Fancy creating quality music from your computer without the financial outlays! Here’s the best free music production software absolutely anyone can use.
It appears that big-budget studios are becoming increasingly irrelevant nowadays. There is now a slew of high profile artists headlining festivals around the world who made it all happen with the free music production software they had in their bedrooms. From Mac DeMarco and Tame Impala to Clairo achieving overnight stardom with Pretty Girl; world-class records can procure themselves at home as long as you have the right bells and whistles.
You might be surprised at the number of quality music making softwares available that won’t put a strain on your pocket. We’ve compiled a list of the best free DAWs for making music from scratch.
While most of these programs pertain to beginners there is an impressive amount of quality and control at your behest, should you so desire. Moreover, the non-existent price tag does not mean that there have been corners cut on the production side of things. Free tools and options for expressive control are here in spades as these programs are often trying to seduce you into upgrading to their more professional older cousins. Defy the seduction and create without cost!
Take a browse through the best free music making software – aka audio gateway drugs.
As far as user-friendly music production software goes, Garageband is leading the charge. If you’re interested in merely being musical, Apple’s entry-level program has a significant variety of samples to play with. You could quite literally build a song in minutes. The sandbox landscape and slick interface put it at the top of the list.
Don’t be fooled though! There is plenty of quality to choose from here and it is the perfect stepping stone to Logic Pro X. With shared features like Drummer, a seriously easy to use groove making sampler with multiple genre styles and a plethora of pattern variations. You will also become familiar with Apple Library as well as a similar interface to logic.
The only downsides include a limit of 255 tracks per song, as well as no MIDI export or the ability to control external hardware via MIDI. Though when it’s all said and done, Garage Band is still an immensely powerful tool and one of the most proficient digital audio workstations going round.
AmpliTube Custom Shop (Mac/Windows)
If you already have a guitar lying around, then AmpliTube Custom Shop is the perfect way for you to add expression and flair to your music without the hefty price tag. While it’s essentially a stripped-down version, this free fully functioning guitar rig application includes 24 models that consist of a chromatic tuner, nine stompboxes, four amps, five cabs, three mics and two rack effects.
Thus it’s not only the perfect tool for any guitarist looking to record straight into their laptop but it’s essentially a ‘try before you buy’ for anyone interested in lashing out on the real deal. And the samples are impressively accurate! Not the least because IK Multimedia locked down official guitar amp models from industry giants such as Fender, Mesa Boogie, Orange, Ampeg and many more.
To top it off you can customise the mic model and placement, hinting at the pool of options available when you got the full mile. AmpliTube Custom Shop is ideal for anyone looking to explore guitar tones or just lay down a few ideas.
Download AmpliTube Custom Shop.
Bandlab – Cakewalk (Windows)
Cakewalk is one of the oldest digital audio workstations going around and recently received a significant upgrade from its previous model — Cakewalk Sonar. After Gibson halted production last year, Bandlab snapped it up and made it free for all music lovers.
Labelled as the ‘most complete music production package’, Cakewalk offers advanced mixing and mastering tools, unlimited tracks, studio-quality effects and a 64-bit mix engine. They are also rolling with the times, adding in Windows features such as touch integration, pen calibration and Surface Dial advancements throughout the interface.
If you’re looking for the most comprehensive free music making software at absolutely zero cost, Bandlab has got you covered.
Download Bandlab Cakewalk.
Tracktion Waveform (Mac OSX, Windows, Linux)
Tracktion Waveform involves one of the most impressive business models on the market. Every year the free music making software gets an upgrade and the previous model has its price tag shaved off. The latest version to drop the cost is Tracktion Waveform.
This impressive interface is as user friendly as Garage Band yet with a little extra sheen. It features unlimited audio and MIDI tracks — depending on your hardware capabilities — plus it allows multiple plug in formats such as VST and Audio Units.
Furthermore, each window is scalable so you can adjust everything to suit your workflow allowing for surprisingly linear fluidity.
Download Tracktion Waveform.
This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list. Music production software, especially that of the free variety, pops up all the time. There’s a thriving community of developers making innovative plugins and entire DAWs all the time. This friendly competition makes it easier than ever for people to find the right workflow for them, no matter which platform you care to use.
The barriers to entry in the field of music production have never been so low. By checking out one or more of these free programs, you might just ignite a passion that will last a lifetime.
If you are keen on making the jump to the big leagues, there is, of course, a range of versatile DAWs to complement any workflow.
If you’re recording bands, working entirely in the box, or even using the computer as a way to reimagine synthesis, you’ll find that while the free software is powerful, there’s a cap on their abilities. So let’s check out the options for when you’re ready to invest some hard-earned dollars into your craft.
Yep, it’s pretty much the ‘industry standard’ and while that phrase is a tad problematic in this incredibly diverse business, god help you if you’re trying to get a gig in a commercial studio without any knowledge of Pro Tools.
The Pro Tools evolution has been slow and steady — with good reason. Millions of studio pros have gotten used to its workflow over the decades. And of all the major DAWs, it most closely resembles a real-life console.
Now for something completely different. Ableton Live emerged at the turn of the millennium and offered computer au fait musicians a completely novel way to work with audio. The grid view remains one of Live’s key differentiating factors, allowing users to mix and match structural elements and loops with ease.
These days, it’s also a full-blown recording powerhouse. On the verge of version 11, Live will introduce comping, tempo mapping via real-life drums and more.
Contrary to what you might expect, Logic Pro came about before Garageband. Logic Pro is the clearly, well, logical graduation from Garageband sharing some workflow and aesthetic elements with its gratis sibling.
Make no mistake though, the ‘Pro’ in Logic is there for a reason. In the same way that Pro Tools is the favourite in recording audio, Logic has cemented its place atop the media composer tree, with superior MIDI implementation and a vast array of virtual instruments to call upon.
Along with Pro Tools, Cubase is one of the elder statesmen of the music production software world; Steinberg, its parent company, was formed in the ’80s. Initially, it was all about MIDI editing, but with a new version on the shelves, it has every conceivable audio application covered.
Steinberg is also the company that manufactures Dorico, a new and intuitive scoring platform, so the integration for composers using standard notation is tight. Exporting doesn’t usually rate a mention when you’re talking about DAWs, but in Cubase 11, it’s world-leading, and definitely aimed at the professional producer or engineer.
Studio One is from the American company, Presonus. Coming to prominence in the last 15 years or so, they’ve made waves in the project studio world, creating a host of affordable yet robust hardware for a range of purposes. Studio One is its DAW and one of the company’s newer offerings.
Though they were later to the game than most, they’ve caught up in quick time. Studio One has a very music-centric workflow, with an array of tools to make the composition process more intuitive. But like most other DAWs, has no problem managing a full band session.