Today, there is a lot of free music production software that is easy enough for beginners yet comprehensive enough for more expert users. While choosing the right music-making software for beginners and pros can bring your projects to life, it is also a time-consuming and challenging process.
This guide will review the 10 best free music production software to help your decision-making to begin or continue creating music. Before going through the details, you can take a glance at our picks:
- GarageBand – Best for quick music making on Mac
- Tracktion Waveform – Best music production software with MIDI features
- Audacity – Best free open source music production software
- Studio One Prime – Has vivid high-quality audio effects and beats
- Cakewalk by BandLab – Popular indie music production software
- LMMS – An alternative to the Classic FL Studio
- Soundtrap - Best cloud-based music maker software
- Magix Music Maker – A beginner-friendly music maker on Windows
- Ardour – Open-source music production software with complete customization
- Pro Tools First – Best music software for beginning artists
GarageBand - Best for Quick Music Making on Mac
Since its creation in 2004, GarageBand has become the best free music production software, perfect for beginner users. Expert users can also enjoy GarageBand for quick edits and features.
GarageBand is only available for Apple users and accessible through the Mac App Store, downloadable on any Apple device.
Users' favorite feature of GarageBand is the easy-to-use software and interface. Apple is known for minimalistic design, and it shines through GarageBand as well. Color-coded tracks with drag and drop allow beginners to get the hang of music production at a more simplified pace, to the point it may feel too basic.
GarageBand's best feature is the VST and VSTi elements, where you compose music inside the workstation and record songs with real instruments. Plug-ins are available to enhance the experience and music. Also, the Transform Pad allows you to morph the output of certain synths in real-time.
However, there are some downsides as GarageBand does not have MIDI export and cannot control external hardware via MIDI. These are vital features that many digital audio workstations (DAW) have today, which many experts use. Also, there is a limit of 255 tracks per song.
Overall, GarageBand's simplicity is attractive to beginners and gets the job done. If you’re looking for a more advanced platform, Apple offers the Logic Pro X, although it is not free.
Tracktion Waveform - Best Music Production Software with MIDI Features
Tracktion has been around since 2012, producing free DAW's that keep getting better and better. First, the T5 and T6 were successful. Then the T7 became a hit within the music production community.
Tracktion Waveform is their latest project, better than past software, becoming the best free MIDI software on the market. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
MIDI plays one of the most crucial roles for music producers. Tracktion Waveform has two MIDI features:
- MIDI Pattern Generation: Generate melodies, basslines, and other creations suitable for any project
- MIDI Chord Player: Unleash keyboard skills, creating custom chords and personalize sound
At first glance of Tracktion Waveform, it may be daunting with all the different layouts, mixers, and other features all in one space. It's a common complaint of the Tracktion Waveform interface.
However, getting to know the platform has its advantages because it can turn into a sophisticated DAW, with the interface becoming easy-to-use in the long run.
Audacity - Best Free Open Source Music Production Software
Audacity is one of the best free music production software, available in Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is a free open-source audio editing software that's just as good as some premium paid-for applications. The computer specification requirements for Audacity are very minimal, with older computers running the software with little to no issues.
Audacity's primary functions are importing, mixing, and combining audio tracks, rendering the output as one. It is more of a digital audio editor than a DAW, compared to GarageBand and other software.
Packed with various tools, Audacity is simple for beginners and has enough features to satisfy expert users. For instance, noise reduction and the removal of vocal tracks may come in handy for advanced work.
Dive in and alter frequencies with its Bass and Treble, High/Low Pass, Equalization, and Notch Filter effects. Adjust the volume using the amplify, compressor, formalize, fade in/out, and other adjustable fade effects.
Audacity allows users to edit and produce high-quality sound, even though it would not replace another software if you need a digital workstation. In all, Audacity may be enough to create music and sounds for videos and podcasts without an expensive price tag or fancy software.
Studio One Prime - Has Vivid High-quality Audio Effects and Beats
Studio One Prime is one of the best music production software that includes high-quality audio effects and beats from its royalty-free sounds. The most current version is Studio One 5 Prime, suitable for beginners and experts alike. Available on Windows and Mac.
At first glance, Studio One Prime's one-window interface is clean, allowing fast and easy workflow. The layout separates into three main pages:
- Start Page: Configure system settings for audio and artist profile
- Song Page: Record and produce
- Project Page: Compose final mixes
A recent addition is a Show Page, which covers live performances. You may add, modify, delete, and rearrange song titles in the Setlist feature. From there, you can configure and playback songs at specific positions on the timeline, such as key time and signatures. Studio One Prime is great for recording live because of these features, with vocals coming out crisp and easy to edit.
Other key features include:
- MIDI support
- New mixer scenes
- New score view and editor
- MPE pressure support
- State Space Drive Modelling
Studio One Prime includes Ampire tech for guitarists, which provides realistic amp and cabinet simulations. Pattern Editor is for EDM and hip hop music, allowing drum and melody composition on its machine inspired user interface.
Overall, Studio One Prime is an excellent choice for beginners with various features, free sounds, and beats.
Cakewalk by BandLab – Popular Indie Music Production Software
Cakewalk by Bandlab is very popular amongst indie music producers and the community, with over 25 million users active on the BandLab platform.
Cakewalk by Bandlab is both one of the best free music production software and the best free midi software. This DAW attracts both beginners and expert users with its sophisticated yet straightforward platform only available to Windows users.
Several features that make this platform amongst the best include:
- Award-Winning UI: Its Skylight interface is smooth, minimalistic, and a favorite amongst users.
- Unlimited Tracks: While other platforms have limited tracks, such as GarageBand, Cakewalk by Bandlabs features unlimited audio, MIDI, loop, instrument, and auxiliary tracks in every project.
- Industry Best Audio Engine: Cakewalk by Bandlabs boasts industry-leading technology for VST3, Touch, and other features.
Precision audio is available with its SONAR advanced 64-bit mix engine, delivering accurate, clean mixes for each project.
Every budding music producer may use Cakewalk by Bandlabs for the following:
- Share and publish music
Cakewalk by Bandlab also has an expandable sound library of ProChannel modules, ranging from resonant filtering, convolution reverb, dynamic compression, and other powerful Windows 10 equalizers for peak performance.
If you're looking for the "GarageBand of Windows", Cakewalk by Bandlab is a good option, especially since it has MIDI features, which GarageBand does not.
LMMS - An Alternative to the Classic FL Studio
LMMS is the best free music production software dubbed as an alternative to the classic FL Studio due to similar workflow and functionalities. It's available on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
The core functionality of LMMS includes:
- Compose music on most platforms
- MIDI Note playback or typing keyboard
- Compose, sequence, mix and automate songs on one platform
- Beat and Baseline Editor allows you to consolidate instrument tracks
- Piano Roll Editor fine-tunes chords, notes, melodies, and patterns
- Computer-controlled automation sources and full user-defined track-based automation, as it's open-source
- Import Hydrogen and MIDI project files
Its user interface can be daunting with various floating windows, possibly requiring further browsing and getting familiar with the platform to produce music. Luckily, there is a pop-up window that describes the functionality of various items with a short summary.
Once you get used to the interface, it becomes intuitive and simple to use. A plus for LMMS is that it's customizable, giving access to editing, importing, and sequences both audio and MIDI.
Recording MIDI is possible in LMMS, which gives it an advantage over other platforms, but the downside is that it cannot record audio. To get past this shortcoming, you can use audio already recorded and import it to edit and mix music track.
Overall, LMMS is a good alternative for those who want to dive into music production, ideal for beginners.
Soundtrap - Best Cloud-based Music Maker Software
Soundtrap is one of the best free music production cloud-based software, as it allows you to collaborate and create projects online. Spotify, a popular streaming service, owns Soundtrap.
There are several paid versions of Soundtrap, but the free version also presents ample features, such as:
- 900 loops
- Unlimited projects
- 210 instruments and sounds
- 150k sound effects from www.freesounds.org
- Soundtrap Originals sound packs
Soundtrap is an in-browser software that only works with an internet connection, which may be a deal-breaker for some with a poor internet connection. Google Chrome and Safari are browsers that work best with Soundtrap.
Computer specifications also play a role in the efficiency of Soundtrap, bandwidth, running processes, internet speed combined to determine if the software will function properly. Common complaints include lagging with Soundtrap.
However, if you're looking to make quick beats, Soundtrap may be a solid choice.
Magix Music Maker - A Beginner-friendly Music Maker on Windows
Magix Music Maker is the best software for music production beginners, with its easy-to-use interface and hundreds of free loops and beats from its sound library. Currently, Music Maker is only available on Windows.
While Music Maker is a tier program with paid versions, the free version gives access to familiar sounds from classic movies and video games.
The free version includes:
- 425 free loops and sounds
- Three free instruments
- Multi-core compatibility
- Eight tracks
- Four additional free sound pools
The new song maker tool is excellent for beginners, as they can create a song in 3 easy steps:
- Select a song template and Soundpool
- Add instruments and song parts
- Playback, edit, and the music is ready
Record audio and import external files using Music Maker, using the built-in MIDI editor if applicable. There are pre-installed instruments you may use, but for additional tools, you may have to pay.
Ultimately, Music Maker by Magix is ideal for those starting in the music making world, as Music Maker is designed towards novices not familiar with the industry.
Ardour - Open-source Music Production Software with Complete Customization
Ardour is the best open-source music making software, ready to run on Windows, Linux, or Mac. Users who want complete customization and control may like Ardour better than other free music production software, although Ardour does not provide support or help regarding open-source code.
The core user group of Ardour enthusiasts are people who want to record, mix and master MIDI and audio projects with complete control over tools, with no limitations.
The pros of using Ardour include:
- Big, supportive community
- Linux has JACK Support, which freely routes audio and MIDI from other software to hardware
- LV2 and LADSPA plug-in support
- Linear yet clean interface
- Minimal limitations compared to other free software
- Open-source to modify the software with no restrictions
- Inline mixing console
- Multi-display support
However, there are some cons to using Ardour, such as:
- JACK may be challenging to install for beginner users, which is a downside as Ardour relies heavily on JACK
- Ardour is free if you can build it yourself; pre-built Ardour may come at a price
- Not beginner-friendly or user-friendly
- No scenes for easy project sequencing and creation
- Too many plug-ins, with some not as useful
If you're a programmer in music production but want complete control over your tools when creating music, Ardour may be an attractive choice.
Pro Tools First - Best Music Software for Beginning Artists
Pro Tools has been dominant in the industry for years, ultimately creating a free version for budding musicians called Pro Tools First. Pro Tools First is the best free music maker software for aspiring artists looking to get familiar with music maker tools to begin their journey, getting a feel for an industry-standard Pro Tools.
The interface of Pro Tools First is similar to the paid version of Pro Tools. There are various MIDI editors to mix, edit, and manipulate audio. Plug-ins are available in AudioSuite mode to enhance the music.
A downside to Pro Tools is that you cannot save your projects locally and only on their cloud. There are several limitations as well, more than other free music production software. Pro Tools may have done this to give beginner users a taste of its premium versions, enticing them to go through the full version.
Overall, Pro Tools First is an adequate music maker software for those who may be more serious in their future career, possibly upgrading to its infamous Pro Tools premium versions.
A Final Thought
All in all, there are tons of free music production software to choose from to compose, mix, create lively musical productions for any event, whether it's a concert, small venue, or for individual purposes.
Since every program has a different interface, functionality, and limitations, you are then at liberty to opt for the one that appeals to you the most by first finding out which one is right for you, based on your needs.