There aren’t any better ways to get started with music production, than with the free beat-making software. To start full digital audio productions, you will need a lot of different software, from Digital Audio Workstations to instruments, effects, and processing.
That being said, free software is not just for beginners. Any free instrument, sequencer, or other free beat-making software, can be just as useful to professionals.
So let’s get started with our list of what we think is the best free beat-making software, whether you’re complete beginners or advanced professional producers.
What Is The Best Free Beat Making Software?
- Ableton Live Lite (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Tracktion Waveform (Win, Mac Os, Linux 64-bit)
- Cakewalk by BandLab (Win, 64-bit)
- Garageband (Mac OS, iOS)
- Vital Synth (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Dexed FM synth (Win, Mac Os, Linux 64-bit)
- Helm Synth (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- VCV Rack (Win, Mac Os, Linux 64-bit)
- Komplete start (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Sample Tank 4 (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Spitfire Audio Labs (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- UVI Workstation (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Valhalla Supermassive (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Softube Saturation Knob (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- iZotope Vinyl (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- TDR Nova (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
- Auburn Sounds Couture (Win, Mac Os, Linux 32/64-bit)
- Xfer OTT (Win, Mac Os, 64-bit)
Probably the most important part of your free beat-making software collection will be the Digital Audio Workstation
Before you can start doing any music production, you need to have a professional quality DAW or Digital Audio Workstation program. The best DAWs can be quite expensive, with something like Ableton Live Suite coming in at around $730
So, for users looking for their first platform in the world of the best free beat-making software, let’s look at some awesome free DAW software packages.
Ableton Live Lite
If you’ve been in any music production circles before, you’ve probably heard of Ableton Live. Alongside Logic Pro X and Pro Tools, Ableton is considered one of the “big three” of DAWs.
Where Pro Tools is focused on studio recording and audio manipulation, Ableton is the direct opposite. While you can still do pretty much everything that pro tools do, Ableton is built for the electronic musician, and the workflow is streamlined perfectly for this.
It’s incredible for getting ideas quickly out of your head, and inspiring you to create more. The effects are world class, and we personally use Ableton as our own DAW of choice.
It’s great for sound design, mixing, mastering and with the newer updates is fantastic for recording.
With Ableton Live Lite, you get a great intro into the world of Ableton. While it’s not as fully fledged as some others on this list, Lite is still an incredible first-look at music production software.
You can also get Live Lite with some MIDI Keyboards and Beatpads. It comes as free software with a lot of hardware you can buy for your production. So, if you’ve recently invested in a music production setup, check to see if you have a free license.
There are additionally ways you can get Ableton Live Lite for free online. Many people give out licenses and you can search forums to help you do this.
Tracktion has devised an awesome system. Every year or so, they release a new updated version of their flagship Waveform DAW. When they do so, they also release an older version of their DAW entirely for free.
Waveform Free is essentially the full version of the past Waveform update. When the new one comes out, Waveform release the last one completely for free.
Unlike most “lite” versions of big DAW’s, Waveform is a fully-fledged and extremely usable DAW, that you can use for years.
Waveform’s workflow is quick, easy and intuitive, while managing to be different to other program packages out there. Waveform comes with a host of awesome features like video sync, step sequencing, vocal comping as well as it’s own instruments and full VST support.
Cakewalk by BandLab is essentially the now dead, Sonar DAW revitalized in a new, completely free music production program.
Designed to be simple, yet powerful, Cakewalk is the complete solution to incorporating hardware instruments and effects into your production workflow. With unique features like Matrix View, that let’s you organize MIDI loops, phrases and audio for real time triggering, Cakewalk is also great for live performance.
Awesome for MIDI sequencing and easy on-the-fly arrangements, Cakewalk is one of the best free DAW’s out there. Sadly, it’s only available for Windows machines – sorry to all the Apple users.
The chances are, that if you’re a music producer, you own an Apple computer. And, if you do, you already own one of the greatest free DAW’s ever.
Garageband is familiar to most, while being powerful enough to make nearly anything you want. In it’s essence, Garageband is very similar to Logic Pro X, both in it’s design and workflow.
While you don’t get the depth and versatility you get with Logic Pro X, GarageBand is an awesome, professional DAW that has a huge library of instruments, loops and effects that come with it.
In addition to this, you can also use GarageBand on your iPhone and iPad, letting you produce on the go. This is useful, becuase you can get an idea down on your phone while you’re on the move, then open it up later in GarageBand, or even Logic Pro (if you have it).
Garageband is probably the best option for beginners to start. It’s easy to use and has everything you need to get started and supports 3rd party plugins.
GarageBand is only available for Mac, so if you’re on Windows you’ll want to check out some GarageBand alternatives that are similar and still great for beginners.
Synths and digital virtual instruments are key, when you want to create your own bespoke sound. Whether you’re a sample based music producer, or one working primarily with synths, a great synthesizer can be vital (pardon the pun) to making beats that are unique and interesting.
While there are a tonne of awesome free synths, we’ve tried to compile our favorites, to cover all your synthesis needs.
Matt Tytel, best known for his Helm semi-modular synth, that will appear on this list, has released Vital. Vital is a spectral warping wavetable synth.
Spectral oscillator warping essentially allows you to manipulate harmonics of any wavetable, to create entirely new and unique soudn timbres and textures.
With an extensive modulation matrix, routable effects as well as stereo-splittable LFOs and envelopes, can modulate any parameter within Vital. In addition to this you also get randomizers, and full MPE support.
It’s hard to believe Vital can be downloaded for free. There are pro versions of Vital, however, the functionality is the same as the free version, only introducing extra presets, wavetables and other expandables.
Dexed FM synth
Dexed may be intimidating when you first look at it, believe us, we were a bit scared at first too. FM synthesis is already notoriously difficult to master, largely thanks to the incredible Yamaha DX7.
Incredibly popular in the 80s and 90s, the DX7 is one of the most legendary synths ever made. Dexed is an open source clone of the DX7. Whilst it may appear more intimidating, it’s actually much simpler to navigate than the original DX7.
Dexed has been a super popular synth, partly due to it being free, but mostly, due to it’s awesome sound quality, expandability and depth.
A must-have for any producers working with sound design, as well as beginners, learning about FM synthesis.
Matt Tytel’s Helm Synth is one of the best FREE sofware synthesizers out there. Helm is an open source software that’s semi-modular.
It’s hard to deny, that Helm looks like a professional synth and it sounds just as good as it looks. You get Three oscillators, as well as a Noise oscillator, extensive modulation, tons of presets, a step sequencer and awesome effects.
Anything from stutter, delay and reverb, to dramatic formant shifts and other effects, can be achieved with the Helm. Both great sounding and aesthetically pleasing, Helm is one of the best free open source synths out there.
If you’re into modular sounds and patchable synthesizers, or have been wanting to get into them, but couldn’t afford a full system, VCV Rack is perfect for you.
VCV Rack is an incredible tool for both learning synthesis and sound design, as well as a fully usable synthesizer. The massive library of VCV rack modules you can add, also make it expandable.
You can essentially create your perfect modular system, for free, on your computer.
While VCV Rack comes as a standalone program, you can get VCV Host, which acts as a VST host to plug right into your DAW.
Sampling VST Plugins
A list of the best free beat making software wouldn’t be complete with some sampling plugins. Program packages like Kontakt, Sample Tank etc. come with massive libraries of sampled instruments and sounds.
Using Sampled instruments like these, is key when you want to create organic sounding music. From vintage synths, to strange percussion instruments, a good sample library is necessary for any producer.
Native Instruments’ Komplete start is an awesome bundle of instruments, synths and effects you can use inside your DAW with Kontakt.
You get 7 Synths, including the Blocks Base, TRK-01 Badd and Carbon 2, 9 sampled instruments, with different vintage and percussive sounds. In addition to these, you’ll also get Supercharger and Guitar Rig 5 Player.
An awesome vree pack, with over 20GB of content, is impossible to pass up!
Sample Tank 4
IK Multimedia’s Sample Tank 4 is a very vast virtual instrument. Offering an all-in-one approach to it’s design, Sample Tank 4 is comparable to Kontakt, while allowing for more customizability and sound editing possibilities.
The free version of Sample Tank 4 comes with a wide 50 instrument selection, covering all your production needs, It includes over 4GB of content.
The MAX version of Sample Tank 4 has about 260GB of content, wth over 8000 sounds and instruments
Spitfire Audio Labs
Spitfire Labs is a free VST sampler that contains a huge library of free instruments that have been recorded professionally in studios. These ranging from keys and synths, to experimental soundscapes and percussion. And, Spitfire Audio keeps making more packs!
There are some amazing textures you can add to your tracks, using the soundscapes (one example is London Underground textures); there are orchestral libraries such as, strings, pianos, horns and more; and there are weird instruments you’ve probably never heard of that sound fantastic.
We use Labs a tonne in our productions and we couldn’t recommend it enough. The only downfall is some instruments don’t have a huge octave range, and Labs doesn’t have much option for customising the sound.
UVI’s Workstation is the entry into the world of UVI synths and sample packs. Acting as the host for all other UVI products, Workstation even offers different effects and arpeggiation possibilities to control your samples.
While it is just a host for other UVI products, such as Falcon synth, it’s entirely free to download, and even if you’re not intending to buy anything, it ships with a free sample pack to play with.
This sample pack alone makes it worth your download, offering a great set of free software instruments to use.
If you’re into making Hip Hoptracks, using drum samples to create beats or time stretching vocals, a sampler is a necessity.
While most DAW’s nowadays come with their own built-in samplers, a list of the best free beat making software wouldn’t be complete without a couple of them. So let’s look into the best ways to create your drum kits.
Grace by One Small Clue
One Small Clue’s Grace is easily the most beloved free software sampler. It’s a workflow oriented sampler that has a sample browser, and a tonne of controls you can use to edit with pinpoint precision.
If you don’t have a paid DAW like Ableton, Logic or Cubase – then Grace will provide you with a sampler that’s on the same level as these paid programs. However, if you have a paid DAW your sampler is proabably better.
With Grace, you can edit your sample points, cut and drag, add multiple layers, change the ADSR, pitch and more as well as even use a step sequencer to arrange your drums in a pattern.
Sitala by Decomposer
Decomposer’s Sitala, a uniquely streamlined drum-sampler, with easily the most simple and intuitive interface we’ve seen in years. You get 16 Drum pads to load samples into, and a few ways of manipulating them.
It’s essentially a step sequencer you can use to create quick grooves in your tracks. You have a lot of control over the shape, tone and time of your samples, as well as some fantastic groove and swing options.
From frequency spectrum preview, for better tuning, to a spectrum analyzer, Sitala is an awesome addition to any professional musician working with MIDI samples.
Some people prefer to use sequencers for drum creation. Those of you that do, be sure to check out Sitala!
When making beats of any kind, you can’t do without using any creative effects, such as reverb, delay, saturation etc. Whether you want to create encompassing atmospheres, or smash your drum kits, free VST effects plugins are a necessity.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Supermassive is one of the best free reverbs and delays ever made.
Valhalla Supermassive is a reverb and delay unit that can create out of this world reverbs and delays. The idea behind the plugin was to make the biggest possible, ambient spaces to add to your sounds.
With Supermassive get 8 algorithms that control how your reverb sounds, by altering the sonic quality. There are additionally a large range of presets that range from swirling delays and echos to vast reverbs that never stop.
Interestingly, there’s also a super small room reverb that is fantastic for drum sound design. We personally used it when designing our Lo-Fi and Hyperpop packs.
One of the coolest things to do with Supermassive is automate the delay time, and the warp percentage. Doing this creates some of the wonkiest, dissonant, pitch changes that sound incredible (we did this a lot in our Lo-Fi pack creation).
Resampling is our favorite technique to use with Supermassive, and it works especially well with an OTT after the reverb, then resampling that and putting it in a Granulator.
Softube Saturation Knob
Softube’s Saturation Knob is a free saturation plugin that has been around since 2011. It’s an awesome free add-on for DAW’s, recently having been made compatible with standard VST, AU and AAX plugin formats.
It’s a great plugin to add warmth to your sounds, and works especially well at beefing up drums and bass. One of our favorite ways to use Saturation Knob, is to place it on a Kick or Snare, crank the saturation and use a soft clipper to give a huge analog, gritty drum sound.
We personally used Saturation Knob a tonne in the designing of the Lo-Fi pack and our Hyperpop pack. It’s especially good for adding high end harmonics to add grit on melodies, and great for drums (as explained above).
You have 3 modes too, so you can switch between low, mid and high saturation – helping to sculpt your sound.
iZotope’s Vinyl is our go-to effect, when making anything lo-fi. Best known for their production utility suites like Ozone and Neutron, iZotope released this puppy a few years ago, and it’s remained one of the most popular free plugins till right now.
From Vinyl crackle, to static and different processing algorithms, to make your audio sound old and crackly, Vinyl can probably do way more than what you will ever need.
There’s even an option to slow your track to a halt, with the “Spindown” button, that creates an effect as if the vinyl has been stopped, and the record is slowing down, but the needle is still on it.
Automating this in Lo-Fi tracks for fills, or resampling it for sound design is amazing and we used this a lot in our Lo-Fi pack creation.
If you have a completed production or arrangement, you need to have the tools and plugins, to mix your tracks so that they sound as best they can.
Any beat maker has to know about mixing, whether that’s to clean up a sample, or create advanced mixdowns. That being said, just knowing about it is half of the picture. If you don’t have the right mixing tools, you won’t be able to make your recording as nice as it can be.
While we won’t cover all your mixing bases, let’s look at some awesome free mixing tools you can get today!
Packed full of features, like multi-band and a full dynamics section. This is useful for mixing, because, when removing resonances without dynamic EQ, you can remove the tone and character of a sound. However, with dynamic EQ, you can remove the annoying ring, while keeping the tone and character of your sound.
Offering 4 EQ bands, Nova isn’t an EQ you’d use to do lot’s of precise parametric cuts, but rather as a creative EQ. The best EQ for precision is FabFilter Pro Q3.
This is the free version of the GE TDR Nova, which expands on this wonderful free EQ.
Auburn Sounds Couture
Couture by Auburn Sounds is an awesome free transient shaper that let’s you get deep control over your dynamics.
Couture is awesome for making your drum tracks more dynamic and punchy as well as removing unwanted transients from drum samples. You can use Couture to saturate, tame or even bring life to plastic-y sounding syths.
It’s an extremely transparent transient shaper, that doesn’t add anything other than smack to your drums. No artefacts, or weird compression, just a clean, beefy sound. When compared to other free transient shapers, Couture offers the best sound.
It’s most similar to the Waves Smack Attack plugin, which is the best transient shaper to use on drums.
From the creators of easily the most popular soft synth, Serum, the Xfer OTT is an awesome plugin, that can bring life and dynamics to a flat track.
OTT is essentially a multiband dynamics processor, that excels in crushing your frequencies into a tight space. Modeled after Ableton’s stock OTT preset, Xfer’s take on it is beloved by tons of producers, if maybe a little overused.
It’s fantastic for adding presence to your sound, and is great for creating an over compressed, harsh tone during sound design. OTT is best used on a dry/wet of 10-30%. This adds the presence needed, but doesn’t destroy your signal.
It can be really easy to ruin a sound using OTT, so be careful with it and use your ears.
When your tracks are mixed, drum tracks glued, and audio leveled, you need to master your audio. Doing this requires a certain amount of expertise and knowledge, but just like mixing, is impossible without the right tools for the job.
kiloHearts’ awesome snap-in plugins, are great to fill the holes in your utility belt. Offering every kind of processing you might want, the snapins can cover all of your mixing and mastering bases.
The kiloHearts is a free limiter plugin, offering an awesome sound, into a tiny, easy to use package. For mastering expecially, the limiter is your main tool. Mastering without a limiter is like drinking out of a collander, you just don’t do it.
Limiting allows you to push the loudness of a track, without clipping the master track. It limits your track to a certain dB level and compresses your audio transparently, without adding artefacts.
YouLean Loudness Meter
While the limiter is probably the most important processing tool in your mastering chain, without proper metering, you cannot master anything. You need to be able to see your levels to understand how loud your mix and master should be.
The YouLean Loudness meter is arguably one of the best metering plugins on the market, and the free version is extremely well-spec’d and very usable.
You can use YouLean to see your True Peak metering, LUFs and LU units. This is extremely important in the mastering process, because these units can help you get the most out of your track, without entering regions that are too loud, or will squash the dynamics of your tracks.
This is especially useful when mastering for streaming services like Spotify and Apple music, because you can use it to prevent loudness penalties.
Toms is a music producer & DJ, born and raised in Post Soviet Latvia. Currently based in Brighton, Toms has had over 6 years of experience with all things production and in that time, he’s done a tonne of cool stuff! He’s played multiple festivals, had experience in the field with mixing & mastering and even become a freelance journalist in the music industry.
Toms currently creates music under the alias Sovereign. Producing music that’s intimate and subtle, while full of edge and energy, the young producer combines the artistic sounds of Trip Hop artists like Massive Attack, with the energy and youthfulness of producers like Flume, Jamie XX and Yaeji. You can check his stuff on Soundcloud.