In a previous post, we discussed various DAWs and specific considerations to bear in mind when deciding on Digital Audio Workstations’ right software: How to Pick the Best DAW for You. This week we’ll be touching on some of the best free DAWs available in 2021. If you are interested in this topic, I’m sure you’ve discovered that there are countless free options out there and choosing the correct one is probably the most significant issue you’ll come to face. Fortunately, in the world of free software, we are in a position where we have the freedom to experience as many of these options as we desire without any significant commitments.
Although many free DAW options may not boast a full range of features found in the more advanced, paid DAWs, they have everything you need to create original audio. Depending on your needs, your eagerness to learn, and your computer operating system (OS), there are many options out there, and you’ll likely find one (or more) that’s the right fit for you.
In terms of your needs, you’ll have to establish what your goals are, and by asking yourself the following questions, you’ll be able to fine-tune your search for a great free DAW:
- What OS are you running? Mac or Windows?
- How good is your internet connection?
- Are you recording live music?
- Are you re-sampling?
- Are you generating MIDI?
- How many tracks do you need?
- What level of processing do you want to work with?
- Are you pursuing a career as a pro audio engineer?
Why are there so many questions to ask when choosing a free DAW, you may ask? Well, there is a vast range of free software available, and each of them has its perks and less desirable features – for example, some are only available to specific OS users, some are only available online. In contrast, others are free versions of the full-paid DAWs and have limitations on what you can do. However, there are some incredible deals out there, and a few brands offer extensive use of their programs as well as impressive features that you’d only expect in full/paid audio programs.
Today, we’ll take a look at a considerable range of free DAWs that are accessible to us in 2021. Some of these programs were touched on last week, but the free versions have unique features discussed.
- Cakewalk (BandLab)
- Waveform Free
- MPC Beats
- Garage Band
- Pro Tools First
- Ableton Live
- Studio One Prime
Cakewalk is a fantastic option for all Windows/PC users as it has a competent interface that’s a good contender if you’re looking for professional quality and processing abilities. With unlimited tracks and comprehensive features found in ‘pro’ DAWs, this software offers a fantastic user experience that is guaranteed to continue progressing as the developers plan to keep it an exclusively PC product.
An additional bonus is that it supports external VSTs, which is excellent if you have specific plugins that you know or would like to try out. Not all free DAWs offer this feature, so it’s one to keep your eye out for. If you’re a Windows user, you are in luck because this product is a worthy contestant for almost any industry-level software.
Audacity has been widely known over the years for its simplicity and easy-to-use functions. It offers various good options to those producing music in terms of track availability, import/export of audio, VST indications, manipulation of audio, and more.
Its simplicity has also been a point for criticism as some people find it ‘too basic’ and lacking in certain areas of functionality. However, as a beginner or somebody interested in trying out some audio editing, these are not things that will inhibit you until you significantly advance your abilities.
OS: Mac, Windows/PC
Traktion – Waveform Free
This is one of the more unique and, if I do say so myself, intriguing options on the market. Waveform offers a full, fully functioning DAW completely free of charge! The catch is that the unpaid version will be the full, paid version of a few years prior. To clarify, the paid version that is available currently will be released as the free option a few years from now.
You’ll get access to unlimited tracks, VSTs, instruments, powerful processing, and a whole lot more. It’s truly inspiring to see initiatives like this from industry leaders that make producing music at such a high level accessible to anybody.