It’s a new DAWn: Digital Audio Workstations for Guitarists

By: Tyberium

You started out by doodling on your guitar or keyboard. You nurtured and evolved your craft and it slowly grew into your first garage band. It all started to come together and your first gigs were a downright hit.

The fans started recognizing your work. You’re ready for the next step in your band’s evolution: making a record and selling it to your fans. You ship out your demos like hot cakes, feature on public events, try and plug your band for a live performance at local radio shows…you try, try and try again, but then it all comes to a screeching halt….in front of the record studio.

You recognize the need to reach more people, so you and your band decide to sign with a record studio that takes it all out of your hands. Soon, they try to mold your band’s music into something that wasn’t the idea you had with your sound. You sold the rights of your team’s hard labor and stand along the sidelines to watch the soul be sucked out of it completely.

Reason Screengrab

Reason Screengrab

The band gets pressured to crank out record after record, even if you think it’s miles away from perfection and couldn’t be more further away of being ready for release. The fans fail to recognize that great X-factor your band had. Where’s that sound that made you king of the hill? Where are the times you rehearsed each song up to paramount perfection in your basement, before even thinking about playing it to the public? You are about to hide away into a corner, until you hear a strange beep…

Thank the heavens: it’s the alarm clock! You dreamed it all. It’s a new day, a new dawn. The dawn of ‘DAW’ that is! Three little letters that can change the future of aspiring musicians and music enthusiasts alike.

DAW stands for “Digital Audio Workstation,” in essence it’s a home recording studio in a box. What word processors did for digital publishing, DAW does for the music industry. It enables you to produce, record and edit your band’s work yourself, all behind your computer. No need for pushy studios and record bosses. When you’re done with your recording you can even publish it yourself, using digital distributors like CD Baby and stay independent.

So, what if you don’t have a band? What if you’re not musically schooled? What if you can’t actually play a guitar, but love rock music so much it hurts and you wished you could be part of it? Then you’re in for a treat too. The latest generation of digital audio workstations have an abundance of virtual instruments.

Mastering Coupon

These are in fact actual sampled instruments, which can be triggered by a controller. It’s quite recognizable to people that grew up with the music “trackers” like FastTracker or ScreamTracker a few decades ago: you trigger a music sample by pressing a key on the keyboard and it gets dropped on a scrolling timeline. When you play it back, the sample plays back on that exact spot. These trackers have evolved into full fledged virtual music studios.

There are several big names out there like Steinberg and Propellerhead, which have made DAW programs that are really accessible and affordable. Even more so if you’d buy them second hand off of E-bay.

Yours truly recognized the potential of these programs and wanted to know if it could also be used for something more unconventional: could it be used to create rock music…using a midi keyboard…by someone who doesn’t know how to play a guitar? The apparent answer: Yes, you can!

I like listening to my rock heroes Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert. I liked one of the intro’s of a songs so much, I wished it lasted longer than the few seconds it did. So, in 2008 I bought Propellerhead’s Reason 4 off of E-bay, and ventured out to expand that intro into a full song using this program and my trusty midi keyboard.

I posted the results on YouTube to see what people thought of it. The comments I received were very positive, so I tried to make more guitar songs this weird way, trying to improve on the sound along the way and created a website to inspire people. More positive reaction kept coming so I kept at it.

YouTube Preview Image

Now three years later I made quite a few songs. I even jumped into the deep, hiring an independent mastering studio to master my tracks and made an album out of it, while keeping all the right to my work. I sent the results out to to see what the professionals though of it. What I got was all I dreamed off and then some: I got a positive and inspiring review and the chance to let you read about my endeavors in this magazine!

If there ever was a moral to this story, I’d say that you can make your dreams happen when you think outside the box. If you’re a seasoned rock artist or an aspiring band, you can produce, record and edit your own music and stay independent as long as you wish.

If you don’t have a band, can’t (yet) play the instrument you always wished you could, but have a knack for music, you can still make music using a digital music workstation and learn along the way. All in all: what’s better than doing what you love and see people love what you’re doing?

One Comment

  1. Anders (6 years ago)

    I would recommend to everyone to try out Reaper. Gaining in popularity and has all of the features of the big names but priced at $60 for personal use.