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A fancy haircut, 23,000 Twitter followers and national television exposure are less crucial to an artist’s success than customizing an original sound design by choosing the proper DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I am a professional music producer called Anything But Broke with over ten years of music business experience. I work with top-tier artists like Stacy Jones, Nappy Roots and Soopa Groop. Many producers lack a comprehensive definition of what DAW means because the term DAW encompasses a majority of the recording studio’s components. The computer, digital software and audio interface are all vital parts of the digital audio workstation (DAW). Exploring the basic ways to determine which DAWs are right for individual projects will best benefit the recording process of any producer or DIY musician.
Picking the correct laptop or desktop computer to produce music is a starting point for any aspiring producer. Specs to consider include the sound card quality, amount of RAM and core processing units that will determine the quality of sound when it comes time to record and master a hit song. Macintosh and PC platforms are both capable of making great music. Mac users tend to want to work within parameters while PC users want to customize all aspects of the computer. Laptops are best for DJs, solo-musicians and producers looking to make beats for vocal performers. Being able to make music anywhere you go has its advantages. DJs might want to tweak a song before a big performance, solo musicians can record new songs while on tour and beat makers can adapt their beats on–the-fly to complement vocal performances instantly. Desktops are better at capturing sound than creating it artificially through electronic signals. Therefore, desktops are best for analog producers, sound engineers and film recorders looking for a more realistic feel to their music or sound.
Having a limitless number of programs and plug-ins to create music can become problematic for producers. While amateur producers might swear by the legitimacy of free programs including Audacity and GarageBand, they will not produce industry quality sound. Professional producers including Skrillex use programs such as Ableton Live Suite 9, Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 12 to create their records. Don’t be fooled! These programs are not equal. Pro Tools has been the industry standard for a long time and has no intention of being dismissed simply due to the fact that Ableton Live Suite and Logic Pro are not standalone programs capable of creating industry quality songs with out help from plug-ins such as virtual instrument programs like Massive from Native Instruments or Sylenth1. Often professional producers use iZotope 6 or Ohmicide to create specific sound designs that can create an artist’s signature sound.▼ Article continues below ▼
The last pieces of essential equipment will be a mixing board, studio monitors and studio headphones. While many people get lost in the glitz and glamour of these final pieces of hardware it’s important to snap back to reality when making purchases for your home recording studio. When it comes to recording studio mixing boards for the highest-quality masters, Solid State Logic creates great analog soundboards that come with warranties (just be prepared to drop considerable amounts of cash).
Digital boards can be just as good or better than analog ones depending on the person using it’s experience and utilization. If these mixers are too expensive at around $20,000 for a home budget, producers must come to terms with the fact that they might not need a pro studio mixing board to create their music. In fact, the producer might be better off with a simple control surface or more affordable compact mixer, or renting a commercial recording studio to record live instruments and vocal performances. You can even outsource mastering services at affordable rates while keeping your DAW small at home for basic songwriting sessions.
Most importantly, studio headphones should never change the EQ of the song playing through them before they get to the producer’s eardrums. Brands such as Beats By Dre and Skull Candy only bass-boost songs and can throw off the entire mix of a track that is already bass heavy, drowning out the treble and middle frequencies before they reach the producer’s ears. This results in a bad mix – period. Audio-Technica makes great studio headphones at an affordable price that won’t change the EQ of the audio being processed. You want your studio cans to be as flat as possible without any sound coloration – the same goes for studio monitors.
After understanding that a producer can be infinitely creative when choosing the right DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), it’s time to get down to the hard facts. “DAW” encompasses a full spectrum of hardware and software for the producer to create a masterpiece. After all, you never heard people say van Gogh had a superior paintbrush to all of the other painters in the world. At the end of the day a bad song is a result of a bad artist, bad producer or bad songwriter. Only in perfect harmony can a great song be written, produced and performed to create something lasting that resonates with listeners.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher L. Wanta is the C.E.O. of Sacred Ghost Records LLC. For more info please visit www.sacredghostrecords.com.