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.

But, if you’re looking for an easy way to piece together ideas and play with samples try LANDR’s new sampling and beat making tool Creator.

It’s a free online beat maker that uses pitch-shifting and time-stretching technology to help you piece together up to eight unique samples on LANDR Samples!

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:

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.

Editors note: Following the recent acquisition of Audacity by MuseScore some have voiced concern around privacy and spyware embedded within the app.

Pros:

  • Solid audio editing capabilities
  • Unlimited tracks

Cons:

  • No MIDI compatibility
  • Privacy and spyware concerns

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.

Pros:

  • Super verstatile, modern interface
  • Comes with a lot of software instruments and effects

Cons:

  • Very limited compared to Logic Pro
  • Only available for Apple users

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.

Pros:

  • Uses Ableton’s well loved workflow
  • Good range of effects and instruments included

Cons:

  • Limited to eight tracks

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.

Pros:

  • Unlimited tracks and compatible with VSTs
  • Easy to use interface

Cons:

  • Simplified interface might make be confusing for standard DAW users

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

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!

Pros:

  • An excellent introduction to a pro-quality DAW

Cons:

  • Major limitations in many categories

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.

Pros:

  • Collaborative design makes it easy to share ideas with others
  • Comes with all the essentials and unlimited tracks

Cons:

  • Basic design is not well suited for more advanced production

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.

Pros:

  • Based on the powerful Cubase DAW
  • Includes a large sample library and the HALion sampling platform

Cons:

  • Limited to 16 audio tracks and 24 instrument tracks
  • Only able to record 8 audio tracks concurrently

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.

Pros:

  • Simple interface that’s easy to understand
  • Built-in drum machine and effects

Cons:

  • Limited features, doesn’t include many effects or instruments

9. REAPER

Reaper is not a free DAW, but it makes this list because it comes with a very long trial period and it’s ridiculously cheap at $60 USD.

This is by far the best DAW on this list because it works just as well as most paid DAWs, it’s completely open-source meaning you can customize it with user-generated skins and mods.

It has a fully-fledged recording interface and supports VSTs, so you can install whatever you need to get your track made and heard.

Just be prepared to eventually support the good people at Reaper with $60.

Pros:

  • Fully-fledged, professional DAW
  • Unlimited tracks, skinnable, full VST compatibility

Cons:

  • Not free
  • Doesn’t come with very many bundled plugins

10. Studio One 5 Prime

Studio One Prime is the introductory free DAW offered by Presonus. It’s essentially a watered-down version of the more advanced Studio One 5 DAW.

For a lite version of a paid DAW, Studio One 5 Prime comes with some distinct advantages. Namely, it allows for unlimited tracks unlike Ableton Live Lite, which limits you to eight.

You get a fully-fledged recording interface, sampling tool, drum machine and step sequencer.

It also comes with a handful of effects plugins.

All-in-all it’s a fairly complete entry point into zero-cost music production.

Pros:

  • Unlimited tracks
  • Compatible with PreSonus controllers

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include very many software instruments
  • No VST compatibility

11. MPC Beats

AKAI is well-loved for its legendary MPC line of groove boxes.

So it makes sense that they are moving into beat-making-oriented software with their MPC-inspired DAW, MPC Beats.

This free DAW is definitely geared towards beatmakers and hip hop producers, it’s essentially a free MPC with a DAW style timeline interface.

It also comes with some limited recording features and a handful of effects to warp and modify any sound.

Of course, it’s limited to eight tracks and two audio recording tracks and it’s only available on Windows.

So, if all you want to do is make electronic beats on your computer for free, this is a cool option with a unique workflow.

Pros:

  • Classic MPC workflow in a computer format
  • Beat maker oriented instruments

Cons:

  • Limited tracks and recording capability
  • Only compatible with Windows

12. Podium Free

Podium is another free DAW that’s only available for Windows users.

Despite its slightly dated-looking interface, it has a remarkably modern feel and workflow with a DAW style timeline and mixing board.

The free DAW also comes with full VST compatibility and unlimited tracks.

Its only drawback is that it was designed to use the quad-core CPUs that come standard on most laptops these days.

Since it can only operate on one core, it’s easy to overclock the CPU and cause a crash.

Aside from that, it’s a relatively solid DAW that makes for a decent entry point into music production, but only if you’re a PC user.

Pros:

  • Great user interface
  • Compatible with VSTs

Cons:

  • Not modernized for today’s CPUs
  • Only compatible with Windows

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.

Audio LANDR