The Best Free DAWs in 2020 for Music Production

Every home-studio needs a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This is where the magic happens; where everything comes together to create a full song.

Nevertheless, the most common DAWs that became standards are really pricey: Ableton Live 10 Suite is US$ 749; FL Studio All Plugins Bundle is US$ 899.

It may be almost impossible for an upcoming producer who makes no money with their music yet to afford one of these pieces of software.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll be covering 12 free music production programs. None of them is better than the other: they are all just different, offer different things, and were made for different purposes. Generally speaking, most of them are especially useful for beginners.

We’ll give a brief explanation/review of each of them: their names, on which platforms they’re available, if they have any limitations because of the fact of being free, etc. We also include a table at the end of the page where we compare each of them.

Every single piece of software on this list is 100% free, you don’t have to pay a single penny. In most cases, you don’t even actually need an external instrument. You can download whichever you like and start making music directly.

Cakewalk

Cakewalk

Cakewalk by BandLab used to be a paid piece of software when it was owned by Sonar. BandLab bought the program and has been offering it for free since then.

Unfortunately, it’s only available for Windows. But the fact that it used to be a paid DAW (with a value of around US$ 600), and that the exact same software is now for free, gives us the certainty that it actually is a very complete, professional and high-quality music production workstation.

Garageband

GarageBand

GarageBand was developed by Apple, which means it’s only available for macOS and iOS (it also has a mobile version that it’s actually pretty decent).

You can think of GarageBand as a free and portable version of Logic Pro, which was also developed by Apple. So, starting to learn this piece of free software might be a great decision if you plan to move to Logic in the future: they have a pretty similar interface, as well as shortcuts and workflow.

LMMS

LMMS

LMMS (which, by the way, stands for “Let’s Make Music”) is a free DAW that’s available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. It’s one of the very few programs that’s available on this many platforms.

It is an open-source program, which means that programmers from all around the world participate in the development of this software.

It is very similar to FL Studio, so it’s the best alternative for this software in case you want to start without spending a lot of money, but you plan on switching to FL Studio in the future. Additionally, if you use Linux, this may be the only free option that you’d consider.

Podium

Podium by Zynewave is actually a program that costs US$ 50. This is already very cheap, but it also has a free version.

Their free version is still fully functional. It only has a few and minor feature limitations: the MIDI interface setup is limited to one input and one output; 64-bit mixer engine option is disabled; plugin multiprocessing is disabled, among other small restrictions.

Still, this is more than enough for starting to learn to produce full songs. The only downside is that it’s only available for Windows.

Pro Tools First

Pro Tools

Pro Tools First by Avid is the free and minimal version of Pro Tools and was created for trying to convince the users that want to enter the Pro Tools world to start using it. It’s available for Windows and macOS.

It comes with 20 plugins/effects including the powerful sampler, Xpand! 2.

This is more of a demo than free software since it’s really limited. But it’s worth a try if you are willing to get Pro Tools and you’d like to try it for as long as you want.

SoundBridge

SoundBridge is a pretty complete production software and also very light. For instance, the macOS installer is only 223 MB.

It has all essential tracking, sequencing, editing and, mixing features for a musician. Also, it’s prepared for multi-touch screens for devices such as Microsoft Surface.

It’s available for Windows and macOS.

Soundtrap

Soundtrap

Soundtrap is a pretty unique production software since you don’t have to download anything at all. It’s owned by Spotify himself, and it just works online on any explorer, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, etc. It has also one of the prettiest interfaces on this market.

This is actually a paid software, but it also has a free version of it that you can try and eventually upgrade to the premium tier if you like it.

Studio One 4 Prime

Studio One 4 Prime by PreSonus is the free version of Studio One 4, and it’s available for macOS and Windows.

The biggest limitation of this freeware is that you can’t install external VST plugins. You can only use the native built-in plugins by PreSonus, in which only nine of them are included.

Outside of that limitation, there’s no other big downside. This, of course, is a viable option if you do like the Studio One software and you plan on upgrading to the paid version in the future.

Stagelight

Stagelight

Stagelight by OpenLabs is a paid program, but it has a free version, which is obviously limited in some aspects. Nevertheless, you can still load unlimited tracks, which I find important in any DAW whether it’s free or not.

This DAW is especially useful for hip hop and EDM producers because of its included drum sequencer and samples.

This software is available for Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and Chromebook.

Tracktion T7

Tracktion T7 is the free version of its paid software called Waveform. It’s a very intuitive software that it’s specially designed to work along with some audio interfaces such as Mackie’s ones.

So that’s it for the best free DAW’s in the market. To end this article, I’ve made a table that easily compares each of them so you can decide which one to choose:

Best Free DAWs

DAWRecording TracksPlayback TracksPaid Version?Included Effects and Instruments
CakewalkUnlimitedUnlimitedNo33
GarageBandUnlimitedUnlimitedYes100+
LMMSUnlimited (MIDI Only)UnlimitedNo100+
PodiumUnlimitedUnlimitedYes5
Pro Tools First416Yes23
SoundBridgeUnlimitedUnlimitedNo11
SoundTrapUnlimitedUnlimitedYes25
Studio One 4 PrimeUnlimitedUnlimitedYes9
StagelightUnlimitedUnlimitedYes
Tracktion T7UnlimitedUnlimitedYes11