What DAW Does Kanye Use to Produce Music?



May 23, 2022

Kanye West uses a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) called Pro Tools. Kanye is known to mostly produce music using hardware instruments for sampling and beats, though uses Pro Tools as a DAW to record these sounds. His team have also been seen using FL Studio.

Kanye can be heard explaining his production style in an old interview, where he states:

“I don’t use a computer or a lot of equipment in my studio.”

With a preference for analog styles of music production, Kanye produced much of his early music without a heavy reliance on DAWs and digital production methods. Some of his older tracks were produced using only a sampling keyboard.

In the early days, Kanye could be seen producing tracks using the following pieces of hardware:

  • Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard
  • Akai MPC2000 MIDI Production Center
  • Roland VS-1880 24-bit Digital Studio Workstation
  • Gemini PT-1000 II turntable

Many of Kanye’s earlier trademark sounds include classic 70s soul samples processed at a faster tempo. Sped-up vocal samples can be heard on nearly every track on The College Dropout. For instance, Dinah Washington on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and Chaka Khan on “Through the Wire.”

Kanye can be seen using the Ensoniq ASR-10 in the clip below, which shows a great moment where Kanye showcases his sampling and production talent.

Kanye explains: 

“I sample them at regular speed, then speed them up inside the ASR-10, I just put the pitch up on the sampler, and it will go faster. The ASR-10 is like my left hand. I can chop samples into 61 pieces without wasting any memory. A lot of old songs are too slow to rap on. So I got to speed them up to a rappable tempo.”

Kanye’s preference for music hardware

Kanye began learning music production in the mid 1990s, a time where DAWs did exist, but weren’t what they are today. It was common to produce music using analog hardware instruments, rather than using a DAW, and Kanye mastered this analog style of production very well.

This is why he prefers familiar analog production styles over digital styles. It is this analog sampling method whereby Kanye pioneered his signature early style of 70s soul sampling, processed at faster tempos and higher pitch - sometimes referred to as “chipmunk soul” in the hip-hop world.

How does Kayne West produce his music now?

As Kanye’s career progressed, he began using DAWs for the recording process of the production. DAWs offer a level of convenience that just can’t be matched by analog workstations, offering an improved creative workflow. This made DAWs extremely popular by the early 2000s, and continue to be the most popular method of music production and recording. 

He uses the DAW Pro Tools to process and record his productions made using analog equipment. For instance, he chops, mixes and pitches samples using the ASR-10, and then processes these sounds using Pro Tools. Pro Tools is the most popular DAW among professional music producers. If you are looking to create similar sounds to Kanye using a professional DAW, then Pro Tools is a good place to start.

So, Kanye does use a DAW, though not for the actual production part of the music production process. It is possible that Kanye incorporates more digital production styles into his work now, but nobody knows for sure exactly what Kanye’s studio setup looks like.

Additionally, Kanye now works with a range of creative producers. For instance, Kanye produced parts of Yeezuz with Arca.

Do you have to use the same DAW and setup as Kanye to produce similar sounds?

Simply put, no.

You should not focus too much on the kinds of equipment, softwares and setups that other music artists use in order to replicate their sounds. Of course, use these as inspiration for your studio setup, but be sure not to restrict your creativity to setups that are catered towards one particular kind of sound or style.

It is not important which DAW or equipment you use to produce music, especially if you are just starting out, or looking to advance. There are even a range of free DAWs available, ideal for refining your skills with no cost investment. Your time should be spent mastering the setup you are comfortable with, and then improving your skills from there.

Being experimental and creative with sound is exactly how many artists pioneered original sounds and styles, and some, even genres.

Three main reasons to sign up for our newsletter