How to Start Learning a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW): Your Ultimate Guide

digital audio workstation (DAW)

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) are the heart and soul of modern music production. Whether you’re a budding musician or a seasoned producer, learning how to use a DAW is essential. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best way to start learning a DAW, so you can make real music within hours.

Step 1: Choosing Your DAW

So, you’re ready to dive into the world of music production, and you need a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Think of it as your musical playground. It’s where you’ll record, edit, mix, and master your tracks. But how do you choose the right one? Well, it’s all about your style and what you want to create. Are you into live recordings or virtual instruments? Do you want a program packed with samples, or do you prefer to record your own? From Fruity Loops Studio for beat-makers to Pro Tools for live instrument lovers, there’s a DAW for every flavor.

Free Options

  • Cakewalk by BandLab
  • Garageband
  • PreSonus Studio One 5 Prime
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • Pro Tools First

Paid Options

  • Reaper
  • Pro Tools
  • Logic Pro X
  • PreSonus Studio One
  • Cubase

Step 2: Finding a Video Tutorial Series

You’ve got your DAW, now what? Time to find a mentor, and YouTube is packed with them. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to level up, there’s a tutorial series for you. It’s like having a personal music coach right in your living room. So grab your headphones and get ready to learn from the best. Find a reputable channel for your chosen DAW and follow along. Here are some suggestions:

  • Reaper: REAPER Mania’s “This is Reaper 6”
  • Cubase: Cubase’s “Getting Started With Cubase AI/LE 10.5”
  • Pro Tools: Audio Sorcerer’s “Avis Pro Tools Tutorials”
  • Garageband: Charles Cleyn’s “Garageband Tutorial – Everything You Need To Know”
  • Logic Pro X: Charles Cleyn’s “Logic Pro X Tutorials – One Stop Shop To Learn Logic”

Step 3: Watching Beginner Videos

Remember your first day of school? This is like that, but way more fun. Start with beginner videos to learn the basics of your DAW. From setup and configuration to creating tracks and basic recording, these videos will lay the foundation for your music-making journey. It’s all about taking baby steps and building your skills one video at a time. Focus on videos that cover:

  • Setup & configuration
  • Creating tracks
  • Assigning inputs & outputs
  • Basic recording
  • Basic mixing

Step 4: Keyboard Shortcuts

Want to feel like a music wizard? Keyboard shortcuts are your magic wand. They’ll speed up your workflow and make you feel like a pro in no time. Print out a cheat sheet for your DAW and keep it handy. Trust us, it’s a game-changer. Learning keyboard shortcuts will speed up your workflow. Print out a cheat sheet for your DAW and keep it handy.

Step 5: Basic Recording and Mixing Tutorials

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Dive into recording and mixing tutorials to learn the essentials. From avoiding common pitfalls like recording at too loud levels to mastering the art of mixing, these tutorials will take your skills to the next level. It’s like learning to cook; once you know the basics, you can start experimenting with your own flavors. Work through tutorials that cover recording and mixing. This will help you avoid common pitfalls like recording at too loud levels and avoiding clipping.

Step 6: Practice, Practice, Practice!

You know what they say, practice makes perfect. Record anything and everything. Experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. It’s all part of the process. Think of it as your musical gym; the more you work out, the stronger you’ll get. Record anything and everything. Experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. Google is your friend if you get stuck.

Step 7: Intermediate Level Tutorial Videos

Feeling confident with the basics? Time to level up. Move on to intermediate tutorials and explore more advanced topics. From punch-in/punch-out recording to EQ and automation, these videos will add new tools to your musical toolbox. It’s like going from riding a bike to driving a car; a whole new world of possibilities opens up. Move on to more advanced topics like:

  • Punch-in/punch-out recording
  • Basic effects such as reverb, compression
  • EQ
  • Templates
  • Automation
  • Audio editing
  • Tempo maps

Step 8: Using Plugins

Plugins are like the cherry on top of your musical sundae. They add flavor, depth, and excitement to your tracks. From drum plugins to guitar amp sims, there’s a world of plugins waiting to be explored. It’s like adding spices to a dish; a little can go a long way. Start exploring plugins like:

  • Drum plugins (e.g., Superior Drummer, EZDrummer)
  • Guitar amp sims (e.g., BIAS FX, Amplitube, Guitar Rig)
  • Bass plugins (e.g., EZBass)
  • Synth plugins (e.g., Massive, Kontakt, SampleTank)

Step 9: Keep the Reference Manual Close By

Ever get stuck on a tricky question? Your DAW’s reference manual is your lifeline. Download it, keep it on your desktop, and refer to it whenever you need. It’s like having a wise old music guru always ready to help. Download your DAW’s reference manual and keep it on your desktop. It’s a handy tool for tricky questions.

Step 10: Engage with the Community

You’re not alone on this musical journey. Join forums, engage with other users, and become part of the community. Share your experiences, ask questions, and learn from others. It’s like joining a club where everyone speaks your language and shares your passion. Join forums and engage with other users. Share your experiences and learn from others.

How Long Does It Take To Learn a DAW?

You can easily learn the basics of a DAW in a few hours. Continuous practice and exploration will deepen your understanding and skills.


Learning a DAW is an exciting journey filled with creativity and discovery. By following this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming proficient in your chosen DAW. Whether you’re recording cover versions, blues jams, or creating original compositions, the world of music production is at your fingertips. Dive in, explore, and most importantly, have fun! 🎵

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