The Best Music Production Software

Computer Music

Here at Hitsquad we've been bringing you the top software for music production since 1995, now we present the best programs available today.

There are so many options out there that choosing the best software for making music can be difficult - so we're making the process a little easier and letting you take advantage of our many years of experience with DAWs, Beat Makers, Loopers and more.

Contents:

  1. Commercial Music Production Software
  2. Free Music Production Software

Just which software is best for your needs depends largely on what you want to do with it.

If your primary use will be to record your band's songs, then you'll be looking for a more traditional DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Pro Tools and Cubase, or GarageBand if you're just starting out.

For a DAW that you can also use live we recommend Ableton Live. Usine is also an interesting tool for live work, but a little different (and perhaps more exciting) than what you're used to.

Reason is a great option if you want the combined features of a traditional DAW along with tools to help with songwriting.

If your focus is on 'point and click' music production then FL Studio is a better choice for Windows, and the Web Browser based options below are great if you want to do your music making in the cloud and have your software available to use on any computer.

Your productivity using any of these DAWs can be greatly improved by using a hardware controller.

This category is divided into two sections:

Software to Download & Install on Your Computer

Ableton Live More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac
Although other software can do better in terms of depth, intuitiveness and quality, Ableton Live beats them with its combination of simplicity and features that make for a fun music production experience. Ableton Live simply hits it right where it counts and for that it is the top music production software. This unique DAW is primarily designed for live music and performance, which is why many DJs prefer it over other applications. Ableton Live simply gives you the ability to spontaneously write a song, improvise, capture performance, remix and edit musical ideas. If you consider yourself the creative and impulsive type, then you will find this software very intuitive and enjoyable. Retail Price: $449.00 Check out the latest price and reviews at zZounds.com
Reason More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac
Many musicians and sound engineers prefer the in depth performance of Reason. It is a virtual studio rack that has virtually all the tools and instruments that you will need to make music. Its unique design and intuitive work flow aims to help you not just in the recording aspect, but also in the song creation and idea processes - this makes it suitable for songwriters and artists more so than sound engineers. Reason utilizes traditional hardware workflow in digital format, turning your computer into a virtual studio that comes with almost everything you need to start making music. Without hardware experience, Reason may be a bit harder to learn but once you get the hang of it, music production will be a breeze. Retail Price: $449.00 Check out the latest price and reviews at zZounds.com
Pro Tools More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac
If you want to play with the big boys, you've got to have the same toys, in professional music, it means shelling out big bucks for a Pro Tools System. Pro Tools is currently the industry standard tool used in countless popular contemporary recordings and music productions. And many will argue that Pro Tools is the best. Pro Tools has an intuitive interface that makes it suitable for amateurs and new comers, while at the same time it provides great depth and power for industry professionals. The downside however is its price and its limited compatibility and high hardware requirements. Still, if you want to have the best music production software that money can buy, you better check out Pro Tools and the range of products they offer. Retail Price starts at: $699.00 Check out the latest price and reviews at zZounds.com
FL Studio

FL Studio

More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on iOS
Budget conscious music makers need not fret because there are programs like FL Studio that keep music production simple and affordable. FL Studio is popularly used for home produced music, and works easily with hip hop and other electronic music because of its intuitive piano roll and work flow. This music production platform is capable of audio recording, composing, mixing and sequencing. Everything you need to make music is within reach and it is very easy to record, sequence and create music because of its no nonsense interface. This software beats everything else in terms of value and accessibility. One cool feature is that it hosts VST plugins, and it can also be used as a plugin in other applications. FL Studio is very cheap and all future updates of the program are yours for free. Prices range between $49.00 & $299.00.
Cakewalk Sonar

Cakewalk Sonar

More info:
Runs on Windows
Windows users are familiar to Cakewalk Sonar mostly because of its availability - its free version comes bundled with a number of audio hardware units - including mics and audio interfaces. What makes Sonar stand out however is its in depth and versatile production controls which is suitable for home recording purposes. It may not be as fun as other easy to use DAWs, but Sonar will get the job done with more tools and control over your music. Starting a project and finishing is easy once you get a hang of its various commands and features. Its not as useful in live performances - but it shines in audio recording, be it solo performers or a multi-track orchestra project. Serious recording artists that use Windows should definitely give Sonar a try. Retail Price: $519 Check out the latest price and reviews at zZounds.com
Cubase More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac
Cubase from Steinberg is a popular DAW that has a big and loyal user base - it's been around since the old Atari ST days, first released in 1989! Its visually clean interface, comprehensive feature set and extensive sound tools turn Cubase first timers into Cubase drones that never look at other DAWs again. One of the best commented features of Cubase is its hardware compatibility and stability. Compared to other big name programs, Cubase will run consistently on any decent machine without any problems. Plus its consumer support and regular updates ensure that when you have Cubase, hurdles or bugs are properly dealt with. It may not be as bubbly and easy to use - but that is because it is geared towards professional consumers with more depth and better stability. Retail Price: $499.99 Check out the latest price and reviews at zZounds.com
GarageBand

GarageBand

More info:
Runs on Mac Runs on iOS
Although it may not have the depth for professional musicians and sound engineers, GarageBand is the ultimate consumer application for music production. It has all the essential functionality of DAWs, and adds its own unique twists that make music production easy and enjoyable even for non-musicians. It features a solid and intuitive interface perfect for beginners or hobbyists. You can use GarageBand to create musical sequences, use it as a virtual instrument, use it as a virtual amp and effects modeler for your guitar or bass, use it as an audio sampler. It also has auto accompaniment music tuition capabilities. If you are looking for a fun, practical and cheap music software then, Garageband is the way to go. Retail Price: $14.99 for the OSX version and $4.99 for the iPad app.
Usine

Usine

More info:
Runs on Windows
Usine is quite a bit different to traditional applications, but if you're ready for an adventure you'll find it can really help with the creative juices. It's an all in one music production tool that can be used both in the studio and on the stage. It provides solutions to various production needs like sampling, sound shaping and live effect processing. It is a simple tool that works as intended - with sequencer, modular and grid work flows that can be easily personalized. Some even look at Usine as an instrument - utilizing it to transform audio samples in real time for creative and personalized effects. Other notable features of Usine are video capture module, User addons, VST integration and MIDI automation. You are sure to get a lot for its affordable price. Retail Price: EUR 39

Web Browser Based Online Music Production Applications

Both of these online apps are very good. DubTurbo is the leader when it comes to beat making (particularly when combined with it's downloadable option), and Soundation Studio is the best if you want to record using microphones and real instruments online.

DubTurbo

DubTurbo

More info:
Runs Online
The digital age has ushered in improvements that made making music faster, easier and convenient. DubTurbo is a working example of this, very intuitive, practical and can work either online or via downloading. It is so easy to make music with DubTurbo that anyone can create cool beats on the fly. Designed specifically for popular music styles like Rap, Techno, hip hop, pop and urban. Aside from having virtual instruments, DubTurbo is also fully functional DAW that can produce broadcast quality output music formats. Since DubTurbo specializes in beats, it scores really big points in terms of intuitive and efficient workflows. As a bonus, membership also gives you tutorials to help you create professional sounding tracks. Membership Price: $39.95
Soundation Studio

Soundation Studio

More info:
Runs Online
Soundation Studio is a cool web application that lets you do recording, sequencing, looping, and records both external Audio & MIDI. It is a virtual studio in your browser that carries real time effects, virtual instruments, automation and many more. It has many of the features found on established commercial DAWs and looks, feels and works very much like them too. Accessing this web app is so easy, loads real fast and includes all the essential functions you need to create beats and music instantly. If you want to get down and dirty, it has deep editing parameters like pitch, time bends and other effects to get those details in. Free membership gives you as much as 600 free loops and samples and it only gets better from there - there are over 6000 sounds accessible for premium users. Membership Price: Starts at $19.99

2. Free Music Production Software

Some of these free applications have been around for a long time and are very well regarded.

This is also where you'll find the best Linux music production software.

Audacity is the clear winner in this category, and it's available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Audacity

Audacity

More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac Runs on Linux
Audacity is the most popular free music production software and for good reasons. Its compatibility with all major operating systems make it very accessible and its essential features for capturing and editing audio is very handy for all types of musicians. Audacity's interface is simplistic, making multi-track recording and audio editor very convenient. Note that Audacity can also host VST plug-ins. This free software also comes with its own effects which can be easily applied to your projects. Another plus is that Audacity is continually being developed and had a recent version 2.0 release. If you need a practical recording and editing tool, without any flashy excesses, then it will do you well to try Audacity.
Ardour

Ardour

More info:
Runs on Linux Runs on Mac
Ardour is a full featured DAW, with multi-track recording, mixing, recording, and audio editing functionality. Users say that it is the most powerful open-source recording tool and even claim that it rivals the capabilities of high end music production hardware. It has a semi-complicated but non-linear, non-destructive editing - giving you unlimited undo/redo and making the entire process stress free and convenient. It has full automation support and compatibility will not be much of an issue. The best part about Ardour though is its continued development and helpful community of users. Although you can download Ardour for free, it does give you the option to donate, which we do recommend to help support its development.
LMMS

LMMS

More info:
Runs on Linux Runs on Windows
LMMS or Linux Multimedia Studio is a free cross-platform application. LMMS provides you the same features as the entry to mid level commercial DAWs all for free. With LMMS you can create melodies and beats, synthesize and mix sounds and you can also sequence loops and samples. It's a simple and fun tool that you can use to easily create music. It has Piano-Roll and MIDI capabilities for more professional and detailed arrangements. On top of this all, LMMS has a very intuitive work flow and the interface rivals that of other paid programs. Finally LMMS comes with virtual instruments and effect plugins. If you are looking for a free alternative to FL Studio - that works on both Windows and Linux, then do try out this free program.
MuLab

MuLab

More info:
Runs on Windows Runs on Mac
MuLab is a free music production program for Mac and Windows. It utilizes a simple modular format - turning your computer into a modular music studio. It may not be as powerful and deep as the others but it is known for being stable. By removing some rarely used advanced features, MuLab effectively clears up the clatter while at the same time providing easy to access essential controls. This makes working with MuLab easy, it is an effective and rock solid tool for making music. It comes with a versatile synth and sampler, plus it fully supports VST plug-ins. If you are just looking to do the basics - recording, multi-track mixing, editing, MIDI and basic sampling, MuLab will surely get the job done.
Rosegarden

Rosegarden

More info:
Runs on Linux
Rosegarden is a multi-faceted music production program which we consider to be the best free DAW for Linux. It runs on Linux by using the Jack audio system and it natively supports LADSPA effects and DSSI instrument plugins. This free program will let you record and sequence audio or MIDI on your Linux based computer, and you can also use it to inject effects and other VST plugins through a wrapper plugin. It is mostly known for its audio and MIDI sequencer features, but it goes beyond that by incorporating music composition tools and score editing. The interface is nothing fancy, but it is very straightforward and polished. This is definitely a must have for musicians that prefer the Linux platform.
PocketBand Uloops

PocketBand Uloops

More info:
Runs on Android
PocketBand Uloops, or previously known as Uloops Studio, is a fun, simple and free app for Android devices. It literally is a pocket studio. It utilizes three basic concepts - song, loop and virtual instruments. It lets you lay down tracks with a metronome and provides normalization, noise reduction and other effects. It comes with a polyphonic synthesizer with filters and a drum machine with 14 different drumkits. And to make it even more interesting, PocketBand Uloops come with built-in modulator and arpeggiator. Finally, you can mixdown your music with its 12-channel mixer that carries 3 band parametric EQ and panning capability per track. This humble app also has a mastering toolbox to polish your music.

Some additional guides you might also like to read:
USB Audio Interface Roundup
Home Recording Microphone Roundup
Cheap MIDI Keyboards
Audio Interfaces - USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0

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Great Collection

Great collections I'm thinking of checking out all!....I've tried a lot but now I've got this great list to check out.
what do you think of this beat that was made with another great music software that you can add to the list see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRk64Khphkg

Update of article?

I noticed that Reaper and Renoise were missing from this article....

Best Music Production Software For Beginners

This is a truly comprehensive description of every last Daw i could think of but one, It called BTV Solo a very simple and user-friendly music making software that produces fantastic sounds, it's stack with over 1,000 professional tracks a full detailed review can be seen at http://bestmusicproductionsoftwareforbeginners.tk/ Thanks for sharing this Extraordinary article, now i got a lot of music software i can try out... Much appreciated.

What is the best free

What is the best free hip-hop/rap beat program?

Best DAW? That depends on the person.

This is a really compreshensive explanation of all the DAWs. A lot of other pages only hit the main ones but you even included all the free ones. Impressive. The one thing that I'd like to stress the most is that there's not particularly a Best DAW, but ones that are better for certain people. Not everyone works the same in certain programs so it really comes down to a personal level vs. an overall best. Great article, Thanks.

I like Uloops. It generally

I like Uloops. It generally is a pouches studio room space room. It uses three main ideas - music, design and exclusive gadgets. Scoopit Bookmarking

Does anyone know a good beat

Does anyone know a good beat making software that i can download?

Magix music maker

Nice list but to me, a good one must consist of HD sound quality
Under Windows, Try magix music maker 2013 and please comment a bout it.

Is There That Much Software Around

Great post, thanks for the comprehensive list. I didn't actually realise that there was that much software around, I thought it was only limited to fruity loops and the such like.

reason and ableton live

I hav been using fl studio for a while but now I just want to knw which 1 between reason & live can i use , becaus I want to focus on 1 of them that could give me everything including the sound quality , I know I can b able to learn an of them but just want to focus on 1 &master it

Favorites

My fav. daws are Reason, FL Studio and Ableton. They've all got their pros and cons but I work the fastest in FL studio.

What about DubTurbo?

hi guys, what about dubturbo? i am the beginners, and i don't have much money for it. But the most affordable was dubturbo for me.

DubTurbo is a good option -

DubTurbo is a good option - that's why we included it in this list :)

The download version is better than the online version - but you get access to both versions when you purchase it.

I hope this is not a review!

At least not a review in the order you have it. :)

KemCam

The music production

The music production software listed above is not in any particular order - this is one case where we couldn't really do that because which application is most suitable really depends on the type of music you're producing.

DAW

Hi friends... i'm an amateur and looking for a DAW(windows vista) that generate style n accompaniment with fill ins (A-B) etc. (like a musical keyboard does)
is there any program with this feature ? pls advice.... thanks. k.k

Band In A Box

It sounds like it isn't a DAW you're looking for - but rather an application called Band In A Box

Dubturbo & Audacity

I have had the most success with Dubturbo and Audacity. These two programs are now the staples of my music creation arsenal. There might be better products out there, but I have yet to find them. These ones work best for me! I will have to check out some of these other programs though for sure.

Logic Pro!!! It's a million

Logic Pro!!! It's a million times better than GarageBand! I have used Cakewalk, FL Studio, Mixcraft and a few others. But none of them are as good as Logic. How could you not include it?

Great list... new producers can start with the basics!

Great list... the best thing about today's technology is that new producers can start with the simple and most basic tools like sonic producer/dubturbo and work their way up to the more complicated stuff. It can be overwhelming for completely new producers to step in and have to learn a bunch of stuff so definitely good to have some easier tools to work with at first!

fruity loops

fruity loops is a good program for beginners but in my books it doesn't earn top producing status just yet

Reaper

After Adobe Audition CS5, all bells and whistles and after Sonar X1 all bells and whistles, Reaper is by far the best software of any category for the money. And just right for my recordings. For me the money is down the drain for both Audition and Sonar.

free music production

YOU are forgetting an old friend ....COOL-EDIT...a faithfull friend still using... ITS... kiss .

I used to love Cool Edit

Cool Edit was a great program - I used it years ago. Obviously it's not in the list because it was sold to Adobe and became Adobe Audition a long long time ago.

Samplitude and Reaper

Leaving out Samplitude is a major omission. The object editing and surround panning is by far the most flexible of all DAWs. The only drawback is that it doesn't have the seemingly unlimited routing capabilities of Reaper. Reaper is also user friendly for 3rd party surround plug-ins, which doesn't exist elsewhere, but it is not as thorough as Samplitude for detailed work on individual sound objects. With both, you have it all.

Another one you left out

Presonus Studio One. It is now on version 2. It got my attention when Craig Anderton said that he did his recording in Cakewalk Sonar and his mastering in Studio One. It definitely deserves a place on this list. To see why, check out Craig's pro review on Harmony Central.

Logic

A reasonable article. You should have mentioned that GarageBand is free when you buy a Mac and you completely left out Logic -a serious DAW that is easy to use especially if you have used GarageBand in the past and comes with MainStage which is great ou live use. I am just completing an album and have used Logic for all of it

missing in action!

What kind of revue is that?...without Cakewalk Sonar? who it is unbeatable on the windows category?....

where is motu digitital performer?

i prefer it to protools

Sonar was left out of the

Sonar was left out of the original article by mistake - we have now put it back in.

justice for Sonar!

Thanks, Jason! justice has been accomplished! ... although the price of the most developed Sonar does not pass $ 499 ...

Best musici production software list

On that list you're missing one great software. Mixcraft 5 pro studio. You might want to check it out

Mixcraft is certainly a

Mixcraft is certainly a popular program - it's in the top 10 here on Hitsquad at http://www.hitsquad.com/smm/win95/MULTITRACK_RECORDING/

We had to make the cut somewhere, and it just didn't quite fit in the list this time.

why the heck is mixcraft so

why the heck is mixcraft so popular???? its a load of crap!!!!

mixcraft

Mixcraft is certainly the easiest DAW I have ever used and although the effects and instruments included aren't great, the programme itself does very well all the main things. I notice no difference in quality when recording with this than with other Daws.

Some more opensource linux alternatives

Qtractor is being continually expanded and upgraded by its developer, has become a complete alternative to other FOSS and proprietary DAWS.

Muse is also a venerable Linux DAW, oriented to synthesizers.

Omm2 is newer with a few kinks but if it works for you on your system, has a familiar interface to commercial products like Cakewalk, etc.

Another alternative is to patch a patchwork of small applications using jack.

My beef with ALL of these software, the free and the ridiculously expensive, is lack of interoperability. Differing tools has different strengths and I might use several. Besides MIDI and individual audio files I must piece together later on, ne'er the twain do meet. The proposed AAF is a huge, complex binary plugin format which a few authors are now supporting but until this can be done in plain text XML, I do not see it as a viable answer.

Reaper, logic ?

What about them ?
I've tried and worked with Cubase, Samplitude, Pro Tools, Pyramix, Reason, Ableton Live.... but the best for me is Reaper, and my second choice is Logic. So it seems very strange to me that you missed them...

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