Great you have just purchased a DAW, well done on taking your first steps in producing music, but what are the key areas within your music software that you should understand so that you can focus on making great music?
The purpose of this blog is to describe common, key functions that appear across almost all DAWs. Included are highlighted pictures of these key areas from a range of different music software programs.
Not the most glamorous place to start but actually very important in getting your DAW to work the way you want it to.
The preference page has various settings usually containing; audio device selection, inputs, outputs, sample rate selection, latency settings, controller surfaces, MIDI controller settings, where to save your project files, recording parameters etc.
It's important to familiarize yourselves with the preference page as settings here can impact your musical projects.
Ableton Live Suite preference page
"Familiarise yourselves with the preference page as settings here can impact your musical projects."
The transport bar is usually found at the top of a DAW’s layout and displays important project information, changeable parameters and buttons.
It typically shows the: BPM, time signature, metronome button, play button, stop button, record button, loop cycle button, play head position, mixer view/session view switch, CPU meter, MIDI input/output information.
I mainly use the transport bar for; playback, looping/cycling sections of a project, recording as well as switching between mixer and sessions views.
Logic Pro X Transport bar
Most sessions views run from left to right and allow you to build out sections of your song such as creating an intro, verse or chorus.
The session view is usually where the main meat and veg of your recording, editing, automation, producing and song structure development takes place.
Audio tracks can be created here to record audio on or place audio samples onto. MIDI tracks can also be created to record onto or trigger MIDI information to playback a variety of virtual or hardware instruments.
The ability to edit and alter these tracks in various different ways is possible, alongside the opportunity to automate various parameters of your mixer, tracks or virtual instruments.
Steinberg Cubase Pro 9
"The session view is usually where the main meat and veg of your recording, editing, automation, producing and song structure development takes place."
A dedicated mixer view is usually found within most DAW’s. The mixer view will often look similar to traditional hardware mixers, with individual mixer channels corresponding to tracks within the session view and vice a versa.
Alongside the session view, It’s here you can access mixing functions such as volume adjustment, panning, EQ, effect units, audio processors and manage any buss channels you might have created.
Propellerhead Reason 9
Automation of different mixer, instrument and DAW functions are a way to create interesting changes within your music projects.
Typically accessible from the session or mixer view, automation is the altering over time of a user selected parameter, for example; the gradual increase of volume of a particular instrument, the moving from left to right of an effect or the gradually opening up of a lead synthesizer filter section.
Logic Pro X Automation view
"Automation can help you create variation within your music."
A library search section is typically found on the left or right hand side of a session view display. Depending on what DAW you have these libraries allow you to search for various elements such as; user saved audio files, audio files that come as part of your package, audio effects, processors and other VST/AU software (synths, virtual instruments, samplers etc).
Fruity loops Studio 11 Library/browser
You should now have a better understanding of the key features contained within your music software, so you can decide what to focus on when making your own music and developing your own work flow.
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