Best Free Music Production Software 2020

DAWs and music making apps come in various price ranges and sometimes it’s difficult to choose which one to go with. Some people choose their DAWs based on their production skillset or needs, some choose based on features and some people choose their DAW based on price range. But what if your budget is limited to… ZERO? You’re a hobbyist and want to make music for yourself. Well you are in luck because we’re here to find the best solution for you! This is our pick of the best FREE music making software.

1. AKAI – MPC Beats

AKAI are a well-known audio company, mostly notable for their various ranges of hardware controllers. When it comes to the MPC series of products, AKAI also offers various sample expansion packs for MPC beat-making hardware, but now they also have a FREE beat-making software in the form of MPC Beats that comes for both Mac & PC. This is a hip-hop producer’s dream if you ask us!

MPC Beats features 16 PADS for triggering drum samples and loops, piano roll for midi notes recording and programing, a comprehensive sample editor to chop your samples, a great browser for searching your favorite sounds and a lot of other goodies. There are also great plugins and built-in effects for processing your sound and 2GBs worth of samples so you can start creating straight-away.

Basically, if you are into creating hip-hop and trap beats and you don’t know where to start, this is a perfect way to go. If you own any of AKAI’s hardware controllers, your hardware will feel right at home with MPC Beats. And if you ever get tired of the included samples, there is a vast selection of MPC expansions that you can buy in order to improve your sample collection.

2. BandLab – Cakewalk

This one is for PC users only. Cakewalk Sonar used to be the name of this DAW, while Cakewalk was a branch of Roland some years ago. After Gibson bought and sold Cakewalk as a company, a businessman from the far east (who is a music enthusiast) decided to buy the software, upgrade it and give it out for free. Just like that. When we speak of free DAWs, there are some doubts, but when it comes to Cakewalk’s capabilities and features, this is a full-fledged DAW ready for professional industry-grade music production.

You get unlimited audio & MIDI tracks, an amazing collection of virtual instruments and studio-quality effects at your disposal. Cakewalk also supports VST3 format, so when you get tired of its instruments and effects there is always an option of adding some 3rd party stuff that you like. One thing we should mention is that Cakewalk will run on 64bit Windows systems only, starting from Windows 7.

3. Tracktion – Waveform Free

This DAW comes as a stripped-down version of Tracktion Waveform but it is a truly capable DAW. It’s available for all major platforms and it offers full VST and ReWire compatibility. This one can also load video files, so it’s perfect for media composers on a budget.

If you are an EDM producer who’s just starting out, we can’t recommend Waveform enough. Bearing in mind that it can load virtual instruments and that it offers all of the MIDI features mandatory for electronic music production, this DAW is really intuitive and perfectly suited for beginner producers who never worked inside a DAW before.

There is also a comprehensive manual to answer all of your questions regarding your workflow inside Waveform. There’s hardly anything to argue about here because this DAW gives A LOT for absolutely NOTHING! 

4. Universal Audio – LUNA

We are including this DAW here because it ticks all the right boxes as a free DAW and music making software, even though you are obliged to own a UA Apollo Thunderbolt interface.

If you are on the lookout for something different that looks familiar and offers high-end studio FX software, you won’t go wrong if you choose LUNA. Bearing in mind that it is designed by Universal Audio, who have decades of experience in both hardware and software, this DAW really packs a punch. They don’t even call it a DAW, but talk about it as a recording system, and that’s what it is, because it seamlessly integrates itself with UA Apollo interfaces and UAD software.

If you compare it to a regular DAW it comes with all the bells and whistles and then some. It features a built-in Neve modelled summing to give your mixes that nice warm analog sound and it also has integrated Studer multitrack tape emulations. Aside from those, LUNA offers some really cool virtual instruments, and even though the offer is not that big in quantity, it truly dominates in terms of quality with officially modelled Mini Moog virtual synth, a Ravel virtual grand piano, Shape sampler and Spitfire Audio libraries.

All of these don’t come for free, aside from the Shape sampler, but you can purchase them as expansion packs to be integrated with your LUNA system. If you are a UA Apollo owner with a Mac computer you won’t be sorry for trying this one out.

5. PreSonus – Studio One Prime

This is a fairly stripped-down version of PreSonus’ flagship software. It doesn’t offer any VST support, aside from the included plugins, and it’s a drawback if you heavily rely on using virtual instruments. It’s not all that bad because Studio One Prime does offer an unlimited number of audio tracks for recording, full MIDI support for external instruments and the included plugins are of high quality. It also comes with a collection of 1.5GB of royalty-free sounds for you to use in your productions.

If you are an upstarting singer/songwriter, who needs a stable tool for recording and mixing demos, Studio One Prime is a must-have for you, more than anything else. It’s really light on your computer resources so it’s a perfect DAW for a travelling songwriter carrying a laptop.

6. Avid – ProTools First

ProTools is the DAW of choice for almost everyone who’s anyone in the music industry and the legacy of users of Avid’s DAW speaks for itself and how much of an impact ProTools has on the music and film audio industry.

Nowadays the tides have turned and producers are moving more to other DAWs, but ProTools still stands firm in its place, and now Avid has enabled young and upcoming songwriters to use ProTools in a feature-limited ProTools First version. It shares many features with the full version of ProTools, and it includes AAX support, elastic time and pitch functionality, around 20 built-in effects, and a full version of a really great Xpand!2 synth. It also feature ReWire support.

Even though all of this sounds really great, this version limits you to a total of 16 tracks and 4 audio inputs per project and only 3 projects can be saved on the cloud at the same time.

If you are starting out and you want to build your ProTools skills as an audio editor or engineer, you won’t find a better place to start!

Written by Nikola Nikita Jeremic