Cakewalk by BandLab
- The full DAW in its entirety is free, no upgrades required
- Lovely, customisable interface
If the big names are a little out of your budget and their trial versions are too limited for you, then this is one of the best free DAW for PCs (after showing Apple’s GarageBand some love earlier). It was formerly known as the Sonar DAW until Bandlab acquired the property and incorporated it into Cakewalk.
PC users would be remiss to not try Cakewalk out considering it’s completely free with no add-ons or upsells. Some epic features include the Skylight user interface, flexible ProChannel modules and 64-bit mix engine.
Bonus: How do I choose the right DAW for me?
Not only are there a lot of DAWs to choose from, but there are a lot of good DAWs which can present a strong case for being the best.
First suggestion: don’t just take our word for it, take them out for a spin and see which one works for you. Most of the brands above now offer a free trial version to see if their workflow fits with your own personal needs. Don’t be too hasty with this; you want to allow a good couple of weeks to see how you get on with the workstation.
Another important consideration is that you are your own person. Just because your favourite artist or producer uses a certain DAW, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Be wary of the trap of thinking that, because your favourite hip-hop producer uses one platform, that means you should be making hip-hop with that platform also. The main thing each DAW offers is a certain type of workflow, rather than being genre-specific — this is why it’s important to try them out rather than making any assumptions.
Thirdly, a combination of patience and tuition is going to be key. Otherwise, you could find yourself going from DAW to DAW and feeling dejected and resentful. Give each one you try time, and it’s very much a good idea to try either a paid course or the tried and true method of using YouTube tutorial videos to figure things out (many pro-producers openly talk about how useful they have found the latter).
The only thing that remains is for you to go out there and try out your first workstation workhorse. Many artists end up forming a loving bond with their DAW and will tell everyone why they use it at every opportunity, so here’s hoping for that happy ending with you and your music production software too.
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