What is the best DAW for Composers?

What is the best music composing software in 2018?

Hi there, I’m Guy Michelmore. Like you, I’m a music composer, and in my time writing music for media I’ve been lucky enough to work with Disney, Marvel and Dreamworks on major, high budget projects.

My mission today is to answer one of your burning questions I get asked all the time – ‘what is the best music composing software?’

We’re now in 2018, and software has come a long way since the early noughties, so you may be asking yourself, “what is the best music composing software to get started writing music for film, game and television?”

Without wasting your time, I’m going to give you two answers depending on what type of person you are.

1. The Endless Searcher:

If you’re currently on a quest to find the best software for composing music, and you’ve been searching for hours (if not days or weeks), then look no further. Cubase is the answer!

As an aspiring music composer looking to write music for Film, games and Television, it’s more important to dive in and start writing music instead of just searching for the best DAW! Well the search is over, Cubase is the most popular DAW for composing music and is compatible with all leading operating systems. For more reasons on why I use Cubase, scroll down to my list of 7 reasons why I use Cubase.

In short, you will not be let down!

2. The Experimenter:

You may have picked a DAW from way back when, when options were relatively thin on the ground. If you’re looking to switch to something new then Cubase can still be a shining beacon of hope!

If you’re still not convinced, download the demo versions of each DAW! That’s right, you can download and use Cubase, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live and Pro Tools for free and find out which one works best for you.

For example, you might find Logic the most fun to use, or Live for it’s loop-friendly environment – and that’s ok!

It’s important to enjoy the software you use, but it also has to make sense to you as a composer.

Most importantly:

1) You only need one (in most cases, more on that in later blog posts!)

2) Cubase, Logic, Live and Pro Tools are all industry standard programs, so they’re all subjectively the best DAW available for composers.

3) Get composing now! Googling ‘the best DAW’ won’t start you on the path to becoming a film composer, time to get stuck in!

7 Reasons

Seven Reasons Why I use Cubase

True Cross platform: It works perfectly on PC or Mac so you are not tied to one manufacturer.

Slaves: On really, really big rigs (1000 tracks+) you need to link your DAW to external PCs running VSL Ensemble Pro. Cubase integrates perfectly with this.

Workflow: So many cool time savers from a track search box to key commands just to reveal tracks with data between the locators, things I can’t now live without. Loads more features and commands can be setup with custom key commands. That makes it a very fast DAW to work with.

Sound Design: The pitch shift and render in place options are fantastic and vital for anybody manipulating digital audio and if you are not manipulating digital audio, you should be!

Export: Batching export hundreds of tracks at once saves hours or days when preparing for a big live orchestral session.

Power: It just does everything I want really well. It can handle everything I throw at it….and that’s a lot. Its CPU efficient and endlessly adaptable.

Support: Steinberg continue to press ahead with great new features and modifications which not all developers do.

But Guy… How do I make music in Cubase?

Cubase can take a long time to master, however getting start composing music for films need only take a weekend!

This all depends on how you want to learn.

There are thousands of YouTube tutorials out there that will teach you how to use Cubase, however you may find yourself swamped by hip-hop track tutorials instead of learning how to use it to compose music for media!

Those composers who just learnt how to make hip-hop tracks always ask me, “how do I set up my template so I can write film, game and television music?”

My answer was to create Template in a Weekend – a short course designed to guide you through building a professional, orchestral template in just 2-3 days.

(However most students study it for weeks if not months!)

Watch insightful, over the shoulder tutorial videos where I, Guy Michelmore, take you from planning your build, to getting all of your instruments loaded, then finally routing and balancing everything to have it ready to go the second you start a composition!

Let’s get started!

Start now
About the Author

Guy Michelmore

Course Director Guy Michelmore is an award winning film composer. He has scored over 8 animated films for Marvel and over 200 episodes of TV for networks all over the world. He also has a detailed knowledge of sampled orchestration and contemporary techniques in film scoring.

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Comments 5

  1. Cubase does not have chunks as Digital Performer does. So, if you work with a large video or a theatre play with several themes, we struggle with a workflow.

    1. No doubt MOTU DP is probably the best DAW for scoring film, TV, or large theater projects in terms of its tool set. I use DP some as well, but I also find DP to be awkward when it comes to the GUI setup and a few other things. I know they have improved some of this in ver 10 which I have not used yet. If you’re using Cubase then no need to change. It’s a killer program. I, myself, have migrated some to using Reaper 6 which includes things like subprojects, excellent region mapping, a region playlist (which is incredible), and rendering and freeze features the likes of which I have not seen on any DAW. The power under the hood of Reaper is astonishing…but it does require a bit of a learning curve compared to how other DAWs work.

      1. Reaper should be the industry standard, it’s quickly in the last few years becoming very popular. It’s easily worth upwards of 700 dollars, and the fact that Cubase and Logic and others sell their DAW’s for that much is a travesty because it probably keeps a lot of beginners and hopefuls out of the running.

        Reaper for 60 dollars has a lot under the hood but is easy to get started with, then the more you learn the more you realize how deep Reaper goes. I mean, custom commands you can code into it? I haven’t even got there yet but goodness it’s just an incredible DAW all around

  2. You forgot Reaper. It does everything a “pro” DAW does and for 60 dollars. It’s funcionality and customizability are endless.

  3. If you re someone who wants to get to composing music immediately without fiddling with too DAW technicality, Studio One is for you. The instrument sampler library that comes together with its inbuilt Presence instrument sampler player isn t too impressive though. So you might need to expand your instrument library and invest in a good sample library like Native Instrument s Komplete. There is no score editors on Studio one though which is quite a bummer. You ll have to use an integration with Notion to output your MIDI data to a score sheet.

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