Being good at the guitar or being a master of piano improvisation is just one facet of good music. In the modern age, being technically excellent is not necessary if you are creative enough. How you put your music together is just as important as being able to make it in the first place.
The DAW, or digital audio workstation, is what you need to look at if you’re interested in production. It will allow you to record yourself and it will actively change the way you make music. Learning to compensate for settings or bypass systems will shape how you put everything together.
For this reason, choosing the right DAW is important, and it’s often best to explore a bit before deciding what works for you. Unfortunately, with the time and money needed to do this, it can be a bit difficult.
With your MacBook in hand, we’ll recommend our picks of the best free music production software suites.
If you’ve ever started a Mac, you’ll be familiar with this Apple software (opens in a new tab). Pre-installed on Apple devices, it is a usable and intuitive application with many useful built-in features.
Just plug in your midi, guitar or keyboard to create music instantly. With the quick help feature, it explains everything you can see in easy-to-grasp concepts, making it a great app for those just starting out.
It has some great features like a smart drummer which means you don’t have to create a drum track to have a good beat in the background. It also has some nice midi packs to try out, like great piano sounds, orchestra sounds, and great guitar effects.
If you’ve never cared about music production before, try this before trying anything else on this list. From there, you can read the list and choose your favorite app based on what you like.
As the software continues to make changes and adapt to the latest M1 chips, sometimes there are issues with using unofficial software and it can get a bit confusing to get started. If you have the time to spare, this is one of the best software you can find.
If you love GarageBand but just want more, Pro Logic (opens in a new tab) is where you should go from here. It’s great software, offering more sounds to choose from, more robust features for customizing your songs, and better overall usability.
It’s okay to assume that GarageBand is essentially a “lightweight” alternative to Logic – a solid, usable app that has some notable downsides. Logic gets rid of it and adds even more functions. It has a better live loop and more complex tempo options.
It also has plenty of additional software and built-in sounds to get full, vibrant music out of your projects. Along with that there are much better mix options which can give you additional bass and EQ options depending on the genre types you are focusing on making it ideal for anyone looking to finish a song. complete, ready to go on an album.
It also has great, intuitive ways to export your songs to iOS or iPadOS if you want to take your projects on the go.
Professional tools (opens in a new tab) is the industry standard for DAWs and there’s a reason for that. It’s powerful, can handle just about anything you throw at it, and it’s great when using on multiple platforms.
If you want to work on a project with someone else or want to learn software that most professionals are used to, this is a great app to learn.
That said, it can be a bit difficult to get used to. It’s not as intuitive as our previous picks and is packed with options. Pro tools are free to use with a trial, but will cost you more in the long run with monthly/annual plans.
Pro Tools’ cloud features and excellent plug-in options make the app a fantastic choice, albeit with a steep learning curve and high price tag. If you’re looking for something complex used by industry professionals, this is the app for you.
Ableton Live (opens in a new tab) is a great app for those who like to improvise. All of its software is based on live sessions, giving your music a raw feel. It’s much better for letting you sort of jam and then hone every aspect of your music.
Of all the paid apps here, this one could be purchased alongside any other (if you have the money and the patience) because its unique selling point is worth it. There are three central price levels for the application; the top one is rather expensive, but the cheaper options are a good start.
The focus on live playing means there are some pretty solid onboard loops and instruments to use, perfect for setting up a track. Where other apps often get lost in the weeds, figuratively speaking, Ableton Live is ideal for letting you have fun.
If you like the idea of dialing on the fly, you should give this one a try.
Originally known as FruityLoops, FL Studio (opens in a new tab) has come an incredibly long way since its release two decades ago. Its functionality is entirely loop-based, making it ideal for genres like EDM or trap.
You basically build loops in a separate track and place them in your main track. This means that coming up with ideas that are only used once or ever-changing songs can become a tedious process.
Although it has the ability to play and record, the repair becomes a bit complicated due to its architecture. The loop-centric construction of this software often forces you to write a bit outside of what you’re used to, which is great but also gets in the way of your own ideas.
It also makes learning a little confusing, but if you can overcome that learning curve, it’s a solid, versatile DAW that can take you off the beaten track.