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.
- Commercial Music Production Software
- Free Music Production Software
1. Commercial 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
||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|
||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|
||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|
|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.|
||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 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|
|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 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.
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.
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