Songwriting is a complex creative process that can bring a lot of hurdles along the way, especially if you’re just at the beginning of your songwriting journey. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools widely accessible to both newbies and experienced musicians. What is the best software for songwriting, you wonder? We got you covered! In this article, we will guide you through the 10 best songwriting software in 2023 that will help you develop your skills and master the songwriting game.
Whether for free or available to purchase, there are three main types of songwriting tools - Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), songwriting apps, and songwriting software and websites.
Digital audio workstations (DAWs)
DAWs are electronic devices or application software that allow artists to record, edit and produce their audio files and so create and polish a full song from start to finish. Available in a great variety of configurations - from single software to stand-alone units - DAWs are suitable for the creation of any complex audio recordings, including music, radio and television footage, soundtracks, podcasts, or various sound effects. For this reason, DAWs may be considered rather costly and more suitable for experienced and advanced songwriters and musicians.
1. Ableton Live
Ableton Live is an audio workstation developed for both Microsoft Windows and macOS by a Berlin-based company, Ableton, in 2001. Apart from being a tool suitable for composing, editing, recording, and mastering audio recordings, Ableton Live can also be used as an instrument for live performances. Consisting of features used for beatmatching and crossfading, the software is widely used by DJs and turntablists and it’s been one of the first known programs to automatically beat match a song. For its significance to the DJ world, Ableton Live was awarded the DJ Award for Technology in 2007 and became the winner of the DJ Award for Software Performance Tool in 2008.
Ableton Live comes in three versions (price packages): Intro (with limited features), Standard, and Suite; with the possibility of a free 90-day trial period. The primary version, Intro, is rather suitable and most price-friendly for beginners as it includes essential features for 79€. Users are able to access 4 instruments (Impulse, Simpler, Instrument Rack, and Drum Rack) and create 16 audio and MIDI tracks, 16 scenes, and 2 send and return tracks. The Intro tier also includes 8 mono audio input channels, 8 mono audio output channels, or complex warp modes.
The Standard (for 349€) and Suite versions (for 599€) include additional external instruments, such as Bass, Collision, or Electric Piano. Additionally, both versions allow users to create unlimited amounts of audio tracks, MIDI tracks, and scenes and offer up to 256 mono audio input and output channels. The Standard version also comes with 37 audio effects and 14 MIDI effects while the Suite version provides musicians with 60 audio effects, 16 MIDI effects, and above all, Max for Live feature, which is a visual programming language for music and multimedia.
As opposed to Ableton Live, BandLab is a completely free online DAW that’s perfect for those that are just starting out with songwriting. Available in two formats - as a mobile app and a desktop version -, BandLab includes more than 200 professionally created instruments, embedded collaboration tools, and various advanced features, such as time-stretching, automation, AutoPitch (real-time auto pitch-correction), or premium guitar/bass/vocal effects. Users can also connect their own instruments or load in stems from other audio workstations.
The software offers unlimited projects, secure storage, collaborations, algorithmic mastering, and high-quality audio downloading, with all recorded tracks being always stored and ready to load. Moreover, BandLab is known for having a built-in community network of millions of creators, openly supporting creative collaborations across genres and nationalities and exchanging feedback with one another.
GarageBand is another free digital audio workstation and songwriting tool, developed by Apple and therefore accessible only on Apple’s macOS, iPad, and iOS devices. As a user, you can load up to 255 tracks, plug in your own instrument or enjoy a complete built-in sounds library that includes virtual instruments, human-sounding drum tracks (in total, 28 beat-making drummers, and 3 percussionists) and presets for guitars and voice. Additionally, there are tons of recording and editing features that can help you amend your performance, fix any rhythmic or sound issues with audio effects or master your recording with extra features such as compression or visual EQ.
A great advantage of GarageBand is the synchronization across Apple’s owned and developed devices, making it easy for users to create, save, continue to work on, and finish a track regardless of their location and the device they’re using at the moment. On the other hand, the software lacks built-in MIDI-export features, shows limitations to the pitches and intervals of standard 12-tone equal temperament (and so doesn’t support xenharmonic music), and doesn’t offer a variety of tuning options.
While GarageBand is positioned by Apple for the consumer market, there is another DAW (and MIDI sequencer) developed by the company, called Logic Pro, that takes it a step further and is better suited for the professional market. As created by the same brand, the transition from GarageBand to Logic Pro is rather easy.
Songwriting apps present great tools for songwriters to record, edit and master audio recordings, write lyrics, notate chords, tune your sound, and much more. As apps are highly portable and accessible everywhere, you can work on your tracks in a studio, on the go, or from the comfort of your own home. These are the best songwriting apps we recommend!
4. Hum On
HumOn is an interesting songwriting app, available on iOS and macOS devices, that enables users to build a song around a hummed melody. All you have to do is record yourself singing your melody into your phone and then use the app’s built-in features, such as instrumental accompaniments, to create a song.
The app is able to use its algorithm to generate different music styles, such as R&B, rock, ballad, or classical, that you can utilize to edit your recording. Additionally, you can use the app’s built-in mode to prolong or shorten your melody and after finalizing, you can share your song on your social media accounts. You can download the app for free from the App Store.
Chordbot is an app created for both Android and iOS operating systems that allows songwriters to create, sample, and play various chord progressions easily. After recording your chords - a new or already existing melody - you can play with more than 400 embedded instrument tracks, such as synths, acoustic guitar, or piano; various comping patterns, audio effects, and styles to alter your track in real-time.
A great advantage of Chordbot is that you don’t need to know any instruments or fingering charts to create and master your chords - the app will give you all the necessary features and modes to create the melody you want. After you finalize your track, you can refine it in a DAW or export it as a MIDI or WAV file.
The app is available in two versions: Chordbot Lite and Chordbot Pro. Chordbot Lite is available for free while Chordbot Pro can be purchased for 4.99$. The free, Lite version will provide its users with all the features and content of the paid version but will not allow them to save and export any of their songs.
Songwriting software and websites
If you feel rather comfortable working on your computer, there are plenty of songwriting software and websites available to you - all you need is your electronic device, internet connection, and a browser. Additionally, what makes many of this software great is that they’ve also been developed as songwriting apps making it easy for you to notate and create your tracks on the go, too.
6. HookTheory Trends - Hookpad
Hookpad by HookTheory is defined as a complex musical sketchpad that allows its users to notate progression chords, create complemental melodies in the forms of beats, and snippets of songs, and edit them by playing with a variety of embedded instrumental features and styles. You can also create musical scores, guitar tabs, or lead sheets and export your recording as a MIDI file to then work with it in any DAW of your choice. Moreover, there are built-in chord suggestions, voicing, and rhythm engines, music theory, and much more.
The great thing about Hookpad is that you can try it for free before purchasing its official, paid version. You can either do a one-time purchase and get your Hookpad for 149$ or subscribe to it, either yearly, for 49$, or monthly, for 4.99$. For an additional 34.98$, you can also get a so-called Hookpad ‘Skills Pack’, through which you can access the educational Hookpad Book Series, that will enhance your songwriting skills, teaching you how to build and craft melodies and create chord progressions. Hookpad doesn’t need to be installed, you can freely access it through your desktop and mobile browsers.
IO-808 is another free songwriting software, more precisely a drum machine, available through your phone and desktop browser. Designed after one of the most known rhythm-based sound instruments, TR-808, IO808 can be used to build rhythms and create powerful drummers for your tracks. You can either play along to it or record it and then use it for your songs.
RhymeZone is most likely the simplest songwriting tool on our list. Operating as an online rhythmic dictionary, RhymeZone provides a great source for musicians to write or revise lyrics for their songs.
All you have to do is to search for a word and based on the word, you can find related rhymes, near rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, adjectives, mentions, definitions, related words, and much more! With RhymeZone you can discover new words and phrases and nail the lyrics of your upcoming song. You can access it for free through your website browser or download its app, for both Android and iOS, currently for 2.99$.
Songcraft is a collaborative software developed for songwriters to cooperate and create their songs together. By using an integrated comment section, text, and video chat, songwriters are able to collaboratively notate chords, suggest keys, write lyrics, create tabs and record audio recordings, easily and effortlessly. There are also many embedded features that will help you write the best song possible, including a tuner, rhyming dictionary, voice memo integration, and more. Trusted and used by more than 50,000 songwriters across countries, Songraft is a great songwriting tool suitable for both beginners and advanced users.
Songcraft is either available for free, allowing musicians to create up to 5 songs and do 1 weekly exercise, or you can upgrade to a paid version, Songcraft Pro, for 5$/month and write unlimited amounts of songs, access video collaborations or custom string tunings, and much more.
10. Guitar Pro
Written by a French company Arobas Music, Guitar Pro is a great multitrack editor, especially useful for guitar players and bassists to write their music. The tool encompasses multiple features, including a built-in MIDI-editor, a visual metronome, a chords plotter, an embedded tuner and player, and much more. Additionally, users are able to notate and view their music in both guitar and bass tablature, as well as in classical musical scores. With highly customizable tabs, musicians can easily and precisely adjust the sounds of their recording as well as mix the drum set and lock the sound for the particular line-in.
The newest version, Guitar Pro 8, dropped in 2018 and as a music notation software, it’s available for both Microsoft Windows and macOS. Users are able to first acquire a 7-day try-out version for free before purchasing a license to continue using the software. The license, allowing for 5 computers in total, including a free guitar method and technical support, is available for 69.95$/year. Guitar Pro can also be used as an app for smartphones and tablets with versions for both Android and IOS. This way, users can view, notate and edit their writings and recordings wherever they go. The Guitar Pro app can be purchased and downloaded for 6.99$.
Whether you’re in the middle of writing and polishing your songs, building the right rhythm for your track, or struggling with finishing your lyrics, there are more than enough songwriting tools, songwriting software and songwriting apps that will help you ease your creative process and finalize your work of art. Be aware of your needs and your level of experience and choose the one tool that will benefit you the most!
For more songwriting tips, go check out our blog. We'll tell you all the secrets about the art of writing your song and much more! For those who want to monetize their songs, 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!
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