Why I (try to) Use Multiple DAWs (poorly)

Why I (try to) Use Multiple DAWs (poorly)

I don’t really know what I am doing.

I played music in bands and orchestras back in the late 1960s. I got paid to do it. It was going to be my career. I went to recording studios. Sat in on some really nice sessions. Couldn’t stay where I lived, moved away, work as a musician dried up.

One thing that I learned is that I could always learn a new trick or technique. A lesson with a master was always welcome.

I wound up working with computers and software (yes, in the 1970s, before you were born). I could always learn a new trick or technique. Wrote software, tried software, helped make software work.

I learned that there were always multiple tools that could get the job done. Some were easier than others, depending on the task, but there were always choices.

When it was time to learn a new tool I always tried to find a new project or task and use that as the benchmark for learning a new tool. Maybe it would be harder, maybe it would be easier. Never knew until I tried.

I have been learning to use new tools for more than 45 years. It’s still fun. I still learn.

DAWs and the “Path to Glory”

ProTools is the DAW you must use if you are a professional! Logic Pro is the DAW you must use if you are a composer. Fruity Loops is used by “people who fiddle PCs”. Ableton Live? A lot like Opcode Vision from the late 1980s in lots of ways. Think sequencers. There’s this DAW called Studio One that gets praise from people who do lots of music. Reaper is the true path.

It’s all just tools. The same tools for the most part. The interface changes. The tasks generally do not.

I tried ProTools (version 8LE – oops). Not happening. Finally switched out and realised that GarageBand fit my needs better. Really, I wanted to play the instruments. Mainstage with all of the sounds and tools was what I wanted to use. That was where my 20+ year old understanding of computers and music was. PC + Sounds + programs = music in some ways.

Live Sound Is Where I Grew Up

Play Music. Record It. Listen To What You Did. Make It Better Next Time. That’s it. Simple.

Live Sound

If I was able to stay exclusively in the thrall of one band I might get by with learning “one thing”. Nope. The cover band that does bluegrass, country swing, and a little jazz uses a Mackie board. The “Pulk Fonk” (think punk folk) band uses a Line6 weird thing. The bar where the band is playing has an old PA system that you need to use. It’s all the same, basically, but it really is different. If I want to “play” I have to adapt to all of the things that are the same, but not. A lot like how I spent my career in software.

Learning How to Do it

Joe Gilder shows us how to do things in Studio One. Graham Cochrane shows us how to do things in ProTools (some variant). Graham English tells me how to do things in Logic. We get to see things done with Reaper, ProTools, Logic, Studio One, etc., etc., and so forth (that’s a reference).

I want to do these things. They tell me I can do it in my DAW. But how? They don’t tell me that. I have to go find a translation of what they have said and convert it to my DAW. Fortunately it’s fairly simple to translate, and all things come to those who wait.

Here’s the Neat Thing

All the tricks and techniques are really helpful. If I learn to do them (in any tool) I will get a better result. I can translate between the DAWs! There is enough common ground that I can learn how to do things in the best tool for the task. MIDI thingies in Logic, comps in ProTools, mixing in Reaper, master in WaveLab. Doesn’t matter which I use. They all get the job done. In many cases they get the job done a whole lot faster with one tool chosen over another.

Getting Back to Simple

Me? Harrison MixBus is my challenge. I listen better when I use MixBus. It’s harder for me to set up, but I get to use my faders and pans to balance things once I get it all put into play. If I do it in Logic I get tempted to try X, Y, or Z. If I try to work in Studio One I get “side-chained” by all of the things that work so well in that DAW.

Is using multiple DAWs simple? Maybe.

If I record in Auria on an iPad, rough mix in Logic Pro, final mix in MixBus, and “master” in Studio One (or T-Racks) is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Yes, I might spend more time getting it done, but it gets done. I learn a bit on all the fronts. Next time it gets done faster.

This Week’s Challenge

This week I get to work on 15+ tunes recorded live on a Midas M32 board. Two-track recording plus multi-track for 11 instruments and vocals. Saw a Midas M32 for the first time 48 hours before the gig. I was stressed. I applied my knowledge of things “mixer”, read some manuals, and went forth. I am used to doing this kind of stuff with a Mackie board, but enough “spills” over to let me go forward and “Just Do It”.

Let me think about this for a while. Maybe send it out for a mix critique or some mastering…

written to “Miles Davis — Tutu” – hell of a kick drum for 30 years ago…