3 Best DAWs For Live Performance / Live Act 2023

3 Best DAWs For Live Performance & Live Act | integraudio.com

This article will discuss the three best DAWs for LIVE musicians/acts in 2023.

DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) refers to software or software/hardware combinations for recording, editing, and producing audio and music. While DAWs are primarily associated with studio work and music production, they can also be used for live performances in various ways. Here’s an overview of how DAWs can be used for live performances:

  • Playback and Backing Tracks
    With DAWs, you can play pre-recorded tracks and samples during live performances. You can load backing tracks, click tracks, or sound effects into the DAW and trigger them on cue. That is especially common in situations where a small group of musicians wants to reproduce a fuller sound than they can achieve live.
  • Customized routing
    Let’s say your drummer needs a click track, but your vocalist doesn’t. In a DAW, you can have a click track, so different tracks route to different channels in the mixer you’re mixing live on. Similarly, you can choose different routings and set them purposefully for your setup and requirements.
  • Virtual Instruments and MIDI Control
    DAWs often come with various virtual instruments (VSTs or AU plugins) that can be played using MIDI controllers. Musicians can use MIDI keyboards, pads, or electronic drums to trigger sounds and play live instruments through the DAW.
  • Real-time Effects Processing
    DAWs can process audio in real time with various effects and plugins. Musicians can use them to add effects like reverb, delay, distortion, and EQ to their live sound. That is often done through audio interfaces and MIDI controllers.
  • Live Looping
    Some DAWs, like Ableton Live, are designed with live looping in mind. Musicians can create loops on the fly, layer different elements, and build complex arrangements in real time, making it a great tool for live improvisation.
  • Recording and Post-Performance Editing
    In some cases, performers use DAWs to capture their live performances for later editing or mixing. That can be especially valuable for capturing the best moments of a live show for later release or analysis.
  • Syncing with Visuals
    You can synchronize the DAW with visual elements, such as lighting, video projections, or interactive visuals, to create immersive live performances.
  • Hardware Integration
    To use a DAW effectively for live performances, musicians often integrate hardware controllers and interfaces. These can include MIDI controllers, audio interfaces, foot pedals, and control surfaces to manipulate the DAW in real time.

Using a DAW for live performances requires practice and familiarity with the software. Musicians should rehearse their live set, including trigger points, effects changes, and any other live manipulation they plan to use with the DAW. While most DAWs are made for audio production and pre-production, some DAWs have specialized LIVE performance features.

We have created a list of the best DAWs for Live Singers, Rappers, DJs, Instrumentalists, and all forms of Live acts. Let’s dive right into it.

3 Best DAWs For Live Performers / Live Act 2023

DAW
Compatibility
Plugins Supported
Best Live Performance Features
1) Ableton Live
– Compatible with Windows and macOS
– Supports VST and AU plugins
– Session View for clip triggering and improvisation
– Requires Windows 7 or later on
– Clip launching for dynamic arrangements
Windows, macOS 10.11.6 or later on
– Time-stretching and pitch-shifting in real-time
macOS
– Stability and reliability for live use
– Multicore processor recommended
– MIDI Scale and MPE support for expressive control
– 8GB RAM (16GB recommended)
– Extensive library of built-in effects and instruments
– MIDI mapping for hands-on control
– Third-party integrations for hardware and software
2) Bitwig Studio
– Compatible with Windows, macOS, and
– Supports VST, VST3, and AU plugins
– Clip Launcher for real-time clip triggering
various Linux distributions in 64-
– Modular environment for versatile sound manipulation
bit environments
– Dedicated performance view for live interaction
– Multicore processor recommended
– Touch and pen support for versatility
– 8GB RAM (12GB recommended)
– API scripting for custom MIDI controller mappings
– ASIO-compatible audio interface
3) PreSonus Studio One 6
– Compatible with Windows and macOS
– Supports VST, VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX plugins
– Real-time effects and processing for on-the-fly tweaks
– Multicore processor recommended
– Arranger Track for dynamic song rearrangement
– 8GB RAM (16GB recommended)
– 32 native effects plugins for audio processing
– macOS 10.14 or later (64-bit) or
– Performance-focused features for quick adjustments
Windows 10 (64-bit)
– Easy song structure preview for live adaptation

1. Ableton Live

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Ableton Live - 3 Best DAWs For Live Performance & Live Act | integraudio.com

Ableton Live is a versatile software solution for music producers and live performers, offering a practical approach to music creation and stage execution.

It provides a user-friendly interface and is designed with real-time performance in mind, making it an excellent choice for musicians looking to take their work from the studio to the stage. Ableton Live’s Session View allows performers to trigger loops and manipulate audio clips effortlessly, encouraging spontaneous creativity during live sets.

Simultaneously, the Arrangement View offers a linear timeline for meticulous composition and playback, making it a valuable tool for studio work. Moreover, Ableton Live’s robust MIDI support facilitates seamless integration of various instruments and controllers, enhancing its versatility. The software comes with a wide selection of built-in effects and instruments, expanding the sound palette for producers and performers alike.

Whether you’re a budding musician or an experienced producer, Ableton Live offers a practical and effective platform for music creation and live performances, emphasizing functionality and adaptability.

Key Features:

  • Easy to Learn
    Ableton comes with an easy-to-understand, simple, and intuitive workflow and interface. Its workflow is different from traditional mixers and DAWs and has an interesting design for modern production needs. In addition, it has plenty of free and paid tutorials and courses available online, with easily available resources like preset packs, sample packs, etc.
  • Instrument and Effect Racks (Extensive Library)
    The Instrument and Effect Racks in the DAW help streamline your setup, making it easier to manage multiple sounds during a live performance. Its stock synths, virtual instruments, samples, and effect plugins are quite resourceful and vast, especially for Electronic music producers and live performers. You can easily integrate these into your sets or use them as a starting point for your own creations.
  • Session View
    Ableton’s unique Session View is tailor-made for live performances. It allows you to trigger clips, loops, and samples in real time, providing an intuitive and flexible environment for improvisation and experimentation during your live sets.
  • MIDI Mapping
    Ableton Live allows you to map MIDI controllers, such as keyboards, pads, and knobs, to virtually any parameter in the software. This enables hands-on control and enhances your ability to interact with your music in live settings.
Learn Live 10: MIDI mapping and key mapping
  • Time-Stretching and Pitch-Shifting
    Live excels at time-stretching and pitch-shifting audio in real-time, allowing you to harmonize vocals, remix tracks, or adapt your music to different tempos during a performance seamlessly. Hence, in your live set, if you are compiling different songs, this feature will help you create these mixes and mashups easily.
  • Automation and Effects
    Live’s automation capabilities let you modulate parameters and apply effects to your tracks in real time. This adds depth and excitement to your performances, allowing you to sculpt your sound as you play.
  • Warping
    The DAW exhibits warping features to ensure that your audio clips stay in sync, making it easier to mix and match different tracks and samples during live sets without worrying about timing issues.
  • Clip Launching
    With the grid-based layout in Session View, you can launch clips and scenes effortlessly, enabling you to create dynamic arrangements on the fly. This feature is particularly useful for electronic and DJ-style performances.
    So, for example, for each insert, there are different clips you can trigger by clicking on the “Play” button, as shown in the image below.
  • Stability and Reliability
    Live is known for its stability, which is crucial for live performances. It’s designed to handle the demands of live use, minimizing the risk of crashes or technical glitches during your shows.
  • Third-party integrations (both Software and Hardware)
    Live supports a wide range of third-party plugins and controllers, allowing you to expand your setup and integrate your preferred gear seamlessly. Hardware instruments/synths/controllers like Ableton Push, Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol series, Arturia Keylab, Roland AIRA series ( includes synthesizers like the TB-3 and TR-8), Moog Subsequent 37 / Grandmother, Elektron Analog Four / Digitakt, Korg Volca Series, Sequential Prophet-6, Behringer DeepMind 12, etc., can be easily controlled and manipulated with Ableton.
    Similarly, it can host VST plugins; almost all plugins are accessible and can be used with the DAW.
Hardware Synth Jam & Ableton Live Setup Walkthrough With John Selway
  • Linked Track Editing
    This feature simplifies the process of editing linked tracks together, ensuring that changes made to one track are reflected in others, ideal for maintaining synchronization during live performances.
  • MIDI Scale
    MIDI Scale is a valuable feature for live performers as it allows for easy and intuitive MIDI scale mapping, ensuring that your MIDI input is always in the right key. Next, Live 11 also supports MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) Capabilities, enhancing the expressiveness of MIDI controllers for nuanced and dynamic live performances.

Compatibility:

Ableton Live seamlessly integrates with MIDI controllers, audio interfaces, and hardware synthesizers, allowing for tactile control and extensive sound manipulation possibilities. Through support for VST and AU plugins, it extends its sonic potential by offering access to a vast library of virtual instruments and effects.

Max for Live enhances its capabilities further, enabling you to create custom audio and MIDI devices. This wide-reaching compatibility makes Ableton Live an ideal choice for those seeking a flexible and innovative environment for music production and live performances.

Ableton Live is compatible with both Windows and macOS operating systems. For Windows, you’ll typically need at least Windows 7 or later, while macOS users should have macOS 10.11.6 or later. Keeping your operating system current is essential for the best performance and security.

In terms of hardware, a multicore processor (e.g., Intel Core i5 or AMD multi-core processor) is recommended for smoother operation, especially if you plan to work on larger projects. You’ll also need a minimum of 8GB of RAM, but 16GB or more is ideal for handling complex sessions.

Summary:

Ableton Live is a versatile music production and performance software renowned for its exceptional use in live settings. It offers a user-friendly interface and a unique Session View, allowing live performers to trigger clips, loops, and samples in real-time for immediate and effective performances. Comping and linked track editing features in Live 11 enable artists to refine their live recordings and ensure seamless playback during shows.

With support for MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) and MIDI Scale, Live is well-equipped for expressive and precisely controlled live performances. Its innovative session-oriented approach and extensive library of built-in effects and instruments make it an ideal choice for artists looking to take their music from the studio to the stage, providing a platform that prioritizes adaptability and functionality in a live performance context.

2. Bitwig Studio

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Bitwig Studio - 3 Best DAWs For Live Performance & Live Act | integraudio.com

Bitwig Studio has a pragmatic approach to live music performances. Designed with musicians and live performers in mind, Bitwig Studio provides a practical and adaptable platform for creating and executing music in real time.

Its modular environment allows for versatile signal routing and dynamic sound manipulation, making it ideal for artists seeking flexibility during live shows. Bitwig Studio’s Clip Launcher facilitates on-the-fly triggering of audio and MIDI clips, perfect for electronic musicians and DJs looking to craft dynamic, spontaneous performances.

Additionally, the software offers both a traditional arrangement view and a dedicated performance view, transitioning between track arrangement and live interaction. With built-in instruments and effects, VST plugin compatibility, and support for external hardware, Bitwig Studio equips performers with a comprehensive toolset for expressive and stable live music experiences, catering to the needs of seasoned music producers and emerging talents in the industry.

Key Features:

  • Clip Launcher
    Bitwig Studio’s Clip Launcher allows for the intuitive triggering and manipulation of audio and MIDI clips in real-time. This grid-based interface is perfect for launching loops and samples during live sets, enabling dynamic performances.
  • Modular Environment
    Offering a modular approach to music production and live performance, Bitwid allows you to create customized signal chains and have complete control over your routing and, hence, the sound design process. This flexibility is particularly useful for experimental and electronic musicians who modulate live.
  • Performance View with Deep Customization
    With Bitwig Studio, you can seamlessly switch between a traditional arrangement view and a dedicated performance view. This dual workspace caters to both pre-planned compositions and spontaneous improvisations during live shows. In addition, you can set the sequence and orders in which you want to trigger the clips through the Project Panel Settings.
  • Touch and Pen Support
    Bitwig is optimized for touch and pen input, making it a versatile choice for performers who want to use touch-enabled devices or tablets during their live sets.
  • Unified Modulation System
    Bitwig Studio’s Unified Modulation System allows for easy modulation of virtually any parameter, providing precise control over sound elements during live tweaking and performance.
  • Micro-Pitch Device
    Bitwig Studio’s Micro-Pitch device is a powerful tool that allows for precise tuning adjustments on a per-note basis. This feature enables musicians to explore unique tonal expressions during live performances, adding depth and character to their music through real-time note retuning.
  • Performance Template Creation
    Bitwig Studio offers the flexibility to craft personalized live performance templates. Musicians can meticulously design templates tailored to their specific needs, including instrument setups, effects chains, and routing configurations
  • Mix View
    In Bitwig Studio’s Live Performance mode, you can seamlessly trigger clips and scenes from the Clip Launcher while dynamically mixing them and applying real-time effects to create captivating and responsive live performances.

  • API Scripting for MIDI Controllers
    Notably, artists like Richie Hawtin harness the potential of Bitwig Studio by employing custom API scripts for MIDI controllers. This advanced scripting capability empowers performers to create intricate controller mappings, unlocking new dimensions of live performance possibilities.
All You Need to Know About Bitwig 5: New Tools, Workflow Improvements, and More

Compatibility:

Bitwig Studio can run seamlessly on Windows (8 or later), macOS (10.13 or later), and various Linux distributions, all in 64-bit environments. In terms of plugin formats, Bitwig Studio supports VST, VST3, and AU, providing you with the flexibility to integrate plenty of virtual instruments and audio effects into your projects.

Moreover, the software boasts extensive compatibility with MIDI controllers and hardware commonly used in music production and live performances.  To ensure optimal performance, it’s advisable to meet the recommended system requirements, including a multi-core processor, a minimum of 8GB of RAM, and around 12GB of free hard drive space. For the best audio experience, an ASIO-compatible audio interface is recommended on Windows.

Summary:

Bitwig Studio stands out for its broad compatibility, running smoothly on Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions in 64-bit environments. You can leverage its support for VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats, allowing you to integrate virtual instruments and audio effects into your projects. Furthermore, Bitwig Studio excels in MIDI controller and hardware compatibility, enabling you to incorporate various external devices for enhanced creativity.

To ensure optimal performance, meeting recommended system requirements, including a multi-core processor, a minimum of 8GB of RAM, and approximately 12GB of free hard drive space, is advised. This comprehensive compatibility and flexibility make Bitwig Studio a great tool for performers across different operating systems, bridging the gap between studio production and captivating live performances.

3. PreSonus Studio One 6 Artist

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Studio One 6 Artist provides an intuitive single-window work environment with drag-and-drop functionality and multi-touch support, making it user-friendly for live musicians.

It supports unlimited audio and instrument tracks, allowing you to create complex live arrangements and allowing you to experiment and adapt on stage. Its intuitive interface, extensive track support, and customization options are its strengths. The single-window workspace, drag-and-drop functionality, and multi-touch support make it easier for live musicians who must work efficiently during performances.

The Customization Editor lets you tailor the interface to your specific live music needs, ensuring quick access to essential tools and functions. While Studio One 6 Artist offers substantial functionality, remember it’s a more entry-level version than Studio One 6 Professional. Overall, Studio One 6 Artist provides a solid platform for live music creation and performance and stands out as an affordable option among digital audio workstations (DAWs) on the market.

Lastly, there’s a feature called the Show Page,” introduced in PreSonus Studio One version 5. It’s designed for live performance and offers a streamlined interface for musicians and performers on stage, allowing for the playback of pre-recorded tracks. It is ideal for backing tracks, accompaniments, or click tracks, and includes live looping capabilities.

In Studio One 6, you can open the “Show Page” by opening the “Rehearse and Perform (New Studio One Show)” template. This template allows you to add Players (Categories: Real Instrument, Virtual Instrument, and Backing Tracks).

In the image below, as you can see, in the left-most window, you can create different sets in the setlist and add the name of the Artist and the Venue. Similarly, for each set, you can set the playback settings in terms of playback time, tempo, time signature, etc. In the main Window, you can arrange your sets with your pre-recorded instruments, live instruments, backing tracks, virtual instruments, and more. Lastly, from the right-most window, you can select the folder location and drag-and-drop different Instruments, Effects, Loops, etc.

Key Features:

  • Recording and Playback
    Studio One 6 Artist excels in recording live performances, offering reliable multi-track recording and playback functionality, ensuring you capture your live music sessions flawlessly. With live recording features, you can immediately record audio tracks on the fly and then use them in your “Show” template(s).
  • Arranger Track
    The Arranger Track in PreSonus Studio One 6 Artist empowers live performers to reshape their music on stage dynamically. It allows for the spontaneous rearrangement of song structures, facilitating improvisation by providing a visual representation of your composition’s sections making transitions smooth and engaging.
  • 32 Native Effects Plug-Ins
    Studio One Artist 6 comes equipped with a robust selection of 32 native effects plug-ins, offering musicians and producers a diverse array of audio processing tools to enhance their sound and creativity.
  • Real-time Effects and Processing
    Studio One 6 Artist includes real-time effects and processing capabilities, which are essential for live music. You can apply effects and adjust settings on the fly to enhance your sound. For example, you can add a compressor, let’s say Pro-C2 by fabFilter in Real-time in your live set while performing, by simply dragging it from the “Effects” tab and dropping it on the “Player” (instrument/backing track).
  • Instrument Integration
    It seamlessly integrates virtual instruments and hardware controllers, making it easier to incorporate synthesizers, MIDI controllers, and other equipment into your live setup. MIDI support is robust, allowing you to control virtual instrument triggers and automate various aspects of your live performance. In addition, you can also connect various hardware instruments and synths with the DAW.
    For example, let’s say you want to use Serum in your live set, you can simply drag-and-drop Serum from the “Instruments” tab in your DAW.
  • Live Looping
    With Studio One 6 Artist’s Live Looping feature, live musicians can craft captivating live arrangements effortlessly. You can create and trigger loops on the fly and do creative experimentation, layering, and building exciting, dynamic performances that captivate audiences with evolving soundscapes.
  • Multi-Instruments Integration
    This functionality allows you to combine multiple instruments, effects, and note effects seamlessly within your music production. It empowers live musicians to craft complex and layered sounds by stacking instruments and effects together, enhancing creativity and versatility during live performances. Whether you’re layering instruments for a richer sound or applying multiple effects for unique sonic textures, multi-instruments integration in Studio One 6 Artist provides a robust platform for live musicians to elevate their music to new heights.
  • Real-time Monitoring & Mixing
    Real-time monitoring in Studio One 6 Artist gives live performers immediate control over audio levels during their shows. This real-time adjustment capability ensures that sound remains balanced and delivers optimal quality, allowing musicians to react instantly to changes in the live environment. You can do everything from adding effects, panning, soloing, muting, and adjusting the volume sliders of the tracks/instruments.
  • Automation
    Studio One 6 Artist offers precise automation control, enabling live musicians to add depth and dynamics to their performances. With the ability to automate parameters in real time, artists can craft dynamic musical journeys with smooth transitions and dramatic effects, enhancing the live music experience.
  • Easy Song Structure Preview
    For live music performers, Studio One 6 Artist simplifies song structure preview and adaptation. Quickly visualize and adjust song sections on the fly, making it effortless to respond to the crowd’s energy or improvise, ensuring a captivating live performance.
  • Five powerful virtual instruments
    Impact XT offers precise drum pattern creation, Presence XT provides an extensive library of sampled instruments, Mai Tai delivers lush polyphonic synth sounds, Mojito generates classic analog-style tones, and Sample One XT enables seamless live sample capture and editing, allowing seamless integration of real-world sounds. These instruments empower you to create sonically tight and interesting live sets.
  • Community & Tutorials
    Access to a supportive community and tutorials within Studio One 6 Artist equips live musicians with valuable resources. Connect with fellow artists for insights and troubleshooting, and utilize tutorials to unlock the software’s full potential, enhancing your live music performance skills and creativity.

Compatibility:

Studio One is known for its broad plugin compatibility. It supports VST, VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats, making it versatile and accommodating for various third-party plugins and instruments. Next, let’s see its system requirements. For a smooth experience, your computer should meet the following minimum specifications: 4 GB of RAM (though it’s recommended to have 8 GB or more), 20 GB of available hard drive space, and either macOS 10.14 or later (64-bit only) or Windows 10 (64-bit only) as the operating system.

Additionally, your processor should be an Intel Core i3/AMD A10 or better, and an internet connection is required for installation, activation, and cloud-related features. If you plan to use the Professional version of Studio One 6, you’ll need 40 GB of hard drive space and a compatible interface to take advantage of ultra-high sample rates up to 786 kHz.

Summary:

Studio One proves to be a versatile, easy-to-use, and beginner-friendly DAW with a great collection of virtual instruments and effects and boasts extensive plugin compatibility, supporting VST, VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.

Its single-window work environment, drag-and-drop functionality, unlimited audio and instrument tracks, 32 native effects plug-ins, performance-focused features, live looping, real-time monitoring, automation, and easy song structure preview multi-touch support make it a great DAW for live performances. Lastly, the software’s affordability compared to other DAWs makes it an attractive choice for live performers.

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