Architecture of a Digital Audio Workstation

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Architecture of a Digital Audio Workstation


A digital audio workstation DAW is an electronic tool or programsoftware designed around the production of audio recording editing postproduction etc and often even video files This tutorial will focus on illustrated components from FL Studio 12

A DAW can be broken down into three main components
Recording audio from analogue and other sound sources
Editing that audio with a variety of effects and plugins
Exporting a project into an audio file mp3 wav flac etc

Inputs and Outputs

As touched up upon in my guide about the processes and components of a studio recording in order to record audio you need an ADC and DAC in the form of a microphone or other sound source when you connect the hardware up and boot the software you will have to tell the DAW where it is recording audio from when starting a new project

This is where the mixer and auxesbuses come in

What is an auxbus

A bus is a connection of many different inputssignals and sending however much of the signal you want to another track such as an aux This is particularly useful for if you have found yourself creating a particular complex project If you had for example eight drum tracks it could be difficult to manage them all individually so you can send them as a bus to an aux track for further editing to the mix

An auxiliary track on the other hand is an actual track that can be manipulated The aux track is the result of where your inputs have been routes and is where you would process it with effects such as reverb compression or delay Think of the aux as a submaster track for these effects

The Interface

The main elements you will come to use on the interface are the channel rack piano roll mixer timeline Most of this is commonplace to other DAWs with minor differences to plugin usage

The mixer is very similar to a mixing desk

Here you can route channels to an insert one of the many columns to the left once a channel is routed to here you can begin to add effects such as reverb panning equalization EQ and also record and add effects to audio in real time from microphones and other sound sources

In a typical studio setup a physical mixing desk will interact directly combined with automation allows for a lot of interaction with each component

The piano roll allows you to essentially draw MIDI It communicates with plugins that have a sound bank such as ImageLines Harmor or Sakura to play the notes that you draw

You can also connect a MIDI controller record what you play and quantise to clear up imperfections

Various DAWs also feature a timeline where the body of your music is presented In FL Studio 12 it is presented in the playlist where you paint in patterns think a pattern for a drum loop or certain parts of the song that occur more than once throughout a track On a DAW such as Pro Tools most of the editing is accessed via the timeline itself granting easy access to plugins

Exporting your project

When you are satisfied with a project it is important to know your options when ready to convert the project into an audio file which may determine the overall quality of your track

When exporting a track think how you would like that to be distributed The mp3 is the most common file type

Exporting at this quality usually ranges from 192kbps to 320kbps the lower this value the lower the overall quality though the smaller the file size

Various places such as Bandcamp allow for people to download your track in any format that works for them in cases like this WAV or FLAC might be most appropriate file type as these are types of Iossless compression retains more of the raw audio data no loss of quality compared to the lossy compression using mp3 which attempts to remove data that your ears cannot normally cannot hear


Hopefully you have been able to learn more about the interface of a DAW while my preference is for FL Studio there are many other popular DAWs like Pro Tools Logic

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