Recording Software for Guitar – Includes Poll Results
by Metal Method Instructor Doug Marks
Many guitarists have absolutely no interest in recording software for guitar (digital audio workstations – DAW). I think the reason for this is, fear of the unknown. There are two “unknown” issues we’re dealing with here: 1) Fear of technology and 2) Fear of listening to and evaluating your performance.
It is extremely important to occasionally record your playing to identify weaknesses in technique. It’s easy to overlook errors while performing music because we’re engrossed in the performance. That’s as it should be. You shouldn’t be evaluating your performance while playing. Why? It engages the wrong part of the brain. The analytical part of the brain isn’t artistic. It inhibits the free flow of musical expression.
However, analysis is necessary to evaluate the performance once it’s completed. Problem areas are revealed. Plus, these recordings can be used to track progress.
Keeping it Honest
In general, I am very skeptical of Internet reviews because most review sites are affiliated with some of the products that are recommended. So let me be clear about this, I use some of these products but I’m not affiliated with any of them. I don’t make any money from any of the following suggestions.
What Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is right for you?
Evaluating your performance is just the “tip of the iceberg”. Even a beginner can use these tools to create professional sounding backing tracks for cover tunes and original material. There are software synths and plugins that can be used as building blocks to piece together some incredible sounding music that can be created by all levels of playing experience. Today, you don’t need to be an advanced musician to use these tools that are virtually plug-and-play to create your own band in a box.
Here’s an example. Everybody needs killer drum tracks for their recordings. You can use a program like EZ Drummer 2 to compose some amazing sounding stuff. EZ Drummer 2 includes midi performances created by professional drummers. Midi doesn’t record sound it records the performance. There is a difference. Sensors and microphones are attached to a real drum set to collect information while a real drummer is playing that includes when each drum is hit and the volume of each hit. The sound of the drums is not recorded just the performance information. You take these midi performances and paste them into a DAW track then use this information to trigger real drum sounds. You can mix and match fills and different beats to create completely original material. Then use these midi performances to trigger drum sounds that were recorded in world class recording studios. Your drum tracks can sound like a professional recording. Add to this either real or midi bass (also triggering real sounds) and you’ve got a great sounding backing track. The backing tracks for my lessons all use midi drums and midi bass guitar.
Recording Software for Guitar – DAW survey results
Surveys were placed on three different sites: Michael Angelo Batio’s FB page, Metal Method’s FB page, and our Guitar Lesson Forum. We asked our students and other guitarists of all playing levels what recording software that they’re currently using. I already knew that two DAWs are very popular among our students. I have used and recommended Cakewalk for over twenty-five years. So obviously, many of my students have chosen to use Cakewalk. This may sound like a promotion. It’s not.
I currently have mixed emotions about Cakewalk. The software has recently gone through a very rough patch. A few years ago, Gibson purchased the company from Roland. Gibson offered a super deal that I couldn’t resist, for $200 I could receive a lifetime of updates. Not bad considering the program originally cost about $400 and I had been paying $150 a year for updates. What a deal! OMG. Please… take my money. The lifetime deal lasted less than a year. After Gibson collected what I assume to be a good chunk of change they announced that they were no longer supporting Cakewalk. Burned. I thought they were talking about my lifetime which is still going on. But, okay.
Then there’s Reaper. It offers a free, fully functioning trial. The price is also very reasonable. Note here: There are more things to consider than price when it comes to purchasing a DAW. Once you’re a user, you’ll be very reluctant to change platforms do to the learning curve. So choose wisely.
Anyway, back to Reaper. When Michael Angelo Batio recorded his most recent lesson here in my studio, Dan Mumm stopped by to visit. We went out to eat. The topic about favorite DAWs came up. Both use and love Reaper. They like it because it’s so straightforward and easy to learn. I am now using Reaper and yes, the layout is very simple and intuitive… until it’s not. Basically, if you’re not a geek like me, you don’t research the advanced features. Therefore, the program is pretty simple. Trust me, if you choose, it’s got all the bells and whistles and can be quite complex. My first project I dove in a little too deep and it took an expert to straighten the mess out. BTW, that entailed starting all over. So, the deeper you go into the program, the flakier it gets. So, unless you’re a nut like me, don’t go there. If you do, you’ve been warned.
There is a tremendous community that supports this program and member of the community would probably take issue with the previous paragraph. That’s okay, it’s my experience, not theirs. However, even with these experiences, I highly recommend both Cakewalk and Reaper.
Poll Result – What’s Your Favorite DAW?
- Links to this poll were posted on our GuitarLessonForum.com, MAB’s Facebook page, Metal Method’s Facebook page, Twitter, and our newsletter.
- This poll is still active (5/7/2019) and the current results are not reflected in the diagram (above). You can view current results and vote here: Recording Software for Guitar Poll.
- There is an excellent conversation taking place on our forum right now. Please join the conversation now: Click Here
- Most of these programs have user Forums. It’s important to learn what users are experiencing. You’ll find many disgruntled users in most of these forums and part of the reason for this is hardware conflicts. Macs are expensive but are the most likely systems to offer you “turnkey” recording with a minimum of hardware conflicts assuming that you choose the correct audio interface.
- If you’re serious about recording in the PC world the latest version of Windows and a powerful computer are recommended.
- This next one is EXTREMELY important. Learn what audio interface(s) are popular with the program that you’re interested in purchasing. Most problems associated with DAW’s are created by audio interface driver conflicts. Use one that’s been thoroughly tested for best results. You can learn about compatible interfaces on user forums. This is the interface that I’m currently using: Scarlet 6i6 Focusrite.
by Metal Method Instructor Doug Marks
Doug is the creator of The Complete Rock Guitar Course