In this article we’re going to explore the best DAW for Film Scoring.
Every professional composer uses the film scoring software recommended below. There’s no secret, hidden, special programs that they’re using: it’s all available to anyone. And most aren’t too expensive either!
Let’s dive right in…
Quick Start : Best Film Scoring Software
If you don’t have time to weigh up all the options, and test the free trials, just go with either of those options.
They both do everything you’ll ever need a Digital Audio Workstation to do.
Still need convincing? Well, Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL both use Cubase, while Logic Pro X is used by John Powell & Henry Jackman. Those are just a handful of the many composers that use these two DAWs for film scoring.
Logic Pro vs Cubase 10
So how do you choose between the two?
Well, firstly, do you have a Mac or a Windows system? If you’re on Windows, the choice is easy : Cubase.
Logic Pro X isn’t available for Windows – as it’s owned by Apple.
And for Mac, there’s a couple of things to think about…
Some say that using Logic Pro X on a Mac is a more stable option than Cubase – arguing that because Apple are responsible for both the software and hardware they’re more likely to play nicely together.
Maybe…but there are plenty of Mac users happily using Cubase too…so take that with a pinch of salt.
If you’re currently on Mac and thinking of getting Logic Pro X then great. I can happily recommend it, as it’s my personal choice of DAW.
If there’s a chance you’ll migrate to a Windows system in the future, bear in mind that you’ll have to re-learn all of the techniques you learned on Logic in Cubase. Thankfully, you’ll find most of the skills are transferrable, but be prepared for a bit of learning curve.
All that being said, one huge advantage of Logic Pro X is its price.
At just $199.99, Logic is one of the cheapest professional DAWs on the market. Plus, all future updates are included at that price – no need to pay to upgrade every time Apple releases a new version. Surprising, right? “Apple” and “affordable” in the same sentence – mind-blowing!
But compare $200 to Cubase’s near $600 price tag, and you see just how affordable Logic Pro X is. You also have to pay to upgrade Cubase whenever they release new versions. That’s a big thumbs down from me!
Oh, and you also need a dongle for Cubase – so consider that if you’re short on USB ports…
The Film Scoring Software That You’re Expected To Know
There’s another piece of film scoring software that can open a lot of doors for you if you learn how to use it:
Although I wouldn’t really recommend it for film scoring as much as I would recommend Logic or Cubase, ProTools is regarded as the “industry standard” for music production. Almost every movie uses ProTools at some point – whether that’s for sound effects, dialogue, score recording/mixing, dubbing, or any other audio process.
So why don’t I recommend it as much for composing?
Put simply : it’s not as versatile for composition as Cubase or Logic are.
Before Avid’s avid fans start yelling at me, let me explain why:
For a long time ProTools was audio only – no MIDI capabilities at all. That means it’s had to play catch-up with the other film scoring DAWs when it comes to MIDI.
Add to that the fact that it doesn’t come with any built in sample libraries, and you can start to see why I don’t recommend it as much for film scoring.
That’s not to say that it isn’t recommended. In fact, Christian Henson, of Spitfire Audio fame, is a user and advocate of ProTools – and I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s talking about!
One thing is for certain though: ProTools is the best DAW for audio. Hands down. That’s why it’s so many people use it. I know a lot of composers that do all of their composing in Logic or Cubase, but use ProTools exclusively for mixing and mastering.
The audio workflow is renowned for its speed and ease of use.
So even if you don’t intend to use ProTools for composing, you should definitely spend some time learning how it works – it’ll allow you to take on so many more projects, and work with so many more people.
ProTools has recently moved to a subscription model, so you can get your hands on it from just $30 per month, or $300 annually. That’s great for getting started, and it means that you get all of the updates when they’re released. But it does mean that you’ll have to fork out at least $300 every year to use it.
A huge bonus of the subscription mode though is that it means you could sign up for just a couple of months to get to grips with it, and learn how it works – which, as I’ve said, I highly recommend.
Specific Software for Film Scoring
All of the DAWs we’ve looked at so far have one thing in common : they’re not designed specifically for film scoring.
But the next two are designed specifically for film scoring:
Both of these have a number of functions gearing them toward film scoring and post-production.
While Nuendo is designed as an entire post-production suite, Digital Performer is aimed towards film composers.
One of the great things with Digital Performer is its “chunks” feature – allowing you to load multiple cues and timelines into one project.
That’s a huge timesaver, and can really improve your workflow.
It also has a “conductor track” allowing you to instantly create punches and streamers for conducting, in case you’re ever in a situation to have your music recorded with live musicians.
Those two features alone are why many advocates of Digital Performer believe that it’s the best DAW for film scoring – and they have a convincing argument!
Nuendo is kind of like Cubase on steroids. Along with all of the MIDI and composition features available on Cubase, it also comes with a whole suite of post-production tools, integration with WWise (for game audio), dialogue, and sound effects editing.
It’s pricey though, at around $1000 – really, that puts it into the “serious professionals only” category right away. Plus, it’s not really suitable for beginners, as the sheer amount of things it can do will be overwhelming.
Digital Performer comes in at half the price, $500, making it one to consider alongside Cubase – particularly if you want the more dedicated film scoring tools. Just be aware that Digital Performer has its own way of naming things. A lot of the things you’ll learn in Digital Performer won’t translate onto other DAWs – so if you ever need to work with another program you might need a translator!
Mid-Article Conclusion (Because, Honestly, You Can Stop Reading Here)
Really, my serious recommendations end there.
There isn’t one single “best” DAW for film scoring – it depends on your needs.
For versatility : get either Logic Pro X (for Mac) or Cubase (for Windows).
For audio & mixing (and industry flexibility) : learn how to use ProTools.
If you’re serious about film scoring and want additional functions : consider Digital Performer
And if you need to be able to work on all aspects of audio post-production : get Nuendo
Other DAWs to Consider
This is basically a list of other DAWs that you could look into, if you really wanted to.
If we compare film scoring DAWs to car manufacturers, we’ve already covered Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Chevrolet, etc. – the household” names in the industry.
With no disrespect intended, these next ones are “the others” – some can do certain functions amazingly well; some are probably just as good as the household names but don’t have the “badge”, and others are dodgy knockoffs.
I’m not going to comment on the validity of any of them, I’m just going to list them here so that you have a list of ones to check.
What I will say is this: it does not matter which DAW you use for film scoring. As long as you’re able to get the results you want. Just learn to use whichever DAW you most like the feeling of.
Many of them offer free trials.
If you have time to kill : get the trials and see how easy you find each one to use.
If you don’t have time to kill…well, you already know : get Cubase or Logic Pro X!
On a final note before we get onto the list : Cubase, Logic, Nuendo, ProTools, and Digital Performer are all widely used.
That means that guides and tutorials (either official or otherwise) are readily available online. That’s something else you need to think about – the last thing you want is to be stuck with a problem that you can’t find a quick solution for.
So without further ado, here are “the rest” (in no particular order)…
- Ableton Live
- PreSonus’s Studio One
- FL Studio
- Cakewalk’s Sonar
- Bitwig Studio 3
- Adobe Audition (audio only – good for mixing / mastering, but not composing)
- Harrison Mixbus
- MAGIX Samplitude
- Apple’s GarageBand
- ACID Studio
And that concludes our roundup of the best DAW for film scoring.
Tell me in the comments : what equipment are you currently using for film scoring or music making?