11 best music production software for PC users

By: Matthew Adams
11 minute read

Music production software are digital audio workstations that give music artists a platform to record, edit, mix and otherwise refine their audio tracks. Above all else, they enable users to create music without any live instruments, which is probably preferable to banging away at the drums in a garage.

If you’re a beginner, you can use free music production software. However, if your hobby for creating music has evolved and you want to take it to the next level, you should use premium music production software. The end result will definitely be worth every penny you spent on the software.


The best software for music production

As a beginner, before choosing a tool, you might need some tips regarding its most basic features  :

  • Do you have to install special drivers (ASIO4All) ?
  • Are the VST instruments included?
  • Does it allow you to mix your tracks?
  • As a beginner, will you find the necessary support?
  • How many PC resources will you need?
  • Can you connect a real instrument to a music production software?
  • Do you need 3-rd party Plug-Ins to start producing music?

Many of these questions will find an answer in this article. Let’s go!

 RatingPriceVST PluginsASIO includedSupports InstrumentAdvanced MixerSupport beginner (tutorials)
FL Studio124.5Paid(has trial)BasicYesYesYesYes
Ableton Live4.5Paid(has trial)AdvancedNoYesYesYes
Cubase5Paid(has trial)AdvancedYesYesYesYes
PropellerHead Reason4.5Paid(has trial)BasicYesYesYesN/A
Avid Pro Tools4.5PaidBasicN/AYesYesYes
CakeWalk Sonar4PaidAdvancedYesN/AYesYes
Audacity3.5FreeBasicNoYesYesN/A
Darkwave Studio4FreeBasicN/AYesNoYes
Presonus Studio One4FreeAdvancedYesYesYesYes
Hydrogen4.5FreeNoNoYesYesNo
LMMS3.5FreeNoNoN/ANoN/A

FL Studio 12 (recommended)

FL Studio 12, formerly known as Fruity Loops is a very popular digital audio workstation and for a good reason : it’s the most used,trusted and plug-in friendly music software. This complex music production software brings everything you need to compose, arrange, record, edit, mix and master quality music — all in one place.

FL Studio comes in three editions: Signature, Producer and Fruity. All the three editions share a series of common features, but Signature and Producer bring additional features and effects, allowing you to create true masterpieces.

Deciding which version to buy comes down to your needs. The tool also features a selection wizard that can help you decide which FL Studio version to buy.

FL Studio 12 is used by international artists, such as: Avicii, AfroJack, DeadMaus, Martin Garrix and many more. This tool has everything you need to create hits.

If you’re looking for a software music production for beginners, FL Studio 12 is a pretty good choice. It is made to be user friendly so even the newbies could get satisfaction out of each music creating experience. Although it may seem intimidating at the beginning, you’ll quickly get the hang of it thanks to its user friendly interface and the tutorials that Imagine-Line posted on YouTube. It comes a trial/demo version, but if you have some serios intentions about your future in musical industry – you will have to pay the price for more features and support from developers team.

Before you hit the download button, make sure that you PC meets the requirements to properly run this tool.

FL Studio 12 system requirements:

  • 2Ghz Intel Pentium 4 / AMD Athlon 64 (or later) compatible CPU with full SSE2 support.
  • 32 or 64 Bit versions of Windows 10/8.0/8.1/7, Vista, XP (service pack 3)
  • 1 Gb or more RAM recommended
  • 1 Gb free disk space
  • Soundcard with DirectSound drivers.

Ableton Live Music Software

Ableton Live is a powerful music creation software that helps you put your ideas into practice. This tool has everything you need to create hypnotizing tracks.

Live features advanced MIDI recording capabilities, allowing you to work with hardware or software synthesizers, samplers, and drum machines. The audio recording feature allows you to capture every sounds from the real world.

Live also features a musical sketchpad that you can use to mix and match musical ideas without the rigidity a timeline. Feel free to improvise and play with sounds.

When you’re satisfied with the result, use Live’s Arrangement View to arrange the notes and build up your song. You can edit every detail by moving blocks of music or time around.

Ableton Live offers a unique warping feature that lets you change the tempo and timing, in real-time, without stopping the music. Should you ever run out of ideas, you can use the tool’s collection of sounds. There are over 3000 sounds that you can choose from, including acoustic instruments, multi-sampled acoustic drum kits, and more.

Interested in downloading Ableton Live? Before you hit the download button, make sure that you PC meets the requirements to properly run this tool.

Ableton Live system requirements:

  • Windows 7, 8, 10
  • Multicore processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Required disk space for basic installation: 3GB free disk space.
  • Required disk space if all included sounds are installed: 6 GB free disk space.

Ableton Live comes in three variants: Intro, Standard and Suite. The price tag ranges from $90.00 to $685.00.


Cubase Music Production Software

Steinberg is synonym to quality. When you hear that a digital audio workstation is powered by Steinberg, you know that must be a very high-quality tool.

The company proudly says that its Cubase music production software is the best digital audio workstation ever. The tool offers crystal-clear sound quality, and many advanced features that will satisfy even the most demanding musicians.

Cubase is a complete tool, covering all the stages of the creative process from composing, recording, to editing and mixing. The software doesn’t come with rigid limitations, allowing you to put creativity first and follow your own workflow.

The Cubase software comes in three different versions, perfectly suitable for your experience and needs. Whether you are a beginner, or a music veteran, whether you’ve got only a hundred dollar or several hundred dollars to spend on your music production software, you’ll find a tool that’ll meet all your needs, budget, level of experience or choice of music.

Cubase software versions:

  • Cubase Elements literally turns your computer into a fully equipped music production system. You can record, edit and mix audio and MIDI tracks and let your creative genius surface.
  • Cubase Artist offers additional editing and sequencing tools that musicians often use.
  • Cubase Pro is the perfect tool for music veterans, producers and experienced musicians. Cubase Pro offers outstanding audio quality, and a bevy of highly advanced audio and MIDI tools.

Interested in downloading Cubase? Before you hit the download button, make sure that you PC meets the requirements to properly run this tool.

Cubase software system requirements:

  • 64-Bit Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
  • 64-bit Intel or AMD multi-core processor (Intel i5 or faster recommended)
  • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
  • 18 GB free HD space
  • Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 1.1 support.

You can buy the Cubase software for a price tag starting from $114.00.


PropellerHead Reason

PropellerHead Reason is a complete digital audio workstation that allows you to create, compose, edit, mix and finish your music. The UI is very intuitive and easy to use, all you need to do is click and drag the sounds and instruments you want to the rack and just play.

The rack is the center of the tool and it’s a dynamic feature. You build your rack as you create your song, adding the instruments, plugins, sounds and effects.

Reason is a very versatile music creation tool. If you need to add more creative options, Reason allows you to add more VST plugins, as well as Rack Extensions.

The tool is not at all intrusive, allowing you to focus on your music first. Recording is very easy, and you can later perfect your takes when you are done with the software’s powerful editing tools.

PropellerHead Reason system requirements:

  • Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
  • Intel or AMD processor with dual cores
  • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended for large ReFills or Rack Extensions)
  • 4 GB free hard disk space on the system drive (program may use up to 20 GB scratch disk space)
  • Audio Interface with ASIO driver

You can download PropellerHead Reason for a 30 day free trial or buy the software for $390.00.


Avid Pro Tools 12

Avid Pro Tools 12 is a powerful music production tool that will help you unleash the creative genius within. This tool offers a wide variety of options that allows you to compose, record, edit, mix and share tracks.

Avid Pro Tools 12 comes in three versions, each suitable for particular needs:

  • Pro Tools First is ideal for singers, songwriters, and musicians who are new to audio recording or Pro Tools.
  • Pro Tools Pros is suitable for pros who are looking for advanced tools to create music
  • Pro Tools HD is ideal for audio and production pros who need maximum track counts, performance, and surround sound.

Avid Pro Tools 12 offers a series of unique features that really sets it apart from its competition:

  • Users can work with up to 10 collaborators in the cloud on a single project, including Pro Tools First users.
  • Project Revisions is a feature that keeps all version history and data organized for you. This feature allows you to explore new versions of a song or soundtrack, make notes, and quickly jump back to any previous state from anywhere.
  • Track Freeze is a useful feature that allows you to quickly freeze or unfreeze plug-ins on a track to free up processing power.

Avid Pro Tools 12 system requirements:

  • Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8/8.1 64-bit or Windows 10 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5 processor (minimum)
  • 8GB RAM (16GB or more recommended)
  • 15GB disk space for installation
  • USB-port for iLok authorization (iLok 2 or iLok 3 required)
  • USB-port or FireWire-port for ASIO-supported audio device

You can buy Avid Pro Tools 12 for $599.00 and get a perpetual license with an annual upgrade plan. Or you can get a $24.92 monthly subscription.


Cakewalk Sonar

Cakewalk Sonar is an impressive music production tool that allows you to build your tracks from the ground up. The tool’s music synths allow you to quickly create your rhythms, while the editing and mixing features allow you to polish your creation.

Just like Presonus Studio One, Cakewalk Sonar relies on the world’s leading pitch-correction software to pitch-correct vocals, convert audio to MIDI, etc.

Sonar also features VST3 support, the most stable, accurate, and efficient plug-in format for Windows PCs. Its compatibility with touch devices adds an analog feel to the creation process and enhances workflow efficiency.

Cakewalk Sonar system requirements:

  • OS: Windows 7, 8/8.1 or 10 (32- or 64-bit)
  • Processor: 2.6GHz Intel or AMD multi-core processor (at least Intel i5 or AMD A10 APU)
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Hard Drive: 5GB for minimal install (20GB recommended)
  • Audio Interface: ASIO compatible hardware is recommended

Cakewalk Sonar is available in the following versions (click to buy from Amazon):


Audacity

Audacity is one of the more renowned open-source audio editors that has had millions of downloads. This is a multi-platform package compatible with macOS, Windows and Linux. Press the Download Audacity 2.1.2 link on the software’s home page to add the program to Windows.

With Audacity, you can both record music from a variety of sources and post-process almost any type of audio. The software enables users to apply a range of effects to music, adjust pitch, treble and bass and even analyze tracks with its frequency analysis tool. The program presents music tracks as editable waveforms that users can edit. Users can also edit audio files with cut, copy and paste or use its truck load of additional plug-ins to enhance the range of effects and audio analysis. Audacity has built-in support for the LV2, LADSPA and Nyquist plug-ins.


Darkwave Studio

Darkwave Studio is freeware that gives users a virtually modular audio studio that supports both VST and ASIO. The program supports 64-bit Windows platforms from XP to 10. It requires just 2.89 MB storage space and you can add it to your desktop or laptop by pressing the Download button on this web page. Note that Darkwave Studio also comes with adware, so check the third-party program offers in the installer.

The first thing most users will probably note about Darkwave is its elegant tabbed UI design. Darkwave has a streamlined UI with a lot of the options and settings in separate windows and context menus. The software incorporates up to eight separate modules that include a pattern editor, HD recorder, sequence editor, MIDI input and percussion synthesizer. With the pattern editor, you can select and edit digital music patterns. The sequence editor enables users to mix the track patterns together. The HD recorder tab includes recording options for streaming audio. The program also includes 19 built-in plug-ins with which to add virtual effects to the tracks, and you can add plenty more VST/VSTi plug-ins to the software.


Presonus Studio One

Studio One Prime is the freeware version of the Presonus Studio One software, complemented by the Artist and Professional version which retail at $450. Studio One Prime is a stripped down version of those packages that you can add to your software library with a my.presonus.com account. The software is compatible with more recent Windows platforms, and you’ll also need at least 4GB RAM and 30GB of storage for it.

Although the freeware version lacks quite a few of the options and native audio effects offered in Studio One Artist and Professional, it still has the same intuitive drag-and-drop UI with which to create new tracks and add effects. Studio One Prime includes unlimited audio tracks, FX and virtual instruments.

You can also add nine native audio effects to music tracks. Latency compensation, easy side-chain routing and the control link MIDI-mapping system are a few of the mixing and control tools retained in the freeware version. In addition, One Prime has multitrack MIDI and multitrack track transform (for track freezing) editing tools. So, even though it’s a stripped down Studio One version, it still has most of the essential tools to create recordings.


Hydrogen

Hydrogen is open-source music production software that’s more specifically a digital drum machine which imitates drums. The program is compatible with Windows, Linux and macOS. Note that the Windows version is still in beta, so it might have a few bugs. Click Hydrogen 0.9.7 on this page to save Hydrogen’s installer to Windows.

Hydrogen has a pre-installed GMkit that includes Snare, Jazz, Ride Jazz, Ride Rock, Stick, Snare Jazz, Closed HH (high hat), Pedal HH and Cowbell drum kits. among others. The software’s pattern sequencer has an unlimited number of patterns and enables users to chain patterns together within a music track. Users can select and arrange various drum audio effects over a file and even overlap them. Hydrogen’s Mixer is another of its handy tools with which you can tune drum volume and also apply some extra special effects. The latest version of the software enables users to export and import song patterns into tracks, and it also includes a Director Window with a metronome and a Sample Editor with cut and loop options. So, if you need to cook up some drumming beats, Hydrogen will provide the required tools and options.


LMMS

LMMS, otherwise known as the Linux Multimedia Studio, is a comprehensive, open-source music production application that comes with five editors and a variety of synthesizers to further refine your audio tracks. This is cross-platform software you can run with Windows, Linux (Ubuntu, Mint and Debian) or macOS. Press one of the LMMS buttons on this web page to save either the 32 or 64-bit installer to Windows.

As mentioned, LMMS has five editors that consist of a Song Editor for composing melodies, a Beat+Bassline Editor to consolidate instrument tracks with, Piano Roll, Automation Editor and an FX Editor with which you can mix FX channels. Users can import both MIDI files and Hydrogen project files with the Song Editor. LMMS boasts a wide variety of instrument synthesizers, among which are a Roland monophonic bass, oscillator, wavetable, NES, organic and mallets synthesizers. The program also supports VST and LADSPA plug-ins with which you can mix a multitude of extra effects into the music track. As such, LMMS certainly packs in plenty of music production tools.


Those are 11 audio production tools for Windows that have most of the tools you’ll need for music production. The tools listed above are appropriate for beginners, intermediate, advanced music lovers, as well as professional musicians. If you already used the software listed in this article, you can tell us more about your experience in the comments below.

If you’d like us to add other tools to the list, let us know in the comments.

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