10 Best Music Production Software of 2023 (Free & Online)
If you want to make music on your computer, the music creation software is the most essential tool you need. While other tools such as an audio interface, studio monitor speakers, a MIDI keyboard, and a microphone are important, your audio production software is the hub of your music production.
You need to choose the best software for music production to develop your musical ideas into highly structured tracks. With so many music creation software in the market, offering a rich variety of options, choosing the best option that fits your music production needs can be difficult.
Each music creation software will offer something different from the other. The best audio production software for you depends on several factors such as your preferences, skill level, budget, and needs.
In this article, you will learn about 10 of the best music production software in 2022.
Let’s get started.
Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) and Music Production Software
Excellent Digital Audio Workstation Pick For Apple Devices that Offers the Most Intuitive List of Features
Apple Logic Pro X is one of the best digital audio workstations available on the internet. This software is exclusive to Apple devices: the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can only make real-time edits through your iPhone or iPad.
- Multi-touch Gestures: Users enjoy multiple capabilities like multi-touch gestures to play software instruments, mix tracks, and control features like Live Loops and Remix FX.
- Live Loops: Through its Live Loops feature, you easily make and organize music by adding loops, samples, or recorded audio into a grid. You have access to an 8×8 grid of colorful pads to dynamically trigger cells, input notes, and adjust mixer levels, alongside a Step Sequence editor to quickly build drum beats, bass lines, and melodic parts with automation capabilities.
- On-Screen Instruments: Apple Logic Pro X offers you a variety of on-screen instruments, such as keyboards, guitars, and drum pads. This software allows you to quickly create your sounds with the use of both curated and custom-made key commands.
Apple Logic Pro is available to you through a one-time purchase plan on the Mac and iOS app stores. You also enjoy a free trial of up to 90 days.
2. FL Studio
Best Cross-Platform Software for Music Production with High-Quality Piano Roll
FL Studio is one of the most popular music production software presenting you with an extensive library of diverse samples and thousands of presets, both inherent and coming through plugins. This software is also available through mobile applications and expandable through multiple plugins.
- Loop Content: FL Studio provides you with exclusive loop content that loads seamlessly into Slicex or any other tool with REX format compatibility.
- Mixing Features: This software for music production is characterized by complex mixing features like effects chains and plugin delay compensation, among others.
- High-Quality Piano Roll: FL Studio's Piano roll is one of the best available to you. You use it to send notes and automation data to add-on instruments and additionally have access to a variety of tools to assist you with complex score editing and manipulations.
- Supports Multiple Formats: This music production software supports all VST standards 1, 2, and 3, gives you all future updates for free, and allows you to export your creations in MP3 and WAV formats, among others.
FL Studio comes in four one-time purchase editions.
- FL Studio Fruity Edition with limited playlist features.
- FL Studio Producer Edition with audio recording, full playlist features, and 6 additional native plugins.
- FL Studio Signature Bundle with 13 additional native plugins, and the FL Studio All Plugins Edition with all FL Studio native plugins.
You also enjoy a 30-day free trial with the software.
Best Music Making Software with Diverse Plugin Compatibility
Cockos Reaper offers you a fully flexible feature set renowned for stability and suitability for multiple uses, whether it be in commercial and home studios, broadcast, location recording, education, sound design, or game development, among others.
- Audio and MIDI Routing: With Reaper, you enjoy powerful audio and MIDI routing with multichannel support as well as 64-bit internal audio processing.
- Supports Multiple Media Formats: You import, record, and render in many media formats spanning multiple bit depths and sample rates, and have access to thousands of external add-on effects and digital instruments. These include VST, VST3, LV2, AU, DX, and JS.
- Studio-Grade Effects: Over a hundred studio-grade effects for processing audio and MIDI are also made available to you alongside multiple automation, grouping, VCA, macros, and OSC-based features, to mention a few.
- Control and Customization: Reaper also provides you with scripting and surface control capabilities, alongside custom skins and layouts.
Reaper comes to you through a commercial one-time license purchase or a discounted purchase with limited features. A 60-day fully-featured free trial is also available to you.
4. Ableton Live
Best Music Making Software with Community-Generated Instruments, Effects, and Personalizations
Available for both Windows and macOS, Ableton Live is a software that offers you an intuitive interface to create, produce and also perform music, with everything in real-time sync, allowing you to play and modify your creations without interruptions.
- Multiple Effects and Instruments: This software tool provides you with multitudes of instruments, audio files, and loops. You have access to 17 instruments and up to 74 effects for editing audio and MIDI.
- Keyboard Mapping: Instant custom keyboard mapping features give you fast workflows through keyboards and controllers. You also get even more instruments, effects, and customizations from the software’s community of users.
- Advanced Features: Intuitive comping and track linking features as well as MPE are also available for advanced users.
Ableton Live is currently available to you through three one-time purchase plans.
- The Live 11 Intro offers 16 audio and MIDI tracks, 8 mono audio input channels, 8 mono audio output channels, and a Capture MIDI feature.
- The Live 11 Standard comes with additional MIDI processing features.
- The Live 11 Suite comes with full access to software instruments, sounds, audio effects, and MIDI effects.
You can gain free access to the Live 11 Suite through a 90-day free trial.
Top-Rated Music Creation Software with Intuitive File Organization Feature
Serving millions of users worldwide, Steinberg is a reliable manufacturer of both high-quality software and hardware components for music production.
- Next-Generation Audio Engine: With Steinberg Cubase, you are equipped with a next-generation audio engine presenting you with crystal-clear 64-bit floating-point resolution at up to 192 kHz sample rate. You also enjoy a MediaBay feature that helps you easily find and organize your audio content across your devices.
- Syncing and Export Option: This software gives you advanced syncing and export options, supports Audio Random Access (ARA) extensions for expanded music creation functionality, and implements colorized mixer channels.
- Customization: Steinberg provides you with customizable workspaces for more comfortable workflows. You define workspaces by size, position, and layout, and instantly switch between different working modes either through the workspaces menu or key commands.
Steinberg Cubase comes in three versions, with these versions differentiated by the number of MIDI tracks, audio effects, VST features, and group channels offered through them. They include the Cubase Pro 11, Cubase, Cubase Elements 11, and Cubase Artist 11.
- Cubase Pro 11 costs €581.99 for new customers while upgrades and updates for existing customers cost €99.99.
- Cubase Artist 11 costs €331.99 for new customers while upgrades and updates for existing customers cost €79.99.
- Cubase Elements 11 costs €99.99 for new customers while upgrades and updates for existing customers cost €29.99.
Best Music Software for Windows with the Easiest Workflow that Additionally Offers a Native API
PreSonus Studio One gives you a comprehensive and intuitive list of tools and features to record, produce, compose, mix, master, and perform your audio tracks.
- Drag and Drop Editing: Alongside a vast collection of integrated tools for extensive music production workflows, the software equips you with drag and drop editing capabilities to easily apply audio loop effects, virtual instruments, plug-ins, and presets into your Studio One workspace. Drag and drop actions also work with MIDI conversions and file upload and download processes, meaning the software is dedicated to providing users with the most comfortable workflows amongst its counterparts.
- Syncing Options: With Studio One, you enjoy intuitive chord track and instrument track syncing options, a vast suite of effects plug-in, easy analog mixing capabilities through classic analog consoles.
- Track Arranger: This software provides you with a flexible Arranger Track feature that allows you to easily move and arrange different sections of songs.
- Native API: A new custom dynamic mapping API presenting you with auto-mapping capabilities with third-party instruments from UJAM, Vienna Symphonic Library, and EastWest OPUS.
- Comprehensive Audio Tools: You have access to multiple MIDI-based editing features, multiple virtual instruments, and a comprehensive rhythm-production environment.
PreSonus Studio One comes in three different versions: the Studio One Professional, Studio One Artist, and PreSonus Sphere.
- The Studio One Artist plan is suitable for musicians and podcasters willing to take their audio productions to the next level.
- The Studio One Professional plan is best for composers, producers, and performers.
- The PreSonus Sphere tool comes with up to 30GB of cloud storage, an audio batch converter, and cloud-based collaboration tools and workspaces, among a lot of other exclusive features.
Try out PreSonus Studio One features and tools for free for 30 days to get started.
Best Music Software for Windows with Comprehensive Collection of Built-In Instruments
A modern music production tool compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, Bitwig Studio presents you with linear and non-linear workflows for sound design, recording, and live performance, among others.
- Comprehensive Collection of Built-In Instruments: This audio production software comes with a collection of over 90 instruments, effects, and creative tools.
- Sound Design Environment: Bitwig Studio offers you a modular sound design environment, grants you access to over 10 GB of sound content, including content from its partners. This software comes with over 30 modulators accompanied by macro controls, LFOs, and envelopes.
- Hardware Integration: You have access to sufficient hardware integrations for MIDI handling, note timing, and latency compensation as well as a powerful multisample editor, among a lot of others.
Bitwig Studio is available to you through two plans: Bitwig Studio 16-Track and Bitwig Studio plan/
- The Bitwig Studio 16-track plan offers you access to basic features and tools you need to make music.
- The Bitwig Studio plan offers you comprehensive access to all the features and tools you need to make music including 130+ instruments, effects, and modulators.
Bitwig Studio offers you a 30-day free trial to get started.
Free Audio Production Software Exclusive To Apple Devices
GarageBand is a music creation software exclusive to Apple Mac devices that offers you a vast sound library that includes instruments, presets for guitar, and a selection of 28 session drummers and 3 percussionists.
- Multiple Touch Bars, Loops, and Sounds: GarageBand presents you with multiple touch bar features for MacBook Pro, thousands of loops from popular genres, over 100 EDM, and hip-hop-inspired synth sounds, and a collection of built-in, genre-based lessons for piano and guitar.
- Editing Features: This audio production software gives you access to deep editing features, allowing you to edit your tracks right to the note and decibel, easily fix rhythm issues with a click, improve your sound with multiple audio effect plug‑ins, and over 250 other effects such as compression and visual EQ.
- iCloud Integration: Integration with iCloud makes track storage, imports, and exports easier, while mobile applications give you a chance to make edits to your tracks from anywhere and at any time.
Apple’s GarageBand is completely free to use on Apple devices.
Comprehensive Music Production Software that Offers Additional Video Editing Capabilities
Acoustica Mixcraft is an easy-to-use and powerful music production software that gives you a chance to quickly record and make quality edits to your tracks through its lightning-fast sound engine, realistic pitch-shifting, and time-stretching technology.
- Loops and Sounds: This digital audio workstation comes with over 7,500 professionally created loops, sound effects, and percussion samples.
- Third-party Plug-ins Support: Acoustica Mixcraft offers vast support for external third-party plug-ins, audio interfaces, and hardware controllers
- Performance Panel Feature: This feature offers incredible features for live performance track editing. You get to play around with audio and MIDI loops through a Launchpad, MIDI controller, or your typing keyboard.
- Vast Library of Effects: Additional MIDI automation and advanced routing features are made available to you as well as a vast library of sampled instruments, powerful samplers, authentic emulations of classic synthesizers, ToneBoosters reverbs, compressors, filters, and equalizers, among other effects.
- Video Editing Software: Acoustica Mixcraft also serves as a video editing software and provides over 45 modules and hundreds of presets for your modular synthesis workflows.
Mixcraft is available to you through two one-time purchase plans: Mixcraft 9 Pro Studio and Mixcraft 9 Recording Studio.
10. Avid Pro Tools
Excellent Music Production Software for Large Studios with a Varied Lineup of Hardware Components
Although lacking built-in pitch correction features, the Avid Pro Tools software makes up for it by providing one of the most intuitive and seamless music production workflows in the market.
- Recording and Mixing Processor: This software tool presents you with a fast 64-bit recording and mixing processor, a robust collection of useful track freeze options, compatibility with high-end hardware, and access to new Factory and Plug sound collections.
- Editing and Collaboration Capabilities: Avid Pro Tools comes with video editing capabilities, collaboration features, multiple audio plugins, and a pop-up MIDI editor acting as a dedicated station for handling your MIDI notes and tracks.
- Audio Waveform and Fading Effects: This digital audio workstation (DAW) also allows you to manually draw your audio waveform, comes with an auto-canceling feature, and lets you apply fading effects to tracks in bulk, among a lot of others.
- Integration: Avid Pro Tools has an inbuilt music player that integrates with popular music streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.
Avid Pro Tools offer you two pricing plans: a regular pro tools plan and a pro tools ultimate plan.
- The regular Pro Tools plan provides you with all the essential tools you need to compose, record, and mix music and video.
- The Pro Tools Ultimate plan offers you over 190 channels of I/O with HDX, over 2,000 audio tracks, and 60 video tracks, among other extended features.
What is a Digital Audio Workstation?
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is a digital user interface, either coming as a physical electronic device (hardware), group of devices, or software program, used for recording, editing, and creating audio files.
Often characterized by features such as virtual mixers, filters, graphic timelines, and file-management and organization tools, DAWs come in multiple deployments. They range from a single application software on a personal computer to a stand-alone unit or a complex configuration made up of numerous units managed from a central computer.
Never minding these different deployments, modern DAWs generally have a central interface with features and tools dedicated to altering and mixing multiple audio tracks and combining them into one final piece.
These mixed or produced audio records or tracks may include music, speech, radio, television, podcasts, sound effects, or any other form of the complex audio file needed for multiple reasons.
How to Choose the Best Music Production Software
There are a lot of DAW software programs on the internet today and choosing one proves to be hard, especially given the divergent uses a lot of users have for them.
Even the best software on the list may not cater to your needs or serve as the best option for you. How then do you make the right choice?
1. Consider Your Device Operating System and Hardware
The operating system you make use of wholly defines the best option available to you. Consider the first software mentioned on our list, the Apple Logic Pro. It remains exclusive to macOS and iOS, meaning if you make use of Windows or Linux, this software is not available to you. This will cause you to either get a macOS or iOS device or choose the next best option that fits your operating system.
However, choosing software that is exclusive to a single operating system could prove to be a bad move in the long run. What happens when you compulsorily need to change operating systems or are caught up in a situation requiring you to use Windows devices, for instance?
Due to this, DAW software that offers you cross-platform compatibility gives you the most flexibility and comfort in creating and editing your audio files. This even fosters seamless and unhindered collaborations with other creative producers you work with.
2. Check for Audio Plugin Compatibility
Three types of plugin formats are available in the market: Audio Units (AU) which is a native format for Mac OS X, Virtual Studio Technology (VST) which is the most popular and commonly implemented plugin format for both Windows and Mac-based DAWs, and the Real-Time Audio Suite (RTAS) exclusive to Avid Pro Tools. Why are these important?
Different DAWs possess compatibility with different audio plugin formats and, with plugins serving as very important elements in the music production environment, choosing software that offers comprehensive compatibility with these varying formats is best for you.
Apart from the RTAS which is compatible with only Avid Pro Tools, having software compatible with VST and AU plugin formats means you are barely hindered when expanding your music production functionality through the use of plugins.
Plugins also come with 32-bit and 64-bit compatibility. Music production software that covers these two formats gives you flexibility and comfort.
3. Define and Compare Your Music Production Workflow
This is a factor that wholly depends on you. Your production workflow includes the peculiar characteristics of your creative style and how your music or audio files come out.
With this, you consider whether you plan to do more audio recording if you intend to go for a full-blown synth and virtual instrument setup, whether your style leans towards electronic music (which requires more edits of sounds and effects), and how much control you wish to have over audio or MIDI editing, among a lot of other considerations.
Having knowledge or taking note of all these helps you compare your DAW software choices against each other, know how much each fits into your production workflow, and help you make an appropriate choice.
4. Consider Your Budget
The amount of financial resources you have to expend on DAW software determines the choices you have within that price range. One tip to take note of is that you do not need to purchase the biggest version of the DAW software offered by it.
When it comes to a budget, all you need to do is compare different versions of different DAWs within your price range and determine which offers you the most sufficient and appropriate amount of features.
All software provided on our list are reliable, so comparing their different plans and DAW versions in relation to your budget helps you pick the best for you. You do not have to harmfully go above your budget constraints and spend extra on an application you think is the best in the market.
Music Production Software FAQ
PreSonus Studio One proves to be the DAW software with the most intuitive and user-friendly music production software. Its ease of use lies in the drag and drop capabilities through which users can perform multiple actions.
These drag and drop actions range from applying audio loop effects to applying virtual instruments, plug-ins, and presets into your workspace. Drag and drop actions also cover MIDI conversions and your file upload and download processes, giving you a very comfortable workflow all-around.
Apple’s GarageBand also proves to be a great choice for beginners as, not only does it offer you one of the most intuitive and user-friendly interfaces but, it is available to you for free.
For access to a comprehensive list of features and audio editing options, a good DAW software costs an average of $300. Prices, however, go as high as $500 or even cost more, depending on the music-producing software you choose to use and the number of features you have access to.
Which Music Creation Software Should I Buy?
Picking the best music creation software that fits your needs is a tough challenge considering the vast amount of music creation software tools available in the market.
- If you are looking for a great entry-level option, your best bets are Apple GarageBand which is 100% free to use and only available to Mac users, and Acoustica Mixcraft which is an affordable option for Windows users.
- If you are looking for a user-friendly option with easy workflows, PreSonus Studio One is the go-to pick.
- If you are searching for a digital audio workstation (DAW) software with the most intuitive list of features, choose Apple Logic Pro X (available only for Mac users) and Cockos Reaper (compatible with all operating systems).
- If you are searching for an audio production software that does not charge for updates and upgrades, Image-Line’s FL Studio which offers lifetime free updates is your best bet.