For aspiring and experienced music producers alike, there’s a lot of great recording software on the market. Even some of the free or less expensive options can produce great results. The problem? It can be insanely difficult to choose the right one for your needs.
Most aspiring producers start by asking themselves which software is best for music production. But depending on each producer’s needs, the best music production software for one person might be an awful option for one of their colleagues.
To help figure out which music production software is best (for you), we’ve culled a list of our favorite digital audio workstations (DAWs). Some of our choices are free, others are a bit pricey, and one of them might already be installed on your computer.
Best Music Production Software in 2021
If you’re after the best free music production software, let’s start with an option that’s already installed on your computer (well, at least if you’re using a Mac). Many people agree that GarageBand is particularly the best music production software for beginners who want to get started as soon as possible.
Audio engineers use GarageBand for a variety of projects, including pop music, EDM, and even podcasts. It also includes a large library of instrumental samples and sound effects. Back in 2006, Usher famously released a song that was composed using just a handful of free loops in the GarageBand library. Yeah, that’s right—you didn’t even need to pay Apple an additional fee for those sounds.
Many people love GarageBand because it’s pretty difficult to “outgrow” the application. In many ways, it’s a much more lightweight option than others on this list, but I’ve been able to get pretty decent results in GarageBand with its built-in compression, noise reduction, and gating features, among many others.
2. Adobe Audition
When many music producers started their careers, the best software for music production was typically made by Apple. That’s no longer the case. In recent years, Adobe Audition has become insanely popular and is considered among the best music production software for Windows.
Adobe Audition packs all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a high-end DAW, including a professional-level mixer and all the effects you could ever want. But what sets it apart is its toolkit for cleaning up or restoring audio. This is particularly crucial when working with artists who might not have high-end gear at their disposal while recording.
Not too long ago, I edited a podcast in Audition that was recorded in less-than-ideal circumstances. Thanks to Audition’s waveform editor and noise reduction features, I was able to produce a professional-sounding track without much fuss.
Adobe Audition is available for $19.99 per month through Adobe Creative Cloud.
3. Ableton Live
Want to figure out what is the best music production software for dubstep? Ableton Live is your best bet.
Ableton Live is considered some of the best software for music production that relies heavily on MIDI, which is a complex technology that allows you to connect a variety of USB devices to your computer and experiment with huge libraries of synthesizers in a DAW. In Ableton Live, you’ll find a built-in synthesizer called Wavetable that’s insanely flexible, and now you can edit multiple MIDI files at the same time.
In the past, Ableton Live was known for being virtually impossible for new producers to use out of the box, but they’ve remedied that over the last few years. There’s even a more distinct “Capture” button to eliminate any uncertainty over whether or not you’re recording. Still, if you want to dive into the wonderful world of Ableton Live, consider taking expert-led courses. While some of the DAWs on our list are user-friendly, Ableton Live isn’t exactly the best music production software for beginners.
There are several tiers of Ableton Live to choose from, but the Live 11 Intro tier starts at $99 per month.
4. Logic Pro
Producers affectionately refer to this DAW as just “Logic.” This is Apple’s beefier (and more expensive) counterpart to GarageBand. In many ways, it’s very similar to GarageBand, but its extra features put it in the pantheon of the best software for music production. The first time I opened Logic on my computer, I was floored by how similar many of the menus across both DAWs were.
It’s important to discuss what distinguishes Logic Pro from GarageBand. For starters, Logic Pro’s mixer offers a full-fledged professional-level experience. On the flipside, GarageBand only allows you to adjust volume levels and panning on each track. Logic also packs MIDI features and FX send features that GarageBand doesn’t even begin to touch. And if you want to operate as a professional audio engineer, Logic makes it easier to select a section of a track that you like and copy/paste it into a different section of the song.
Want to give it a shot? Logic Pro is available for $199 through Apple’s App Store as a one-time purchase.
We’ve covered some pretty expensive DAW options. To wrap things up, let’s explore one option that many consider to be the best free music production software.
Audacity is an open-source DAW that’s available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux users. It’s particularly popular among podcasters and solo artists thanks to its normalization, trimming, and noise reduction features. I’ve used it to reduce external noise in tracks that I’ve recorded in the comfort of my very small apartment with cinderblock walls.
Audacity is great for recording live music; some folks even use it to get high-quality recordings of the sounds coming from their PC. It also packs a large library of sound effects, including distortion, limiters, and truncated silences. If you’re not willing to switch to a Mac, Audacity makes many experts’ lists of the best music production software for Windows.
You can get Audacity for free by visiting this link.
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