What Are the Best Music Production Programs for Beginners?

By Jack SteinLast Updated Jul 6, 2020 5:13:27 PM ET
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Whether you feel like music is your future or you just love it as a passionate hobby, digital music production is a talent worth exploring. An unbelievable amount of music is created today by newbies with no academic or professional training who create magic on laptops or even mobile devices. Relying solely on their love of music — and perhaps some natural talent — they learn to master simple recording equipment and channel an intense burning desire to create something new.

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With all the technology available, it has never been easier to start putting all that music in your head into digital recorded form. We rounded up some of the best music production programs for beginners, but don’t forget that the self-taught process isn’t the same for everyone. Before you pay for any music production software, check out the free trials offered by most of them for at least a few days before deciding on the software that works best for you.

Digital Audio Workstation

To get started, you’re going to need a laptop, desktop computer or tablet equipped with enough speed and RAM to process your recordings. The software you choose will come with its own digital audio workstation (DAW), which is the type of technology used to record and edit music. A DAW provides you with a screen interface to see the audio tracks you’re putting together.

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From the visual interface, you can create sounds, add library-enabled sounds — drums, horns, violins, etc. — copy tracks together and blend them into a "mix" for your audio project. Digital audio workstation controls also help you add sound effects like echoes and reverbs, duplicate a random sound throughout a track and much more.

Pro Tools by Avid

Avid Pro Tools is the software package that literally launched the digital music production era. Before Pro Tools, producers and musicians only had access to old school production boards (and lots of trial and error). Today, all the other music production programs out there owe their existence to Pro Tools. Avid still offers a basic system to beginners free of charge. The more feature-rich paid versions come with free trials.

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Although Pro Tools is the most renowned audio program, it can be tricky to learn. It typically takes months to master the intricacies, so beginners should start with the basic version to get a feel for this classic music production software before advancing to the more complex versions.

GarageBand (Apple Mac)

One of the most popular recording tools for beginners is GarageBand for Mac/iOS. It features an easy-to-learn screen programming interface for recording and is loaded with powerful features that can make even your bedroom guitar strums sound professional. GarageBand is available for free on iPads, iPhones and Mac computers.

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The app has built-in tutorials to help beginners learn the basics to getting started with digital music production. You can plug your piano or guitar into a recording box to interface with your GarageBand set up, or you can mess around with hundreds of pre-programmed virtual instrument sounds that are already available for use in the app. Once you start to master GarageBand, check out some recording insider tips to help you clean up your customized recordings and mixes.

Audacity

Audacity is an open-source digital audio recording software. What does that mean exactly? It means you can use it absolutely free on Windows, Mac iOS and other compatible operating systems! The full software suite never costs a penny to use, but it includes multi-track audio recording and editing software tools.

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Audacity lets you plug in any recorded file in major audio formats to edit, cut or duplicate in any way you want. A key benefit of its open-source nature is that it allows users to create and add effects and plug-ins almost at will.

Cakewalk by Bandlab

Cakewalk by Bandlab is one of the top music production tools for professional and amateur music makers alike. Built for Windows users, Cakewalk lets you compose songs and tracks using some of its built-in songwriting tools. It also offers multiple audio track capabilities. You can cut, edit, add parts, change the pitch, change the timing and mix sounds into a near-professional finish.

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Another nice touch offered by Cakewalk is the chance to master the mixes you’ve created and then directly export the songs to music sites and social media destinations like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube, all within the Cakewalk DAW. It takes a while to learn how to use the program, but Cakewalk has an abundant supply of helpful tutorials, and discussion forums are also available to help you learn more about certain recording or editing techniques.

Mixcraft by Acoustica

Mixcraft by Acoustica may be one of the easiest to learn digital audio workstations around, thanks to recording, instrumentation, mixing and other tools that are extremely intuitive. You can easily cut, paste, edit, change and alter recorded or virtual music as you work. The company released the latest version, Mixcraft 9, in early 2020, ensuring the software has all the latest bells and whistles.

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Mixcraft claims Mixcraft 9 is its most comprehensive music production interface to date. The suite gives you a large collection of effects and plug-ins, a larger drum and instrument loops library, and mixing and mastering tools to ensure your songs sound fantastic before you share them with the world.