Best Music Production Software for Beginners in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

  • James Parker
  • January 20, 2022

Just a few short years ago, music production was not an easy hobby to break into. If you wanted to make music in your bedroom, you could record yourself on a tape recorder, but that was pretty much it unless you wanted to spend exorbitant amounts of money. Now, the magic of technology has made it so practically anyone can start producing music from home at relatively nominal cost. But now, a new problem arises: where do you start? The list of music production software – even just the mainstream, widely accepted variety – is quite long, and may leave you scratching your head as to what the differences actually are. These softwares range widely in what they can do and who their audience is, and it is important to choose one that will provide you with the functionality you want without throwing you too far out into the deep end without a life preserver. Today we’ll be looking at five popular options for people just starting out in audio production and looking at what makes them unique. By the end, you should have a better idea of which software is right for you.

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
1. Apple GarageBand
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of samples and instruments included
CHECK PRICE
flstudio 2. FL Studio
  • Full-featured professional DAW
  • Intuitive interface
  • Multiple versions at reasonable prices
CHECK PRICE
audacity 3. Audacity
  • Free
  • Open source
  • Intuitive
CHECK PRICE
reaper daw 4. Cockos Reaper
  • Generous trial
  • Fully customizable
  • Full-featured, professional-quality DAW
CHECK PRICE
mixbus 5. Harrison Mixbus
  • Affordable
  • Analog-inspired workflow
  • Made by Harrison
CHECK PRICE

1. Apple GarageBand

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsFull version is Free
CompatibilityMac only
System requirementsOS x 10.11 and later

If you have heard of just one digital audio workstation (DAW), then it is probably GarageBand. The software has become a household name mostly due to the fact that it comes pre-loaded for free on all Mac computers, and, despite there being some stigma around free or “stock” programs, GarageBand actually has a lot to offer. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you will need expensive software to even get started producing serious music, but that simply isn’t true, at least not anymore. While you may need to upgrade to a more premium software down the line at some point, GarageBand does an excellent job of teaching you the basics of producing music. It comes with a great selection of virtual instruments, effects, and loops, and functions much like most other DAWs.

PROS

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of samples and instruments included

CONS

  • Only on Mac
  • Limited in terms of more advanced mixing/mastering/effects use
  • Not as customizable as some other DAWs

Despite some of the flack it gets, GarageBand is a great starter DAW. It will get you used to all the essential elements of music production such as virtual instruments, automation, mixing, and more, which is great for a free, preloaded software. You will only need to upgrade once you feel like the software is limiting what you can do in terms of mixing songs, which shouldn’t be for a long while. 

2. FL Studio

flstudio

Specification

Price$99-$499
VersionsFruity, Producer, Signature, All Plugins
CompatibilityMac and Windows
System requirementsWindows 8.1, 10 or later
4GB free disk space
4GB of RAM
The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run
For in-app purchases: Internet Explorer 11 or higher
Intel and AMD CPUs. ARM not supported
macOS: 10.13.6 (High Sierra) or later
4GB free disk space
4GB of RAM
The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run
Intel or Apple Silicon (M1) CPU

Fruity Loops Studio, now known simply as FL Studio, is a step up from GarageBand while remaining user friendly and viable for beginners. Unlike GarageBand, FL is used professionally by a long list of mainstream producers to make polished, studio-quality music. The program has a nice-looking user interface and a fairly intuitive workflow compared to some other DAWs. The important thing to remember when it comes to professional DAWs is that the differences between them are often based more on personal preference than strictly better or worse features. FL studio is most commonly used in the production of electronic and hip hop music because many producers find its MIDI (the information that triggers notes on a virtual instrument) capabilities easier to use. It is less popular with artists who rely heavily on recording external instruments due to a less streamlined recording process.

PROS

  • Full-featured professional DAW
  • Intuitive interface
  • Multiple versions at reasonable prices

CONS

  • Not Free
  • Not the best for recording audio

If you want fairly easy to use software that you can continue to use even if you want to become a professional producer, then FL Studio is a great choice. Especially if you record electronic-based music, you will never find yourself wanting more features or feeling limited with this one. It comes in a starter edition at $99 with limited features, the full version at $199, and more expensive versions that come with plugins. Another great thing about FL is that its free trial does not have a time limit, though you will have to purchase a paid edition before you can save projects and reopen them later.

3. Audacity

audacity

Specification

PriceFree
VersionsFull version is Free
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsWindows
Audacity 3.0.5 requires the CPU to support the SSE2 instruction set which should be available on any Intel hardware produced after 2001 and any AMD hardware produced after 2003.
3.0.5 does not support Windows XP.

macOS / Mac OS X
Audacity 3.0.5 is for Intel Macs running OS X 10.7 and later and macOS.
There are legacy versions for older OS X at http://audacityteam.org/download/legacy-mac/.

Linux
In addition to the traditional update path via package managers, Audacity 3.0.3 and onwards are distributed as an AppImage. The AppImage gets updated at the same time as the Windows and macOS versions, so if you collaborate with users on those platforms, you may want to use the AppImage over your distribution’s package manager.
Linux support is tested on Ubuntu Linux

Audacity is a very accessible piece of software in more ways than one. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it is open source, meaning its code is out there for anyone to use. It is a widely-used and fairly intuitive program, but keep in mind that it is not a DAW in the same way as a program like FL Studio. Audacity has multi-track audio recording and editing capabilities, but the difference is that it isn’t meant for use with virtual instruments and other production plugins. Instead, Audacity should be used primarily as a way to record and edit audio, rather than a full-featured DAW for producing music. If you want to make electronic music, you will have a hard time figuring out how to do it in Audacity. But if you simply need a way to record multi-track songs using mostly external equipment, Audacity could be the perfect production software for you. 

PROS

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Intuitive

CONS

  • Not compatible with many plugins
  • Mainly used for simple recording and editing
  • Dated interface

Even if you want to go a step above Audacity for getting into music production, you should probably download it anyway. It is a great tool for recording audio, and since it is so widely used, there are plenty of tutorials online to help you use it.

4. Cockos Reaper

reaper daw

Specification

Price$60
VersionsTrial version and full version are the same
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsWindows – 64 or 32 bit, XP or later
Mac – 64 or 32 bit, OS X 10.5 or later
Linux – 64 or 32 bit

Something of a dark horse in the music production community, Reaper is an amazing piece of software that has unprecedented features and functionality for its price. While Reaper’s stock plugins and basic interface won’t turn any heads, it is hailed as being one of the most completely customizable DAWs around while remaining accessible to pretty much everyone. At full price, Reaper is only $60, a crazy value for a professional quality DAW. But to sweeten the deal even more, Reaper’s free trial allows you free, unlimited access for sixty days. While this price point eliminates one of the biggest barriers for entry for beginners, it is important to note that Reaper can be a fairly complicated software. GarageBand and similar programs may provide a smoother start. With that said, there is a great series of tutorials on their website, making the process of learning what Reaper can do much less daunting.

PROS

  • Generous trial
  • Fully customizable 
  • Full-featured, professional-quality DAW

CONS

  • Dated interface for built-in plugins
  • Doesn’t get the respect it deserves
  • Can be overwhelming to learn

Reaper is one of the best options for a beginner who is prepared to spend some serious time learning. It doesn’t have the user-friendliness of GarageBand, but it has everything else you could want at a great price.

5. Harrison Mixbus

mixbus

Specification

Price$89
VersionsDemo and full version
Compatibility Mac, Windows, Linux
System requirementsMac OS: 10.6.8 or newer, including 10.16 (Big Sur).
Any CoreAudio-supported audio device
Supported plugin formats: AudioUnit, VST, and VST3.

Windows: Windows XP or newer (Windows7 is the suggested minimum)
ASIO audio devices preferred for high performance
Supported plugin formats: VST, VST3

Linux: Kernel version 2.6 or higher. Audio-based distribution such as AVLinux, UbuntuStudio, or CCRMA recommended.
ALSA or JACK-supported audio device.
Supported plugins: VST, VST3

Finally, Harrison Mixbus is a pretty unique DAW that offers a user experience meant to emulate analog, console-based mixing. Harrison is a company that manufactures mixing consoles, and their Mixbus DAW is best suited for people who have experience with old-fashioned studio mixing. Originally fully audio-based, it has since added MIDI support, although it probably won’t be the easiest to use if you mean to make virtual-instrument-heavy music. 

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Analog-inspired workflow
  • Made by Harrison

CONS

  • Not particularly well-suited for MIDI
  • Not widely used as a sole DAW

Harrison Mixbus is a nice option to have, especially if you are looking to get into digital music production from analog mixing. If you are a complete beginner, however, this likely won’t mean much to you. If that is the case, you may have better luck – and greater online support – with a different DAW.

Conclusion

Choosing a DAW is hard at first, but remember: whichever one you choose, it will be you making the music, not the program. You can learn to make most types of music in most DAWs. Once you choose the one you feel is best suited for you, you will have a fun and rewarding learning process to look forward to.