Like many people, I learned the bases of recording and music production with Pro Tools. When Pro Tools LE 7.4 was edited by DigiDesign, with the Digi 003 of my friend Bruno and my MBox 2, I learned the basic functions of Pro Tools almost entirely by myself, catching up the evolutions through Pro Tools 8, 9, 10 and 11.
From a purely financial point of view, every update has been substantially costly, especially for a student. But to keep my work habits, I didn’t particularly look out for an alternative. Besides, to me, an update was a synonym of stability. How wrong was I !
From a technical point of view, except my quick try of Cubase, I didn’t have any benchmark. I had just heard about Sonar, Fruity Loops and Nuendo, but nothing concrete.
Finally, from a practical point of view, the “workflow” notion made no sense to me because I had always worked in the same environment and never wondered if it fitted me.
Comfort and good working habits are two important notions while using a sound sequencer: you need to be able to work freely without being held up in your creative process. Nonetheless, it seems interesting, even essential, to wonder if your tool is adequate to your work.
One day, I realised the only reason why I was using ProTools: my ignorance of any other DAW. I was paying for every update and bundle of software, from which I only used the Channel Strip, and not once did I even wonder if ProTools was the best fit for me. In essence, I only needed a few tools: a sequencer (ouch!), an equalizer and a compressor as well as my virtual instruments. There was no doubt: I was going to try other options!
First, I tried to transpose everything to FL Studio (a software I use for my electro projects) but it seemed to be suitable only for electronic music production (I mainly work on metal/rock/pop projects). I also tried Reason, Tracktion, Harrison Mixbus and others.
Finally, I tried Reaper from Cockos. It was the best compromise: a sober and customizable interface; just enough integrated effects; cross-platform compatibility; a great stability and a small computer space required. Moreover, it had a more than fair pricing policy.
All that for what conclusion? That Pro Tools is expensive and wrong? No. Clearly not. It’s like claiming that Windows is better than Mac OS X or vice versa. Or to say that a Ferrari is better than a Porsche. At the end, your sequencer is an instrument just like your guitar or your piano: you have to feel comfortable with it in all its dimensions to be able to easily leverage it and focus on your creativity. It also has to be adapted to your particular need (i.e.: FL Studio for an electro orientation, Reaper for a more general one).
I’ve found the right balance with Reaper (and FL Studio for the electro): I highly recommend you to try other DAWs to observe your habits from a different perspective and to potentially find new ways to work!