We were surprised at how powerful some of the best free music software available right now can be. If a lot of those popular digital audio workstations out there aren’t your thing or you don’t feel like spending an arm and a leg right now on software (or download it illegaly!), you’ve come to the right place. We’re huge fans of all DAWs and music software in general, and although we do recommend going with one of the more popular music software picks out there that you’ll eventually have to pay for as more of an investment (you can also use free trials for free), downloading some free music software in the mean time won’t hurt for some immediate needs. We scrounged the net for some of the best free music software and found some awesome solutions below — we’ll also list the highlight features and provide download links.
Guidelines to the best free music software
Before we get going on our picks, what operating system are you on? A majority of this free software for music is Windows or Mac-based (or both), however there are a few Linux gems if that’s what you fancy. Either way, just double-check the compatibility before you get excited and download the program. Unless of course you’re looking for some music making apps — only a few come iOS or Android friendly.
What exactly do you want to do with your software? Want to create entire songs and want the most jam-packed features of all? How about just a sequencer to get going on some beat making, or perhaps use it for entire live performances? A lot of the best free music software out there tend to gravitate towards specific needs and uses — we’ve seen some dedicated to beat makers and producers, only to DJ’s for mixing and mashups, while others are great as standalone stage software that focus on stability and features that many live artists need. We found a little bit of all to give you some options below.
Do you want to upgrade later, or stay free for life? Investing time into learning software is a real thing, so it’s up to you if you want to get going on something free with fewer features and “room for growth” than an otherwise paid software. A few of these picks below are indeed “trial versions” (but we made sure they can still work well without taking away major features, such as saving projects or having to ‘unlock’ certain features). These may be a good bet for you since it’ll give you a working music making software for free and at the same time a sneak preview of their major DAW in case you want to upgrade at a later date.
The best free music software
We remember using Audacity literally in the year 2000 when it was first released. When it comes to music software, Audacity is listed first as the best free music software due to its longevity to remain powerful and free for nearly two decades and the extremely long list of capabilities it offers as well. From supporting basic audio recordings, to enhanced sound quality and superior editing features, this is one of the best free music software out there today. Audacity is equipped with those “basic” music software features allowing you to record live and studio audio with both a microphone or a mixer. Enhanced import and export features enable the user great ease of use, subsequently edit them, tweak the pitch, pan, volume and more. Gauge your track’s personalities with level meters to avoid clipping, record at a low latency to avoid that pesky “lag” (records 24-bit depth), as well as using as many channels as you need. Editing can always be one of the trickiest aspects of music software, but Audacity does a great job of mitigating any concerns. Incredibly accessible and with real-time effects, there isn’t a better choice out there when it comes to musical design and overall capability.
Ableton Live Lite
Although technically a ‘trial version’, we wanted to include this one in here because we’re confident that this ‘Lite’ program can still stand on its own as a highly capable free music production software. If you haven’t heard of them already, Ableton gives us a customized experience that allows your music development to seem simpler as well as providing a refreshing way to write and record your own music. Enabling the musician to export their work on the go, this is a fast and reasonable way to create your sound. The Live Lite contains various high-quality audio recording and MIDI sequencing for up to eight tracks, pitch change, volume, pan, and various other sound tweaking functions to make it one of the more advanced and best free music software offered out there right now. Enhanced sound effects such as virtual instruments and effect racks for a superior sound design is just another reason why the Lite Live is first in its class. For the more mobile music creators, the plug-and-play compatibility features enable you to create your sound no matter what gear you have handy or where you are. EQ, compression, delay and chorus are added characteristics for even higher quality track mixing and mastering usage. When you are comparing music software you will have a ton of options, but Ableton Live Lite has just as many, if not more that will without doubt blow your mind. It may even inspire you to grab their full version, but again, this is fine on its own too.
Simplistic in its design and creative in its craft, recreating music has never been so fun. Make your music from right at home as the LMMS’s various heightened features will allow you to customize your beats in Windows, Linux, Mac, and OS X. Further equipped with a built-in compressor allowing you to silence or amplify your sound to any way your ears deem fit. In addition, the built-in visualization analyzer allows for the optimal graphics to appear right before your eyes. If you are looking for a music software that can consolidate instrument tracks, look no further as the LMMS’s Beat + Bassline editor, which intuitively allows you to have a unique way of doing so. It also supports VST’s and effects, MIDI, comes with a Roland TB-303 synth inside of the program itself, 2 built-in oscillator and wavetable-based synths, and many other mixing features like EQ, delay, reverb and more. This is one of the best cross-platform software that you can choose from, and has so many advantages due to the compatibility to various hardware’s that it comes with, allowing LMMS to be one of the best free music production and recording software choices, especially for beginners.
As our first Linux-only picks, Hydrogen offers an easy to use, fast, and intuitive graphical interface that includes a sample-based stereo audio engine that comes in various formats to choose from. This is one of the best free music production software out there if you run Linux and one of the best choices for aspiring musicians looking to improve their sound at no cost. It is equipped with a top of the line sequencer and mixer features as well, such as up to 192 ticks per pattern with individual level per event for a naturally instinctive beat. Play-lists with scripting functions, as well as brand new advanced tab-tempo, make Hydrogen hard to argue as being a new and improved version of older, out-dated software. One of the other more popular qualities that this software offers is its ability to quickly import and export music files with minimal effort. When you consider the Hydrogen‘s features and compare it to others, it’s easy to recognize the upgrades that it has to offer without costing a dime.
Apple Garage Band
Impressively designed and extremely popular in this day and age, Apple GarageBand is one of the simplest music recording software around and will without a doubt enable you to craft your music how you want. Realistic sounds as well as endless instrument noises to choose from, this is one of the best free music software for Mac only (they also have an app for smart devices). Whether its drumming sounds, electric guitar amps, or if you just want to turn up the bass, GarageBand does it all and has yet to disappoint. Mix and match as you desire and control GarageBand to play from anywhere wirelessly by using iCloud to keep your musical projects updated at any location. This exciting and refreshing software has been designed to impress the user, as it not only looks great, but makes life so much easier when it comes to creating music with an interface that’s suitable for many beginner music makers out there. In the event that you are seeking help, simply enable “Quick Help” and obtain useful help by hovering your curser over areas that you find confusing.
Virtual DJ comes with some awesome features and effects and is often professionally used by DJ’s worldwide even you aren’t into the Serato vs. Traktor debate. This is a great pick for DJ software that is PC and Mac friendly and one that is used to replace turntables and CD players, as well as using digital music instead of vinyl and CDs to mix and mash as well as scratch (not with this software, you’ll have to get Serato for that). Some other standout features you’ll be getting with Virtual DJ include effects like flanger, echo, slicer, and loop-roll, holding compatibility with many DJ controllers out there, auto-filling tracks that are missing from the internet, and can also serve your karaoke needs via video on a projector or screen. This is software that only enables more options for creating music, for example in iTunes you can’t mix two songs the way that you can while using Virtual DJ. For the lack of price and the overall experience, it can be concluded that Virtual DJ is one of the best free music software for any DJ out there looking to get going on their mixing.
Audiotool offers an accessible way to keep all of your samples and tracks organized and easy to reach from your home browser. You can now publish your tracks from the mobile application straight to the Audiotool website or even to social media and YouTube. This is a built-in publishing platform that is highly regarded as one of the most efficient musical tools, and often said to be one of the best free music software around if it pertains to your exact needs. The software also enables the user to collaborate and mix tracks together for a ground-breaking and super versatile way of making music with others. It offers a state of the art music studio that can be accessed for free straight from your home browser, you can then simply save your creations to the cloud. All track assets will be stored to their servers, allowing you to re-access any work left off from any browser out there and not worry about losing your work. Audiotool makes collaboration a possibility from any location, and the best part is that it can be done from any computer on top of it all without a cost.
Designed for composer, musicians and audio engineers, Ardour is free music production software that will bring your musical ideas to life. Plug and play capabilities enable you to bring in a microphone or keyboard and simply press record to track your sound. Simply import audio or MIDI from your hard drive and allow Ardour to help you access of your dirty work. It is no secret that Ardour targets those who are looking to record, edit, and mix and master various audio and MIDI projects. What makes this truly one of the best tools and certainly one of the best free music software out there is it’s reliability. You can use all major VST software instruments, MIDI processors, FX plugins and more. When you plan on spending large amounts of time on your projects, this platform is just going to make your work appear how you want it to.
The optimal Audio and MIDI multi-track sequencer for Linux and a great pick for DJ’s and electronic musicians. Equipped with multi-track audio and MIDI sequencing functionality, this is a high-quality sequencer that will allow you to produce the unique sound that you are looking for. The Qtractor contains a standard MIDI files support, is developed on the Qt C++ (hence that name) application, non-linear editing, mixer and monitor controls, loop-recording and takes, and much more. In addition to even further reduce the user’s limitations, you are now capable of generating an unlimited number of tracks per session, as well as an unlimited number of plug-ins per track. Some of the basic requirements that the user should be aware of are a JACK Audio Connection Kit, ALSA, Advanced Linux Sound Architecture, as well as a Qt framework or C++ class library, so it isn’t for the simple Windows or Mac system and will take some technical knowledge on top of it all to get going. Whether you are an aspiring DJ or simply enjoy electronic music, Qtractor is one of the best free music production and recording software picks that can be enjoyed for many creative purposes if you’re on Linux.
Last but not least, with the ability to be used as a drum machine, loop machine, or a live sampler, Giada is compatible with Windows, Mac as well as Linux and is the optimal portable virtual device. This makes its ranks into our list of the best free software for music due to it being often utilized by DJ’s and live performance musicians. You get an unlimited number of channels, all with different playback modes and combos, as well as some MIDI I\O, VST\VSTi support, action recorder and editor, as well as patch-based system with support from all of the main uncompressed formats of files. Simply lift your channel, add your MIDI events and go from there. This is a compact device that brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to your sound by using live sampler based off of outside sources. In addition, the software is equipped with a built-in wave editor as well as a live quantizer to enhance your overall experience. Though it appears small and simple (it really is — only uses some external libraries and is so small can fit on a floppy disk), the 32-bit floating point audio engine as well as its sample-accurate looping system enable it to make for a powerful force to be reckoned with.