By now everyone heard that digital DJ specialists Serato are getting into the DAW game with Serato Studio, a production software aimed at beginners and DJs looking to make their own tracks. We almost missed the cut off date for the public beta, but managed to test drive the software in the last weeks and form a picture of what it’s good at, not good at and some incredible hacks.
If you open Serato Studio, you might be surprised. It almost looks like Serato DJ, with only little tells that this program is geared toward production and not performing. Although it appears very basic, the beat-making workflow is actually fast and fun.
The Sample Sequencer offers the typical Serato look and feel and allows a DJ-like workflow while beating beats. You can use your existing DJ hardware, MIDI keyboards or drum pads. So DJs and producers should be able to implement their ideas quickly. The optics are reminiscent of other Serato programs of course, Serato DJ with its colorful waveforms, but some elements of Serato Sample are also included.
Aside from the DJ style mixing and Serato-typical Master Key and BPM information along with access to your crates / library in the look of the Serato DJ software, you also get a 808 style step sequencer with over 100 pre-made grooves and 30 high-quality effects integrated. There are integrated drum kits and instruments as well as VST Support so you can use your favourite instruments inside Serato Studio. As they are gearing up for the offical release there’s no shartage of updates either. Here’s info on the latest one:
Music Theory Hacks!
In addition to working purely with samples, Serato Studio can match the key of the any loaded instrument (internal and VST) to the main key. That means there’s no knowledge of music theory needed to create harmonic tracks. That’s a huge thing and a killer feature for beginner producers!
For the foreseeable future Ableton Live 10 is still my main DAW, so I’m reluctant to work exclusively in Serato Studio. MIDI export capabilities would quickly make Serato Studio my starting point for making sample based beats though, because aside from matching the keys of different loops or samples, I can easily come up with complimentary parts or layers. No more jumping through hoops with a set of different VST plugins!
A bit of a bummer is that Serato Studio will be only available as a subscription. $15/month includes updates and new samples, but subscriptions are piling up for everyone, so we’re unsure if it’s really the best way forward and if we keep it around. At least you can drop the price to $10/month if you choose the yearly plan.
Serato Studio is dope, there’s no way around it. Especially for sample based producers and DJs there’s no competition in terms of being a simple intuitive tool to make beats in.
The company still has a long way to go before they can compete with established beat production tools. Even a Beatmaker 3 on the iPad is lightyears ahead in terms of features. Serato Studio is still in public beta and while it runs smoothly for us, there’s still a few things that need to change to make it a worthy tool in your arsenal. A recent update added audio stem export as well as triplets and swing – essential features for producing beats in the program! After the official launch, side-chaining, beatgrids, further effects and much more will be added.
In the current version it’s a dope sketch pad for producing beats as well as a great music theory hacking tool for sample-based producers. We eagerly await new updates to Serato Studio!