How to learn a new DAW without ripping out your hair


In school, the software of choice was Pro Tools because it was the standard. With the ever falling cost of entry into the sound design and post production field, there are more options for your DAW than ever. Odds are, whether a professional or an enthusiast, you are going to need to learn a new DAW or any other creative software in the very near future. Here is how to go about learning a new software without ripping out your hair.

Have a project to work on.

At my 9-5, I work as an instructional designer. I had to do some recording and editing and the software available at work is Adobe Audition, a DAW that was completely foreign to me. I’m not going to debate the merits or downfalls of any DAW, but I will say it was extremely discouraging trying to learn a new workflow. Something that really helped, however, is having an easy project to work on. In this case, it was simple dialog editing (i.e. cutting silence and trying to get rid of ugly lip smacking). Having an end to work towards and a deadline makes it much easier to stay motivated when learning new software.

Take breaks.

The deadline was helpful, but pushing through something unfamiliar is hard. Taking a short break every 30 minutes can keep you sane when it feels like everything take 10 clicks more than it should. Get up, get a drink, take a walk, work on another project for a bit, do something to get some air and come back to it in a minute.

Keep a shortcuts list close by.

Many if not most already do this. Find the shortcut commands and keep them close. Also learn how to change shortcuts in the new software. If you have to switch between programs frequently, it can be hard to keep the different keyboard commands straight. Change them for consistency and stop trying to relearn everything everytime you switch.

Watch tutorials away from your computer.

This might seem counter intuitive. If you are like me you learn by doing and one of the easiest ways to learn is to follow, click for click, along with a tutorial. This is a good practice, but when you are working on an important project, every moment you spend looking for the answer to a question feels like time wasted. And one of the hardest things about learning something new, especially a new software, is understanding the vocabulary. I’m not suggesting that you never follow along with a tut. Instead, take some of that time you would be spending watching Dare Devil by yourself for the fourth time and familiarize yourself with the vocabulary. Save your favorites to a playlist or bookmarks page for later reference. The next time you go searching through tutorials and forums, having the vocabulary will make your search so much faster and you won’t sound completely lost.

Ask someone for help.

Going to a community group, or forum can be extremely intimidating. The internet is full of trolls and no one wants to look stupid asking the experts for help. But asking for help can drastically shorten the learning curve. Here’s some advice to make swallowing that bitter pill a little bit easier.

  1. Do your due diligence. Spend some time looking for the answer on your own. If you can’t find it, go to the group.
  2. Share where you’ve already looked. People like to see that you have spent the time looking for the answer on your own. Don’t ask me why; they just do.
  3. Try to use the vocab. Like I said before, knowing the vocabulary makes things so much easier when trying to explain what you are looking for.
  4. Expect the best in people. Do your best to expect that others are actually trying to help. If that comment on your question looks a bit snarky, try to see it as a helpful and not malicious. It can be hard to tell people intentions on the internet so try to be optimistic and see the best in people.

Side rant. To whom it may apply: Just because you had to “learn it the hard way” doesn’t mean you can’t be a good person. So instead of hoarding your information, telling people to find it on their own and then wondering why you aren’t getting gigs, share your knowledge and be a good person. No one likes to work with a dick. Rant over.

Following these suggestions won’t end all frustrations, but will seriously help you stay motivated and keep learning. Thanks for sticking with me. Until next time I’m Jimmy Hepworth, your Saturday Sound Guy.



About the author.

I’m not your typical, professional sound guy. I spend my work week at a job I love but has little to nothing to do with audio. But on the weekends, I break out my microphone, open up pro tools and practice making sound effects just because I like to. You see, I don’t feel like I have to follow this passion to a career to be happy and fulfilled. The safety and security of my family come first, but I can spend some time on the side doing something that I love. I’m Jimmy Hepworth, your Saturday Sound Guy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s