I was inspired to come up with a list of free music software after seeing a teacher post on a Facebook group about free or cheap software. Sure, at £130 Logic Pro is an absolute steal but for teachers and students looking for something free to use, check out this list of what you can get.
1. Pro Tools First
You all know about Pro Tools right? It’s right up there with Logic Pro as being a leader in industry standard music software. But did you know there is a free version? Pro Tools First is a stripped down but still generous free version of their software. It allows up to 16 Audio Tracks, 4 Inputs and comes with over 20 plugins. Included is the Xpand!2 synthesiser which includes a heap of instrument sounds, beats and loops. The included plugins are decent too. It’s actually quite hard to believe this is being given away for free. Go get it.
When you think of free music software, Audacity is usually one of the first things that comes to mind. It’s a decent audio editor, allowing you to zoom in, splice, copy and paste, add effects and tons more. It has a decent range of export options too. In terms of layout it’s not too dissimilar to Adobe Audition which can be found in many professional audio editing studios. The best thing about Audacity is it’s fair intuitive. Basic edits are easy to work out and there’s plenty of online support for more advanced editing functions.
3. Komplete Players
Komplete Players is from Native Instruments, a company that provides virtual instruments for use in sequencers such as Logic and Pro Tools and is used by audio professionals. Komplete Players is a free version of three different applications: Kontakt – a sample player that comes with over 600MB of sounds, Reaktor – a synthesizer with 200 presets and Guitar Rig – guitar amp emulation software with 17 cabinet emulation and 13 different effects. If you want to expand your sound selection further without breaking the bank, you can also pick up Komplete Elements for £44 which includes over 3GB of samples.
4. Finale Notepad
Finale and Sibelius are the two most well-known makers of music notation software. Oddly, Avid don’t have a free version of Sibelius like they offer with Pro Tools, but Finale have something for free, albeit slightly dated in appearance. Finale Notepad allows up to 8 staves with standard 5 line notation or tablature. It also allows MIDI and MusicXML file import. Finale Notepad was released in 2012 so it may possibly be a bit buggy with the most up-to-date operating systems, but it’s definitely worth a try.
If Finale Notepad doesn’t cut it for you, then MuseScore is another fantastic piece of free notation software. It’s more fully-featured than Finale Notepad with a wider range of notation styles, symbols and graphics. It has a highly-detailed, community-maintained manual as well as support forums on their website if you need them. Click the link below to see the full list of features and get your copy.
For budding DJs, Mixxx is an amazing piece of software. This open-source program has four decks, supporting a wide range of music file formats, iTunes integration, MIDI Hardware support, BPM detection and much, much more. The layout and functionality is fairly similar to Traktor DJ and Serato, two of the leading software packages for DJs, meaning these should be easier to pick up when the budget allows!
How else to get free software?
First of all, when you buy music hardware, you will usually get some sort of software with it for free which is usually very good. Audio Interfaces and portable sound recorders usually come with Cubase LE, new Macs and iPads comes with GarageBand for free and some DJ hardware comes with either reduced or fully-featured versions of Traktor or Serato.
The second way is to go to Expo events such as the Music Education Expo where there are stands usually giving away many freebies including software.
So, they are my tips for getting free software. What do you think about the list? Any suggestions for free music software that you have found? Let me know in the comments below.
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