Today, creating music or just working with sound is easier than ever. A kind of symbiosis has formed between music makers and companies – the latter increase the number of the former, making many products for beginners free. This is a long-term investment, but companies know very well that if a musician likes a program or a plugin, he will not change it for something new very soon. Most likely, on the contrary – sooner or later he will buy a paid version for the sake of advanced features and operational updates. Therefore, companies put a lot of effort into free versions of products, trying to please users. Here is a selection of the top 10 apps that cover all the needs of both a beginner and an experienced audio/video blogger, musician or sound engineer.
garagebandis the only Mac-only program on this list. But it is impossible not to mention it – it has everything to start making music right now. There are tons of instruments, effects, samples and presets on board for all styles of music. There is even a version for iPhones and iPads, in which you can upload a demo, and then open the same project on a Mac and continue working. At its core, Garageband is a stripped-down Logic, Apple’s professional DAW. And this is another plus – Logic opens Garageband projects, so there will be no problems when switching to more serious software. Of course, there are also disadvantages – there is no intelligent mixer, no grouping of tracks, there are restrictions on midi editing, etc. However, Garageband is not shy about using professional musicians such as Rihanna,
Studio One Prime
This is a free version of the young, but already recognized by sound engineers and musicians Studio One program. Compared to its older brother, it has limitations, the main of which is the lack of support for third-party plugins. You will have to rely on what comes with the program, but there are quite a few included – 9 effects, a synthesizer plugin, ampsim, more than 1 GB of loops and samples.
The second important limitation is that you can only record 2 tracks at the same time, for example, vocals and guitar. The drum set cannot be recorded. But, if this is not necessary – then Studio One Prim e will be a very convenient DAW for beginners. Some restrictions only discipline, protecting against the main mistake of a beginner – an insane amount of extra plugins and processing.
The interface is very friendly and user-friendly, many people mark it as one of the most user-friendly DAWs on the market. Available for Windows and macOS.
In the life of every musician, there are insights when a brilliant part comes to mind, and you need to record it right now, before it disappears. There is no time to run a bulky DAW, you need to come up with something here and now. In such cases, it is reasonable to stock up on a link to TwistedWave – one of the few online DAWs that works stably through a browser and starts in a second. Perhaps the point is in the minimalistic interface – there are only basic functions, effect plugins are made without a shell – only numbers and sliders, no midi support. But with the functions of an online voice recorder and audio editor, the program does an excellent job. For example, there is the ability to instantly create a loop and improvise under it. The result can be saved to Google Drive or immediately uploaded to Soundcloud.
Technically, it’s not free. But from the official website of the developer, you can download the program and use it absolutely freely for as long as you like with full functionality, even after its 60-day trial period has expired. No catch – you just have to wait a while before starting work on the project, reading the appeal of the authors with a request to buy the product. You can buy, or you can close the pop-up window and work.
In fact, Reaper is a modern take on a professional DAW, and many solutions here are simply brilliant: all tracks are universal and are not divided into audio, midi and instruments, midi parts can be edited right in the main project window, it is possible to apply an effect to a specific area track with a couple of clicks, etc.
You can download for both Windows and macOS, plus there are even experimental builds for Linux.
When it comes to a program for processing raw materials – removing clicks from recorded tracks, editing multiple audio tracks, especially when it comes to streams, podcasts, YouTube, etc. , then it would be nice to have Audacity in the household . In fact, this program is a stripped-down DAW – it does not support working with midi, only with audio files. But there is a chic set of tools and effects for audio editing.
Many routine operations like signal equalization are performed here in a couple of clicks.
The app is not new, with a rich history that continues to this day. The program has its fans. Updates come out almost every month. At the same time, Audacity was and remains free. Available for Windows, macOS and even Linux.
AmpliTube Custom Shop
At live concerts, guitarists and bassists play through a stack – this is the name of a chain of instruments for processing a guitar signal: an amplifier – a cabinet with speakers – an instrumental microphone. Plugins have long learned to simulate a guitar stack and today they have achieved quite good results in this matter – when comparing amp simulations with original devices, it is very difficult to find the difference. An additional plus is that you can download presets in a second, share them on the network and change the settings of the amplifier in the finished mix (which is impossible to imagine when working with hardware).
IK Multimedia Amlitube 4 is one of the most realistic-sounding ampsims with virtual clones of real-life devices, developed under the supervision of their manufacturers. Its little brother, Amplitube Custom Shop , can be downloaded for free from the company’s official website.
It’s a full-featured program with the same frighteningly realistic sound, but with a cut down on gear: 4 amps, 9 stompboxes, 5 cabinets, 3 mics and a tuner. There is a necessary minimum, and what is missing can be purchased in the online store (there are more than 280 virtual pieces of iron for every taste).
It is available both as a standalone program (for Windows and macOS, complete with a simple recorder for recording sketches), and as a plug-in for DAW.
Cockos Reaper comes with a set of great plugins that can be downloaded separately from the company’s official website.
Despite their rustic appearance, Reaplugins are very functional and sound great. For example, a parametric equalizer with a spectrum analyzer is excellent for cutting out resonances.
ReaFir is one of the simplest and most effective noise suppressors, indispensable if you need to remove hiss or low-frequency hum from speech.
ReaGate is a convenient and functional gate that will take root at the beginning of the chain of effects of each recorded track.
Plug-ins are very careful with computer resources and have become a workhorse for many sound engineers.
Modern equalizers have seriously evolved after they turned into software. Today, from a parametric equalizer, developers are making a universal device that can do both multiband compression and dynamic equalization.
One of these multi-tools is TDR Nova . It has 4 bands plus high and low pass filters, you can listen to each band separately and adjust the frequencies with surgical precision.
But its main feature is the built-in compressor, which can be turned on for each band individually, so that the device only works when the signal on this band reaches the specified Threshold value.
With all this abracadabra, the program has a very clear interface – just poke ten minutes to figure it out.
It works smartly and absolutely free, plus there is a function to upgrade to a paid version with advanced functionality.
MFreeFXBundle is an effects processor with its own family of more than 180 plug-ins that can be downloaded from the official site, moreover, 37 of them are free. There you can get a thousand little things that will be useful in the household of a music creator – various analyzers, a tuner, a noise generator, a saturator, a stereo expander, delay and modulation effects, there is even a notebook!
The shell itself is also completely free to download. An excellent combine that greatly expands the music maker’s arsenal.
KOMPLETE START Bundle
The list would not be complete without the KOMPLETE START Bundle , a gentleman’s kit for an aspiring musician.
An absolutely free pack from the famous company Native Instruments, which includes 7 synthesizers, 9 libraries of samples and loops, an ampsim, a tube compressor plugin and several shells that allow you to control all this splendor. The kit will cover most of the needs of a beginner and will serve as an excellent starting point for creating your own collections of samples and synthesizers.
Back in the nineties, when creating an album using a computer, the parts had to be recorded on CD, because there were simply no hard drives of sufficient volume. It’s hard to comprehend how uncomfortable that was. Today, the computing power of an average home PC is enough for most needs of an aspiring music maker. There are more and more people employed in this area, and demand creates supply. The software has become more accessible, more diverse and more convenient, so when, if not now, start implementing your creative ideas!