Opening DAWs – Home Learning through Music Technology

People are always looking for innovative ways to stay entertained, engaged and learning, so at RSL Awards we thought we’d offer a bit of help and support for people looking at the best way to harness the technology available at home.

We’ve spoken to some of our friends in the music industry and picked out ways to help both teachers looking for lesson-planning ideas and students looking to learn independently. As an awarding body, we do not endorse any single product but have identified free resources from Steinberg, Ableton, Bandlab and VIP Studios which you might find useful. Here are our top 5 tips for getting started

Click here, fill out a form, and we will send you a FREE digital copy of one of the Rockschool Graded Music Production books!

1. Work out your own skill level

The Rockschool Music Production syllabus runs from Grade 1 – 8 and 60% of the exam at each grade is a creative composition task which you can complete in your own time. These tasks combine musical knowledge with production know-how and gradually build in complexity so you can develop all the theoretical and practical skills you need to be able write your own music and work towards a nationally-recognised qualification at the same time. The other 40% trains your ear and teaches you the things you need to know to be able to work as a producer and is supported by the Music Production (coursework) exam book which is full of vital information. This blog tells you how the course is structured so you can see how it develops all the skills you need to be a producer over time.

2. Think of your Tech as the Ultimate Musical Instrument

At BBC introducing, Laurie Vincent of Slaves stated that ‘the laptop was the new guitar’. In the same way that the guitar used to be the ‘go to’ instrument to write your next song, now it’s the laptop. Most devices are able to run a variety of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and these enable you to select pretty much any musical instrument you want and start creating music almost immediately. As with any musical instrument, there are things that are natural for that instrument to play and things that aren’t. Listen to your favourite tracks and focus on what role each instrument has. Is it part of the melody, the bassline, the rhythm or something else?

Once you’ve worked this out, you’ll be able to select the right instrument for the job. Ableton have created a series of sessions which you can access on any computer with an internet connection and standard audio.

Their FREE Learning Music series has practical topics on Beats; Notes and Scales; Chords; Melody; Bass; Song Structure and more which are a great introduction to the Music Production coursework tasks at grades 1 – 3.

Their FREE Learning Synths series takes you through the basics of modifying sounds using synths, including ADSR, Oscillators, LFOs and Filters. These are a great resource to support learning for Rockschool Music Production at Grades 3 and upwards. The projects you start to experiment with in these hands-on tutorials can then be exported as Ableton Live Sets.

3. Harness the Creative Power of your Tech

Once you’ve worked out where your skill level is, you can start to develop these while plugging any gaps in your knowledge as you go along. To work through the Music Production grades and to develop as a musician, you’ll need to install a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Cubase LE

is a free DAW which works on both Mac and PC. The first 250 people to purchase a Rockschool Music Production book at Grades 1 – 3 will also get a code to download Cubase LE by following the instructions HERE. When you’re ready to notate your work, you can also download Dorico SE for free HERE.

Cubase LE is the entry level product and you can also download Cubase Elements on a free 30 day trial HERE. Your school may be using Cubase Artist or Pro, in which case you could ask to borrow the school’s elicenser dongle so you can access this from home. Steinberg’s Dom Sigalas has also created a video tutorial here which shows you how to use the different functions of Cubase LE.

Inclusive Music

Inclusive Music are giving away a FREE version of their Bandlab for Schools for as long as we are in Coronavirus lockdown. Here you will find 24 video tutorials, 38 PDFs and 15 quizzes covering how to learn the skills to start making music using technology across 100 different musical styles. These include Hip Hop, Trap, Grime and R’n’B and everything can be accessed directly from your Chrome web browser. The team at Inclusive Music have also created a walkthrough of the Rockschool Music Production grade 1 coursework task so you can see an example of how the Rockschool grades work with a DAW.


have been inspired by the determination of teachers to keep music education going and so they’ve reset their entry level Live 10 Trial access and extended it to 90 days. This means that anyone can use the trial version, even if they’ve used it before and will automatically extend. The trial period will remain at 90 days as long as necessary and they have said that they will continue to evaluate the needs of teachers who are working remotely

4. Collaborate Safely

Music is something you can work on independently but, ultimately, is an artform and a language which you want to share with other people. As you produce your work, make sure that you are careful to only share it through secure and trusted channels as advised by your teachers and parents. We’ve also identified two ways that you can collaborate with others on your music projects in a safe environment.

VIP Studios

The team at VIP specialise in online collaboration for students and schools and any organisation with a Charanga license should be fairly familiar with the range of tutorials and projects on offer. These tie in really well with the Rockschool Music Production grades and they have recently launched a rap-writing competition. As a teacher, you can access a trial version of VIP Studio Sessions for 30 days.


As Bandlab for Schools operates exclusively online, you can access, save and share your files securely using your own log-in. Once you’ve completed your work, you can then connect to a community of other users worldwide who are all using the secure Bandlab platform to make sure you can share your work and collaborate safely.

5. Structure Your Learning and Get Advice

The Rockschool Music Production graded exams provide you with the opportunity to gain a nationally-recognised qualification, benchmarked at particular levels, to promote the skills you have developed as a producer. Over the coming weeks, Bandlab, Steinberg and Ableton are all adding content to support you on their own websites and contact details and further advice on using their products can be found at the bottom of this blog.


As a student, the advice and guidance in this blog will help if you check in with the experts for advice and guidance. Use our Teacher Registry to find a Music Production teacher in your area. You may also find these courses from our partners at Music Gurus useful.


Classroom Teachers:

As a classroom teacher, you can use these resources as a stimulus to set some structured home learning as well as checking out this resource which is being updated on a regular basis and includes a useful blog on Teaching Using Cubase 10.5.

Independent Teachers:

Music Production lends itself well to being taught online through one-to-one teaching and this could be a great time to add it to your portfolio. Check out our guide to teaching online here.

Mark Hutchinson and John Calcott have been delivering Rockschool Music Production to students over the last twelve months through Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts and have given us this useful advice:

“Music Production lends itself particularly well to online learning given that even when lessons are face to face we still spend 90% of the time looking at a computer screen so why not do this remotely? I will be spending the coming days looking in to using many of the leading DAW programs like Logic, Cubase, Protools and Ableton online through screen sharing, the setting of assignments and remote access software in order to give the pupil the most seamless experience possible. For me these are very exciting times to be teaching Music Production...” (Mark Hutchinson – producer, teacher and record label owner).

Setting the scene when teaching a video lesson:

  • Try and have a plain, neutral background
  • No personal paraphernalia in the shot
  • Keep camera at head height or focused on musical instrument
  • Invest in a tripod and mount for your device
  • Wear smart clothes with your organisation's logo clearly visible
  • Keep away from windows, for both lighting and privacy issues

Click here for further information on how to teach music online...

Video Conferencing Software


After a lot of testing with my fellow peri teachers we all agree that zoom is the best software. Give it a try for yourself, you can do screen sharing, virtual whiteboard, text chat and even virtually change your background!

Microsoft Teams

This has a nice professional feel and is good for business conference calls as it ties in with office 365.


This is a viable option for teaching with but of course it is dependant on everyone having an Apple device.


I’ve personally not tried Skype however there’s no denying its popularity. I’ve heard some teachers claim there are latency issues but this could just be down to bandwidth issues.

Offline Video Editing

DaVinci Resolve

This software is free and mind blowing! I highly recommend it, you need a fairly powerful machine but otherwise it’s a fully featured piece of video editing software.

Final Cut Pro X

If you are on Mac then this is a no brainer purchase. It’s pro level with tons of support and tutorials out there.

Screen Capture Software


This is your best and free option for PC, the only downside is that it’s tricky to use and takes a bit of setting up.


On Mac this will do a great job as will good old QuickTime.

Use Rockschool Music Production for Free!

Simply fill out the form below and we will send you a FREE digital copy of one of the Graded Music Production books

    Job Role (required)

    Organisation/School Name

    Music Production Teaching Experience (required)

    I would like to receive a download code for Cubase LE

    I would like to sign-up for regular updates via the RSL Newsletter (required)

    I would like to receive the following Music Production Grade Book


    Contact Details and Further Advice:

    Get help via their Knowledge Base
    Click here if you are completely new to Ableton
    To get started, download the Ableton Live 10 Trial here
    Instructions for the installation and authorization can be found here
    Interested in remote working with Ableton Live?

    Richard Llewellyn (UK Education Manager) for Steinberg can be contacted at
    To help with installation and activation, this video may help
    Click here to find out the difference between Cubase programs.
    Expert advice and interviews
    Digital book from one of Steinberg’s Certified Trainers, Darren Jones: Complete Guide to Music Technology using Cubase 10.5’

    Help pages can be found here...