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If you're interested in turning your computer into a home recording studio then this is the best place to start.

You’ll need a DAW, a Digital Audio Workstation to act as your recorder, your source of sounds and the place where you write and arrange your music. From making beats and loops to recording your songs and producing your music we’ve all got to start somewhere.

In this roundup, we’ve highlighted some of the easiest DAWs to get into. You shouldn’t need a sound engineering degree to start recording your songs and with these options, you can jump right in with little or no experience. However, just because you’re starting out doesn’t mean want to be restricted to the free versions or access only the simple tools. You’re going to need lots of instruments, lots of sounds and effects because you probably don’t have anything else.

The best DAWs for beginners:

  • GarageBand
  • Bandlab
  • Zenbeats
  • Studio One Artist
  • Bitwig Studio
  • Cubase Elements
  • Reason

We also have some tutorials on our website to get you started with music production. For instance, check this one out on making beats.

DAWs for beginners Q&A

What is a DAW?

Robin Vincent

A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is a piece of software for recording sound, sequencing hardware and software instruments, composing, editing and mixing your music. If you imagine a real-life recording studio it would have tape recorders, mixing desks, synths, pianos and microphones. A DAW is a virtual version of all that hardware running on your computer.

The one thing you’ll need to fuse the real world to the virtual studio is some way of physically plugging in microphones, guitars and speakers. Your computer may have basic connections for this but you are better off getting an Audio Interface that will give you proper sockets for your audio gear. Check out our article on the Best Audio Interfaces.

How do I choose the right DAW?

Robin Vincent

The great news is that you can’t go far wrong. All the DAWs in this list will let you record yourself through a microphone, come with virtual instruments like synths and pianos, and let you edit, arrange and mix it all with effects plugins.

They will all do this but they also have different styles and approaches that may suit your music or way of working better than another. Our guidance will hopefully give you an idea about what they can do and then go and watch some videos on each one that impresses you.

What's the easiest DAW to learn?

Robin Vincent

These are the DAWs that we think give new users the easiest time with clear interfaces, good tutorials and an easy-to-follow workflow that will get you recording in no time.

Best DAWs for Beginners

Let’s get into our picks for the best place to start your music production journey with the best DAWs for beginners.

Apple GarageBand

If you’re running an Apple Mac or iPad then you already own GarageBand. It’s free and ridiculously good for making music. It has a wonderfully clear and easy interface that takes you on your first steps into recording and mixing your music.

GarageBand has a simple and clear interface with tracks nicely laid out ready for your music. You can specify what you want to use each track for, whether that’s recording from a microphone or using one of the many included virtual instruments. There’s a great virtual Drummer with lots of grooves and beats in all sorts of genres all ready to go. It has hundreds of great EDM and Hip-Hop inspired synth sounds and thousands of audio loops to use as the basis of your track. You can add effects and automate everything as you bring your track together before exporting it directly to your social networks.

GarageBand is simple, effective and is a great introduction to music production. It doesn’t have the polish or versatility of others in this list but for Apple users it’s always a good place to start.

  • OS compatibility: macOS, iOS
  • Cost: Free
  • Best for: Apple users who have never recorded before but want to learn the basics

Apple.com

Bandlab

Another free DAW but this time one that’s completely cross platform. There’s an app version or iOS and Android but it’ll run in any browser making it useful for macOS and Windows as well. It follows the style of GarageBand with a simple track based layout and a choice of audio or instrument tracks.

Bandlab is designed for any idiot to start making music – and that’s a good thing! All you do is create an account on the website and hit “Create”. Choose a drum machine track and you’ve got patterns already to go feeding into a huge choice of kits. Pull up the BandLab Sounds browser and you can drop in loops from loads of different genres all time-stretched to fit your groove. Add synths and instruments that you can play with a mouse or a MIDI keyboard. Throw in some vocals and drop in some effects and you are making and mixing music.

It has its limitations in that it doesn’t support additional plugins and running in a browser isn’t going to give it real-time playability but it’s fast, easy, free and comes with loads of tutorial videos. And the best thing is that you can run it anywhere on anything and even invite collaboration from other users directly into your project.

  • OS compatibility: macOS, Windows, iOS, Android
  • Cost: free
  • Best for: beginner Producers who want to record everywhere and get together with other users

Bandlab.com

Roland Zenbeats

If you want something a bit more futuristic then check out Zenbeats from synth maker legends Roland. It will run on every platform and let you carry projects from your phone to your laptop to your tablet and back again. It has a very touch-friendly interface that works just as well on a desktop machine.

Zenbeats comes with a huge library of loops and grooves that makes constructing songs really easy. It has two views where in one you can stack up loops and trigger performances while in the other it’s a more traditional DAW timeline. The big interface makes it really easy to see what’s going on and to edit and mix without getting lost in the complexities of the interface.

In Loopbuilder mode you can produce your own loops from microphones or from synths and virtual instruments or drop in whatever you like from the huge library of possibilities. You can then shape these into performance by triggering individual loop pads or launching entire scenes. You can even record your performance directly into the Timeline view where you can record tracks in a more freeform way. All of it feeds into the mixer where you can add effects and filter each track to get the perfect vibe going on.

Zenbeats contains a software version of the ZEN-Core synthesizer engine from their flagship hardware synthesizers. It also has drum machines with classic Roland samples and an impressive SampleVerse instrument with a huge library of sounds.

While there is a free version I’d recommend paying the extra to unlock the instruments and VST plugin support: $49.99 to unlock it one device or the $149.99 to unlock it on every device and every OS.

  • OS compatibility: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
  • Cost: free, $49.99 and $149.99
  • Best for: beginner to intermediate Producers who want live performance and high quality content

Roland.com

PreSonus Studio One Artist

Moving onto a more serious studio-based platform with Studio One from PreSonus. The Artist version retains everything that’s great about the Studio One software without some of the more high-end and rarely used features. If you’re just getting started then Studio One Artist is a phenominal studio on your computer.

Studio One has one of the clearest interfaces around while dealing with the complexities of a fully-featured music production environment. The layout is perfectly orchestrated to keep your focus where it needs to be. The center shows your tracks, with audio and MIDI, automation and arranging all happening together. The solid console mixer springs up from the bottom giving you professional control over your mix with pro-level plugins for effects and processing. With a click the mixer is replaced by an audio or MIDI editor letting your craft your compositions with a superb range of tools. To the right is the browser which lists every plugin, every instrument and every loop and sample that you can drag directly into your project.

Studio One Artist is smooth and assured and comes with a decent selection of high-quality instruments and effects. It fully supports third-party VST and AU plugins so you can expand your sounds and processing as your experience and needs grow. It’s a proper studio for making music.

  • OS compatibility: Windows, macOS
  • Cost: $99.95
  • Best for: beginner Producers who eventually want to master the studio environment for big projects and productions

PreSonus.com

Bitwig Studio

Bitwig Studio is brilliantly interesting with a colorful and engaging interface that helps bring ideas to life in both simpler and deeper ways than most DAWs. It likes to be different and offers the sort of environment you could explore forever and focus on being creative more than the nuts and bolts of music production.

Bitwig has two approaches to music-making app. On the one hand, you have a loop-based clip-launching interface and on the other, you have the long-form traditional timeline. It has a superb way of leaping from one to the other and lets the two work simultaneously so you don’t really have to choose which works best for you. Drop-in MIDI or audio loops and you’re away or build your own with the large range of included instruments, synths and modular possibilities.

Bitwig has a lane of devices along the bottom where you can wire together different plugins in adventurous ways. It’s like a huge synthesizer where you add modulators and LFOs to control all sorts of parameters on all sorts of instruments in all sorts of ways. But if that’s not enough for you then via the PolyGrid environment you can build your own synthesizer with the building blocks of synthesis itself. That sounds pretty complex so why is this any good for beginners? Because the interface pulls everything together in a surprisingly friendly way. Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be interested in complex ideas and concepts or want a deep piece of software to explore.

You can of course record your voice, guitar, add plugins, mix and edit your music but Bitwig is packed full of music-making tools and offers so much more for the adventurous and creative musician it’s an awesome place to play.

  • OS compatibility: Windows, macOS, Linux
  • Cost: $399
  • Best for: creative Producers who want to explore the possibilities

Bitwig.com

Steinberg Cubase Elements

Cubase has been the industry standard in DAW software for decades. It’s used in studios across the world and is a particular favourite of the composer, musician and producer working on projects at home. Cubase Elements takes all the important bits and offers it up as a budget-friendly way into a serious recording environment that’s so easy to use you’ll find it many school music departments.

Cubase Elements doesn’t quite have the scope of the Pro version but it does come with the marvellous Groove Agent drum machine that will have you writing grooves in no time. It has the HALion Sonic instrument engine with a large range of instruments and synth sounds. The Prologue analog style synth will put the power of a real synth into your hands. With the superb Sampler Track you can use any piece of audio as an instrument or slice up loops for instant drum kits. It’s a solid toolkit of virtual sounds to lay your tracks upon.

For audio tracks you have one of the best mixers in the business with dozens of audio plugins, EQ and compression to shape and process your tracks. The 64-bit floating-point audio engine ensures the highest possible clarity.

Cubase Elements is intuitive, easy and fun to use with some stunning music-making tools and an upgrade path to one of the most popular DAWs out there.

  • OS compatibility: Windows, macOS
  • Cost: $99
  • Best for: beginner Producers who want to start with the industry standard

Steinberg.com

Reason Studio

If you ever wanted a huge rack of synths and samplers then Reason is where you need to be. While it can do the whole DAW recording thing the focus is squarely on making the sounds, sculpting the beats and sampling loops, effects and grooves.

From a side browser, you can pull in a vast array of instruments, synths and possibilities. From subtractive synthesis to wavetable, FM and granular you can twist and tweak sounds, patch them together and go to town on making it uniquely yours. You can combine synths into massive mega-synths that are all controlled with just a few knobs, or you can drill down into individual waveforms and filters with perfectly placed modulations. Behind the rack is a paradise of CV patching and control that will give you endless possibilities.

For the beginner, Reason offers a world of sounds, loops and patterns that can get you grooving in minutes without having to know how anything works. Just pull it in and start fiddling. And as you get the hang of things you’ll start mixing classic drum machines with futuristic synths, creative MIDI tools and a huge professional mixing console that’ll add punch and dynamics to your tracks.

Plug in a mic and you can record like any other DAW with effects processing, vocal comping, arranging and mixing. You can also take the whole synth rack into another DAW as a plugin if you want. Reason is so versatile that you might want to have it regardless of your chosen DAW.

Like Bitwig it has a lot of depth and a lot of levels but works brilliantly if you’re just using it at the top and you can’t beat the hardware-style interface.

  • OS compatibility: Windows, macOS
  • Cost: $499
  • Best for: beginner Producers and synth wizards who want to make beats, tunes and explore sound

Reasonstudios.com

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