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You’ll need one of the top DAW softwares for guitar players if you want to record YouTube pedal demos, original songs, or live gigs. DAW softwares (also known as digital audio workstations) used to be pricey and required a lot of specialised knowledge to use, but they’ve become more accessible, ergonomic, and economical, with options for everything from your mobile phone to your laptop. Although some technology, such as an audio interface, is required, studio-quality recording has never been easier for the ordinary guitarist.
However, just because home recording is possible does not make the spectrum of options any less overwhelming. There are DAW softwares for every price, including free options, as well as Mac and PC apps. We’ll go through numerous possibilities in this top DAW softwares guide to see which one is ideal for you and which ones make guitar recording a joy.
OASIS GUITAR’S SELECTION OF BEST DAW SOFTWARE FOR GUITARISTS
If you’re using a Mac, you have two good options: Apple’s free GarageBand or the more expensive Logic Pro. Most Mac guitarists will begin by experimenting with loops and tracking in GarageBand. While its feature set is restricted, it provides an excellent starting point and an on-ramp to Logic when you know what you’re doing. Reaper is the most cost-effective alternative for PC gamers, but all DAWs are supported except Logic. Finally, your alternatives on Linux are somewhat limited – Reaper or Bitwig.
Though rival DAW softwares have responded to Ableton’s(opens in new tab) rule-breaking, we believe it remains the most intuitive for songwriting and arranging. Furthermore, the session and loop flow is optimised for performance. This implies it can be used as an instrument and a performance tool in addition to a DAW software. Its popularity among composers, electronic musicians, and producers should not overshadow the reality that it is the greatest DAW software for guitarists wishing to compose and arrange.
The separation of session and arrangement views, as well as grouping rather than buses, represents a shift away from physical studio hardware nomenclature and practise and toward something more computer-centric. Ableton is still as appealing and intuitive as it was when it was originally released.
PRODUCT GUIDE FOR THE BEST DAW SOFTWARE FOR GUITARISTS
Apple Logic Pro
Though its workflow remains linear, Logic Pro’s most current edition has been upgraded. For Mac users, it now provides a viable alternative to Ableton.
While not cheap, the included plugins are adequate for creating a professional-quality record. The amps are Apple-designed rather than third-party, but they’re no slouches, with good guitar and bass variants available. Not only that, but there’s a plethora of stompboxes that may be routed in any way you see fit.
You can use Logic Remote if you have another Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad. This opens up a plethora of new possibilities for interfaces, editing, and performance. This works best with Ableton-style loops as part of Logic’s new creative and performance toolbox.
Finally, though we think it’s a gimmick, there are tools for mixing in Dolby Atmos three-dimensional sound, ready for Apple Music.
Ableton was the first DAW software to break free from physical studio tropes. It ripped up the recording software rulebook by focusing on beatmaking and live use as much as recording. As a result, it gave a new, more ergonomic toolset for home producers who had never worked in a professional studio.
It turns out that many professionals were looking for a more ergonomic approach as well. The fact that there are so many Ableton evangelists out there today demonstrates what a revelation it can be. The session and arrangement view is simple to grasp but provides limitless opportunities for composition, creativity, and performance.
Ableton’s built-in gadgets are of excellent quality, with a straightforward and streamlined user interface. This means you can get a long way before needing to consider third-party gadgets. The disadvantage is that these are not available on all versions, and the whole Ableton suite is not inexpensive. The built-in guitar amps, powered by Softube’s amp emulations, are, however, as good as you’d expect.
The latest edition of Live added some new features, but it is more of an evolution than a revolution. The editing feature set has been updated, including multi-take comping, although the main changes are elsewhere. For generative music, there are Note and Velocity Chance tools, as well as Tempo Following for live performance. These may or may not be useful to you depending on the type of music you compose.
Steinberg invented the VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plugin standard and has been at the forefront of DAW software technology ever since. In practise, this means a rock-solid, battle-tested platform with excellent stock plugins, particularly on higher-priced versions. Their Amp Rack VST is as good as any other stock amp pack, and it also supports the creation of complicated virtual signal chains.
The disadvantage of Cubase is straightforward: it is still designed for linear recording and editing. Its feature set is more limited as a compositional or performance tool than Ableton or Logic, regardless of how wonderful it is for recording and mixing.
Avid Pro Tools
Given its prevalence in professional studios and widespread use by professional producers and engineers, it’s safe to call Pro Tools an industry standard. It has been modified in newer versions to provide greater flexibility for looping and compositional use. Nonetheless, it is strongly constrained by the metaphors, physical hardware, and operations of the traditional studio. It’s intended to seem familiar to power users who are used to the feel and tooling of a genuine studio.
This means that bringing a cannon to a knife fight may be like bringing a cannon to a knife fight for the inexperienced or home user. Not only is it overpowered in general, but a cannon is a lot more difficult to control than a small pointy item. So it is with Pro Tools: the learning curve is steep, and the payoff may be functionality that most users will not require.
However, if you want to work in other studios, Pro Tools is a useful ability to have. Knowing the lingua franca may be worth the investment of time and money, whether it’s for other people or your own music in someone else’s studio.
Reaper provides a full evaluation version that you can try before purchasing, and a licence key is the most affordable option on our list. Its stock plugins aren’t the best, but if you’re going to buy third-party plugins anyway, it’s a great platform to build on.
Importantly, if you’re using Linux, your two main options will be Reaper or Bitwig. Your preference will be determined by whether you favour Bitwig’s more Ableton-like flow or a more traditional, linear recording and editing experience.
BEST DAW SOFTWARE FOR GUITARISTS: BUYING ADVICE
How to Select the Best DAW Software for Guitarists
So, in conclusion, any DAW software will support recording guitar. All you require is a good guitar audio interface.
Some will provide better out-of-the-box guitar tools, such as amp simulations or stompbox models. Others offer settings for general-purpose plugins that work nicely with guitar. However, as you gain skill, and particularly if you want professional results, you will most certainly purchase extra plugins to cover things like amp simulations, reverbs, and Impulse Responses (IRs). For a more in-depth look, see our guide to the top guitar VSTs.
This means that in practise, the DAW’s workflow patterns and ergonomics are far more significant than what it comes with. The ability to learn the internal logic of workflows in order to use the tools accessible in the DAW is crucial. Once you’ve established this feedback loop, the DAW will feel like an organic part of your creative process.
Are there any free DAW softwares or free trials available?
Of course, what ‘clicks’ with you will differ from person to person, which is why, if feasible, try out different DAWs. The majority of items on this list offer a free trial or evaluation version. This will allow you to experiment with demoing a track to determine if the workflow is right for you.
What kind of computer system is required to run a DAW software?
Finally, keep in mind that modern DAW softwares have rather high RAM and CPU requirements. You should compare the recommended specs to your current setup. Computers are increasingly powerful enough that previously unthinkable actions, such as leaving plugins on while tracking, are now achievable.
Having said that, it’s nevertheless true that plugins, in particular, can quickly deplete your machine’s resources. As a result, it’s worth having a decent buffer of both RAM and CPU available in addition to the vendor’s minimum mentioned specs.