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The music industry has changed a lot in the last few decades. Today, industry-standard tools have made it possible to carry out most, if not all, music production in specialized digital environments called DAWs.

There are several DAWs available, and each offers its own unique workflows, features, and tools. While no single DAW stands out as the top one, this post will highlight some of the best beginner DAW options and provide an overview of the basics you need to know about them.

What Is DAW?

Before we explore specific options, let’s first understand what a DAW is. DAW stands for digital audio workstation, which is the primary software used in modern music production to record, edit, and organize sounds.

For instance, if you’re looking to record an instrument or your voice, you’ll handle that directly within the DAW. You can also create music using software instruments within the DAW, which allows you to compose parts with virtual synthesizers and tools that mimic real instruments you might not have access to. Once you have all the elements for your track, the DAW helps you arrange, layer, add effects, and mix them together to craft a complete piece of music.

Essentially, the DAW is the central hub where you’ll be producing your music.

Types of DAWS

There are two main types of DAWs: traditional and loop-based.

Traditional DAWs are designed for recording and editing audio and MIDI tracks in a linear way. This makes them ideal for producers working with live instruments, vocals, and traditional music genres like rock, pop, and jazz. Examples include Pro Tools and Logic Pro.

Loop-based DAWs, on the other hand, are made for electronic dance music producers and those using pre-recorded loops and samples. These DAWs make it easy to create tracks by arranging and manipulating existing loops and sounds. Examples include Ableton Live and FL Studio.

You should know your production goals and the genre of music you want to create. Traditional DAWs are better for recording live instruments and vocals, and loop-based DAWs are more suited for electronic music production with sample packs and loops.

Best Free Daws


With GarageBand, you can work with up to 255 audio tracks, automate them fully, and enjoy features like Drummer tracks, guitar and bass amp emulations, pedalboard effects, and a vast library of synth sounds and Apple loops. So, while it lacks some of the fancy features found in Logic Pro, GarageBand is definitely a capable software in its own right and the easiest DAW to use.


Learning Cakewalk is easy with its Help module, which guides users through the process. You can customize the layout, color theme, and display settings to your liking for a smoother workflow. Its 64-bit mix engine and mixing console provide a great mixing experience. Plus, Cakewalk offers unique Audio and MIDI features, allowing you to adjust plugin parameters using MIDI controllers.


Audacity is a solid choice, a powerful, free, open-source audio editor that has been around for years. Audacity handles audio smoothly, supporting up to 32-bit/384kHz with built-in dithering. You can import, mix, and combine audio tracks—whether they’re stereo, mono, or multitrack—and then export the result as a single file.

Serato Studio Free

Serato Studio is made for DJs who want to try their hand at production. It’s free and easy to use, with a DJ-like interface. You can drag audio in, and it automatically syncs with your project’s key and tempo. But note that the free version allows only one audio track.

Best Paid DAWs

Logic Pro ($199.99)

Logic Pro is a powerful app with a helpful feature: a button at the top lets you switch between simplified mode and full features.

The program offers nearly 2,000 key and MIDI commands and a 200-step undo history for experimentation. Bear in mind that it requires significant space—the basic install is 6GB, but the full sound library needs 72GB. You also get access to nearly 6,000 instruments and effect patches, 1,200 sampled instruments, and a huge library of 14,750 Apple Loops.

Ableton Live (from $99)

Ableton Live is a favorite among DJs and dance music creators for its fast and intuitive workflow, perfect for live performances. It’s a full workstation ready for complete track production that includes over 1,500 sounds, 21 audio effects, 11 MIDI effects, and four software instruments,  plus a hefty 5GB library of sound content and presets.

Image Line FL Studio (from €99)

FL Studio, previously known as Fruity Loops, has a strong following among PC users, especially in hip-hop and EDM circles. It’s now available for Mac users, too.

It offers a fully customizable interface, free lifetime updates, and simple drag-and-drop functionality. There’s also a mobile app called IL Remote for controlling the software from your phone.

Studio One Artist (from $79)

Presonus Studio One offers three tiers: Prime (free), Artist ($79), and Professional ($149). In Studio One Artist, you'll find five virtual instruments: live sampler and editor Sample One XT, virtual sample player Presence XT drum sampler Impact XT, monophonic subtractive synth Mojito, and polyphonic analog modeling synth Mai Tai. These instruments give you plenty to start creating music right away.

Cubase (from $99)

Even the entry-level version, Cubase Elements, offers a lot. With 1,000+ instrumental sounds, 48 audio tracks, 50 VST effect plugins, and 64 MIDI tracks, Elements gives you plenty to work with. Plus, you don’t need a USB-eLicenser. You’ll find a range of features, including a basic score editor, a sampler track, a chord track, chord pads, chord and scale assistants, and MixConsole.

Bitwig Studio (from $99/€99)

Bitwig Studio is a newcomer but has quickly gained popularity. Even its entry-level versions, 8- and 16-track, are beginner-friendly and more affordable. The 16-track version is better because you get 16 hybrid audio/instrument tracks, support for unlimited VSTs, 11 instruments (including the new Polymer Synth), 30 effects processors, 17 modulators, and the Essentials Collection of content.

What to Consider When Choosing a DAW

Let’s discuss some important things to think about when picking a DAW as a beginner, starting with your operating system.

Operating system

Most DAWs are available for both Windows and Mac, but some are exclusive to one platform. Knowing the compatibility of a DAW with your OS will help you narrow down your options right away.


If you’re just starting out and want to see if music production is for you, your budget will be a key factor. Consider whether you want to invest a lot upfront or start with a more affordable option, perhaps even a free one.

Unique features

While all DAWs have essential features for music production, each one also has some unique tools and capabilities. As a beginner, it can be challenging to know which features you’ll find valuable. However, having a general idea of the type of music you want to create should guide you in choosing a DAW that fits your needs.

Built-in software instruments

If you plan to use virtual instruments, look into the quality and variety of built-in instruments each DAW offers. Make a list of instruments you’re interested in and research which DAWs have the best options. As you progress, you might buy third-party plugins or sample libraries. But initially, choose a DAW that provides good built-in sounds.

Recording real instruments

Most DAWs handle recording real instruments well, but some have workflows specifically designed for this process. Consider this if recording live instruments is a priority for you.

User interface

The UI is subjective but important. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your DAW, so it’s important that you enjoy its look and feel. Some DAWs have a classic, flat design, and others have a more modern, sleek appearance. Watch videos of people using the DAW to see if you can picture yourself working with it comfortably.

Hopefully, this article gave you a good understanding of the options out there and what to consider when choosing a DAW as a beginner.

Some of these DAWs may seem overwhelming with all their features, but the key is to just pick one and get started. Switching to a new DAW later on is quite common, so don’t stress about making a perfect choice right now. Many music creators use multiple DAWs depending on their needs, so your initial choice isn’t set in stone. Just dive in and start making music!