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Best Free DAWs for Windows and Mac

by Vaibhav

You’re starting as a musician and you’ve procured all the hardware that was on your list, be it, mic, synth, etc, but you’re still looking for a DAW which will help you utilize the hardware to the fullest. I’ve already discussed best DAWs you can go for but most of these are industry standards and come at a cost that can burn a hole in your pocket. Is there a way to save your money but still be able to use a good DAW?

Yes, there is! There are so many free DAWs to produce music, you can use to easily get your work done. So let’s see which one of these fits the bill perfectly.

Best Free DAWs

1. Garage Band 

Garage Band is something that is easy to use and is available on all Apple devices for free. You can simply plug and play instruments. The UI is simple and you can understand the work-flow in one go. In case you have an idea in mind and you don’t have a certain instrument, Garage Band has a huge library of virtual instruments to choose from. It has multiple amps and effect racks, so next time you plug-in your guitar try these to spice the sound up a bit. 

Garage Band DAW Apple

If we talk about Multi-track recording, the processing is all fine but often I need a drummer because I can’t program it myself. To save you from spending all day programming drums, there is a virtual session drummer that takes cue from the track and plays along, so finding a groove will no longer be an issue. 

If you are like, who hate wires, there is an option to control using an iPad or from the logic remote app. If you’re a noob and you want to learn an instrument there is a section dedicated to tutorials. Whether you want to learn rock or blues, video tutorials make it simple and easy to learn. Lastly, besides the 255 track recording ability, you can pan the audio, add effects like reverb and manage EQ as well. 

  • Available on Mac, iPhone and iPad.

Get Garage Band here.

2. Ardour

Ardour is an open-source DAW, which means if you want to download and modify the source code you can easily do it. It also has Google as one of the few who fund them. I’m not a geek so I downloaded an installable version from its website. In terms of a number of tracks, there is no cap to it so you’re free to run your creative horses. In addition to that, there is no limitation on a number of effects or projects. For some reason, I can relate the look to Ableton. 

Adour Free DAW

In case you’re producing music for a video or film, it has a video timeline as well. Of course, there are limitations and the first one is the lack of any virtual instruments so you’ll have to rely on third-party software. There are two modes to view which are editor, where you record and see the projet layout and mixer, where you can pan, add effects and plug-ins to the audio. 

Well, for post-processing you’ll have all the arsenal you need. Basic plug-ins like compressor, delay, EQ, reverb and many more are available.  

Ardour Free DAW

Although open-source, the app is not completely free and the software goes into silent mode every 10 minutes. I don’t think its a big deal, as you’ve two options, either you can choose to pay in a subscription-style or donate and keep using it. You should note that there is no minimum donation, so it’s very flexible even if you don’t want to spend a lot. 

Ardour Free DAW

If you’re a YouTuber and you want something which is light years ahead of audacity but still simple to use, this is the app to go for. You can import videos and extract audio, view content in a separate video monitor, trim video and add projects soundtrack to the video. Clean enough for someone who wants a good video-audio integration. There is a chat option as well, which is run by real-time users. So if you get stuck or just need advice you can write here. Be patient! Replies can take time. 

  • Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux

Get Ardour here.

3. Pro Tools First

Pro Tools First is the industry standard and the first DAW that I used. If you’re starting out, then you can’t go wrong with this. Downloadable from the Pro Tools Website, it offers a maximum of 16 tracks with simultaneous recording. There is basic plug-in available to process sound but the ability to add a video isn’t available in this version. In case you want to share and make music with other people cloud collaboration is also possible for a total of 3 projects but with the cloud plan subscribed. 

Pro Toold First Free DAW

Limited Virtual support is available for example you’ll be able to access Air Expand 2, which has a repository of drums, guitars, FXs and more. An additional in-built workstation that lets you edit and manipulate samples that come in handy if you want to give a unique sound to your music. 

  • Available on Windows and Mac

Get Pro Tools here.

4. LMMS ( Linux Multimedia Studio) 

If you work with a lot of samples and don’t want to spend money, this is the one for you. It has a UI like FL Studio, there is a beatmaker as soon as you open it. It’s available for Linux, Windows, and Mac. To start with the main highlights it has multiple instruments which you can find on the left, I feel it’s enough to get you started with any genre of music. It also has a piano roll, inspired by FL Studio, which makes creating and editing melodies a breeze.

LMMS Free Music Making App

In terms of layout, you have a song editor where you can see all your tracks and a different window for mixing. So the interface is more window in the window, which can be a problem for some who don’t want to keep themselves busy with handling and resizing windows.

You can also automate by dragging and dropping kobs from the synth on the automation window. 

LMMS Free Music Making App

There is a lag in track display sometimes when you play the audio. You also can’t import or export MP3, which is a huge drawback. There is no limitation to the number of tracks but the support for VSTs is limited. Even recording audio, you need a different app (Use audacity) then use it as a sample track. However, all these limitations have a walk-around so you can consider using this. 

  • Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux

Get LMMS here.

5. Audacity

Of course, Audacity is not exactly a DAW but can be used as one. Whether you have to record a podcast or just want to use it for recording music, it serves all purposes. 

For the unknown, Audacity is a free and open-source digital Audio Editor (not a workstation) available on all the platforms, i.e, macOS, Windows, and Linux. You can add multiple tracks and records from multiple sources.

Audacity Free Music Making App

The post-processing is a very strong point in Audacity with options such as normalizing, noise reduction, fade operations, etc. Punch and Roll recording, theme selection, voice isolation is also there to convert song into karaoke. Its simple UI with good audio processing capabilities makes it a go-to choice for many and believe me, musicians have recorded albums with just Audacity.

  • Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux

Download Audacity here.

Closing Words

If you’re a beginner or you make music as a hobby I don’t see spending money on DAWs because there is no denying they’re costly. While Audacity is just a music recorder and processor, it can’t be considered a DAW. Garage Band is the holy grail for Apple users and if you’re on a mac, Pro-tools and Ardour are capable DAWs, but I’d choose Pro-tools because it’s industry standard. In case your focus is mainly on hip-hop, LMMS has a great piano roll and beatmaker which are easy to understand.  So what is your choice going to be? Tell me in the comment section below.

Read: Best Music Production Apps on Android to Create Music on the Go

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