- Waveform Free 12 is a feature-packed piece of music production software with an improved interface and unlimited third-party plugins.
- GarageBand is beginner-friendly music-making software on Mac with powerful features and easy integration across Apple devices.
- Audacity is a versatile audio editor and production software with ongoing updates, Muse Hub integration, and high-quality tools.
- LMMS is a cross-platform music production app suitable for all kinds of music creation, offering compatibility with third-party apps and a range of synthesizers.
- Vital Basic is a sleek and intuitive VST synthesizer software with the ability to input your own samples, offering professional-grade sounds for free.
- Cakewalk by BandLab is Windows-only music-making software with a powerful interface, unlimited tracks, and studio-quality effects.
Whether you’re starting to make music as a hobby or planning to become a world-famous producer, it’s best to begin with free music-making software. If all goes well, you can then switch to a premium option. In this article, we’ve picked out the best free music-making software for beginners across Windows, macOS, and Linux.
1. Waveform Free 12: Best for a Range of Features
Tracktion T7 was once a premium music production app. Rather than drop T7 when the next version came out, Tracktion decided to give it away under a different name, Waveform, making this free music program one of the most feature-packed options on this list.
In 2024, you can get Waveform Free 12, which boasts an improved interface, enhanced performance, and multiple new and improved stock plugins, instruments, and tools. What’s more, you can also download third-party plugins without limitations.
Similarly, there are no track or exportation limits, and no hidden trails. This makes it a great digital audio workstation (DAW) to edit audio, compose with your keyboard as a MIDI controller, add effects, and automate different instrument parameters.
Waveform works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. If you get along well with the free version, you can always upgrade to the Pro version. This version offers even more features, including Groove Doctor, Subtractive Synthesizer, and Celemony Melodyne Essential.
Download: Waveform Free for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Free, premium version available)
2. GarageBand: The Best Free Option on Mac
When it comes to beginner-friendly music-making software on a Mac, GarageBand is the number one free option. It’s easy enough to download from the App Store, and it teaches beginner musicians how to do some powerful things, like making beats with loops.
GarageBand also happens to be one of the easiest platforms to use for making great music. It allows you to create a song with up to 255 tracks and even offers a virtual session drummer.
To speed up the learning process, we recommend installing it on all of your Apple devices: Mac, iPhone, and iPad. iCloud gives you the flexibility to work on your music no matter where you are or which device you’re using.
If, at some point, you feel that you’ve outgrown this free app, you can transfer all of your GarageBand files to Apple’s premium music production offering: Logic Pro.
Download: GarageBand for macOS | iOS (Free)
3. Audacity: Best for Combining Production and Editing
Unlike the free music software we’ve already covered, Audacity is a digital audio editor, not a digital audio workstation. There are many creative uses for Audacity, though its main purpose is manipulating audio data. But if you’re looking for a combination of free music production and editing software, Audacity is the way to go.
Audacity lets you edit samples, process audio files, and export music in a range of formats, including MP3, WAV, or AIFF. This means that Audacity is a great way to start making music for free.
While Audacity has been around for quite some time, it remains at the top of the pack of free music production software due to its ongoing updates. Changes in late 2023 added a slew of useful tools, such as enhanced time stretching and beat snapping for all your audio files.
In addition, Audacity now offers integration of the Muse Hub application, which lets you import sounds and add effects like reverb and compression directly into your workspace. Download Muse Hub to make the most of this highly versatile feature.
The ongoing support of Audacity creates the perfect blend of an older-looking interface with new and high-quality editing and production tools.
Download: Audacity for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)
4. LMMS: Best for Third-Party Compatibility
LMMS (which used to stand for Linux MultiMedia Studio) is a cross-platform music production app, now available on macOS, Windows, and Linux. It’s suitable for all kinds of music production and is a great free software option for beginners.
LMMS uses multiple windows to help you create music. You can edit melodies in the Piano Roll and create a rhythm section with the Beat+Bassline Editor. Get an overview of your song’s structure in the Song Editor, and then mix everything together with the FX Mixer.
You can even automate effects and volume using the Automation Editor. LMMS also offers a wide variety of instrument synthesizers, so it’s a great piece of software to make music for free using MIDI controllers.
Most free music production apps are usually limited in their ability to integrate with other music-making software. LMMS shines in its compatibility with third-party apps, and the free music-making software that you already use will likely be included.
The program supports VST and LADSPA plugins, giving you a myriad of effect options to apply to your music. When your project is ready, you can export it as MP3, AIFF, or WAV, or transfer your media files to a different app.
Download: LMMS for Windows | macOS | Linux (Free)
5. Vital Basic: Best for Fans of Virtual Synthesizers
Vital Basic is one of the newer additions to the VST synthesizers scene, yet it competes with the latest and greatest VST synthesizers on the market, such as Serum. Electronic music and sound design lovers will not want to miss out on this free music production software.
What makes Vital Basic stand out is its sleek, accessible, and highly intuitive design. This can help you learn and understand the inner workings of most synthesizers. Vital also has one more oscillator and filter available than the Serum synthesizer, which gives you even more tools to create and manipulate sounds like never before.
Another great feature is that you can input your own samples into Vital. For example, an audio recording of your or someone else’s voice can be converted into a fully-fledged synth instrument via its vocode or pitch-splice wavetable converter.
While Vital offers its Plus and Pro versions with additional features, such as more wavetable presets, you can use and develop professional-grade sounds with the free Vital Basic version. The free version offers 25 wavetables along with 75 presets, and it uses the same engine and features as its paid counterparts.
This makes Vital Basic one of the best pieces of music production software you can get for creating, manipulating, and developing your sounds.
Download: Vital Basic for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Free, premium version available)
6. Cakewalk by BandLab: The Best Complete Package
Just like Waveform, Cakewalk SONAR used to be premium music production software that you can now get for free thanks to BandLab buying Cakewalk in 2018.
Rebranded as Cakewalk by BandLab, this free music-making software for Windows is backed by over 30 years of development. It’s another powerful option that you can use to compose, record, edit, mix, master, and share your music.
You can add an unlimited number of audio or MIDI tracks using its award-winning user interface. Then take advantage of Cakewalk’s VST3 software instruments and studio-quality effects, like convolution reverb and dynamic compression.
Cakewalk by BandLab is only available to Windows users, but it’s one of the best free music-making apps for PCs. BandLab recommends you use a computer with a multicore Intel processor and at least 4GB of RAM. To get it, you first need to sign up for and install BandLab. You can choose which instrument and effects packs to download with Cakewalk SONAR using the BandLab app.
Download: Cakewalk by BandLab for Windows (Free)
This list of free music-making software is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re serious about learning how to make digital music for free, there are many other music production apps still out there to explore. Remember to prioritize free software with upgrade options or transferable knowledge if you want to make the jump into production software later on.