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Basics of Recording and Creating Music with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

This page provides resources that the Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education at Arizona State University curates or creates to get started with basics of recording and creating music with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). What is a DAW? A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an application that allows you to create and record music. You can record and manipulate acoustic and electric sounds and instruments by using digital audio aspects of a DAW. You can also record and manipulate MIDI information.

Why would I want to use a DAW?

A DAW provides people with an immediate way to record and create music. Free and inexpensive DAWs, some of which are web-based allow learners to explore endless possibilities with sound and music. The music literacies that people use with DAWs are not specific to or reliant on staff notation.

What are some DAWs I might want to use?

There are numerous DAWs available and people have their own preferences. It is not possible to include resources on every existing DAW so we will share some resources for DAWs that are more common in music learning and teaching settings as well as those that are low cost or have characteristics that make them well-suited for music learning. You can start making choices by exploring some of the following DAWs

What do I need to use a DAW?

You can pretty much use any computer and in many cases a mobile device. To use web-based DAWs you will need to create an account. Other DAWs will require you to download the application. If you want to record audio with decent quality, you will also need some type of microphone (and in some cases an audio interface). If you want the experience of playing instruments to create music with MIDI you will need some type of MIDI controller.

Getting Started Making Music with DAWS on the iPad

The following three videos are the result of a collaboration with Pharrell Williams’ creative collective i am OTHER and the ASU Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education as part of our work on the Save The Music Foundation J Dilla Music Tech Grant. The videos were made possible with the support of AT&T. Tutorial Videos Script Team: Richard Maxwell, Samuel Peña, Joe Ramalho, T R U V O N N E, and Tom Wilson with Steve Holley as Project Coordinator and Evan Tobias as Project Lead.

Getting Sound In

This video outlines the basics of getting sound into Garageband and Soundtrap on an iPad.

This Video Includes Information On:

  • 0:19 – Getting Started Making Beats
  • 0:48 – Check out the loops
  • 1:23 – Adding instrument tracks
  • 2:16 – Connecting a MIDI controller
  • 2:30 – Try recording a bass line
  • 3:09 – Want to add a vocal to your song? Try Connecting a Microphone!
  • 3:53 – Recording Your Vocal
  • 4:11 – Don’t like how you sounded? That’s okay! You can cut, copy, paste and edit everything that you recorded.
  • 4:39 – You can record other instruments and most digital audio workstations give you pre-made track templates for pretty much anything you want to record.
  • 4:54 – Express yourself, experiment, and explore. Most importantly, have fun!

Making Recordings Sound Better

This video demonstrates some basic techniques you can use to make recordings sound better by mixing the different elements through adjusting the volume, changing the balance by panning, and finally, polishing the tracks by adding equalizer, reverb, and other effects.

This video includes information on:

  • 0:17 – Accessing the control panel
  • 0:41 – Volume
  • 1:12 – Panning
  • 1:43 – Reverb
  • 2:22 – Equalizer
  • 2:57 – Other effects
  • 3:44 – Good ideas matter
  • 4:00 – Enjoy what you create!

Making Beats Sound Better

This video demonstrates some approaches to creating a vibe, organizing and developing your music, and making beats sound better.

This video includes information on:

  • 0:36 – Get your vibe
  • 1:33 – Stack your sounds
  • 2:06 – Quantize
  • 2:37 – Isolate
  • 3:33 – Arranging
  • 4:49 – Listen and vibe out

How do I record audio with a DAW?


Recording Audio with SoundTrap

Working with Audio in SoundTrap.

Recording Audio in GarageBand

Ableton Live

How do I create with MIDI in a DAW?


Work with the MIDI editor in BandLab


How do I export or download my music?


Export MIDI in Bandlab


Download and share music from SoundTrap to Google Drive: Download music from SoundTrap to a Chromebook


Ableton Live

Exporting Audio From Ableton Live

Setting Up Projects