Do you want to start creating music on your computer, without spending a fortune on expensive software?
If so, then you’ve come to the right place.
Pro Tools First is ironically the first free digital audio workspace on this list. As Pro Tools is presumably not the greatest in terms of DAWs, I wanted to integrate it although I think the stripped-down version of it really requires you to upgrade to one of their paid subscription plans. You can only have up to sixteen tracks which is not a problem if you’re just starting to make music. But you also can’t use third part plug ins and it limits you to only three projects. Furthermore, you always need an internet connection because your projects are stored in the avid cloud. However, Pro Tools First is good to get some inside on how Pro Tools works. It comes with three gigabytes of sounds and twenty-three stock plug ins (which is a lot), but it probably won’t satisfy your needs.
The second free digital audio workspace is Audiotool, a browser application for either Firefox or Chrome. It comes with a handful of a fancy looking instruments and FX, which actually sound really good. But what I like the most about Audiotool is that you can use presets and samples of other users if they make them available to you under a Creative Commons license. You just have to sign up on there website, and follow the link to the application side to get to this user interface.
Audiotool has a modular structure which means you have to connect your devices with digital cables like you would normally do in the analog world. In the lower zone, you can edit your different tracks by drawing in some metadata. Alternatively, you could also record yourself playing them on a MIDI device. I couldn’t find a way to record audio directly inside Audiotool, but you can go on another website to record samples, and import them into your project. You can collaborate in real time by inviting any Audiotool user to your project. You can then communicate with each other by using a video chat. Unfortunately, you can only publish your music to Audiotool itself, or Soundcloud. You can’t export directly to your hard drive. Luckily, there is a way to bypass this, by uploading your project to Soundcloud then copying the Soundcloud link and converting it to a mp3 on a Soundcloud Downloader. The downfall of such an online digital audio workspace is that you face more latency and drop outs. The app itself is really good and contains almost all the common musical instruments and detailed controls to tweak stems to create the best sounds that you desire.
BandLab is another digital audio workspace which only works inside of Google Chrome. But it offers you over 120 different instruments and advanced features such as time stretching and real time auto pitch.
You can record audio directly inside your project window, and it is structured more like a traditional DAW with a big play list window in the middle. It also supports collaboration and even has an app for Android and iOS. You can export your audio files in less than 24-bit WAV format. It has a good mastering algorithm that you could use to make your tracks more compatible in terms of loudness. What I found extremely annoying is that you have to freeze each track individually, and I suppose it would be really handy to have some auto freeze function. Similar to Audiotool, you have to face latency and dropouts. Luckily, Bandlab has a built-in latency checker that allows you to check your actual latency. After you perform the latency checker BandLab automatically provides some correction. If you have good internet connection and good hardware it’s likely you’ll have less dropouts.
Unlike the free version of Pro Tools, I think Studio One 4 Prime is a good digital audio workspace to start making music. Although, you can’t use third party plugins and have to be satisfied with only nine stock plugins and one instrument, you have no limitations on numbers of tracks and projects. Once you get to a point where you miss certain features you can upgrade to Studio One Artist for around one hundred dollars or Studio One Proffesional for around four hundred dollars. PreSonus offers three versions of Studio One 4. The impressive Prime (free) includes unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, some basic plug-in effects, drag-and drop editing and comping, and the Presence XT sampler (really a "rompler," with no sampling capability) with 1.5GB of instruments.
With SoundBridge you get a complete digital audio workspace, which is nothing like the versions of the commercial product. Formally known as Lumit Audio, SoundBridge allows you to have an unlimited amount of tracks and you can use your third-party plugins. You can even collaborate with other musicians. It comes with a drum machine, and nine stock effects. SoundBridge is a bit light on plugins, but fortunately, it offers good VST support. It's clean, capable, and easy to get started with.
Garageband Mac users probably want to check out Garageband. It is a free music production software from Apple and somehow a stripped down from the professional digital audio workspace Logic Pro X. It comes with a variety of instruments, loops, and effects. You can even learn to play guitar and piano with the help of integrated music lessons. Garageband restricts you to thirty two tracks, which is totally fine to create great music productions. I created two albums in Garageband, I highly recommend this software.
I hope this post helped you determine what free digital audio network is right for you. I hope to make more blog posts such as these.
Written by M-Sav