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DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
Platform: PC, Linux
Format: Standalone
Price: FREE!

It's hard to write and record any music, which this blog is all about, without a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). A DAW is the hub of a music creation suite, encompassing audio recording and editing, MIDI recording and editing, and all aspects of the mixing process. Mastering is also many times done within a DAW. And VST's plug-in to the DAW and allow you to record the output of the instrument directly to an audio and/or MIDI track. So if I didn't point you to a good, free DAW, this blog wouldn't be a lot of use for those of you who don't have one already.

The problem is, full-featured free DAW's are very hard to come by. I have always guessed that a Digital Audio Workstation would require more time and greater knowledge to create than an EQ or even a synth, and the lack of an abundance of free options in this area somewhat confirms my guess. Here's a weird fact: the best and most full-featured free DAW's are only available for the Linux operation system! This is odd because in nearly every other free music software category Windows is king.

There are other ways to record a song on a PC other than a DAW. One is by using free trackers such as Psycle or Aodix. Another is by using demo versions of major commercial DAW's with little restrictions (such as being non time-limited) such as the unexpiring Fruity Loops demo. You could also use software such as Reaper or Temper, who offer downloads of the full, unrestricted software and have an 'honor system' in place, trusting the customer to pay if they are still getting use from the software after 30 days. DISCLAMIER - I am not condoning using any software outside of its licensing terms!

One of the most full-featured tools for recording on Windows is the unexpiring freeware version of MUTOOLS MU.LAB FREE, created by developer Jo Langie. I should mention that Jo also has an unrestricted version available as well for 49 Euros (about $70). I will say up front, though - MU.LAB is a pretty unique DAW. If you are new to all this, it may not matter. If you have spent years learning every possible shortcut in Pro Tools (the industry standard) and are totally married to the workflow, I have a feeling this would not be for you :-)

First off: the limitations. The freeware version of MU.LAB is limited to 6 tracks. But before you think "There's no way I could do an entire song with 6 tracks!", let me explain the way MU.LAB appropriates tracks. There are 6 tracks visible and available at any one time. However, you can have as many audio and MIDI parts within each track as you desire. This is probably better than bouncing, but certainly less easier to work with than single dedicated tracks per part. So when I say that it's free, there is actually a price. The price is convenience. But hey, beggars can't be choosers, and if you can make "Hey Jude" on four-tracks, six with unlimited parts could probably at least get you going. :-)

So what is so cool about MU.LAB FREE besides offering unlimited 'parts'? Well, one cool bonus is that you can create a song from start to finish with no other add-ons (although VST's are supported). Jo includes a useful modular soft-synth named MUSYNTH (what else?) and a host of other processors including reverb, parametric EQ, gates, even a fancy tube limiter! There is a really cool modular routing tool to send audio and effects any which way you like. I think probably the most interesting thing about MU.LAB, however, is its refreshingly simple way to create and record music. Simplicity has always been the focus for the developer, and he has proven his commitment to this end with the newly released version 2 of MU.LAB.

Go ahead and try it. You have nothing to lose, and you may gain a new favorite way to make your music!

MU.LAB FREE is free software

For an excellent walk-through of
MU.LAB, simply click here


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