Best free software and apps for music-making: Top free DAWs, plug-ins, instruments and more
Our huge list of the best free music software for producers, from freeware virtual instruments to the top free smartphone DAWs.
Making music for free has never been easier. All you need is a computer – or even just your phone – to start cutting tracks using nothing but freeware. Here, we compile our roundups of the best freeware music-making software, apps, instruments and plug-ins that every producer, musician, beatmaker and DJ needs.
- READ MORE: The best sample packs, updated every month
Your first step should be to bookmark our regularly updated list of the best freeware of the month. There, you’ll find a selection of tools, instruments, plug-ins, loops and samples which won’t cost you a cent.
What are the best free DAWs?
A digital audio workstation – or DAW – is your primary software for making music. It’s the hub where you record and arrange tracks, add effects, mix, and even master your music. Most professional studios and producers use software whose names you might be familiar with: Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Cubase, for instance. But those are far from free.
Thankfully, there are many free ones that will do the trick. Check out our full list of the best freeware DAWs, including those you can score a free trial of, to see which works for the music you want to make. Here’s a preview:
- Tracktion Waveform Free
- Cakewalk by BandLab
- Apple GarageBand
- Pro Tools First
- Studio One Prime
What are the best free music-making phone apps?
There are plenty. From standalone synths to drum machines to robust DAWs, you can find all manner of music-making and production apps for your iPhone or Android device. Here’s our list of the top freeware music apps to get started. And a few examples here:
- Olympia Noise Co Patterning
- Roland Zenbeats
- Arturia iSpark
- Ampify Groovebox
Where can I get the best free samples?
We’ve compiled a list of the best websites that offer free samples this year. For a library that we can stand behind, MusicTech has partnered BandLab Sounds to offer over a dozen royalty-free sample packs at no cost. These range from synths to FX to beats, and the samples come as uncompressed WAVs and are downloadable via web or mobile.
I don’t own a guitar, synth or drums. Is there free software or virtual instruments?
Of course. While actually playing those instruments with your computer mouse and keyboard can be finicky, it’s a viable and popular alternative to spending thousands on a full recording setup. There are hundreds of freeware virtual instruments out there – here’s what we consider the best:
- Best freeware software synthesizers
- Best free orchestral plug-ins
- Best freeware drum machines
- Best freeware rock instruments
And, while not technically instruments themselves, there are scores of free plug-ins that augment and enhance your existing instruments:
- Best freeware plug-ins for guitarists
- Best free software tools for live performance
- Best free software tools for DJs
What are the best free effect and utility plug-ins?
Not all plug-ins make beautiful noise. You’ll need utility tools to EQ and mix your tracks, while effects can come in the form of reverb, delay, distortion and so on. Here are our picks of the best freeware plug-ins every aspiring producer needs:
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