Best Music Production Software (Free and Paid) for 2021

Last Updated on October 12, 2021 by Vasco Lourenço

If you’re a budding musician and want to produce your own music, you should consider an audio editing software.

A music production software or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) refers to a computer program for recording, composing, and mixing music.

A DAW is a software hub that processes digital signals, converts audio, provides the interface for controls and mixing of the audio, and stores the data from the recording and editing sessions.

The best music production software will have an intuitive interface, comprehensive MIDI sequencers, audio editors, and loads of effects that generally make the workflow easier.

Ever since the first DAWs came to the market in the 80s, choosing the right one has proved tricky as there are thousands of production software currently available.

To compound the situation, you’ll soon learn that some software is best suited for music production while others work best for audio post-production.

Moreover, you have to wade through countless misleading information.

For instance, the industry-standard DAW that everyone and their dog recommends, Pro Tools, is not the most suitable DAW for music production.

How do I know that?

Because I’ve worked as a sound engineer for 10 years in the best Portuguese dubbing studio, working on many animated feature films for Sony, DreamWorks, Warner Bros, and others, so I know my music production software.

So, which DAW should you choose?

I took time off the online stock music business and channeled all my experience into cobbling up this guide. It highlights the best music-making software, free and paid, pinpointing those suitable for production or post-production.

For ease of use, jump straight to your preferred section:

Let’s dive in.

Disclaimer: This post may contain some affiliate links. What this means is, if you end up purchasing any of the products through my link, I may get a small commission that will help keep this blog running. Don’t worry, there’s no extra cost for you.

What is the Best Music Production Software?

If you want no compromises to your music production, there are no shortcuts — you have to buy cutting-edge technology. Getting the paid versions of a DAW will grant you access to the best music production software the market has to offer.

Although some free DAWs are capable, they will often have some essentials missing. This section examines the best audio editing software that will help you bend any audio to your will.

1. Image-Line FL Studio

For the love of pop and hip hop

Image Line FL Studio Music Production Software

Since the first FL Studio release in 1998, millions of professionals and hobbyists have used it, including eminent artists such as Afrojack, Avicii, Skrillex, and Deadmau5. Major companies such as McDonald’s and Volkswagen have also used it in television commercials.

It’s capable of handling multiple tasks, notably multitrack music production and recording and mixing audio for video or film.

It has comprehensive editing facilities, including up to 16 separate tracks per project, 125 simultaneous audio tracks, enhanced sequencing, support for third-party plug-ins, and an improved time-stretching function.

The latest edition provides three audio editors, event automation features, MIDI support and scripting, 103 instruments, video, and visual effects.

Softsynths finally make their appearance in native format, which will work brilliantly with the traditional workflow and contemporary features.

FL Studio is a powerful application, yet beginners can still find it easy to use thanks to the intuitive graphical design, great on-screen tips, and real-time effects rendering.

Whether working in audio or creating music for visual media, FL Studio will provide all the tools you need plus lifetime free updates.

Even so, audio editors and recording engineers should look elsewhere as it has limited timecode functionality for scoring. It can also be cumbersome switching between the arranging, mixing, and sequencing screens.

FL Studio Pricing:

  • FL Studio Fruity Edition – $99
  • FL Studio Producer Edition – $199
  • FL Studio Signature Bundle – $299
  • FL Studio All Plugins Edition – $499

2. Magix Acid Pro

Simple operation, great for making synthesized music

Magix Acid Pro

Magix Acid Pro may not be as well known to the public as its competitors like FL Studio or Ableton Live, but it’s no slouch.

Sonic Foundry published the first version in 1998 as Acid pH1, with its ownership changing hands once before current owners, Magix Software from Germany, took over in 2016.

It boasts an impressive slew of features and capabilities that are especially important if you’re interested in creating synthesized music or where there’s a high demand for simple operation and lots of features.

First off, ACID Pro 10 supports VST plug-ins for instruments and effects, which means that you can use any third-party program to add new instruments or effects to your project.

ACID Pro 10 is a recording studio that provides almost everything necessary for creation–from sound editing to mixing, mastering, and creating multitrack compositions.

You can record up to 64 channels simultaneously, with no limit to the number of tracks, MIDI import, export, and track freeze, and 9GB worth of loops and samples.

Magix classifies ACID Pro as an audio recording and mixing software with impressive audio and MIDI editing abilities, so there’s no video editing. You can specify output parameters such as sample rate, bit depth, and channels.

ACID Pro 10 digital audio workstation allows you to save audio and MIDI data in various formats. This DAW is suitable for both beginners and experienced users.

Magix Acid Pro Pricing:

  • ACID Music Studio 11 – $19.99
  • ACID Pro 10 – $99
  • ACID Pro 10 Suite – $199

3. Reason Studios Reason

Standalone or as a plug-in: It’s all in the Rack

Reason Studios Reason

Reason is a music production software made by Propellerhead Software, founded in 1994. It combines the DAW and a virtual studio with virtual devices you can connect to build an instrument or mix. Its data files contain song sections, audio and midi clips, and events.

The DAW’s built-in synthesizer called Rack Extension (RE) produces high-quality sounds when installed in RE devices and can make leads, pads, strings, and organs.

Reason’s Unified mixing console has unlimited busses, audio, MIDI tracks, built-in visual EQs, peak meters, input & output level controls, and inline help.

Reason can now produce any style of music in any genre as it features a complete audio and MIDI sequencer, sampler, synthesizer, instruments, a mixing console, and effect devices such as reverb/delay/chorus.

There are plentiful opportunities for musical exploration via the included Combinator device, making it easy to build entire virtual instruments.

This modular effects Rack contains 10 insert slots for audio effects and four slots for instruments, new four-band dynamic EQ in the Dynamics section, and an Auto button that detects transients.

The brilliant patch ability of its Rack enables it to work seamlessly with other DAWs as a modular instrument plug-in. It also features advanced automation curves for fades, velocity, volume, and panning.

Reason is all-encompassing DAW that producers and artists alike will have fun creating music as it’s easy to use, has plenty of inbuilt sounds, and houses one of the best audio warping algorithms in the industry.

That said, there’s no support for video and ReWire, and the plug-in mode is limited to VST3 only.

Reason Pricing:

  • Reason 12 upgrade – $129
  • Reason 12 upgrade from the Intro/Lite version – $299
  • Reason 12 – $399

4. Apple Logic Pro

Powerful and aimed at creatives, but only for Mac users

Apple Logic Pro

Formed in Germany as Logic or Notator Logic in the early 90s by C-Lab, they later changed its name to Emagic. Apple changed its name to Logic Pro upon acquisition in 2002. Producers and composers will feel right at home using this DAW.

Apple Logic Pro brings a wealth of features to the table, including 16 independent voices, more than 4,000 chord grids, and 4,300 patches for audio, auxiliary, software instruments, and output tracks.

There’s support for 256 busses, 32 groups of MIDI, audio, or software instrument channel strips. Other features include 12 sends per channel strip, eight inserts for internal audio or MIDI plug-in, or 15 inserts for Audio effect plug-ins.

In addition, there are 70 effects, 18 instruments, 24 software instruments, and 9 MIDI plug-ins. The mixer can handle up to 1,000 stereo audio, aux, external MIDI, and software instrument channel strips. You can refine your work using advanced automation commands.

It still lacks support for Windows devices, so collaborating on a project with people using Windows devices could prove a stumbling block. Further, you still can’t use Logic Pro for ‘Clip-Gain’ audio editing, and neither can you run VST plug-ins.

Logic Pro is mainly a linear DAW, though Apple added some non-linear functionality recently. Its workflow isn’t as quick as some competitors, and it will take you a while to get used to the interface.

But, it’s excellent at music mixing and mastering; therefore, engineers and mixers will enjoy jumping right in to try and figure it out.

Apple Logic Pro Pricing: $199.99

5. Ableton Live

Hugely popular, famously feature-rich, phenomenal MIDI mapping

Ableton Live

Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke spent several years in the 90s cobbling up homemade software for their band, Monolake, which provided the building blocks for Live.

The first Ableton Live commercial version came in 2001 after teaming up with Bernd Roggendorf, a computer programmer.

Now in its eleventh iteration, Ableton Live lives up to its traditions of having loads of features. You can edit automation and modulation envelopes for mixer and device controls by activating automation mode.

You will find robust offerings in its top-tier suites, such as 59 audio and 15 MIDI effects, as well as 12 send and return (Aux) tracks and 256 audio mono audio and input channels. In addition, it has unlimited audio and MIDI tracks.

It enjoys an almost cult-like following as the DAW of choice for hip-hop artists and DJs since the interface design leans towards live performances and production with its on-the-money MIDI mapping features and launching of audio clips.

Ableton has finally fixed their long-running Achilles heel, allowing you to comp (compile) or edit two or more MIDI or Audio recordings simultaneously. Ableton Live can now run 64-bit VST plug-ins, and trim and render edited video to audio.

All these great additions, including the new devices, means live performers and sound designers will love spending time with this DAW.

DJs have a range of crossfading, beatmatching, and other effects to toy with, while it’s also capable of mixing, recording, composing, and mastering.

The only weak spot you might encounter is the plug-in delay compensation and weak abilities in sound design or scoring for TV or film since it has no timecode protocol to help sync to picture.

Ableton Live Pricing:

  • Ableton Live comes in three packages:
  • Intro – $99
  • Standard – $449
  • Suite – $749

6. Avid Pro Tools

Recording and post-production industry-standard DAW

Avid Pro Tools

Avid Pro Tools is the brainchild of Evan Brooks, a computer science and electrical engineering major, and Peter Gotcher, both of UC Berkeley. The first version of Pro Tools as we know it came about in 1991, an adaptation of ProDeck.

The latest improvements mean you can try out presets, effects, loop points, and update tracks and timelines without interrupting playback.

You can create music using 1,024 MIDI and 768 audio tracks, 32 instruments tracks, unlimited busses creation, and 2,048 voice and audio track limits. That also means 256 stereo and mono audio tracks maximum at all sample rates.

Avid Pro Tools works best for sound recording, editing, and mastering–perfect for music creation and production, sound design, audio mixing, and post-production. It supports over 120 plug-ins, while video mixing maxes out at 64 tracks.

The great thing about Pro Tools is its ability to utilize external analog to digital converters with digital signal processors (DSP) to provide processing oomph for better equalization, reverb, lower latency, and compression performance.

Avid Pro Tools Pricing:

  • First – free
  • Standard – $29.99 monthly
  • Ultimate – $7.99 monthly

7. Steinberg Cubase

Founding member with a traditional approach

Steinberg Cubase

Easily one of the oldest you will come across, Steinberg Cubase has distinguished itself over the years as a DAW for MIDI and music recording, editing, and arranging.

It made its commercial appearance in 1989, developed by Steinberg, with the base version installed in almost all audio and MIDI hardware produced by manufacturers, such as Yamaha. It packs quite a punch with unlimited audio, MIDI, and VST instrument tracks.

You get 8 VST instruments, over 3,000 instrument sounds, 79 VST audio effect plug-ins, 18 VST MIDI effect plug-ins, 256 physical inputs & outputs, 16 audio channel insert slots, 256 Group channels, 64 Rack instruments, and 4 MIDI plug-in insert slots & sends.

You can write and read automation in Steinberg Cubase by activating the automation read and write buttons to enable MixConsole channels and tracks.

Cubase seems more suited to film composers because of its MIDI CC editing, Logical and Project Logical Editor, and surround support.

Steinberg Cubase Pricing:

  • Cubase Elements 11 (full version) – € 99.99
  • Cubase Artist 11 (full version) – € 331.99
  • Cubase Pro 11 – € 581.99
  • Cubase Pro 11, update from Pro version 10.5 – € 99.99

8. PreSonus Studio One

Rent-to-own with industry-leading pitch correction for singer-songwriters

PreSonus Studio One

In a departure from the conservative look, PreSonus Studio One gives a more contemporary vibe. Launched in 2009, Studio One’s designers created Pro Tools, Logic, and Cubase. It stems from a collaboration between PreSonus and KristalLabs Software.

PreSonus Studio One aims at being an all-rounder, featuring productive workflows and a responsive modern interface.

It has a complete feature set, including unlimited tracks, plug-ins, buses, inputs, FX channels, third-party plug-in support (AU/VST3), advanced audio editing, and a batch converter. There’s even a dedicated mastering page and the video player software allows you to score.

It really shines when songwriters use it since it utilizes the industry standard for sound design, Melodyne. That makes it the best DAW for pitch correction, and vocals or instrument takes production and editing.

PreSonus Studio has plenty of unique features, including chord tracks and pattern editors that will find plenty of fans with a performance bias, although the interface can be a bit overwhelming.

PreSonus Studio One Pricing:

  • PreSonus Sphere – $14.95
  • Studio One 5 Professional – $399.95
  • Studio One 5 Artist – $99.95
  • Studio One Prime – Free
  • Studio One 5 Crossgrade (upgrade from a different qualifying DAW) – $299.95

9. Cockos Reaper

Powerful, efficient, affordable, endless customization options

Cockos Reaper

Reaper is an acronym for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording, a DAW and MIDI sequencer first released in 2006.

With Reaper, your computer’s processing power is the bottleneck as it can handle as many audio and MIDI tracks as your hardware can handle. In addition, there’s support for routing, group editing, and bussing in one step.

While it’s a very capable DAW, some people find the user interface unintuitive, but that is down to personal preference. Reaper does have a steep learning curve that might overwhelm some people.

Overall, you would struggle to find a task that Reaper can’t complete competently. Since it has an open-source architecture, its community has included basically everything you could need, including a comprehensive plug-ins listing.

It’s a very rewarding DAW if you take the time to learn it–definitely one for the audio engineers and tech-savvy music producers.

Reaper’s features-set, such as customizable DAW and quick audio editing, make it a worthy challenger to Pro Tools. Plus, there’s a comprehensive online community to provide additional support.

It’s resource averse and offers the best bang-for-buck performance and fantastic audio and MIDI capabilities.

Reaper Pricing:

  • $60: discounted license for individuals, non-profits, educational organizations, and small businesses
  • $225: commercial license

10. Bitwig Studio

Just might have the best MPE editing

Bitwig Studio

Bitwig Studio is aimed squarely at live performances, and it does have more than a passing resemblance to Ableton Live, with good reason. Launched seven years ago in 2014, its CEO is a former Sales Manager at Ableton.

Like Live, Bitwig has a raft of crossfading, beatmatching, and other controls best suited for turntable action. However, it’s equally at home recording, mixing, arranging, composing, and mastering.

Bitwig Studio has built a reputation for innovation, offering unlimited audio, instrument, hybrid, effect, group, and scenes tracks. In addition, there are unlimited VST plug-ins, and it allows eight project tracks with MIDI or audio.

It has more than 150 modules to build unique devices, supported by instrument and FX audio presets. This level of modulation control makes it perfect for creative mixing and sound design.

The DAW is renowned for its automation and modulation abilities and linear and non-linear music arrangement and production. One of the downsides is no support for video natively, but you can use a VST plug-in.

Bitwig Studio Pricing:

  • Bitwig Studio 16-track – $99
  • Bitwig Studio – $399

11. Acoustica Mixcraft

Production software with a healthy inbuilt effects library

Acoustica Mixcraft

Mainly targeting production, Acoustica Mixcraft will fit comfortably into any professional producers, engineers, and musicians’ arsenal, although the company stresses it’s aimed at musicians.

You can record unlimited audio, MIDI, video, virtual instrument tracks, crop, edit, and crossfade sounds. Acoustica Mixcraft’s comprehensive library boasts over 7,500 samples, loops, and sound effects.

Its powerful automation features allow you to create smooth curves, boosts, and reductions, add tempo changes, and adjust the pitch in specific sections.

What’s more, Mixcraft has nearly universal support for hardware controllers, third-party plug-ins, and audio interfaces, but it’s still a Windows-only offering.

The DAW can record multiple tracks and functions as a virtual instrument host, music loop-recording program, MIDI sequencer, and non-linear video arranger.

Mixcraft Pricing:

  • Mixcraft 9 Pro Studio – $149
  • Mixcraft 9 Recording Studio – $75

12. MOTU Digital Performer

Geared towards film composition

The publisher of this DAW, MOTU, means ‘Mark of the Unicorn’. It traces its origins back to the 90s when it was a Mac-only software. Since then, it has distinguished itself as a strong MIDI sequencer.

Digital Performer offers many features, including unlimited songs, tracks, audio voices, V-racks, undo history and sequences.

That’s healthily supplemented by 2048 max mono, 1024 max stereo busses, and 20 maximum sends per channel with no limit on physical ins/outs.

Digital Performer has found favor among film composers because of its notation, ability to score to picture, and post-production work mainly because MOTU geared its MIDI sequencer towards composition.

Digital Performer Pricing:

  • Performer Lite – only available to registered MOTU hardware users
  • Digital Performer 11 – $499
  • Digital Performer 11 upgrade from previous version – $195
  • Digital Performer 11 upgrade from Performer – $295
  • Digital Performer 11 upgrade from Performer Lite/AudioDesk – $395

13. Tracktion Waveform Pro

Solid performer coupled with customizable workspace

Tracktion Waveform Pro

UK developer Julian Storer first released Tracktion in 2002. Mackie acquired it in 2003 before Storer retook possession in 2013. It takes an intuitive and transparent approach, with track object parameters and controls context-sensitive.

There are no track count limits, allowing you to record any type of input onto a track, even if it’s audio and MIDI to the same track. That’s because this DAW makes no distinction between audio and MIDI tracks.

You can activate automation on any track, such as fade-ins, adding points to the automation curve, and remapping tempo changes.

Moreover, it supports all the popular plug-ins compatible with all major DAWs, which are sandboxed to prevent the entire environment from shutting down if a plug-in crashes.

Its biggest draws are the intuitive menus featuring context help, and a customizable workspace. Beginners may face a few problems learning some of its features because it’s unconventional.

Because of its unique characteristics, Tracktion Waveform Pro Automation is more suited to music production.

Waveform Pro Pricing:

  • Basic – $119
  • Standard – $259
  • Extreme – $1,069

14. Mutools MuLab

Capable DAW, basement-level pricing

Mutools MuLab

Mutools’ Belgian developer, Jo Langie, launched MuLab in 2007. He was a pioneer at Atari microcomputers, and he developed MuLab around a modular architecture aimed at digital audio processing.

Despite the tiny price, MuLab has all the bells and whistles associated with a full-featured DAW. For instance, it features software synths and effects–explicitly targeting electronic music enthusiasts.

These include automation, mixing, MIDI sequencing, samplers and effects, control surface interaction, and multi-projects and templates.

Further features include unlimited MIDI inputs and outputs as well as multichannel and multi-timbral MIDI tracks. VST plug-ins, integrated instruments, and flexible tracks and sub-tracks also come supported.

It’s not resource-intensive so expect pacy loading times.

MuLab Pricing:

  • MuLab 8 (Demo mode) – Free
  • MuLab 8 User Key (unlocks Full Mode) – € 79
  • MUX Modular 8 Plug-In User Key – € 78
  • MuLab 8 User Key + MUX Modular 8 Plug-In User Key – € 119

What is the Best Free Music Production Software?

While the paid versions represent the absolute bleeding edge of DAW technology, that doesn’t mean you can’t produce presentable content with free software.

I have it on good authority that some free DAWs are just as capable of providing a feasible way of tweaking any piece of audio, with only a few essential bits missing.

If you want a cost-effective way of producing audio pieces without compromising quality, here are the top 10 free music production software.

1. Apple GarageBand

Apple Logic Pro’s close relation in more ways than one

Apple GarageBand

Often seen as Logic’s little brother. With good reason as Apple did develop it under the guidance of the company that made Logic after all. Its first release was in 2004, and initially, Apple pivoted it as a tool for creating music and podcasts.

It may be free, but it comes with a ton of functionality like sampling, pre-made loops, MIDI keyboards, voice recordings, audio, and MIDI editing and transposing, creating a music workflow from scratch, and downloading third-party plug-ins.

There are 500 loops and 50 instruments in the sound library and a track automation button. You can even record and edit other vocals, instruments, and loops as long as they are royalty-free. Control all this via Logic Remote.

As great as all that sounds, it does have some limitations, such as support for only 255 tracks, no external synths over MIDI, and you can only activate the VSTs using a MIDI keyboard.

There’s no support for video or mixing console view, and this is an Apple-only product. GarageBand’s limited interface means it’s suited for beginners.

2. Cakewalk by BandLab

Studio-quality audio production for free

Cakewalk by BandLab

Cakewalk by BandLab traces its origins to the Boston-made Cakewalk Sonar, renamed to its current format after Singaporean company BandLab acquired it in 2018.

The company that founded Cakewalk commenced operations in 1987, with the tradition reflecting on its user interface design of an analog console.

The current owner continued its rich tradition of freeware integrated recording, and editing multiple audio and MIDI tracks. BandLab promises studio-quality effects, made possible by its unlimited MIDI, audio, loops, instruments, and Aux tracks capability.

Cakewalk supports buses, VST3, automation read and write functionality on the tracks, and the plug-ins and clip-effects property pages modules.

Since this is a free software, it’s not as polished, it faces stability issues leading to crashes, and you can’t run external synths over MIDI.

This refreshingly capable DAW only works on Windows devices, has no sampler, has only five ins, and rejects video to only work with the audio in a video file.

Cakewalk by BandLab will serve the beginner producer, songwriter, or composer on a tight budget.

3. Tracktion Waveform Free

Loads of features with few restrictions

Tracktion Waveform Free

Targeting music creators, Tracktion Waveform Free is the unpaid version of Waveform Pro released in 2020. It sent ripples throughout the industry due to its impressive array of features, all for free.

As you would expect, it is a streamlined Waveform Pro stripped off luxuries. What you get is a simple, efficient, and intuitive DAW that does the essentials superbly.

Enjoy the freedom of unlimited tracks and plug-in support, full audio and MIDI recording, mixing, and editing, ably helped by the track loop format.

Best suited for beginners and pros who are curious about Waveform, this tool will help you create, record, edit, and mix podcasts and band or electronic music.

There’s even a customizable workspace and plug-in sandboxing to reduce crashes. What’s more, it works across several platforms, including Raspberry Pi.

Even though the user interface may be too spartan for some people’s tastes, it’s just a slimmed-down version of the paid version, which means no limits.

4. PreSonus Studio One Prime

Perfect for beginners?

PreSonus Studio One Prime

PreSonus touts this as the perfect DAW for beginners as it provides anything they would need to produce audio and create content for free. Released in 2015, this is a powerful, cross-platform, entry-level DAW.

Studio One Prime features a basic yet solid sequencing platform. The no track/bus count, instruments, or storage limit will come in handy for podcasting and recording music or audio projects. In addition, there are unlimited FX channels and virtual instruments.

You can utilize approximately 10 stock plug-ins, such as VST, ARA, and Audio Unit, with two input and two output support. The automation modes are applicable on specific track parameters, all assembled under the 2 GBs worth of musical and loop content.

Studio One Prime is similar to the paid version but with reduced functionality like no video track or export capability, and only 32-bit audio processing. You won’t find an easy way to save track templates, and there’s no notation editor.

If you’re a music student, composing and producing beginner, or want to experience PreSonus’s workflow, then this is a viable first step.

5. Pro Tools | First

Try out Avid’s Pro Tools workflow for free

Avid Pro Tools

Continuing on the streamlined theme of pro-version DAWs is the Pro Tools | First tool released in 2015–the starter edition meant to provide all the essentials to get you started.

Despite its name, it features four hardware-dependent input and output channels, carrying a maximum of 16 mono or stereo audio tracks. In addition, it supports 16 MIDI, Aux, and instrument tracks.

Pro Tools | First contains 3.1 GB worth of included sounds, 23 included plug-ins, and 24 mono and stereo busses, and it works across platforms.

The downsides are no support for voices or video, Routing Folder, or Basic Folder tracks, so this is for the beginners and someone looking to test Pro Tools’ abilities.

6. Ardour

Seriously capable free DAW that will not hog system resources

Ardour Digital Audio Workstation

Ardour is one of the most feature-rich free DAWs on the market. Paul Davis developed and made its initial release in 2005, aimed at professional use. Producing music is not limited to the latest laptop or computer hardware as Ardour will even run on Windows XP.

Ardour runs non-linear editing that is non-destructive, which means unlimited redo and undo. This feature applies across editing sessions, that is, from the changes you made the last time.

Whether mono, stereo, or multichannel, audio or MIDI, there are no limits to the number of buses, tracks, plug-ins, or inserts and sends per track, and the tracks may have overlapping or non-overlapping layered regions.

There are no limits either for the sample rate, channels, latency, or plug-ins per track. You can work on at least three videos simultaneously as Ardour allows video monitoring and timeline for editing and mixing for excellent TV post-production tasks or film soundtracks.

It beggars belief what this free DAW can achieve, with your hardware often proving the weak link to unleashing its full abilities. Ardour is not a stripped-down version of a pro version–it offers most of the functionality provided by paid DAWs, including automation.

Use this versatile and virtually free DAW for mixing, recording, live performance, and soundtrack editing. However, it doesn’t have scenes like Live, bears an unusual interface, and the free version carries a 10-minute project limit.

7. MPC Beats

Enjoy Akai’s accomplished workflow, with slight limitations

MPC Beats Music Production Software

Akai Professional released the free version of MPC Beats in 2020, enabling you to remix some of the pre-installed songs, such as Pop and Trap, based on its legendary MPC workflow.

Harness the power of 80 audio FX plug-ins, VST compatibility, and record vocals or instruments with two stereo audio tracks supplemented by 8 MIDI or instrument tracks.

The 16 pads of sample editing and 2 GB worth of loops, samples, and virtual instruments should help garnish your music.

There might be no video editing allowed, but the automation features and others named above mean MPC Beats is more suited towards basic music production for beginners or pros who want to experience Akai’s offering firsthand before committing to it fully.

8. SoundBridge

Fully featured in a simple design

SoundBridge Free Music Production Software

Launched in 2018, SoundBridge designers made it simple for sequencing, tracking, editing, and mixing.

The interface is intuitive and customizable, with an accomplished 16-step sequencer, randomization buttons, parameters, and a bunch of mixing and mastering FX sections to set up the drum machine. It also supports MIDI and processing for 32-bit and 64-bit audio.

Further, there’s support for third-party VSTs and an automation editor for smooth, flexible automation curves action. No video editing capabilities here as SoundBridge’s target market is musicians.

SoundBridge is a basic DAW with touch functionality if you need it. It will provide all the essentials a beginner producer will need.

9. LMMS

It would have been great if they allowed audio recording

LMMS Free Music Production Software

LMMS is an open-source project, which explains why it is free. Its original authors were Paul Giblock and Tobias Junghans, who released it in 2004 as Linux MultiMedia Studio.

It only worked on Linux initially, hence the name. Despite its past, LMMS is currently a cross-platform software that works on Linux, Windows, and macOS.

Compose music, sequence, mix, and tracks automation, all supported in a simple interface. Fine-tune the notes, melodies, patterns, and chords using the Piano Roll Editor.

There are inbuilt VST instruments and 16 synthesizers, and you can import MIDI files and play them using the keyboard. You can import and sequence audio and MIDI as well.

10. Podium Free

Customizable interface and spline editor. The only thing missing is plug-in multiprocessing.

Podium Free Music Production Software

Since its release in 2010, Podium Free has been the freemium model of the full version Podium DAW made by Fritz Nielsen. It supports an integrated sound editor, spline automation, and a hierarchic track layout.

The developers tout Podium Free as fully functional as the commercial Podium except for disabling the 64-bit mixer engine, ReWire, Surround-Sound playback, and plug-in multiprocessing. They’ve also limited the MIDI interface to one input and output each.

Podium Free is relatively robust, retaining its customizable user interface and supporting 99 mixer bus instances, with each mixer bus providing support for up to 32 audio channels. It aims at integrating audio recording and external audio and MIDI gear.

However, Podium Free only works on Windows OS, and does not support video editing.

Since this is a complete workstation with limited functionality, Podium Free is for the professional who wants to test the DAW before fully committing; or the novice who wants to try their hand at sequencing.

Music Production Software FAQs

In this section, I’ll answer the most common questions asked when dealing with music production software or audio editing software.

What is music production software?

Music production software is geared towards music creation, that is, digital recording and music composition. It is the best way for people without conventional musical instruments to perform and compose music.

Most music production software will have instrumental samples, sound effects, and loops to help the music sound right and ready for editing and final production.

What is a DAW?

A digital audio workstation (DAW) is the software that controls your entire recording setup, including recording, composing, editing, mixing, and producing audio and MIDI files.

In short, it is a central interface where you can mold several pieces of sound content, including effects and multiple recordings, into a single song.

It accepts and controls data from the microphone, audio interface, and MIDI keyboard, which you can track through the monitor, speakers, or headphones.

To create, change, edit, monitor, or mix specific sounds and audio effects, your DAW will have plug-ins that contain features such as effects, samplers, and synthesizers.

What is the best music production software?

The best music production software will include a bunch of inbuilt effects, loops, and instrumentals. Further, they have capable mixers and tools to clean and restore audio.

The music-making software designers will include comprehensive MIDI and audio input and output options for recording all the audio you could ever need.

With that in mind, FL Studio is one of the best music-making software as it contains most of these options. It’s the staple DAW for many artists in the contemporary genres and fast-beat music such as trap and pop.

The Gross Beat feature is an excellent avenue for stutter, repetition, and scratch effects that go well with these genres. It boasts a wide array of audio effects, stock instruments, and an easy-to-understand music creation platform.

FL Studio’s ease of use means beginners will feel right at home within a short time, but it’s perfectly capable of some heavy lifting. There are tons of helpful videos to help when you’re stuck, and it has excellent pricing with lifetime updates.

What is the best DAW for audio post-production?

There’s no doubt Pro Tools is vital for audio engineers–it sits right at the top with Reaper. If you intend to work in a commercial studio, you better brush up your Pro Tools skills because it’s pretty much the industry standard DAW.

Sure, its MIDI editing has yet to scale the heights reached by Cubase or FL Studio, but there’s a reason why the best mixers use Pro Tools, and it’s not just for the familiarity.

For starters, Pro Tools is great for collaborations, end-to-end integration, and workflow orchestration.

That’s why radio stations, film companies, streaming service providers, music producers, and news networks prefer it for its efficiency as they engage in plenty of collaborative work.

Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll find Pro Tools has incredibly intuitive key commands to help chop and arrange audio on the grid. The transparent pitch and elastic time options for editing clips make it the tool of choice for most producers and sound engineers.

Pro Tools is the best music-making software if you record or produce live ensembles or use physical instruments. Its advanced automation, samples, sounds, virtual instruments, track presets, and MIDI enhancements set it apart from the competition.

Alternatively, you could opt for Steinberg Nuendo, a close associate of Cubase. It has robust scoring features, perfect for game audio, audio post-production and broadcast, and multichannel Dolby projects.

The Best Music Production Software: Conclusion

DAWs have become so advanced that whatever your project or set up, you can barely put a foot wrong with any one of them, especially the paid versions. However, as is always the case, some audio editing software will do some tasks better than others.

For the paid software, Ableton Live is the best DAW for live performances. Producers, DJs, and musicians love it for its audio warping and unparalleled MIDI mapping features, but it’s weak in audio editing workflows. Bitwig comes close with its incredible modulation control.

If you’re more into music creation and need fun and intuitive software that will get your creative juices flowing, look no further than FL Studio, Logic Pro, and Reason.

Pro Tools and Reaper should be the choice of audio engineers for post-production work. These are incredible for DAW customization, and work best with live instruments and heavy audio editing projects.

If your career path points you towards a commercial studio, sharpen your Pro Tools chops. Opt for Reaper or Nuendo if you want something different.

Film composers will appreciate Cubase’s MIDI CC editing and surround sound feature. Although it’s not on this list, Steinberg Nuendo is a worthy alternative. Logic Pro and Studio One try but don’t quite hit the same levels as the two above.

For the free varieties, Soundbridge offers basic functionality to hit that free price tag. It does its job competently since it provides all the essentials.

On the other hand, the bulk of the other free music production software are the full versions with some limited capabilities, such as ReWire disabled and only one track input and output.

These include Podium free, MPC Beats, Pro Tools | First, Studio One Prime, Tracktion Waveform Free, Cakewalk by BandLab, Apple GarageBand. What you will find is very accomplished software as they have the same engine as the full versions.

Finally, we have the full-feature DAWs that somehow manage to be free. They offer the same functionality as the paid DAWs but with minimal downsides. They manage to pull off this trick by having open-source architecture. The best examples are Ardour and LMMS.

What music production software are you using? Let me know in the comments below.

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Vasco Lourenço is a digital entrepreneur and created his blog vaslou.com to inspire people to start their online business journey. Besides writing on his blog, Vasco delights in playing the piano and composing music.

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