Digital Audio Workbench for absolute beginners

Hey! I’m hoping someone here is deeply in the know about this.

I had an idea the other day to stop shielding my kid from technology and to use it in a creative way with her, rather than look at instagram together.
I thought we’d get a kick out of making some songs, so I googled “how to make music on a computer” and I’ve ended up looking at “pro tools - first” it has a bunch of instruments included, i guess you play them using the computer keyboard, maybe is free?, can record a bunch of layers and hopefully loop and playback… this is exactly what i want to do with her. Will pro tools first do it? Does something else do it cheaper? Do all of these things work on linux? I’m also thinking about buying a new computer, so is there anything on a mac or windows or linux os that is better than the rest?

thanks in advance, as always.

Garage band on a mac or ipad is what your looking for or buy an old four track

There are heaps of options, just depends on how deep you want to go - both in complexity and cash.

  • Pro Tools First will do what you want but I personally found Pro Tools to be about as exciting to use as Excel and very expensive.
  • Garageband is great for beginners. Free with any Apple thing. Probably the easiest to use but also a bit limiting.
  • FL Studio is something a lot of people within electronic music began with. It’s easy to just start sequencing ideas, not that great for recording audio.
  • Ableton Live I’ve used for over a decade and love it. It can get complex but I find it’s pretty intuitive for beginners. Can play in it using the computer keyboard.
  • Stagelight is multiplatform but has some restrictions on free versions (I can’t remember). I haven’t used it.
  • LMMS might be a good option for Linux. I haven’t used it.

There’s some stranger options too like Korg DS-10 the DS, Korg DSN-12 for 3DS, or Nintendo LABO keyboard for Switch.

Personally Mac OS is better for audio but the gap has really closed over time. It won’t matter as a learner. The best thing you can do if they’re into music is to get a simple keyboard and a microphone so you can play and record ideas into the computer. AKAI LPK25 or MPK Mini would be nice to play around with in terms of keyboards.

Thats great info, thanks!!

+1 ableton live for something interactive paired with a midi keyboard.

You could do the ableton live 30 day trial and if you like it the right midi device often comes with a code for the intro version of ableton.

fyi if you want a mic then you might need an audio interface.

AFAIK ableton doesn’t work on linux which is a bummer.

Happy to sit down with both of you at some point and/or loan you my drum machine / juno synth etc which are both quite simple / direct.

Here’s a video of a guy with a cool workflow setup for ableton live + push controller with a bunch of hardware instruments.


I use Reaper. It’s not free, it’s $60 for a personal license but of the DAWs I’ve tried, I’ve found Reaper the most intuitive.

DAWs can be a bit daunting at first so I’d avoid changing between a bunch of them. For starting out, pick one and stick with it. Or at least, try a few and stick with whatever you choose for while.

You can get cheap MIDI keyboards to control the virtual instruments. And there are loads of free VST plugins available (i.e. instruments, speakers, amplifiers, all sorts). If you want to use real instruments or a mic you’ll need an audio interface. There’s a ton of those with varying features.

I haven’t found Windows to be any trouble at all for music recording. I find it depends more on the audio interface than the OS.

Be careful though, it’s a lot of fun recording music and there’s an infinity of options and gear to throw your money at :slight_smile:

Thats awesome, thanks mate! That Akai LPK25 looks so great, and I’ll check out Ableton soon. Will let you know how we get on. I wish i had kept my 505 groovebox from uni days!

And thanks Nick, I’ll also take a look at Reaper… I’m psyched about the gizmos to spend money on! What better thing exists to spend money on than toys?

I have no input here, just wanted to say that you are an awesome Dad.

I know FA about those things really but #1 is doing Music Industry at school and #2 will probably follow. We bought Cubase for home use 'cos #1 said it was what he needed. It was reasonably pricey and the lads have had some small but irritating tech issues with it.

FWIW Ableton seems to be the most widely used in education as we go around to open days and the like…that’s if you’re taking a longer view and your youngster takes to it.