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It’s nearly impossible to listen to any popular song on the radio and not wonder, “I wonder how they got it to sound this good.” And sure, some of your favorite Top 100 hits have been edited and mixed by some of the top professionals out there.
But believe it or not, many artists on that Top 100 list got their start with modest amounts of equipment and experience. Owl City’s first single, for example, was mixed in a basement in suburban Minnesota. Even the top producers in pop music agree that you can edit and mix a hit song from the comfort of your home—if you have the right music editing software.
To help you jumpstart your music editing journey, here’s a comprehensive list of the best music editing software out there.
The term “freemium” means that an app is free to download but has premium features that can be purchased as add-ons. Soundtrap is the dictionary definition of freemium, but what makes it compelling is how good the free features are.
Soundtrap has all the features that you’d expect of a high-quality digital audio workstation (DAW). It has features such as inputs for external instruments and microphones, the ability to import MIDI music files, and a built-in autotune feature to boot. Music editors also appreciate its collaboration features, which allow multiple users to collaborate on the same project via an internet browser.
For a long time, musicians agreed that you needed to buy an Apple computer to edit music professionally. And while many people still prefer Macs for recording music, Adobe Audition offers Windows fans a powerful alternative. In fact, it’s so powerful that many Mac users often opt for the Adobe music editor over some of Apple’s in-house programs.
In addition to offering all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high-end DAW, Adobe Audition is popular among musicians who need to repair audio tracks. Audition offers features such as noise reduction, DeClipper, and DeHummer effects that allow you to use less-than-ideal tracks.
You can grab a copy of the Adobe music editor for $19.99 per month through Adobe Creative Cloud.
Most music editing apps come with a dashboard, but SOUND FORGE gives you a fully customizable interface. As you can see in the image below, you can customize the dashboard in an endless number of ways.
SOUND FORGE is also one of the more affordable options on our list (at least among those that aren’t) free. You can get a license for as low as $50 directly from the company’s website.
Logic Pro is one of the most infamous music editing programs on the planet. If you’ve ever stepped foot into a professional recording studio (or even just seen a photo of one), chances are that you’ve seen several computers running Logic Pro.
Music editors of all levels appreciate its rich feature set, user-friendly interface, and flexibility. Plus, many of the Apple computers on the market today can handle it—even those that cost less than $1,000.
You can get a copy of Logic Pro X for $199 through Apple’s App Store as a one-time purchase.
Start Editing Your Music Today
The Basics of Music Editing
So far, we’ve discussed music editing platforms that you’ll have to pony up at least a little cash to use. But what if you don’t want to spend any money? Can you get professional-level results from a free application?
If you haven’t guessed by now, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Here are some of our favorite options that you can download for free—and one that might already be installed on your computer.
Audacity is an open source application, which means anyone can see, modify, and distribute the code however they want. As a result, a community of engineers has created a surprisingly nimble and powerful music editing program that some folks (including yours truly) actually prefer in specific situations.
Professionals and hobbyists alike rely on the Audacity music editor for several reasons, including its large library of sound effects, including distortion, limiters, and truncated silences. It’s also ideal for a home studio, thanks to its noise reduction features. If you’re recording music from a pre-war apartment in a major city, give the Audacity music editor a whirl.
You can download Audacity free directly from its website.
If you’re using a Mac to read this article, you probably have GarageBand installed on your computer as we speak. And for many people, it’s about as good of a recording application as you could ever want.
Take a second to fire up GarageBand. Now, compare it to the image of Logic Pro we included here. You’ll notice that GarageBand offers many of the same effects, noise reduction features, and trimming tools that you’ll find in its much more expensive counterpart.
Plus, it even looks like Logic Pro. Music producers will often bounce between the two applications for a project. While Logic Pro might be reserved for an expensive studio, GarageBand is flexible enough for an engineer to get a high-quality track with nothing more than a laptop.
Some of the music editing programs we’ve discussed here are very powerful. But what if you want something a little simpler? Look no further than ocenaudio, which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.
OK, so let’s get some bad news out of the way: ocenaudio only supports single-channel or mono files, which means you can’t record several instruments at the same time. But it’s a great option if you’re editing existing stereo music files. Engineers appreciate that you can play with different effects without having to add them to the track permanently. Additionally, it has VST support, which means you can bring your own plugins to the party. It’s also one of our favorite free music editor apps.
Looking for a mobile music editing platform? You can get GarageBand on your iPad or iPhone. But what if you’re a loyal Android user? Or what if you just want something a little different than GarageBand? WavePad has become an incredibly popular alternative, especially for music editors who travel frequently and conduct editing sessions on mobile devices.
Like ocenaudio, WavePad only supports single-channel audio editing. However, its compression, noise removal, and reverb tools rival many competitors that cost much more. WavePad also includes pitch and speed change tools, which are especially useful when editing an EDM track.
You can get WavePad directly from its website.
You’ve probably noticed a trend by now: Some of our favorite free music editing applications are also available for mobile devices. Don’t want to install a DAW on your computer? No problem. You can use TwistedWave directly from your web browser.
TwistedWave is also single-channel only, but users appreciate how easy it is to apply effects to existing stereo tracks in the application. You can fade in and out of tracks by dragging a waveform with your finger on your mobile device. Musicians also rely on TwistedWave to quickly convert files from and into a variety of formats.
Want to give it a whirl? Grab your copy directly from TwistedWave’s website.
Some musicians aren’t looking to record a song from scratch, especially if you’re an EDM artist or a DJ. While you can mix songs together using most of the applications we’ve covered so far in this guide, there are a few music mixing apps that are especially appropriate for the job. Here are just a few of our favorite music mixing apps for anyone looking to create mashups or mix several songs together.
MixPad’s feature list is extensive, to say the least, especially for a music mixing app. Most notably for aspiring DJs, MixPad makes it easy to create your own beats, add audio effects like compression and EQ to multiple stereo tracks, and automatically detect tempos across multiple songs.
In addition to these features, MixPad enables artists to export their work directly to SoundCloud, YouTube, or Dropbox. And since MixPad is from the same company as WavePad, you can easily bundle both programs together to create a powerful arsenal of music editing and mixing software. You can get MixPad directly from its website. A basic license will cost you roughly $100.
Like Audacity, Mixxx is an open source music mixing app that puts more of an emphasis on mixing songs together than editing original songs. Mixxx enables you to control your songs from a digital turntable, from which you can add effects like automated pitch and key changes to multiple songs. If you prefer to work your DJing magic from a MIDI controller, Mixxx offers support for the most popular options on the market.
As an added bonus, it’s worth emphasizing that open source is another way to describe a free music editor app. You can grab your copy here.
djay PRO offers a high-end library of sound effects and waveforms for music editors to create memorable mixes from. Its dashboard is also surprisingly easy to navigate, and in many ways, is very similar to Spotify.
Speaking of Spotify, djay PRO integrates directly with Spotify, Windows Explorer, and Apple Music. Not only is it easy to mix songs together in the application, but it’s even easier to get it out to your adoring internet audience as quickly as possible. Bonus: It’s also a free music editor app! You can get your copy of djay PRO here.
Start Mixing Music Today
The music editing applications we’ve discussed will give you all the tools you need to start recording, editing, and mixing incredible songs. Of course, that’s just a small part of the equation. Once you’ve chosen your application(s), don’t be afraid to dive in and start creating music right away, even if it’s not the best music.
While you likely won’t edit a Top 100 song within minutes of firing up any application on this list, you will have a lot of fun exploring the intricacies of the program—and over time, you’ll end up creating and editing something memorable.
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