Thinking of investing in music production software? Trying to figure out which software would suit you the best?
Music production software forms the building blocks of creating music. From producing a rough draft to refining it 10x times, a music production tool can do everything.
In this article, we will talk about what music production is and the best practices to follow while producing music, some features to look for when buying software, and finally, list some tested software you can try out.
Let’s get started.
What Is Music Production?
From simple jingles to highly artistic songs, everything involved in creating music is a part of music production.
You can also say that music production, as a whole, is the process of developing, creating, refining, and managing recorded music. It is one of the very few professions that blends creativity and technicality. A music producer has to be a musical genius, but he also needs to be technically adept. What else does a music producer need to be or do?
There are no set rules for what a music producer does. In hindsight, a music producer juggles many roles and tasks.
Here’s a quick look at those roles:
- Ideate a vision for the music and material
- Help the artists realize the vision
- Shaping music throughout the production
- Supervise production and coach artists whenever required
- Scheduling and budgeting
These are all the primary roles of a music producer. However, different genres of music have their own job descriptions for music producers.
For instance, hip hop and R&B genres have the music producer create the beat for the song or the rap. Likewise, EDM music producers are often just the artist themselves.
For one thing, being an artist that also self-produces is getting extremely common these days.
Yes, not just big names like EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, or Universal Music Production produce music. Small creators and artists are also taking the task to themselves.
This self-producing culture has become the modern scene for most up-and-coming artists. Most of them do it just because they’re capable of it.
Pop culture has also started respecting the background work going into producing music. If you want to produce music yourself, here’s the best guide.
Best Practices to Follow When Producing Music
As mentioned earlier, a music producer does not just do one or two things and call it a gig. So, these ‘best practices’ are more or else general things that will help you become a better music producer.
#1. Organize Your Studio
While producing music, you will need a massive library of resources. You will need sounds like snares, claps, melodies, and even source material like excerpts and full tracks.
So, going through all that to find that one perfect bit could take a lot of time, and you may lose that creative pump. Being organized gives you time to think of core ideas.
To keep your setup clean, you can create folders and subfolders for all major categories of resources and break them down by type.
Lastly, organizing your studio also includes having a tidy workplace or an office, even just a desk.
#2. Create a Proper Schedule On & Off Work
Creativity is free-flowing and comes naturally to most. But don’t be fooled there. Going into an irregular schedule will put you off and turn your creative side down.
Treat music production like you would with any other job. Having a disciplined schedule will ensure that you get things done.
Also, stay healthy and treat your body right with timely meals, exercise, and any other activity that helps your body remain focused to create the best music.
#3. Network with Other Talented Musicians and Producers
There’s nothing quite-like networking with like-minded people. You get to learn from them and their experiences and do the same for them.
You can ask them for advice or feedback on your work. Their suggestions could add a different perspective on your music and another angle to explore.
#4. Train Your Ears to Different Styles
You can understand popular trends and which style is obscure by listening to other genres and styles.
Train your ears to identify why the songs you listen to are different and what makes them unique. Try learning how to recognize pitch, harmony, and tempo.
#5. Invest Whatever You Can in Music Production Software and Equipment
One of the most common music production tips you see online is getting the right equipment and software for your music production.
Ideally, you need to start with whatever you can work with. It doesn’t have to be the highest-end setup.
However, you definitely should work with a premium studio once you can. Not only will your music come out to be of better quality, but you can manage all your needs easily.
How to Choose the Right Music Production Software
Choosing the right music production software is crucial, as it will become your best friend in your creative pursuits.
The right software will do countless things right for you, like avoid getting stuck in an annoying loop of errors or trying to figure out different technicalities in music production.
It will also help you manage your time and maximize productivity. And, once you find software that suits your needs, you’ll be set for life.
Here are a few tips for finding the right music production software that matches your needs:
- Understand your goals, prioritize your needs and figure out a specific workflow for your music production. Getting software that complements your workflow will eliminate the possibility of needing extra plugins or, worse, not having the features you need.
- Don’t go for the software with the most features. Having unnecessary amounts of features might overwhelm you. Regardless, you’ll only be using a fraction of all those features.
- Choose a software that works best with your computer or hardware. Some music production software works best with a Windows PC and some with a Macbook. So pick your poison and make epic music.
- You also need to understand your budget limitations. There are plenty of free applications. However, premium software will go a long way in your music production journey. Also, please do not use pirated or fake copies.
Now that you know how to choose the right software, we’ve created an extensive list of the best music production software. See which one fits your criteria of the ideal product, and go for it!
FL Studio is a paid Digital Audio Workstation for Windows and Mac OS.
The ease of use made it viral, and it’s now one of the most widely used music production software worldwide.
Features of FL Studio
- Produce music easily by clicking on notes instead of using a MIDI controller
- Excellent mixing and mastering ability with a great mixer, sequences, VSTs, and effects
- Access a massive selection of paid and free plugins and instruments
- Great sound and preset library for making creative tunes and songs
- Huge online community with lots of forums and tutorials for the software
Fl Studio is a great digital audio workstation (DAW) with a one-time purchase and a lifetime of free updates. You can also try it with an unlimited free trial version.
Avid Pro Tools is the industry standard for music production. Some of the most influential artists and creators use Avid pro for their projects.
Even Hollywood soundtracks are made using this amazing DAW.
Features of Avid Pro Tools
- A wide range of audio interfaces and DSP systems to get exactly what your workflow needs
- Everything you need from instruments, effects, filters, and a bunch of audio tools with over 100 plugins
- Widely accepted as the best DAW and a must for artists and music producers
Avid Pro Tools comes in 3 versions – Artist, Studio, and Flex. All of these come in different price ranges depending upon your requirements.
Magix Music Maker
Magix Music Maker is a great starter DAW for total beginners with enough juice for more professional users as well.
Anyone can install a music maker and start creating music.
Features of Magix Music Maker
- Customizable, easy to use interface, and beginner-friendly music production experience
- Useful and intuitive tools with a song maker AI to make your music
- Get access to over 500 sound pools, including over 260,000 samples
- Create your own beats and use high-end mixers and effects
Magix Music Maker is available in a free version which offers great features for new producers. You can also opt for the software’s plus, premium, or beatbox editions for more features and access to a larger library of resources.
Ableton Live is a highly versatile and useful DAW for both artists and producers.
It’s especially known to be the go-to choice for EDM and hip-hop artists because it’s great for sample chopping, tweaking, and loop mangling.
Features of Ableton Live
- Great pre-mapped hardware integration with Ableton Push and a few other Ableton partners for a smooth and seamless hands-on experience
- MPE capable controller to control multiple parameters of different notes for better instrumental performances
- Extremely easy to tweak and adjust the DAW to your needs
- Comping and linked-track editing that divides a MIDI performance into individual takes to try different combinations
Live 11 by Ableton is a great music production software used by many producers in the industry. You can also try out Ableton for 90 days for free before buying the intro, studio, or suite versions of Live 11.
Audacity is a free, open-source music production software that is more of an audio editor than a full-fledged DAW.
Audacity can be a great software and any other DAW you use because it has editing features that other software misses out on.
Features of Audacity
- High-end accessibility where you can fully manipulate tracks and selections
- Live multi-track audio recording directly from a microphone, mixer, or other media.
- Easily edit tracks using features like noise removal, key changing, adding or generating sounds.
Audacity is a great music editing software that is completely free to use. It’s also beginner-friendly because of a community of producers helping each other out.
Apple Logic Pro
Apple Logic Pro is one of the most accomplished DAWs that has just about everything you’ll need from music production software.
This next-gen DAW by Apple is an excellent tool for you if you want all your tasks to be done on one workstation without relying on multiple applications.
Features of Apple Logic Pro
- Amazing all-in-one DAW for a complete start to finish project
- Massive library of over 7000 sounds, loops, instruments, effects, etc.
- A great new 3D Object planner that provides precise sound positioning around the listener
- Easy MIDI recording, editing, and manipulation
- Create seamless comps by clicking and dragging to choose the sections you want
Note: Apple Logic Pro is only available for Macs, and you can buy it as a one-time purchase or take a 90-day free trial.
PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio One is a good starter DAW with a lot of functionality to satisfy your music production needs.
It’s smaller than other music production software and also has relatively lesser features. However, it’s no slouch either.
Features of PreSonus Studio One
- Easy workstation with drag and drop style of workflow across the board
- Unlimited audio files and MIDI tracks with good editing capabilities
- One of the better freemium options in the DAW market
- Offers both electronic elements and classical notation functions
Even though PreSonus Studio One has limited features, it still holds the tag of being used by professionals in the industry. You can start working on this DAW with some paid plugins to improve your music production.
Reaper is a highly advanced music production software with plenty of customization options for your workflow.
It has a steep learning curve, but once you’re through, you’ll find that Reaper is one of the best bang-for-buck DAWs in the market.
Features of Reaper
- Highly customizable DAW where you can tweak things the way you like them and create a unique and personal workstation
- Extremely PC-friendly and requires far less computational power than many other competitors.
- Best music production software in its budget category
Reaper is not the best option for all producers. Especially if you’re a beginner, you should look for easier DAWs to get started. We’d suggest you use Reaper for advanced music production.
Steinberg Cubase Pro
Cubase is a DAW created by Steinberg, who also created VSTs (virtual studio technology).
So, one of the best parts about using Cubase is the ability to use 3rd party VSTs with excellent software stability.
Features of Cubase Pro
- Access to great VSTs and built-in effects in the DAW
- A lot of advanced editing features that you can use for a multitude of projects
- All standard features like comping, ARA support, excellent audio engine, Audio Warp, etc.
- Some of the best MIDI capabilities in the market
Cubase is available for Mac and Windows PCs with 3 versions: Elements, Artists, and Pro. All of the versions provide a good experience for the amount you pay.
Bitwig Studio is a music production software that combines traditional arrangement sequencing with modern performance-oriented clip launching workflows.
Features of Bitwig Studio
- Great modulation system with over 150 modulators that allow you to use Macro controls, Note Expressions, LFOs, and Envelopes
- Good hardware integration for MIDI handling, note timing, and latency compensation
- Sufficient amount of instruments and effects for recording and composing soundtracks
Bitwig Studio is also available on Linux in addition to Windows and Mac, which is a relatively rare sight to see. You can either get a 16-track version of Bitwig studio or a complete one with a 30-day free trial.
MOTU Digital Performer 11
MOTU Digital Performer 11 is a classic top-rated DAW that is not as popular as it used to be.
But, the popularity it received was completely justified as the Digital Performer 11 is an amazing and powerful music production software.
Features of MOTU Digital Performer 11
- A highly customizable and scalable interface to create a unique workstation that also has a few themes
- Play, record, edit, mix, and process MIDI, audio, and virtual instruments
- Consolidated Window streamlines your workspace so that you can access features like sequence editor, mixing board, and waveform editor
- Unlimited tracks and sequences with as many takes as you want
MOTU is currently working hard to get the Digital Performer 11 back to its glory days by adding frequent updates and doing everything to provide a great music production software. You can buy it as a one-time purchase with free updates.
Mixcraft 9 by Acoustica
Mixcraft 9 by Acoustica is a well-rated DAW that is mostly known as ‘good enough’ rather than the best music production software.
It’s also a musician-oriented software with more focus on an artist’s needs.
Features of Mixcraft 9
- Record unlimited audio and virtual instrument tracks
- Massive library of over 7500 loops and samples
- Integrated Melodyne engine to convert any monophonic audio clip into MIDI with a single click
- Enhanced mixer with plenty of built-in effects and loops
- Video editing capabilities to get the final soundtrack in one place
Acoustica has done a great job creating music production software that allows you to edit videos for a complete song-creation experience. You can get started with Mixcraft 9 by getting its 2-week free trial or buying the Mixcraft 9 Pro/Recording studio.
Waveform Pro 12 by Tracktion 7
Waveform Pro 12 offers a variety of efficient, empowering tools for sampling, composing, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering songs.
It lacks a few unnecessary features to reduce bloat and maximize production efficiency.
Features of Waveform Pro 12
- Create and convert unlimited audio and MIDI tracks
- Sync your soundtracks and music with video
- Custom layouts to rearrange the sections to your liking and preference
- Extensive control over MIDI with five new MIDI tools: Arpeggiator, Note repeat, Chord companion, MIDI Monitor, and MIDI Filter
Waveform Pro 12 isn’t the only DAW offered by Tracktion. You can also checkout Tracktion 7 or Waveform free, which offers substantially fewer features but is completely free of cost. But, if you want the pro 12, you can get it by itself or get it in various bundles.
A perfect music production software is the key to creating quality music. If you don’t select the right one, you might have difficulty improving music production quality over time.
The tools mentioned above are all tested and are the best in the market.
Shortlist your picks, try them out, and select the one you like the most because when it comes to music, just go with the flow!
You may also look at the resources to get free background music.