All DAW’s are like speaking to people from other countries in other languages. We are all saying the same thing, just in different ways. You really just have to get used to the lingo that they all use. Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, Mixcraft, whatever you use, I guarantee that you could jump to any other with just a bit of practice and understanding. Throughout this article we are going to take a look at some of the best ways to approach learning a DAW for the first time.
Start With the Basics
Like stated at the intro, every DAW is saying the same thing in different ways. But they are all built from the basic channel strip off of an analog sound board.
Channel Strip Diagram
It all comes from the same basic setup. DAW’s all have solo, mute, pan, fader, sends, and inserts where you add in eq and every other effect. When I was first stepping into the world of digital audio and production, my instructor had us learn the channel strip before we even touched any recording and editing software.
After that, I would always suggest starting with some sort of free basic recording software that could even be a limited version of some full DAW like Pro Tools First. We first tried Garageband, which is free with Apple products, and as bad as that DAW can be, it is one of the best learning tools I could have had. It was really a stepping stone to bigger and better systems. It had all the basics and was not too complicated to discourage me or hold me back from learning. Another great aspect to it was that Garageband came with free loops of instruments that you could combine to make little songs and learn the effects on. That helps you learn how to mix and bring in effects and eq just in general. Loops are also an option you should take advantage of to work with until you learn how to record your own music.
There is only so far you can go on your own though before you do need some sort of guidance. This brings us to the next step.
Tutorials have helped me more than I would honestly like to admit. But in all actuality, there is no shame in it. No one can know everything from the start and there really is a great community out there where people want to help you learn. There are usually 3 options you can look for tutorials in. The first is Youtube. Many engineers and producers are turning to youtube to teach their techniques. You can find videos for the breakdowns of how songs are recorded, mixed, and edited. In doing so, you could find a channel that uses the DAW that you are wanting to familiarize yourself with, or you could look through different channels that use different software to figure out which one you want to go with yourself.
One of my favorite ways to see how people can use the DAW’s at their disposal is through videos from Andrew Huang on Youtube. He has this series where he will get a song from an artist and send it to 3 other producers to remix and see what they come up with. One of my favorites is found here. It is more of a way to get the creative juices flowing for me but you can see how they approach their sounds with the editing process.
The next place to look for tutorials is on forums. Now there are many different websites with endless forums about each and every DAW type out there. But if you are able to search through, you can find incredible information and tips from professionals looking to enhance the game for everyone.
Lastly, one of the best places to look for tutorials is on websites of professional audio retailers, manufacturers, and general pro audio websites. A great example of a pro audio website is Audio Assemble itself with our Pro Tools tutorials. After that you can look to the website of the actual manufacturers of the systems such as Avid, Apple, and Ableton. All have websites, and who better to teach you how to use a system than the people who created it themselves? At the end of the day you can also rely on websites like Sweetwater to provide tutorials on how to use different systems. They love to have content about almost every product they sell to help you find the best fit for whatever you are looking for.
So very similar to looking up tutorials, you can always find some sort of class to learn more about multiple different DAW’s in one place or focused on one DAW in particular. There are many schools, whether it be community colleges, universities, or even community centers, that will offer classes regarding different forms of music production. With actual courses you are given the means to an end. You have defined goals that the teacher is there to help you achieve in bettering your own abilities. There are also times where companies or studios will offer short master classes or host special events where you can watch a professional working, and have time to ask questions at the end.
While I was at my university, I took multiple courses to receive certifications for Pro Tools, and those courses made me spend copious amounts of time working with that DAW, making it the one I was the most fluent with. I have worked with Logic and dabbled with Ableton but when it comes down to actual workflow and editing, Pro Tools is my first choice. All of the courses I took on it made sure of that because all of my instructors helped me learn how to best use it. Every one of these classes required me to complete projects and spend time creating within the DAW.
The last and best way to learn any DAW, is to just create. I learned many shortcuts and different methods simply by spending time recording and editing inside the program. Even after graduating, I still learn more with every project I work on and complete. You can only spend so much time in a classroom setting before it all becomes repetitive. Once you actually start putting into practice what you are taught, it all starts to make even more sense. It is easier to remember an action and process of working through a DAW when you have done it a hundred times yourself than it is to be told how to do it.