these recommendations.

  1. Ardour – Powerful open source audio editor / composer.
  2. Reaper – My son swears by this one, as do at least one of our neighbors who is a professional musician.  It says you only have 30 days to try it, but it doesn’t expire.
  3. Audacity – A no-frills, basic audio editor that can perform a variety of basic audio editing functions well.
  4. Rosegarden – It runs on Linux, and for me, that is a good thing!  Very powerful, many experienced users available to learn from online.  If you are not computer savvy though, look elsewhere.
  5. Madtracker – Comes with a dozen VST plugins, 70 samples and 8 built in effects.  Clean design.
  6. Directwave – VSTi sampler program.  Lots of features.

Not that you can download it, but if you already have a Mac….

Garageband – Apple’s free tool is not only easy to use and free, but comes pre-installed with all Mac’s.  Of course, after paying for a mac, you may not consider the software free!

VST’s.  With these links you can locate hundreds of free instruments, tracks and effects to help fill out your electronic music studio!

  1. Best free VST plugins – Blog entry that has links to free VST plugins, many of which are percussion / drum type.
  2. Audiomastermind VST list – Site listing toward the bottom of the page.  Has links and descriptions.
  3. Free plugin list – Just what it says, complete with thumbnail pictures.
  4. VST Planet – just a bit of a focus on VST’s!
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