The 8 Best Free DAWs to Create Music

Making music with digital tools doesn’t have to be expensive.

In fact, you can do practically every important task in music production using free software.

You might have already seen free VST effects and virtual instruments available online.

You’ll definitely need a good selection of those, but the first and most important tool to make music is your DAW.

But finding a free DAW that does everything you need for your workflow can be challenging. There are lots of them out there, each with different features and limitations.

Even so, there are plenty of great freeware DAW options if you know where to look.

In this article I’ll go through the best free DAWs and help you find the one that works for you.

Free DAWs vs Paid DAWs

Before you start looking for a free DAW you should consider your needs to make sure freeware is the right choice.

There are plenty of effective free DAWs out there, but many of them have reduced features and functions compared to full-fledged DAWs.

There are plenty of effective free DAWs out there, but many of them have reduced features and functions compared to full-fledged DAWs.

A free DAW is perfect for you if:

  • You just want to try out music production with a basic DAW
  • You absolutely can’t stretch your DAW budget at all
  • You only need a DAW for a few parts of your workflow

Many of the apps I’ll be including on this list are free versions of respected pro DAWs. These are perfect if you think you plan to purchase a full DAW eventually and just need to try out a few different options.

Finally, if you’re looking for a full-fledged production solution, consider expanding your budget slightly if you can.

There are a handful of respected DAWs that aren’t exactly free, but cost significantly less than the big names. The most common of these is Cockos Reaper, which costs only $60 USD.

The 10 Best Free DAW Apps

With that out of the way here are the 10 best free DAW apps to get you started creating music on your computer:

1. Audacity

Audacity is the original free DAW. It’s an open source multi-track audio editor and recorder that works on many different operating systems.

If you’re only dealing with audio tracks, Audacity is a perfectly functional free DAW solution.

The main drawback is that Audacity does not act as a MIDI sequencer. That means there are no MIDI tracks for you to use with your virtual instruments.

Using plugins in Audacity is also a little different from pro DAWs, so it might not be the perfect fit for a full production workflow.

Despite that, Audacity is an excellent free resource that’s well worth including on this list.

2. Garageband

Apple’s entry level DAW Garageband comes bundled with every computer that runs Mac OS.

Apple’s entry level DAW Garageband comes bundled with every computer that runs Mac OS.

That means if you’re reading this on a Mac computer, you already have it!

Garageband is well-known for introducing many musicians to recording. But despite its reputation as a beginner app it’s still surprisingly effective for making music.

Garageband combines the ease-of-use and smart design Apple is known for with some powerful features for music production.

Don’t overlook Garageband if you’re a Mac user in need of a free DAW.

3. Ableton Live Lite

Ableton Live is probably the biggest name in DAWs when it comes to electronic and sample-based genres.

It’s easy to see why. The unique “session view” makes using loops to compose songs incredibly easy. It’s built-in pitch shifting and time stretching in the warp feature are powerful and easy to use.

Ableton Live Lite is the stripped down version of Live that Ableton provides bundled with popular software and hardware packages.

Many audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, plugins and even iOS apps offer a license for Live Lite.

You’ll need a few of these items to set up your home studio, so you might want to look out for a bundle that includes a copy of Live Lite.

It’s a limited version of Live that will help you get the feel for this extremely popular DAW.

Live Lite gives you a total of 16 tracks with any combination of audio and midi channels. It allows up to four inputs and outputs at the same time.

4. Tracktion Waveform Free

Tracktion Waveform Free is an impressive fully functional freeware DAW.

Unlike some of the other DAWs on this list it has no limitations to track count or simultaneous recording.

It can host VST and AU plugins and works on PC or Mac.

Traktion offers a paid upgrade to Waveform Pro for advanced users, but it’s not necessary to buy the full version to unlock any essential features for music creation.

Waveform Free is designed to be easy to use for beginner producers and features some slightly different design concepts than other free DAWs.

Many audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, plugins and even iOS apps offer a license for Live Lite.

5. Pro Tools First

Pro Tools First is the introductory edition of the industry standard DAW Pro Tools.

It includes many of the powerful features that make Pro Tools the DAW of choice for professional studios all over the world.

But it comes with some limitations that might make you think twice. With First you can record up to 16 tracks of audio and use up to 16 virtual instrument tracks in a session.

On top of that, you can record only four tracks at the same time.

Despite these limitations, Pro Tools First lets you get started with the DAW you’ll likely be using if you go on to work in a professional studio. That’s a major benefit!

6. Ohm Studio

Ohm Studio is another full-featured DAW you can download for free. It’s the DAW project of popular plugin manufacturer Ohmforce.

Ohm Studio provides all the essential music creation features of a paid DAW without limits.

It’s built around collaboration with handy features to share your music with other people you’re working with.

7. Cubase LE

Cubase LE is another solid free DAW. It’s the lite edition of Steinberg’s flagship recording app Cubase.

Cubase was one of the first digital sequencing apps and it’s been a popular DAW choice for decades.

Cubase LE brings the best of that legacy to free users with only a few limitations.

With LE you’ll be able to record up to 16 tracks of audio and up to 24 virtual instrument tracks.

It can record up to 8 tracks at once and comes with some of Steinberg’s excellent VST plugins and libraries for its HALion sampling platform.

8. Soundbridge

Soundbridge is another excellent choice for a full-featured free DAW.

It contains all the important key features of a pro DAW but makes them as simple and easy to use as possible.

Its built-in drum machine and effects are excellent and it has a stylish interface that’s comfortable to work with.

Free recording tools

Making music shouldn’t be a financial burden.

That’s why these free recording apps are so helpful for creators.

Whether you’re looking to try a demo version of a classic DAW or just make music without spending too much money, these free DAWs will help you do it.

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