An introduction to audio and music production software.
The digital age has been good for audio designers and music producers. Fifty years ago, a production studio was an immense array of wires, tapes, and analog equipment. More and more of what used to take up an entire room now requires a single piece of software installed on your Mac or Windows PC. Audio production is moving into a box, but what do you need in that box for high-quality audio production?
What to look for in a digital audio workstation.
Digital audio workstation, or DAW, software is an organization tool. Producers have to deal with several tracks and many different kinds of audio. Keeping all the parts of a song, podcast, or beat track organized can become overwhelming. Tracks might be recorded differently, have different effects applied to them, come from different recording studios, or be in different file formats.
Dealing with all of those variables can quickly become a headache, and all popular DAWs feature good organizational tools to help a producer turn a mess into a good mix. A drag-and-drop user interface (like what Adobe Audition and Pro Tools have) can simplify audio editing organization. Plugins and samplers are nice; an orderly virtual desk is essential.
If possible, work with a lossless file format like WAV. Unlike MP3s or other popular audio files, WAV files won’t lose anything when compressed. For the most part, genre or audio type doesn’t matter for DAW software. A good producer can use the same DAW for single-voice podcasting and hip-hop. EDM is a notable exception. A few DAWs and beatmakers do specialize in virtual instruments for electronic music production.