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To Cubase, or not to Cubase, DAW Questions

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I'm currently learning to compose music, and I believe I'm doing alright.

My question is: should I grab Cubase within the next 6-12 months?



I spent a few months going hardcore on music theory and testing out Finale 2011 Notepad. I've churned out a couple songs (in my signature) and I'm looking towards the future and wondering if it will be Cubase or not.



I'm looking for a decent system/program that will allow me to compose for video games as well as anything else in the future.


So far, I've inspected FL, Acid, and a Finale's offering, but Cubase seems to be the absolute best package for the price (not sure on complexity). I'm still planning on going to Youtube some more to scout out all of the complexities with Cubase, but I'm wondering if it will be the best choice for me.

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It seems like a simple question, but there's no right or wrong answer. It really depends entirely on what DAW you feel most comfortable with.

Personally, I started out on FL Studio 9 and loved it, then grew to dislike it, and eventually hated it and all of its native components and around the beginning of last year made the switch to Cubase and never looked back. I'm using a lot of native plugins in Cubase, whereas in FL Studio I ended up using only 3rd party plugins. That's just me, though. You might like Cubase more, or you might like FL Studio more.. ore Sonar, or Acid etc.

If you haven't done so already, I suggest you check out a trial version of Cubase, and then simply decide by your gut feeling. Once you know your tools, you can produce good music with any DAW anyway, so you should focus mostly on what DAW suits your workflow most.

Best of luck and cheers,
Chris

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Short answer: Yes, Cubase is a good investment.

Long answer: There are many others though, and FL and Acid don't really fall into the same category of software as Cubase, they're kind of their own thing.

Traditional DAWs:

  • Pro Tools
  • Logic Studio (obvious disadvantage: requires a Mac)
  • Cubase
  • Sonar
  • Reaper*
  • Ardour (more limited, FOSS offering)

    Untraditional/Less popular/Newer 'n different DAWs:

    • Acid
    • FL Studio
    • Ableton Live
    • Reason

      Trackers (use low-res samples, more old school sound, vertical spreadsheet-like compositional interface):

      • ModPlug
      • Milkytracker
      • Renoise (this one can use VSTs, so you can get pretty nice production value with it considering it's still fundamentally a tracker)
      • Buzzmachines

        I've got licenses for Pro Tools 8 and Logic Studio 8. I tend to fire up Pro Tools when I'm mostly recording and Logic when I'm working mostly with MIDI. I also use Reaper for quick throw-together demos or playing with new plugins.

        Most game composers are gonna use something under the "Traditional" category since they generally offer robust mixing environments borrowing metaphors from traditional sound engineering. Like Chris said though, whichever one you use should be up to you and your tastes. The artist is more important than the tool. And the plugins are more important than the DAW. See if your local Guitar Center or Sam Ash will let you try out Cubase and Pro Tools on a demo workstation. Sonar, Ableton, and Reason should offer a trial version for download.

        * If you want to get a solid DAW that supports everything the big-name ones support to learn on for free or use professionally on the cheap, Reaper has an infinite, uncrippled trial version, and a license is fairly cheap. It's a little different from the others in the Traditional category, but follows the same basic patterns. The other DAWs come with a lot more nice sounding virtual instruments and effects plugins (it's the reason I went for Logic, and the student edition of Logic Studio is only $150 woo!), but Reaper can stand on its own for the essentials (EQ, delay, basic reverb, compressors, etc.). It's routing interface is a little different and might feel strange to some, but it's very flexible.

        Ardour is another alternative, but I've only ever gotten it to work stably on Linux distros. Not worth it yet IMO.

        [EDIT] Forgot about Ableton. Ableton's built more for DJs and electronic musicians, but as such it sort of lends itself to being able to compose modular music, lets you easily prototype transitions to different music cues.

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The best way to put it - find what works for you and stick with it. Nothing else really matters. It's all about what fits your personality, workflow and musical needs. To find out I'd highly suggest, as others have as well, getting trial versions of software and playing around with it for a while. From there try to relax. Each program out there has something useful to bring to the table and there's a decent amount of overflow from application to application. Think of it as driving different kinds of cars. They may have slightly different names or a few different steps here and there - but they all do the same core actions. Learn one and odds are you'll learn others even faster. That's been my experience anyway.

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I think everyone is in agreement on this one, it's nothing but a personal preference. I started using Sonar, then switched to Cubase, and now almost exclusively use Pro Tools. I enjoyed using Cubase, and the only reason I really switched off was because I started doing film and got lots more training in Pro Tools. Check out trial versions of everything and see what works best for you.

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Going to put my vote in for Ableton Live. It may be built for electronic musicians but I find things like MIDI routing is much simpler than other DAWs - for one project I had to create 2 separate tracks for each instrument in Reaper, with complicated routing of MIDI and audio, whereas Live has it built in. The UI is excellent, and abstracts away from some of the more technical aspects of the DAW, so you can focus on the music without having to worry too much about the technology.

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