A DAW, Some Luck, and Another Decision

It turns out that I was wrong in my decision to go with Reason, as my DAW of choice.


J. Michael St. Clair

I’m lucky to have all the help I get from those more experienced and more educated. Once again, J. Michael St. Clair comes to my rescue.After a 3 minutes conversation with him, it was clear to me that Reason was not the best choice for what I hope to accomplish. First, it simply won’t do what I need it to do. Which should be reason enough to abandon it. But if it weren’t enough, there are other reasons, no pun intended. We decided, about a 70/30 split on input, that Cubase or Reaper would be a better choice for me.

MPGonzalez Proudly Uses Symphonic Orchestra

Maybe I should back up here, and explain what Reason won’t do. The primary function that this particular DAW is missing, and feel free to correct me, is the ability to use external VST and other instruments. I employ some very high end virtual instruments, and they require a plugin program to run them. It would seem that Reason doesn’t do this. The driving force behind my desire to expand my technical savvy into the realm of DAWs is to have a MORE VERSATILE interface for my instruments.  Reason won’t allow me to use EastWest, and without them I take a huge drop in sound quality.  In essence, Reason is less useful than my current Sibelius, thus making the choice for me.

The problem, as it stands now, is that Reason is a relatively inexpensive DAW at $350.  Alternatives like Steinberg Cubase are $500 and up. I’m not opposed to spending the extra money, if I had it, in order to get a product that better suits my needs and will ultimately help me advance my career. (After all, I’m doing fine without it, right now.)

One thought was to use Reaper, which currently has a full functionality demo that has an indeterminate time limit. It does quite a bit of what I want to do; maybe everything. However, if I continue to use this program, especially with professional endeavors, I will need to buy a license. While it is less expensive than the competition, $225, it still isn’t cheap. And if I’m spending a couple hundred dollars anyway, I’d rather spend it on a more industry standard title, like Cubase.

I lucked out though, which is an extremely rare case for me. While organizing some of the clutter on my desk, I stumbled upon an LE (limited) version of Cubase 5 that was bundled with my Tascam US800. It is essentially a starter pack that allows users to become familiar with the program for much less investment. I’m not sure what the LE version actually costs, but since it was free to me, I can learn and refine skills at no risk. I’d be a fool not to take advantage. An additional boon to my recent luck is that the full version upgrade to Cubase 6 is only $300, a $200 savings and still $50 less than purchasing Reason new.

Lastly, I understand the learning curve on these studio quality programs to be “pretty steep”. I’m not as concerned about it as others would have me be, but I’m still experiencing a bit of trepidation. These programs are extremely powerful, and often unforgiving. Knowing what I am doing will have a huge impact on how successfully I create, edit and remaster music with Cubase. I taught myself Sibelius by just opening a score and dropping in notes, but I doubt this method will be effective with Cubase or other DAWs. Luckily again, my version comes with a few tutorial projects. I doubt that they are extensive or complete in their instruction, but at the very least, they will introduce me to the interface and how to manipulate a substantial portion of the program. With this foundation, self-guided learning more will be easier.

Decision time. Cubase it is. Given the correct information, the decision is easy. Moreover, Cubase is a popular and industry standard software making help and integration more readily available. I’ll keep you updated on my progress and I might even throw a few tracks up as I create them.

Wish me luck.

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