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Inexpensive DAW Interfaces/Software for beginners

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I'm looking to setup an inexpensive DAW for my daughter and I to use. We have the basic computer hardware covered (i7-3770k, 32GB RAM) dual boot system with ML 10.8.2 and Windows 7.

I'm considering Garage Band(free), Reaper($60), or Pro Tools SE(free) for software.

Recording requirements:
Midi for a digital piano
Mic input for vocals, saxophone, acoustic guitar
Direct input for electric guitar

The following seems like it would meet most of our needs but it doesn't support midi: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FastTrkUSB2

It comes with Pro Tools SE but my understanding is SE won't allow me to add a midi interface or will it?

How would this work for Midi? http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/USBtoMIDI/

I would like to put together a basic setup for $200-$300 minus mics. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 

beelzebozo

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PreSonus Audiobox which comes with a free copy of Studio One Artist.

Has built-in midi, a zero latency feature, unlimited tracks and works on both Windows and Mac.

For only $30 more than the M-Audio Fast Track, the Audiobox can be found here.

I'm a teen studio director at a couple community centers and the kids pick up on Studio One very easily.

They even have a free version which you can check out here.

After using my main DAW software for 15 yrs, I switched to Studio One almost a year and a half ago and haven't looked back since!
 
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As far as Interfaces go I would get a USB interface. M-audio and Line-6 have some good interfaces from $65 - $150 for inexpensive interfaces. Here are my suggestions for what you are trying to do with Software.


Ones I own and Use
Reason Essentials is good but a small learning curve.
I use GarageBand for a lot of my start off Ideas $15 cannot beat that and the built in sounds are really pretty decent.
I also have Logic Pro 9
Cuebase 7
StudioOne 2
Digital Performer

Other Recommendations
MUTools is pretty cool $99.00
SoundForge is ok
Reaper is getting good reviews.
Audacity is a Free open source DAW have heard a few decent demos with it.
Ableton Live
Fruity Loops Studio
Ardour 3


These questions may help you decide.

  1. What is your ultimate music production goal? If your goal is to work in a studio, it may be better to jump right in with an industry-standard DAW like Pro Tools. On the other hand, if you will creating music at home, finding an app that fits your budget and works on your current computer may be more important.
  2. Do you learn better by taking things step-by-step, or jumping in the deep end? No one stays a beginner forever, and if you learn best by challenging yourself, consider starting with one of the big guns. On the other hand, the initial learning curve will be quite steep. Many people will find learning much easier on a “beginner’s” DAW. In fact, it may have all the features you need.
  3. Are you ready to invest hundreds of dollars in software at this stage of the game? Some of the big DAWs will set you back many hundreds of dollars. And that cost is justified – see it as an essential investment in professional quality software. But the investment also comes with a level of commitment. Once you spend that much money you’ll be reluctant to change programs later. In fact, you may not be able to afford to! Are you ready to make that investment at this stage of the game? Are you sure you’ll stick with music production? Will you be able to make a better-informed decision once you have more experience?
  4. Would you like to do some more research before deciding? Don’t feel pressured to decide right now. Before buying a car you want a chance to kick the tires. The same goes for DAWs. Many have demo versions. Some DAWs come included in other purchases, like a keyboard or audio interface. You might like to try a few before deciding to buy. Also, first spend some time reading about your options. Read users’ opinions in our Open Mic post, read through some tutorials for the DAW you think you might buy, or buy a book or visit the library. Give yourself an opportunity to make an informed decision.

Hope all of this helps

T
 
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