What Is a DAW? (Digital Audio Workstation Explained)

DAWs are extremely important in music productions. In this post, I'll cover digital audio workstations and how you can use them to mix better.

If you’re in the music industry, you probably know that a digital audio workstation (DAW) is a key tool for making your music production process much easier. There are several different DAWs on the market, each with its features and benefits. Unfortunately, not knowing these benefits can lead to making serious mistakes.

In this post, we will discuss a digital audio workstation, its features, and how it can be used in audio recording. So whether you are new to recording or a seasoned pro, this post is for you.

What is DAW? DAW is a software application used for recording, editing, and producing digital audio. DAWs provide a range of tools and features that allow users to create, mix, and manipulate audio tracks, apply effects, and arrange compositions.

What is a digital audio workstation (DAW)?

DAW is the abbreviation for “digital audio workstation.” The software is used for recording, editing, and mixing music. You may record real-world and digital instruments on individual tracks, edit and mix them, add effects like reverb and delay (among many others), and then export the resulting recording as a file.

Man using a midi pad controller with a digital audio workstation. Source: bandlab, unsplash
Man using a midi pad controller with a digital audio workstation. Source: bandlab, unsplash

A DAW can efficiently edit digital audio files and serve as an audio editor. You may use various effects to splice, duplicate, edit, and mix sounds together. With a digital audio workstation, you may also improve your recordings’ sound quality.

Digital audio workstations are standard equipment for audio engineers nowadays. They allow producers to record audio in different formats, such as WAV or MP3. Every professional and independent engineer and producer uses digital audio workstations.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

What is a daw? (digital audio workstation explained) | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

How do you use a DAW?

Most digital audio workstations include tracking playlists, sample browsers, and mixing consoles as standard features. The first introduction to any digital audio workstation is guaranteed to be confusing. It takes some getting used to since every DAW manufacturer has a unique placement for its controls.

It takes some getting used to since every DAW manufacturer
has a unique placement for its controls.

Generally speaking, the left-side sample browser allows you to listen to and choose different audio files. The playlist or timeline in the center is where you’ll record and organize your samples. The right-hand pane is the mixer, where volume and effects may be modified.

What can you do with a DAW?

There are a ton of things you can do with a DAW. From recording and editing tracks to creating intricate compositions and applying professional-grade effects, a DAW empowers you to unleash your creativity and bring your musical vision to fruition. Let’s delve into the vast array of tasks and creative opportunities that await you within the realm of a DAW.

  • Recording a live instrument or voice: Digital audio workstations and interfaces make it possible to record musicians and vocalists. You can record a guitar or any other instrument by connecting a microphone if you have an audio interface. A guitar cable can also be used to connect the instrument directly to the interface.
  • Play and record virtual instruments: Virtual instruments are essentially computer recreations of real ones. Digital technologies have made it possible to replicate the piano’s authentic sound. You can even use a virtual drum kit and a plugin to play the drums. Virtual instruments may be recorded in a few different ways.

    For example, with musical typing, you can make your keyboard play notes like a piano and make a wide range of sounds. In addition to using the computer keyboard, you may utilize a MIDI controller to perform the virtual instrument. Take a look at our roundup for the best midi 25 key keyboard controllers under $100.

    You may import the instrument’s notes or sounds straight into your DAW by clicking and dragging the notes to where you want them.
  • Audio looping: Related to virtual instruments is the idea of audio looping. Some DAWs, like GarageBand, include a library of loops—drums, strings, horns, and many other instruments. These are often editable MIDI files, so you may begin with a drum loop and modify it to suit your needs.

    In addition, recorded audio may be played again in a continuous loop. So, to replicate a guitar riff you like, you can copy and paste the highlighted section.
  • Audio editing: Audio editing is a crucial function of a digital audio workstation. A good digital audio workstation makes it easy to cut, copy, paste, move, snap to a grid, and crossfade audio. This is essential to creating high-quality music, and the DAW you use should make it easy.
  • Adding audio effects: Effects, often abbreviated as “FX,” is another common way to mix music. Most digital audio workstations have plugins for effects like delays, reverbs, auto-tune, chorus, and more. With these effects, a song can go from empty to full, sterile to ambient, and amateur to professional.

    Compressors, limiters, delay effects, reverb effects, equalizers, and other audio effects may be found in certain digital audio workstations. Using virtual effects and VSTs in your digital audio workstation, you can make a wide range of sounds from a single instrument.
  • Audio mixing: After recording, editing, and arranging the song to your satisfaction, the next step is mixing. Adding sound effects and fine-tuning can be done in the mixing stage, which is similar to the production stage in many ways. This stage is where professional-sounding EQ and compression are applied to the tracks.

    Some DAWs make mixing easy by including EQ and compressor plugins by default, while others provide few, if any, options for doing so. If that’s the case, have the files mixed by a professional mixing engineer.

What are some popular DAWs?

Here is a list of some of the most popular DAWs on the market.

  • Ableton Live: Ableton Live has been the gold standard in music production software for quite some time. This praise is well-deserved. Ableton is a powerful sound creation tool with some of the greatest sampling and synthesis plugins. Ableton’s plugin package, which includes equalizers, delays, reverbs, compression, and more, is just as impressive as its sampling and synthesis features.
  • FL Studio: The Belgian company Image-Line made Fruity Loops, now called FL Studio. It is a digital audio workstation. The music sequencer in FL Studio works with patterns and has a graphical user interface. Four versions of the software are available for PC and Mac users. FL Studio’s user-friendly interface has made it popular among hip-hop and electronic music producers.
  • Logic X Pro: Apple Logic Pro X is a MIDI sequencer and digital audio workstation for the Macintosh computer. There is currently no way to use Logic Pro on a computer running another OS. However, it’s very popular amongst the Mac crowd, and many producers use Apple Logic to record audio, MIDI, and live drum loops.
  • Pro Tools: Most professional recording studios use Pro Tools. Pro Tools was developed specifically for professional studios. This program has been used in almost every recording studio worldwide. The high-quality mixing environment and lightning-fast editing are two of its many selling points among professional engineers. 
  • There is more of a learning curve than with some other DAWs, but if you want to work in a professional recording studio, it’s time well spent. To get started with Pro Tools, you may download the free Pro Tools First version, which has a 16-track restriction but is otherwise fully functional.
  • Audacity: Audacity was released in 2009 as a completely free recording software. And you can get it for nothing even now! Audacity’s free software program may be downloaded and used on any computer relatively easily. And, Audacity will work on any computer.
  • There are no unnecessary bells and whistles, only what you need to capture audio linearly. Since MIDI is not recorded, virtual instruments like VST synthesizers cannot be used, and plugin effects must be added destructively in post-production.
  • Therefore, a complete mix may not be best accomplished using Audacity. However, Audacity may serve as an excellent entry point for those unfamiliar with the fundamentals of digital recording.
  • Studio One: Studio One Prime is digital audio workstation software used for making music. This DAW’s drag-and-drop feature is a must-have for musicians looking to record with a MIDI or audio interface. Also, Studio One Prime has a lot of virtual instruments, which can be helpful for people who want to keep their studio equipment to a minimum.

Do producers need digital audio workstations?

Yes. Theoretical knowledge is important, but using a digital audio workstation to make music is the only way to learn it in practice. Anyone with an internet connection can use digital audio workstations.

However, people who want to learn more about making music will get a lot out of using it themselves. Many ideas, like mixing, become clearer after being applied to a digital audio workstation.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “What is a DAW? (Digital Audio Workstation Software Explained)” from the Full Circle Music YouTube channel.

A video called “What is a DAW? (Digital Audio Workstation Software Explained)” from the Full Circle Music YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about digital audio workstations.

Do you need a DAW to edit music?

Yes. A digital audio workstation (DAW) is essential for creating high-quality musical editing. That is, if you prefer music that sounds amateurish. The ease with which DAWs make it possible to multitrack, record, cut, and paste audio has completely altered how musicians and audio engineers approach their work.

Do you need a good PC for DAW?

No, but in an ideal world, your computer would have a fast processor and enough memory. The speed and responsiveness of the interface come from how these two things work together. You can easily switch between applications during lengthy, CPU-intensive DAW sessions.

How much does a good DAW cost?

Most DAWs have different versions, each with different features and a pricing structure. Ableton Live, for instance, includes an “intro pack” that costs about $100, a “regular edition” that costs around $500, and a “suite” that costs around $749.


A digital audio workstation is essential if you want to make professional-grade music. This software makes editing and mixing music so much easier.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music producer by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered digital audio workstations, how they work, and how to use them. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • DAW is the abbreviation for “Digital audio workstation.” 
  • A DAW is a software program for making music, recording, editing, mixing, and manipulating sound.
  • DAW software works on both the Mac and Windows operating systems.
  • The computer works as a host for the sound card, while the program offers the interface and capability for audio editing.

So, what daw do you use? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

Nick eggert.
Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

Nick is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

Verified User Black 24dp


Our team conducts thorough evaluations of every article, guaranteeing that all information comes from reliable sources.

Event Available Black 24dp


We diligently maintain our content, regularly updating articles to ensure they reflect the most recent information.

Leave a Comment