Whether you’re a studio engineer or a musician who plans to record their music, you’ll need a good DAW. Otherwise known as digital audio workstations, these devices enable you to produce every aspect of every tone you intend to play, but there’s a catch – each DAW software is pretty unique, which makes it difficult to compare them.
The purpose of today’s article is to showcase some of the best DAWs for beginners, highlight their advantages, and point out their drawbacks. Without any further ado, let’s dive into the finest digital audio workstation options on the market.
What Is the Best DAW for Beginners?
Here is my list of the best DAW software for beginners in 2022.
Reason Studios is an online music-making service and the creator of the Reason+ DAW. In terms of the workstation, its main characteristics are affordability, ease of use, and decent versatility.
Regarding the latter, Reason Studios DAW features over 75 digital instruments, numerous effects, and numerous purchasable music packs. What’s great about these packs is that there’s a brand-new set each week.
This digital audio workstation is lightweight and easy to work with, but the companion app offers an even higher level of convenience. Compatible with mobile phones, it enables you to have a pocket studio, just like Bandlab.
- Over 75 digital instruments and effects
- Weekly updated selections of sound packs
- Reason+ Companion App
- Virtual Rack available in Reason Studio software
- Purchasable effects and presets from Reason Studios Shop
Reason Studio DAW is a SaaS that costs $19.99 per month. The subscription can be canceled anytime, and the first month costs a single dollar.
What I Like / Dislike About Reason Studios
What I liked the most about Reason Studios is that this DAW does a bit of everything. It’s got more than a few instruments; it’s got a portable version; it’s got a simple UI, and these are just some of the things every beginner musician/engineer needs.
On the downside, Bandlab offers a broader array of digital resources while being a free-to-use DAW while FL Studio’s Drag & Drop is much simpler to use. The point is that it’s versatile, but it does not really excel in any given field of performance.
Who Is This For?
Reason Studio is my top pick for rookie musicians and beginner producers. It’s a well-rounded, decently cheap DAW that will certainly help you learn the basics, and more.
2. FL Studio
FL Studio, or Fruity Loops Studio, is one of the most popular DAWs for beginners. Some of the reasons why thousands of aspiring producers and musicians love it include its streamlined recording capabilities, a multitude of onboard effects, and most notably, the Drag & Drop feature, which is available across all packages from Producer onward.
Flexible pricing packages are another draw of FL Studio, allowing players and producers to essentially pick and choose which features they want to be included in their software.
The exquisite FL Mixer is one of its strongest features for producers. It’s far simpler and easier to handle in comparison to Cubase, for instance, yet it’s still powerful and versatile enough to accommodate the needs of professionals.
- Between 83 and 107 instruments and effects
- Drag & Drop clips
- MIDI support and scripting
- Dozens of samples, presets, and loops
- Supports Edison, Newtime, and Newtone audio editors
Fruity Loops Studio comes in one of the four packages, including Fruity at $99; Producer at $199; Signature at $299, and All Plugins Edition at $499.
What I Like / Dislike About FL Studio
The professional quality made accessible to beginner producers and musicians is easily the biggest benefit of using Fruity Loops. Even though Drag & Drop is only available at Producer (and higher) packages, it drastically reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to create, mix, and master tracks.
The only thing that most users don’t feel too comfortable with is the workflow of FL Studio. Essentially, its design is much different in comparison to some of the most popular DAWs. If you’ve used Pro Tools or GarageBand and want to switch over, you’ll have to learn the ropes again.
Who Is This For?
FL Studio is beginner-friendly through and through. I would recommend the Fruity package, as it offers over 80 digital instruments and effects and full music recording capabilities. Consider the Producer pack if you want to use two of the supported audio editors and the Drag & Drop feature.
Bandlab is both a platform for musicians to push their art and a sophisticated DAW that packs over 200 digital instruments alongside a host of proprietary features. What makes it different from most workstations on the list is the fact that it’s completely free to use.
Bandlab does not require installation and works with both mobile and desktop devices. It offers hundreds of digital MIDI instruments and over ten thousand loops for producers to experiment with.
One of the best features of Bandlab is the automated mastering process. Based on a robust algorithm designed by the company’s engineers, this program will automatically master any track.
- Over 200 virtual instruments
- Over 10,000 royalty-free loops
- Numerous effects, including tempo, time-stretching, and more
- Import and Record audio online
- Cloud-based storage
- AutoPitch™ pitch-correction
Bandlab’s DAW and features are free to use.
What I Like / Dislike About Bandlab
Free-to-use digital audio workstations aren’t common, to begin with, let alone as comprehensive and complete as Bandlab. This is easily the best DAW for beginners that want to focus on creating music and releasing their tracks with masterwork quality.
Although automated mastering is a huge plus for beginner musicians, greenhorn producers won’t really have an opportunity to learn anything from it.
Who Is This For?
Bandlab is better suited for beginner musicians than producers. As we’ve established already, it’s a platform that doesn’t really offer too many mixing and mastering features. Beginner producers could learn quite a bit about digital instruments, loops, and effects; I encourage everyone to give it a shot because it’s a quality free-to-use DAW.
GarageBand is a Mac and iOS-exclusive DAW that boasts a host of well-designed loops, samples, and digital instruments engineered to fit a broad range of music genres.
One of the most innovative features of this DAW is the GarageBand Drummer. Essentially, this piece of software was built after recording professional session drummers; it offers 28 beatmakers and three percussion makers, again, across all popular music styles and genres.
Hundreds of electronic loops and samples are also included specifically for lovers of hip-hop and EDM music as well.
- GarageBand Drummer
- Built-in piano and guitar lessons
- Hundreds of electronic and hip-hop synth sounds
- Thousands of samples, loops, and effects for all music styles and genres
- Songs can be uploaded to iCloud with a click
GarageBand is a free DAW for Mac and iOS devices. It can be downloaded on the Apple App Store.
What I Like / Dislike About Garageband
What makes Garageband so great for beginners is the series of integrated lessons, albeit for piano and electric guitar exclusively. GarageBand essentially doubles as a lightweight music academy, teaching newcomers the basics of playing music on real instruments.
The obvious drawback of GarageBand revolves around its compatibility issues. It can only run on Mac and iOS devices, and to top it off, it’s a spec-starved program that requires a strong machine to boot it up.
Who Is This For?
If you’re a fan of Apple tech and want to get into creating music, GarageBand is the way to go. It’s equipped with robust features and there’s a ton of educational content that will set you off on the right path.
5. Pro Tools
Widely regarded as the industry’s standard in music production and creation, Pro Tools is the best DAW for beginners, skilled musicians & producers, and professionals.
What separates Pro Tools from contemporary digital audio workstations is its unprecedented versatility. Even the most basic Pro Tools package encompasses a plethora of customizable effects, instruments, audio tools, and the much-needed stompbox FX for players that want to record the purest tone possible.
- Up to 2,048 audio and 512 instrument tracks per session
- Supports up to 1,024 MIDI and auxiliary tracks
- Compressor, delay, distortion, what, flanger, phaser, and other stompbox FX
- Dozens of virtual instruments and loops
- Trim, time adjuster, time shift, re-wire, pitch shifter, normalizer, and other audio tools
Pro Tools comes in one of three subscription packages, including Pro Tools Artist at $9.99 per month; Pro Tools Studio at $31.99 per month, and Pro Tools Flex at $99.99 per month.
What I Like / Dislike About Pro Tools
Pro Tools excels at virtually everything and is counted among the most complete DAWs on the current market. I liked everything about it, including how intuitive it feels to use it; how strong each of its features is, and especially how comprehensive its music production functions are.
The only thing I did not like so much is the price tag. The Pro Tools Artist (basic) subscription is fairly inexpensive, but the other two probably cost too much for beginners.
Who Is This For?
Pro Tools is used by professionals all around the world, but the Artist package is absolutely great for beginners. Although it’s not free like GarageBand or BandLab, you’ll get to experience a myriad of unique features that made this program so popular.
Steinberg’s Cubase has been on the market for quite some time, and it’s rightfully counted among the best DAW for beginners and seasoned veterans alike. With 12 versions encompassing major patches, fixes, and new additions to an already formidable arsenal of digital tools, it’s no wonder everyone from Dua Lipa’s producer to Metallica uses it.
One of the reasons why Cubase is so popular among composers and studio engineers alike lies in its simplified MIDI editing, which when coupled with its outstanding built-in audio engine delivers tremendous results.
Customizability is synonymous with Cubase, as users can personalize nearly every aspect of its performance. From chord tracks and pads, over scale assistants, to advanced compression, pre-recording, and patching (punching) capabilities, there aren’t many things that you can’t do in Cubase.
- A robust 64-bit audio engine
- MediaBay for content organization
- Streamlined audio exporting functionalities
- Dozens of compositional tools
- Next-generation sequencing capabilities
Steinberg’s Cubase is available in three packages, including Cubase Elements at $99.99; Cubase Artist at $329.00, and Cubase Pro at $579.
What I Like / Dislike About Cubase
Cubase is the one-stop shop for music creating and recording. Whether you’re playing your instrument at home, preparing for a pre-recording session, or paying a visit to a studio whose engineers use it, rest assured that the entire process will be smooth and the end-product phenomenal.
Cubase is pretty great for beginners, but its learning curve is all but shallow. A newcomer with little experience with this software will probably need months to simply check all the features out.
Who Is This For?
If we consider the entirety of Cubase’s features, it’s not a beginner’s DAW. However, with a bit of practice, it’s one of the best tools to learn the ins and outs of even the most convoluted music recording processes.
7. Logic Pro
Logic Pro is the second macOS-based DAW on the list, and it’s one of the most comprehensive digital audio platforms for Apple users. Like most top-end DAWs, it boasts remote functionalities, as enabled by Logic Remote, and it is compatible with innumerable plug-ins that could skyrocket its outstanding versatility even higher.
Logic Pro’s newest feature is the integration with an array of Dolby Atmos functions, which pushed the envelope for professional sound engineers. It offers a stronger performance for beginners who haven’t tried the program yet to get accustomed to quality straight out of the gate.
As for the more traditional features, Logic Pro sports tons of live loops, versatile multi-touch faders, customizable key commands, and one of the finest sequencing stations around. Some of the other interesting features include the Flex Time and Pitch functions, the flexible Smart Tempo, and an algorithmically-based Logic Drummer.
- Spatial Sound powered by Dolby Atmos integrations
- 3D object panner supports up to 7.1.4 systems
- Compatible with hundreds of plug-ins
- Export mixes to Apple Music with a click
- Downloadable royalty-free producer packs
Logic Pro costs $199.99 and can be purchased at Apple’s App Store.
What I Like / Dislike About Logic Pro
I adore the fact that a bedroom musician could pick up Logic Pro and start composing and recording within minutes, just like a professional touring musician could leverage the program’s powerful features and work on recording music on the road. This applies to both veterans with decades of experience and beginners who’ve just made their first EP.
Aside from its surreal versatility and strong features, I believe Logic Pro is actually quite affordable. A lump-sum payment of $199.99 is less than you’d pay for Reason Studio over the span of a year, and it’s certainly not as expensive as more advanced versions of Pro Tools.
Who Is This For?
I recommend Logic Pro to all Apple Mac users that want a more sophisticated, high-quality DAW. Its learning curve is neither too steep nor too shallow, and if you’ve had any experience with digital workstations, you’ll be able to master it in no time.
8. Ableton Live
For professionals, Ableton, Pro Tools, and Cubase form the cream of the crop in the world of digital audio workstations – it ultimately boils down to personal preference. This DAW is put in the same basket as industry-leading workstations, as it offers the means to completely integrate a digital studio with unlimited tracks, hundreds of input and output channels, and a range of other advanced features.
Its streamlined audio-slicing and audio-to-MIDI capabilities are the reasons why beginners can effortlessly compose and record music. Offering numerous effects, modes, loops, and built-in digital instruments, it’s a cut above contemporary DAWs.
The latest Ableton Live 11 brought an abundance of new features that made this software even more versatile. Some of the most notable innovations in the latest Live iteration encompass MIDI polychronic expressions, chance-based Note and Velocity effects for EDM and hip-hop creators, as well as the advanced comping function.
Obviously, some of these features aren’t available across basic packages, but the fact that even the full suite is inexpensive in the long run, it is safe to say that Ableton Live is more than fitting to be called the best DAW for beginners, intermediates, and pros.
- Unlimited support for Audio and MIDI tracks
- Up to 12 send & return tracks
- Supports up to 256 mono audio input and output channels
- Streamlined audio-slicing features
- Advanced comping functionalities
- Note & Velocity Chance effects
- Linked-track editing
Three versions of Ableton 11 Live are available for purchase, including Live 11 Intro at $74; Live 11 Standard at $337, and Live 11 Suite at $562.
What I Like / Dislike About Ableton Live
Ableton Live 11 is very forgiving to beginners that can’t record a track in one breath, offering premium audio-slicing and punch-in functions. On top of that, you can create a session with up to 256 channels while there is no limit for MIDI and audio tracks that can be deployed.
The main drawback of Ableton 11 Live is actually how limited the Intro version feels. There’s a huge jump in price for the other two packages, and even though they offer all the listed features, beginners will probably start with the basic license. Sadly, it only supports up to 16 audio and MIDI tracks, 2 send & return tracks, and 8 channels – something an average MIDI controller can do.
Who Is This For?
I recommend the Intro package to beginners with no experience with mixing and recording whatsoever. The Live 11 Standard is an excellent upgrade, which you should consider saving up for after you’ve accumulated a bit of knowledge.
Praised by professional studio engineers across the globe for its MIDI & audio harmonic-editing capabilities, Studio One is the ultimate tool for creative, artistic minds.
In my opinion, it is the best DAW for beginners because of its comprehensive Drag & Drop design. Unlike many contemporary workstations that allow users to drag midi files to a track (exclusively), you can drag and drop pretty much everything in this DAW.
PreSonus made its very own mixing engine and plug-ins that allow users to immerse in an analog-esque mixing process. This also made the program more familiar to old-school music lovers that have just picked up on music recording.
Furthermore, not only does Studio One offer a plethora of digital instruments, but you can simultaneously keep several of them active. These can be used as splits, layers, or for creatives to dish out fills and riffs when inspiration hits.
- 64-bit recording functionality
- Drag & Drop design
- Proprietary Mix Engine
- Multi-track drum editing
- Customizable keyboard shortcuts
The core versions of Studio One can be purchased and used indefinitely, which includes Studio One Artist at $99.95, and Studio One Professional at $399.95.
What I Like / Dislike About PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio One’s Harmonic editing compatible with MIDI & audio is something that you won’t find in any other contemporary digital audio workstation. Furthermore, a free version with limited features is available for beginners to explore.
The only drawback to Studio One is its learning curve, which is rewarding, but it may be a bit of a challenge for immediate beginners.
Who Is This For?
Pre Sonus Studio One is an excellent choice for beginner producers and musicians, offering affordability and a well-rounded workstation alongside hundreds of unique features and functions.
The best DAW for beginners does not always need to have a shallow learning curve, but its features should be intuitive to use.
Its functions should be versatile so that new learners can explore; its effects, modes, and instruments should be backed by a robust digital audio engine, which is especially important for beginners to get accustomed to quality early on.