Is it possible for a beat software to really be free?
Whether you’re an aspiring musical artist or someone just looking to goof around for a little while, you have probably thought about this. With a quick Google search, you can uncover quite a few different beat making programs that can be used for free. However, most of them are freemium. This means that, although some features are free, the majority of the actual software is locked behind a pay wall. It’s true. With the rise of freemium mobile applications, most consumers don’t feel so bad about spending a little bit of money to unlock more features in something that was presented to them as “free”.
However, there are still a few music software that are genuinely, honestly free. Obviously, the level of depth and the quality of these apps vary. If you’re really a penny-pincher, though, you’ll be happy to know that some of these free beat making software are actually pretty good. Granted, most of them aren’t nearly as high quality as paid beat making software, like FL Studio. For what you’re paying, though, it’s hard to complain. Without further ado, here’s a list of some of the best free beat making software in 2016.
If you are looking for something similar to FL Studio, then you’re not entirely out of luck. LMMS is a very popular beat making software, and it’s completely free and open-source. LMMS is much more comprehensive than some of the other software on this list. In some ways, that’s great. In other ways, it isn’t. Although LMMS goes more in-depth than its competitors, that also means that it’s much more complicated. The user interface can come off as very intimidating, especially if all you’re looking for is a beat.
LMMS has been around for a long time, though. There is a large user community, and there is no shortage of help if you find yourself having trouble. From YouTube tutorials to forum help posts, there are plenty of resources available to a beginner. The software doesn’t really hold your hand very much, and so you should expect to spend a lot of time researching and figuring things out.
Aside from the steep learning curve, LMMS is pretty amazing. It offers a lot of functionality for a variety of audio-related purposes, and if there’s anything that you really want to be able to get out of this software, I’m pretty positive that you’ll be able to get it. This one has a whole lot to offer.
Remember when I talked about looking for beat making software with the intention of just goofing around? If that description applies to you, then Beatlab probably will too. Beatlab is a really cool beat making program that takes simple beat making and turns it into something more streamlined, social, and fun. In this browser-based application, you use a simple drum machine to make little songs that can be as simple or as intricate as you want.
Beatlab is really accessible, and it’s something that someone musically illiterate could find entertainment in. If you’re serious about making music, you might be able to get something out of it, too. They offer a large variety of default samples, but what you see is what you get, for the most part. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it ain’t there. Beatlab is sort of the antithesis of LMMS. Where LMMS is confusing, yet deep, Beatlab is easy to understand while being more on the shallow side.
My favorite feature that Beatlab offers is the ability to easily upload your musical creations, as well as view music that others have created. If you ever find yourself stuck, it’s really easy to look at the user-created content and get that wave of inspiration that you were looking for. Beatlab’s community is pretty cool, too, and they have an embedded chat client that always has a few people talking. If you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted, you should give this particular website a shot.
I really like Reaper. I ranked it #1 on my list of the best Garageband alternatives a little while ago, and I think it’s affordable beat making software that offers the same level of functionality as LMMS without ever feeling overly complicated. If you downloaded LMMS and immediately felt like you were using a software from Mars, you may want to give Reaper a look.
Reaper’s payment model is sort of weird. You’re able to “purchase” a free 60 day trial, which gives you the full version of the product. It’s not altered in any way. There are zero limitations. When your 60 day trial runs out, you aren’t just kicked out of the software entirely. You’re regularly reminded that your trial is up, and that you should purchase a full license. However, you’re fully able to dismiss these occasional pop-ups and use the “trial version” as normal. Think of it as a full version, but with ads. However, Reaper is a really amazing software, and if you can afford it, I implore you to spend $60 on a full license if you make a lot of use of this product. The developers are great people, and if you can, you should. (Don’t feel guilty if you can’t, though.)
Reaper manages a rare feat — it feels professional and functional without feeling like it’s watered-down. Even though it’s an inexpensive product, the experience itself doesn’t feel inexpensive. It’s a great, no-compromises tool that I recommend for anyone who is serious about music, is on a budget, but still doesn’t have time to sit and watch 30 minute long YouTube tutorials. It feels like LMMS and FL Studio made a software baby, and I am a really big fan.
Alright, so far I’ve covered a few different levels of complexity. LMMS is the most difficult to use, Reaper is somewhere in the middle, and BeatLab is really simple. What if you want something that is easy to use, without being casual-tier simple? You see, LMMS and Reaper aren’t just beat making softwares. They’re full-fledged musical programs, and they can be used to create fully produced songs. That means that if you’re looking to just make some beats, you’re going to have to be dealing with a lot of menu options that mean nothing to you. Drumbot is pretty much as simple as you can get, without ever feeling unprofessional. Drumbot has a lot of web-based products, but for the purposes of this guide I’ll only be talking about Drumbot, Pattern Sequencers, and Sequence. (Naming products is apparently not in their forte.)
They’re each different drum emulators that offer different purposes. Drumbot is a simple drum machine, offering different drum patterns that are comprised of multiple samples. You can tweak the loops slightly to attain a different sound, and export the files to be used in other compositions. Not really meant for hardcore beat making, but it’s still pretty cool. Pattern Sequencers is pretty simple and self-explanatory, feeling a lot like Mario Paint. Just click different buttons to assign a particular drum sound to that note. Numerous samples are available for each type of sound. It’s a little simple, but it’s great for someone who wants something little more comprehensive than Beatlab. Sequence is much more intricate, allowing you to really get your hands dirty. Its general structure is similar to Pattern Sequencers, but it’s expanded upon to offer a more custom-built experience. Basically, think of Drumbot, Pattern Sequencers, and Sequence, to be different “levels”, with Drumbot being the easiest.
Drumbot is really cool, because across its (entirely free) product line, you can find something no matter what your skill level may be. Just starting out? Give Pattern Sequencers a try after checking out Drumbot for a little bit. Professional artist? Jump right into Sequence. This particular structure gives the user a lot of power, and it makes the overall product much more accessible to the average person. It’s very versatile, and I think that’s an important trait for a beat making software to have.
Speaking of Versatile, Audiotool is probably my absolute favorite out of every software on this list, if we’re strictly looking at them in the context of beat making. Audiotool is a web-based application that is, somehow, 100% free. Audiotool isn’t quite as simple as the other programs on this list, but I think it sacrifices being “easy” for being authentic. It manages to be pretty beginner-friendly along the way, too. The website allows you to emulate several different audio tools, from synths to drum machines to mixers. You drag and drop the tools that you want to use onto the main user interface, where you can easily access them while you create music. (Maybe it’s childish, but I think it’s really cool how it makes the screen look like an actual DJ table, complete with wires connecting all of the different components.)
Audiotool, as you would probably anticipate from its name, offers a huge amount of tools for its users to choose from. The result? The ability to make really cool music across a variety of different genres. You can get a taste of some of these different songs by checking out user-created music, which Audiotool allows you to easily upload and view, Beatlab style. They take it a step further, though, by also letting you look at that music and remix it yourself. This is what I meant when I talked about it being user-friendly. What better way is there to learn than by looking at what other people have done? Some artists may think that remixing music is the musical equivalent of tracing, but hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
They also offer a whole lot of tutorials, too. So whether you’re confused by the interface or if you’ve never written a note of music in your life, they are there to help you out. Audiotool is even MORE impressive than some of the other software on this list, in that it manages to be simple while still FEELING professional. Sure, it’s technically not as impressive to master this than it would be to master Reaper, but it sure feels more impressive. They let you play with some pretty expensive-looking equipment without having to pay a penny out of pocket. This is a really nifty website, and I think that it’s definitely worth giving a look.