You don't have to spend a lot of money to make music in 2023; all you need is a computer and a free DAW (digital audio workstation). The hardest part is finding the music-making software that suits you best. To help you get started, we have created this comprehensive list (incl. pros and cons) of the 9 best free DAW apps you should download to kickstart your compositions and songwriting.
1. Tracktion Waveform Free
Tracktion is an award-winning freeware program that can easily be compared to many paid DAWs in terms of functionality and intuitiveness. Most producers will find the free version adequate for their needs, however, there is also a pro version if you're feeling restrained.
If you have an Apple computer, you already have GarageBand. This music making software is remarkably powerful for a free DAW (provided you already have the Apple computer, of course!). A light version of the professional DAW Logic Pro X, GarageBand is the perfect tool to learn MIDI and mixing before getting into more complex software. Its intuitive design is ideal for beginners.
3. Ohm Studio
Ohm Studio is a free DAW created by the popular plug-in designer Ohm Force. Its creation started as a real-time collaborative project. Besides its collaborative features, Ohm Studio is a relatively complete DAW for any new producer looking to get the most out of their freeware.
Audacity has been one of the most popular open source programs for several years. Its 3.0.2 version is compatible with Windows, OS X, and Linux, making it accessible to all users. If you are interested in multitrack recording, try Audacity before investing in expensive music making software.
5. Pro Tools First
A free, light version of Pro Tools, First is ideal for anyone new to Pro Tools or just getting into audio recording. Pro Tools First supports playback of up to 16 audio tracks and allows for the simultaneous recording of up to four tracks.
When it comes to free DAWs, PT First also includes 20 plug-ins/effects, and the powerful Xpand!2 virtual instrument. Last but not least, Avid's leading technology will supply you with everything you need to edit and mix your tracks.
6. Cubase LE
Steinberg's powerful Cubase Pro is not for everyone, but fortunately, there is a light version of this fantastic software. The only drawback is that you will need dedicated hardware with code, such as a Steinberg interface. Cubase LE supports up to 24 MIDI tracks, 16 audio tracks, and 8 physical inputs with a recording quality of up to 24 bits/192 kHz. The free software also comes with the 180-preset HALion Sonic SE 2 virtual instrument, so you can dive right into music production. Eighteen other basic plug-ins such as EQ, compression, and delay tools allow you to let your ideas run wild.
7. Cakewalk by BandLab
In early April 2018, BandLab announced the launch of Cakewalk's popular SONAR Platinum as a free download. The software is now available for free to Windows users. Despite this operating system restriction, you won't find another free DAW with this level of professionalism.
8. PreSonus Studio One 5 Prime
PreSonus' professional software is a well-established DAW on the market, and Studio One 5 has released major updates to improve workflow and efficiency. However, the price tag of the pro version may dampen the enthusiasm of even the most avid hobbyist. Studio One 5 Prime is a highly functional light version of its big brother.
9. Ableton Live Lite
Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAWs for MIDI sequencing, sampling, and electronic music production. Furthermore, it is perfectly up to the task of recording audio. In Live Lite, you can get a feel for the Ableton workflow without spending a dime. As with Cubase, you will need a recording code that comes with some equipment. Technically the software is free, but you will have to pay for the hardware that will allow you to access it. As we have seen with other "light" software programs, Ableton Live Lite offers several effects and virtual instruments within the program. Among all the plug-ins it contains, Live Lite offers EQ, compressor, delay, reverb, and an analog filter emulator. It also offers three Ableton virtual instruments: Drum Rack, Impulse (drum sampler), and Simpler (powerful sampling instrument).
In conclusion, there is no shortage of free music production software programs on the market, so take your pick and let your creativity run wild! For more beat-making tips, check out our blog. We'll tell you all the secrets about the art of computer composition and much more! For those who want to monetize their productions, we recommend reading our guides on "How to promote your music in 2021" and "How to make money with Spotify". We are here to help artists promote and distribute their music on platforms worldwide!
All You Need.
All in One Place.
Get tips on How to Succeed as an Artist, receive Music Distribution Discounts, and get the latest iMusician news sent straight to your inbox! Everything you need to grow your music career.