Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Support & discussion regarding DAWs and MIDI sequencers.

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Linuxmusician01
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Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Sun Mar 03, 2019 3:57 pm

What in your opinion is a good DAW for the casual beginner? It must support audio and preferably Midi sequencing. Might it be good old humble Muse or Qtractor? Or should I stick to Audacity? I am very intimidated by DAW's.

I don't even know how to create a new midi or audio track in most of 'm. And the biggest problem is that I forgot how I got things done a few weeks/months ago. I find them not to be very intuitive. I compare it to filling in your tax form: when you're finished you think: "That wasn't as complicated as I thought.". But a year later you're pulling your hair out again because you forgot how and the form is not intuitive.

I like to fiddle w/ hardware synthesizers. Currently I record stuff every now and then on a little hardware recorder (portastudio). It supports multiple tracks and I use an analogue click-track to synchronize drum machines and the sequencers of my synths. Sometimes I export the multi-tracks as WAV files to my Linux PC. To add reverb etc. I'm very intimidated by the layout of almost any DAW I've tried. So I use Audacity: it supports multi track and a lot of sound processing and effect plugins. But to create songs w/ chorus and verses I fear it's not the best of editors. And it cannot add tracks from a virtual synthesizer (i.e. VSTi's).

A DAW that I've used is Qtractor (it's developer does not call it a DAW but a sequencer). I like it's clear lay-out very much because you can "de-activate" a lot of windows. But is there something that might be more suited (read: simple) for me? I looked at Muse very superficially and I think that you can mark your choruses and versed in a different color which I think makes the structure of a simple song a lot clearer.

What's your fav DAW for casual hobbyists?

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby magicalex » Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:58 pm

I found Tracktion very intuitive and version 7 is now free. The only reason I stopped using it was its lack of support for lv2 plugins.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby lilith » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:19 pm

I use Reaper and Renoise myself (+Ardour). Ardour works for smaller projects, but if the number of VSTs is increasing it´s better to use Reaper, cause it´s much more CPU efficient.

I would start with Ardour or Qtractor in your case, especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated. Ardour is perfect to learn all the things about routing, sidechain compression, busses, etc. And you will not get lost in menus, which can happen with Reaper. If you know how Ardour works you can use this knowledge also for other DAWs with a similar workflow (Reaper, Qtractor, Bitwig, etc.).

I recommend starting with this tutorial: http://brunoruviaro.github.io/ardour4-tutorial/

Tracktion / Waveform is also fine, but it has also very special workflow.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby tavasti » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:00 pm

lilith wrote:I would start with Ardour or Qtractor in your case, especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated. Ardour is perfect to learn all the things about routing, sidechain compression, busses, etc. And you will not get lost in menus, which can happen with Reaper. If you know how Ardour works you can use this knowledge also for other DAWs with a similar workflow (Reaper, Qtractor, Bitwig, etc.).

At least I don't find Ardour very intuitive, so that after long period it would be possible to get anything done with it without watching tutorials.
Don't get me wrong, Ardour is great (Mixbus greater), but for 'casual beginner' like asked, I don't think it is correct answer.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby artofmusic » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:28 pm

Muse seems pretty easy, qtractor is a mess as you're pretty much limited by the way it routes audio (and the way it handles busses is kind of horrible). I would say Muse or even Bitwig. for a beginner who wants room to grow. If you need something now and don't mind learning a new thing later then go LMMS. You can export MIDI from it in 1.2.0rc8 at least and the appimage even makes it even more of a no brainer. Personally, I have settled for using Muse or a combination of Musescore 3 and Mixbus32c for all my audio/midi needs.

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby lilith » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:33 pm

tavasti wrote:
lilith wrote:I would start with Ardour or Qtractor in your case, especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated. Ardour is perfect to learn all the things about routing, sidechain compression, busses, etc. And you will not get lost in menus, which can happen with Reaper. If you know how Ardour works you can use this knowledge also for other DAWs with a similar workflow (Reaper, Qtractor, Bitwig, etc.).

At least I don't find Ardour very intuitive, so that after long period it would be possible to get anything done with it without watching tutorials.
Don't get me wrong, Ardour is great (Mixbus greater), but for 'casual beginner' like asked, I don't think it is correct answer.


I also didn't find it intuitive at first. But after I understood the tool function (draw, range, etc.) it was more less straight forward.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby tavasti » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:39 pm

artofmusic wrote:If you need something now and don't mind learning a new thing later then go LMMS.

LMMS does not record audio at all, and even with audio clipt recorded with something else, handling is very limited.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Basslint » Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:49 am

tavasti wrote:
lilith wrote:I would start with Ardour or Qtractor in your case, especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated. Ardour is perfect to learn all the things about routing, sidechain compression, busses, etc. And you will not get lost in menus, which can happen with Reaper. If you know how Ardour works you can use this knowledge also for other DAWs with a similar workflow (Reaper, Qtractor, Bitwig, etc.).

At least I don't find Ardour very intuitive, so that after long period it would be possible to get anything done with it without watching tutorials.
Don't get me wrong, Ardour is great (Mixbus greater), but for 'casual beginner' like asked, I don't think it is correct answer.


I think Ardour is very easy to use, even if it's a complex program, because:

1) It is self contained, so you don't have to mess with JACK to get something done

2) It supports both audio and MIDI. Sure, MIDI in Ardour 5 is not as good as QTractor but it will improve in Ardour 6

3) It ships with some useful plugins

I think that if you spend maybe an hour learning the basic of Ardour and set it up correctly, it becomes very easy to use - you can record stuff a couple of seconds after booting it up.
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:10 pm

Thank you all for the tips!

1. Ardour
I think that, apart from Qtractor, Ardour might be something for me. I always say that if you do not know a lot about a certain sort of application (like a word processor or a DAW) then choose the most popular one because then finding someone who can help you is going to be more easy. I know that Ardour is very popular on almost every OS.

Does anybody know if Ardour 5 has 32 & 64 bit Windows VSTi support? That is: instruments like the Minimoog, not just effects like reverb. I read here that Ardour calls plugins (VST's etc.) a "processor". But then I read here that using Win VST's on Linux "requires a special build of Ardour that is fundamentally very different from normal builds" on Linux.

2. Windows VSTi 32 bit and 64 bit
Another problem that I ran into yesterday is the support of 32 and 64 bit Windows VST's. My favourite Minimoog VST's are 32 bit, but now-a-days the default for VST's is 64 bit of course. So I need to be able to use 32 and 64 Win VSTi's at the same time. In Qtractor this is possible because Carla supports almost any plugin in the world (Win 32 and 64 VST, LV2, LADSPA). Carla shows up in Qtractor in the list of Linux native VST's. DSSI is also still supported in Qtractor (dssi aint 64 bit I believe, or the other way around...). Muse crashed when I closed a Carla window (maybe I did something wrong) and Traction won't play w/ Carla.

So for Traction7 I needed to compile VST bridges from source code. But to use both 32 as well as 64 bit VST's in LinVST and Abique I had to install a certain development package that led to dependency hell in my package manager. Anyway, those make a shared object (.so) for every VST dll. When I started Muse it searched for a long time for Windows VST's from LinVST or Abique and then it crashed because most of my VST's are 32 bit. Tried Airwave: it's .so files did not show up in Qtractor (maybe I did something wrong, I set the VST path to the .so though...). They didn't show up in Muse either: so it must be me. I'll ask in a different topic...

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Basslint » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:38 pm

Linuxmusician01 wrote:Thank you all for the tips!

1. Ardour
I think that, apart from Qtractor, Ardour might be something for me. I always say that if you do not know a lot about a certain sort of application (like a word processor or a DAW) then choose the most popular one because then finding someone who can help you is going to be more easy. I know that Ardour is very popular on almost every OS.

Does anybody know if Ardour 5 has 32 & 64 bit Windows VSTi support? That is: instruments like the Minimoog, not just effects like reverb. I read here that Ardour calls plugins (VST's etc.) a "processor". But then I read here that using Win VST's on Linux "requires a special build of Ardour that is fundamentally very different from normal builds" on Linux.


Wouldn't VST plugins work via Carla regardless of the Ardour build?
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Michael Willis » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:25 pm

Basslint wrote:Wouldn't VST plugins work via Carla regardless of the Ardour build?

I agree, to get Windows VSTs working with Ardour, use Carla, which can be loaded as a plugin in Ardour.

For what it's worth, I did get Windows vsts working at one point, but then later decided to use only Linux native plugins to keep things more simple. It's a constraint that I'm willing to work with, but if you want to use win vsts, please try Carla.

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby GMaq » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:53 pm

Linuxmusician01 wrote:Thank you all for the tips!

1. Ardour
I think that, apart from Qtractor, Ardour might be something for me. I always say that if you do not know a lot about a certain sort of application (like a word processor or a DAW) then choose the most popular one because then finding someone who can help you is going to be more easy. I know that Ardour is very popular on almost every OS.

Does anybody know if Ardour 5 has 32 & 64 bit Windows VSTi support? That is: instruments like the Minimoog, not just effects like reverb. I read here that Ardour calls plugins (VST's etc.) a "processor". But then I read here that using Win VST's on Linux "requires a special build of Ardour that is fundamentally very different from normal builds" on Linux.


For what it's worth to try... AV Linux has all the VST bridges etc all set up out of the box with LinVST, I routinely use 32bit WinVST's with 64bit Ardour and Mixbus. AV Linux also has the option of Carla pre-installed and has in depth instructions about setting up JACK, Ardour and using WineASIO and LinVST in the User Manual..

I'm not suggesting you want to change your OS but you can download and boot AV Linux live and at least see how all this stuff is 'supposed' to work.

AV Linux: http://www.bandshed.net/avlinux/
AV Linux User Manual: http://bandshed.net/pdf/AVL2018UserManual.pdf

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:47 pm

Thank you all for the info that Ardour will work w/ Carla. :)

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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby khz » Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:33 pm

lilith wrote:especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated.

paul wrote:sadly this is not true. It was originally our plan to have 6.0 contain the work I did last year on musical time representation. Alas, this is not going to happen unless we decided to wait many more months to release 6.0. The next release will contain some fixes for a few details of MIDI, but it will not address the problems caused by the way time is represented (that will come in the next major release, which we hope will happen much faster than the 5-to-6 transition).

Source: https://discourse.ardour.org/t/the-ardour-youtube-channel-is-here/100534/19
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Re: Best DAW for the casual beginner?

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:38 pm

khz wrote:
lilith wrote:especially with Ardour 6 in mind, where most of the midi problems will be eliminated.

paul wrote:sadly this is not true. It was originally our plan to have 6.0 contain the work I did last year on musical time representation. Alas, this is not going to happen unless we decided to wait many more months to release 6.0. The next release will contain some fixes for a few details of MIDI, but it will not address the problems caused by the way time is represented (that will come in the next major release, which we hope will happen much faster than the 5-to-6 transition).

Source: https://discourse.ardour.org/t/the-ardour-youtube-channel-is-here/100534/19

Wat are the problems w/ Ardour and Midi?


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