How to operate any DAW: professional advice from mozahzah

Thanks to the technological advancements in the past two decades, all the fancy recording software found in the big and expensive recording studios has now found the way into our everyday lives. We have had the opportunity to buy, and run these Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s) outside the studio and into our personal devices, making these one of the most important music tools everywhere we go. But even though we can buy a powerful DAW, we cannot improvise our ability to operate it.

For most musicians, working with a Digital Audio Workstation is daily routine. Every idea, every recording, every sample runs into Ableton Live, Logic, Pro Tools, and many more. Since all of these musical projects are relying on the power of these digital tools, there exists a real necessity to be able to organically operate the software so it does not interfere with the creative process: because getting stuck trying to figure out a command or a function, really sucks.

Photo by Bruno Araujo

While it is true that most of us can deal with the basic tools and functions of a DAW such as the friendly Garageband, being able to smoothly operate other software will be the game changer while working on any kind of project. That is why many people decide to take classes: from the self-learning musician to the advanced user everyone knows there is always room for improvement… but what could someone do to improve these skills on their own?

Since no exact answer was found to answer this question, Moroccan-Lebanese producer and engineer mozahzah (who operates Ableton Live like he was playing your favorite videogame), highlights 4 essential elements needed to increase one’s operation skills at any level of proficiency. We can argue that reading the whole User’s Manual, like mozahzah did, is the best way to get ahead at it, but the trick is way easier than that:

 

 

Basic knowledge of the DAW in question

The first thing anyone should do: identify the focus of the Digital Audio Workstation. There are many DAW’s out there and while most of them can share the same basic functions, all are presented in different ways revolving around what the software is focused to. Take for example Ableton Live: even though users can record and produce, it is focused towards Live Performance operations, so the interface and the commands will be set around that and will look different than Logic Pro, that is focused towards detailed musical production. So make sure to understand what the DAW can do and if it suits the needs.

After learning about the focus and capacities of the DAW, then it comes the time to go into the software itself and spot the basic tools and settings. Most (if not all) software have tools like Tempo, Meter, Key, Beats, Seconds, and Edit/Mix windows, it is utterly important to identify these and have them present at all times. This may sound obvious but there are projects that have key and tempo changes, so knowing where and how these tools work, will facilitate the workflow.

Uninterrupted Workflow

Workflow is one the main elements that mozahzah highlights. Whenever it is time to work, being able to do it without interruptions signifies the difference between a good product and a great product since the musician will be solely focused on creating. In this case, in order to facilitate such workflow, mozahzah talks about creating digital spaces that allow uncomplicated work.

These spaces can be set and created as Project Templates. These can be setup however the user wants and feels comfortable: number of tracks, click, tempo, plug-ins, etc. And the session will be ready to go with just one click allowing uninterrupted workflow.

Practice through creation
Photo by Tom Pottiger

Proficiency is the result of daily practice. But practice has to be consciously done in order to attain the right results and mozahzah recommends practicing through creation. After learning about the DAW, and setting up the right workspace, it is now time to Record, Mix, Sample, and use the imagination. Projects like sound-alikes are great learning tools that will push any user to go deeper into the details not only of production, but into the operating of the DAW.

Internet as your best teacher

At last, it is really important to know that through the Internet, many questions can be solved.

Thanks to the high number of DAW users, many learning and discussion communities have been created through the years. It is important to identify such websites because many of the problems that users face or will face, have already been solved by other users in the past. Discussion topics in these communities range from problem solving, to production, mixing, etc. and can be found as written blogs, YouTube videos and many more.

mozahzah ends saying that it is also important to know that some of these DAW’s do require the user’s time to learn the essential keyboard shortcuts. For software like Pro Tools, these commands will definitely increase the quickness and benefit the workflow of any project if they are known. But in the end, the fundamental part of proficiency relies on the knowledge and familiarization with the DAW.

If you want to connect with mozahzah and learn more about his works and experience visit and join Stereotheque.

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