Basics of Recording: Software

Basics of Recording: Software

See all the posts in the Basics of Recording Series here.

The software you use when recording is important, but not as important as you might think. Lots of people seem to think that if they could only get their hands on Pro Tools, they’ll be able to create mixes that sound like what the big studios make – because Pro Tools is what the major studios use.

I’m sure that Pro Tools is great, but it’s not going to give you major label magic on your recordings.

In my opinion, there are two essential things that you need to make sure about when it comes to software.

1. Know how to use it.

If your interface ships with a version of Cubase or Pro Tools  or Digital Performer or whatever, take the time to learn the software. Understand how it works. Learn what the plugins do and how to use them.

2. Know that switching to another software suite will set you back hours, and probably won’t improve your music very much.

So, you’re using Presonus Studio One because it shipped with your PreSonus interface. You read somewhere about how awesome Logic is, so you spring some money for it.

The next thing that will happen is you will spend hours learning a new system. I’d bet money that once you learn Logic, your mixes will sound just about as good as they did using Studio One. The sad thing is you could have spent those hours learning how to use Studio One more efficiently and effectively, and you could have saved money.

So, when should I switch/upgrade software?

If you do your research and find a software package that does something that your current software absolutely will not do, then by all means, switch it up. If you’re using the limited version of something that shipped with an interface, and you are pushing it’s limitations (number of tracks, plugins, etc), then go for the upgrade. But, you really do owe it to yourself to max out the potential of the software you are currently using.

What are your options?

I use Apple Logic. I really love it. When I was using a Windows PC, I used Cubase because that’s what came with my PreSonus Firepod. When I switched to Mac, I tried out Garage Band, but I just really hated the interface, so I chose to upgrade.

Some other options for you that are well reviewed:

This is certainly not an exclusive list. There are lots of other options out there, and depending on the kind of music you make, some will work better than others. Most of the options listed above are expensive, so…

Some cheap and free options:

  • Reaper – give this one a shot with the demo. If you like it (it’s good stuff), it’s $40
  • Audacity – free, full featured software for Windows
  • GarageBand – free, Mac. If you have a Mac, you have GarageBand. Give it a shot – you can make pro level recordings with it.