Yeah I agree , I think pro tools is the way to go if you can, ever since the first time I recorded with a real engineer and saw what he could do the pro tools, I was hooked.If you don't have to worry about cross-platform collaboration w/larger studios Cakewalk Home Studio or Sonar is pretty easy to learn. If you've not set anything else up on your computer and don't have an interface yet you might investigate M-Audio's Pro-Tools M-powered interfaces and Pro-Tools M-powered software. It's a version of Pro-Tools LE that is compatible with larger Pro Tools systems in bigger studios in case you wish to take your demo to a big room and put the "sparkle" on things.
Of course, there's always Pro Tools LE and the various Digidesign interfaces as well.
I find Sonar much more powerful and intuitive compared to Pro Tools LE, but Pro-Tools is so darn ubiquitous here in Nashville I would advise anyone starting a home studio from scratch to go ahead and get it....
Does anybody else use Adobe Audition? I started using Cool Edit when it first came out (tech support at that time was the guy who wrote the program) and upgraded to cepro and now Audition and have always been happy with the results and the price is much lower than the competition. Of course this didn't become a real multi-track program until Audition came out but I still don't use it for tracking...
As for compatibility, I can open the files (.wav or otherwise) recorded in any software so it's never been an issue that clients use PTs or whatever - I have had issues going the opposite direction but it was probably user ignorance since I can't imagine that PT would not allow for opening files from Audition (or it's a really nasty marketing trick).
Camilla, I'm probably the least knowledgable of the folks here, but I've used Cakewalk Homestudio for years, and more recently Sonar X1 Producer.
I really like them and feel that Sonar is the equal of ProTools in terms of features and ease of use (dont shoot me, just my opinion), in addition to being less expensive. Collaboration has not been a problem for me, partly because of the universality of .wav files, and because Sonar can record and save in multiple file formats, including AIF and AIFF.
It should be noted, though, that any sequencer I know about still has a fairly extensive feature set and has a relatively steep learning curve for the novice. Some fairly concentrated study should be undertaken up front before diving in. This is not to say prohibitively complex, just not necessarily intuitive.
FYI, If you have a Mac, in the App store, you can download Logic Pro for $199 only. It's $499 in the store in the box. Same exact software, I'm told. Same contents. One is a download, one comes in a box. As a matter of fact, if you have multiple computers on the same account, that means you can download it to multiple computers normally, as that's typically how the App Store licenses works (double check my intel here).
Camilla, my family and I are currently living in Shelbyville, also. I have a copy of Sonar LE version 6 that you're welcome to if you need it. I think you can do 64 audio tracks and unlimited MIDI tracks with it. If you're interested let me know and I'll message you my phone number.