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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Dec 2018 > MAKE MUSIC FOR FREE


Whatever type of music you are making, and however you make it, your hobby need not cost you a fortune. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost you anything at all, as you can make complete pieces of music with software that won’t cost you a penny! The world of freeware is booming and you’ve come to just the right place to find out what you need for your free music making, whatever genre you compose in and however you do it…


They say the best things in life are free, right? Well, that applies to music production as well. There are literally thousands of free music making apps and ‘freeware’ software titles out there, for Mac, PC and mobile devices.

And they are getting better and better, often sounding as good as paid-for products.

So what exactly is freeware? With desktop music production, it refers to complete pieces of software that do a job without restrictions on saving as you usually find on demo software. They are usually produced by a thriving community of developers who are keen musicians and experienced software producers. Some of these do it for fun, and others have paid-for titles that they sell alongside their free wares. Larger developers who make professional titles – think Native Instruments, u-he and many more – also have freeware and many of these release it as a cut-down version of a paid-for product. It still works, but on a smaller scale, the thinking being that you’ll love it so much, that you’ll want to upgrade.

So we have complete titles produced by enthusiasts and cut-down titles advertising full, paid-for applications. A third category includes freeware titles that were once paid for; older titles if you like. As we’ll see over the next few pages, some of these titles – from the likes of Tracktion, in particular – really are excellent (and not that old!).

For this feature we’re going to reveal the best free software for desktop music production within several different musical genres. We’ll also detail a complete effects rack for your free virtual studio, so that once your free music production starts, you can mix and master the results to perfection. We’ll even reveal some free DAWs with which you can install and use all of the freeware we discuss, so you don’t even have to shell out on what can be the most costly part of music making.

We’re not limiting our free music making to the desktop/studio world, though. We’ll also look at the freeware world of iOS music making as there are plenty of free (or ridiculously cheap) ways of making music on your iPhone or iPad.

So however you make music, whether it’s in the studio or on the road, we’ll show you how you can start from scratch or expand on your current music making set-up for no outlay. We are, of course, assuming you have a Mac, PC or iOS device, but now that expense is out the way, keep your wallet in your pocket and your money in the bank…

01 The free version of Ableton’s DAW offers the same easy workflow that has made Live so popular, plus 11 audio effects, seven MIDI effects, 117 Instrument Racks and eight Drum Racks. There are limitations in terms of contents and track counts – of course there are – but it will run all the AU and VST freeware plug-ins in this roundup.
02 Cakewalk by BandLab, previously known as SONAR was always regarded as one of the best PC DAWs. Now available for free, it features Addictive Drums 2 Producer Edition, Melodyne 4 Essential, TH3 Cakewalk Amp Simulator, 23 instruments and 57 effects. Not bad for free then!
03 Steinberg’s entrance into the freeware market comes with the HALion Sonic SE 2 workstation instrument with a fully GM-compatible set of over 180 instrument presets. There are 18 effects, including modulation, delay, dynamic and equalizer, plus the rather lovely MixConsole mixer.
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