This article is about free music production software. For more music software, visit our Free VST Plugins page.
If you’re a beginner music producer, this is where you will find the best music software for your studio.
We included the best music-making software from each category to help our readers get started with making music on a computer.
All music production software on the list is compatible with both Windows and macOS. We tried to included Linux-compatible applications whenever possible.
We also have a list of free beat-making software that you might find helpful.
Consider the production software listed on this page as a starting point for building your music studio. These are the essential instruments and effects for music production.
So what is the best free music production software in 2021?
Music Production Software (2021 Update)
These are the best free music-making programs on PC and Mac:
- Waveform Free – best free digital audio workstation
- Studio One Prime – best free audio recording software
- Audacity – best free audio editor
- Vital – best free synthesizer
- TX16Wx Software Sampler – best free sampler
- TDR Nova – best free equalizer
- DC1A – best free compressor
- Limiter №6 – best free limiter
- OrilRiver – best free reverb
- Komplete Start – best free software bundle
Waveform Free is a free digital audio workstation developed by Tracktion Corporation. The DAW is the core of every music production software setup, and Waveform Free is the best one you can get for free.
This powerful music-making tool works on all major platforms (Windows, macOS, and Linux) and provides all the features necessary for recording and mixing a professional-sounding song.
Waveform Free can record audio and MIDI, it features an audio mixer with built-in effects, and it offers various advanced features like automation, track analysis, and more.
Most importantly, Waveform Free can load VST and AU plugins. This means that you can expand your music production workspace with hundreds of free VST plugins like synthesizers, samplers, effects, and more. The most essential freeware audio plugins are featured in this article.
However, we recommend Studio One Prime if you’re a singer/songwriter who only needs a multi-track recording application without VST plugin support.
The hard truth is that no freeware DAW is perfect, though. If you can spend some money on music production software, the digital audio workstation should be the first item on your shopping list.
The most budget-friendly DAW on the market is Reaper. It is priced at $60 for a discounted license and comes with a very generous 60-day free trial period.
Some people actually just stick to using the trial version of Reaper for an infinite amount of time. But if you use Reaper to make music, be fair and support its developers by purchasing a license.
Other popular DAWs are Ableton Live, FL Studio, Steinberg Cubase Pro, and Bitwig Studio. Logic Pro X is the logical choice if you’re on macOS, and our favorite pro digital audio workstation is Studio One Pro.
If you don’t want to use VST plugins and just need a free music production program to record and edit your songs, try Studio One Prime or Pro Tools First.
More info: Waveform Free
Studio One Prime
Studio One Prime is the best free music production software for singer-songwriters. It is a streamlined free DAW for audio recording and performing simple mixing tasks.
The free edition of Studio One comes with a built-in set of high-quality audio effects. These include a channel strip with EQ and compression, reverb and delay effects, flanger, chorus, and even the basic version of Ampire and Pedalboard (guitar processing effects developed by PreSonus).
The free DAW from PreSonus can not load VST plugins, though. This means that you are limited to using the effects included with the freeware version of Studio One.
Users who need access to more advanced features can update to Studio One Artist or Studio One Pro.
Another impressive free music recording application for singer-songwriters is Pro Tools First. It is based on the industry-standard Pro Tools software by Avid. Like Studio One Prime, it has some limitations (mainly the inability to load external plugins), but its simplicity can suit less demanding users.
Still, we prefer Studio One Prime’s intuitive workflow and overall usability.
More info: Studio One Prime
A music production setup is not complete without an audio editor. Audacity is the best free audio editing software on the market, which also acts as a great piece of free recording software.
Open-source and fully cross-platform, Audacity comes with a great selection of tools and effects to handle audio editing and recording tasks.
Audacity is developed by a group of volunteers and receives frequent updates almost every month. It is lightweight, stable, and intuitive enough to be used by beginner music producers.
Audacity can also load VST plugins, although only 32-bit plugins are supported.
More info: Audacity
If you’re looking for a workhorse synthesizer that will act as the main instrument in your music software collection, look no further than Vital by Matt Tytel. It is comparable to best-selling plugins like Xfer Serum and NI Massive.
Vital’s synthesis capabilities are impressive, but its user interface sets it apart from the competition.
It’s hard to imagine that such a complex synthesizer could have a more intuitive GUI design than this. Regardless of how deep you take your sound design with Vital, the interface remains easy to navigate, offering a clear overview of all parameter settings.
The base version of Vital is entirely free to use. You can upgrade to get more wavetables and presets, but the functionality remains essentially the same.
More info: Vital
TX16Wx Software Sampler
TX16Wx Software Sampler is the best free sampler plugin for your music production studio. It is also the best free alternative to the industry-standard Native Instruments Kontakt sampler.
The plugin can load samples in WAV, AIFF, Ogg, and FLAC formats. It can also handle SoundFonts, SFZ patches, as well as Akai and EXS format presets. SoundFont and SFZ compatibility are essential features.
Of course, TX16Wx Software Sampler can also be used to create your own sample-based patches.
TX16Wx Software Sampler features a powerful mapping editor, a non-destructive sample editor, built-in effects, time-stretching, unlimited modulation sources, and even the ability to record audio. You can capture any sound from your digital audio workstation and treat it as an audio sample.
TX16Wx Software Sampler can be used as standalone music production software or as a VST, VST, AU, and AAX plugin in a compatible digital audio workstation.
The majority of music-making applications, free or paid, will include some type of sampler instrument. That said, TX16Wx Software Sampler offers an advanced feature set for a sample-based music production workspace.
If you think that TX16Wx Software Sampler is overly complicated, take a look at Grace, an intuitive freeware sampler instrument that only works on Windows.
More info: TX16Wx Software Sampler
The two most crucial mixing tools to have at your disposal are an equalizer and a compressor. These two types of audio effects are the essential building blocks of every music production studio. Together with the digital audio workstation, they are the most essential music production software.
TDR Nova is the best free equalizer plugin you can add to your music-making software toolbox. It is a four-band dynamic equalizer with an additional high-pass and low-pass filter.
Being a dynamic equalizer, TDR Nova can handle all sorts of mixing tasks. You can use it as a basic parametric equalizer, a dynamic EQ, a multi-band compressor, a de-esser, a wideband compressor, or even a simple audio filter.
The two best things about TDR Nova are its flexibility and user-friendliness. Despite the plugin’s advanced “dynamic EQ” capabilities, even total beginners can use its basic equalization features. The advanced dynamics controls are switched off by default and ready to use if required.
More info: TDR Nova
DC1A is the best free compressor plugin. It is not the most feature-packed compressor effect, but it certainly is the most intuitive one.
Many music production beginners have a hard time understanding how an audio compressor works. With DC1A, it’s only a matter of finding the right compression amount, and the rest of the magic will happen under the hood.
If you’re only getting started with music production software, DC1A is the first compressor effect to add to your arsenal. More advanced music producers and experienced audio engineers should download TDR Kotelnikov, the best free mastering compressor on the market.
More info: DC1A
A limiter is an essential tool in the audio mastering stage of music production. Truth be told, mastering your most important projects is a task that should be outsourced to a professional mastering engineer.
However, owning a good quality limiter plugin is essential when mastering your demo songs and song previews. And quite honestly, it’s fun to mix and master an entire song using only free music production software.
With that in mind, Limiter №6 is the best free limiter plugin for your music-making application of choice.
Another excellent free limiter plugin is LoudMax by Thomas Mundt. It is less advanced than Limiter №6 and more suitable for beginners. And we also recommend the excellent Frontier limiter by D16 Group. Both plugins are worth adding to your free mastering collection.
More info: Limiter №6
A lush-sounding reverb effect is the secret ingredient of every great mix. That is why a high-quality reverb plugin is an essential building block in every music producer’s software arsenal. The best free reverb VST plugin right now is OrilRiver by Denis Tihanov.
OrilRiver is a free algorithmic stereo reverb plugin that can rival the sound quality of even the most expensive reverbs. It is a very flexible effect, capable of simulating small rooms, grand halls, cathedrals, and any type of space in between.
It’s worth noting that OrilRiver is a fairly complex reverb plugin, but the well-designed user interface and intuitive controls make it easy to use even for beginners.
The included presets cover the most used types of reverb sounds. Press the padlock icon next to the preset browser to lock the value of the Wet knob when changing presets.
More info: OrilRiver
Komplete Start is a beginner-friendly collection of virtual instruments and effects by Native Instruments. It is the perfect bundle to kickstart your music production software kit.
The collection includes Kontakt Player, Reaktor Player, and a handpicked selection of synthesizers and sound design tools.
More info: Komplete Start
For more free music production software, return to our Free VST Plugins page.