Best freeware instruments in 2024: Nine of the best free drum machines
Free beats, whatever your genre, from machine to human
Physical drum machines are brilliantly tactile and can give you punchy percussion sounds that aren’t always immediately available in your DAW. However, there are plenty of plug-ins that can get you in the groove and shake up your workflow with functions that most hardware is simply not capable of achieving. We love the charm of hardware, but sometimes it’s best to build interesting beats in the box and experiment with the power of software.
What’s even better is there is a range of drum machine plug-ins out there that are free to download, with many compatible on both macOS and Windows. We’ve collated some of the most impressive drum machine plug-ins that come at no cost at all and are far more fun than lining up samples in your DAW’s arrangement window.
The best freeware drum machines at a glance:
- Native Instruments Beats Collection
- BPB Cassette Drums
- 99 Sounds Drum Machine
- 606 Koncept
- Synsonic BD-909
- AudioSpillage MiniSpillage
- Beat Factory Drums
- Drum Pro
- MeldaProduction MDrummer Small
- Manda Audio’s MT Power Drum Kit 2
Native Instruments Beats Collection
NI’s Beats Collection is part of Native Instruments’ free Komplete Start plugin suite. It offers 288 pre-made Grooves across 90 kits for fast rhythmic patterns. You can play your own rhythms with a keyboard or pads, export Groove patterns with MIDI drag and drop, and customise drum sounds with studio-grade effects like chorus and reverb.
- 288 pre-made Grooves across 90 kits
- Customisable drum sounds with studio-grade effects
- Dedicated parameters for tweaking built-in effects
- Grooves page for pattern playback adjustment
Find out more at Native Instruments.
BPB Cassette Drums
The BPB Cassette Drums plug-in bundle includes three digital drum machines, using sounds sampled from BPB’s Cassette 606, Cassette 808 and Cassette 909 drum sample packs. You get Roland TR-606, TR-808 and TR-909 replicas that sound pretty convincing. Not bad, considering you’re not paying a dime for them.
Each of these lovely-looking and easy-to-use plug-ins have three modes, effectively giving you nine separate drum machines to play with. The clean original sounds of each drum machine are available, while the Warm and Hot modes give you saturated recordings and have been re-sampled from an audio cassette deck, giving each engine a slightly different feel.
- Compatibility: VST/AU, 32-bit, 64-bit, PC/macOS
- Number of voices: 7
- Clean, Warm and Hot kits
- Release and volume knobs
- Options to route drums to individual outputs
- On-screen keyboard
Find out more at BedroomProducersBlog.com.
99 Sounds Drum Machine
The simply named Drum Machine by 99Sounds is a nifty little thing used, in the developer’s video tutorial, to make bright, energetic EDM beats. But, of course, it can be used to build drum patterns for any genre and style, so long as you spend the time getting to know it.
It boasts 12 kits with the ability to include eight drum sounds per kit, with each sound being sourced from the 99Sounds Drum Samples library. Users can pan each drum sound, or the whole pattern, to their preference. There is also a low-pass filter and a high-pass filter, giving you options to tweak your sound within the plug-in.
- Compatibility: 64-bit VSTi/AUi Host, macOS & PC
- Number of voices: 8
- 12 drum kits
- Low filter & high filter
- Multiple outputs
Sample Science’s 606 Koncept plug-in is a free 606 emulation with its unique own processing capabilities.
You can pitch sounds down or up using the plug-in’s intriguing pitch control feature, change the decay of each track, and set the individual levels and panning. There are multiple LFO options including the depth and rate of filters. You can add glide, reverb and set the cutoff of your drum sequence, and, on top of all that, users are able to add vinyl, tape and sub sound layers to provide a layer of texture over everything.
- Compatibility: 64-bit VSTi/VST3/AUi Host, PC & Mac
- Number of voices: 7, each with polyphonic, monophonic and legato modes
- Vinyl, tape-hiss & sub sound
- Multi-pitch sum mixers
- LFO & room reverb effects
- Amplitude range controls
You didn’t think we could possibly do a freeware drum-machine round-up without including at least one TR emulation, did you? This is (obviously) a 909 emulator, but only the actual kick drum from that machine. Okay, that’s not a lot, you might think, but the 909 kick has backed tens of thousands of dance tracks and there are plenty of controls to shape it into just any incarnation of that sound you can imagine. There are 16 presets, too, if you think you need them.
- Compatibility: macOS and PC, 32/64-bit
- Multiple tweaking controls: pitch, accent, decay, tune decay, attack, hold, tune depth, noise decay, distort
- Distortion effect
- MIDI control
- Factory presets
More info on Synsonic.
A returning drum favourite and must inclusion is MiniSpillage, a synth/drum plug-in. It’s still macOS only, we’re afraid, but an essential download for that platform. It’s a cut-down version of AudioSpillage’s DrumSpillage with three drum pads for kick, hat and hollow drum. It comes with several kits and synth features – LFO, filter, modulation and distortion – to stretch those kit sounds far and wide. It’s been around for aeons, but several updates keep this as one of the best macOS drum/synth freebies.
- Compatibility: macOS (AU), 64-bit
- LFO, filter, modulation & distortion
- 12 exclusive drum models
- Classic analogue, physical modelling and FM synthesis
More info via Audio Spillage.
Beat Factory Drums
Some of our free drum plug-ins do dance music, some rock – and Beat Factory Drums is designed to fill in the gaps, since it’s aimed primarily for hip-hop, dubstep and more. It features 10 kits, limited but essential sonic tweaks and hands-on MPC pads. It sounds great and is very well worth the 50MB download, which gives you the kick sounds and a plug-in that runs on any system, old or new.
- Compatibility: macOS & Windows/ 32/64-bit
- 10 drum kits
- 120 drum hits included
More info on Beat Skillz.
Make no mistake, Drum Pro is unashamedly a shell drum machine to add paid-for kits later, but it does come with 20 kits sampled from nine drum machines (from Roland, Boss, Novation and more) so you get a very decent start, without paying a thing. You get MPC-style pads and basic mixing and while it won’t quite cover all your drumming needs as developers Studio Linked claims from the off – but will with their paid-for packs – it still delivers a great variety of beats, for free.
- Number of voices: 12
- Compatibility: macOS and PC, 32/64-bit
- Attack, decay, sustain & release
- Global ADSR/ reverb
More info on Studio Linked.
MeldaProduction MDrummer Small
Melda doesn’t seem to be shouting about MDrummer Small as much as it once did, but you can still download it from the download/archive part of the company’s website. It’s well worth it, featuring hundreds of drum sets, components, multisamples, rhythms and loops and some of the features from the larger, paid-for MDrummer. So it might be worth downloading fast before it (possibly) disappears.
- Compatibility: macOS and Windows
- 30 drumsets
- 500MB of samples
- 400 drumset components
- AI engine loads new editable loops (2,500 available)
More info on Melda Production.
Manda Audio’s MT Power Drum Kit 2
It was all getting a little bit too electronic around here, so how about a piece of freeware to rock your world? This will still shake your cones like any TR drum machine, though, because MT Power Drum Kit 2 is all about power sounds, albeit from a pop, rock or metal perspective. You get plenty of kit sounds and groove, fill and rhythm MIDI files to get you up and running. It’s a great real and acoustic option if your world is to machine led.
- Compatibility: macOS and Windows
- Number of voices: 13
- 1000s of assorted rhythms
- In-built compresser
- Easy-to-use Composer tool
- DAW-like track dashboard
- MIDI capability
More info on Power Drum Kit.
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