Best Music Production Software – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Any good musician knows that you can’t blame your instruments for how good or bad you sound.

However, the best music production software isn’t all the same. Most of them are better for some users than others. In this guide I’m going to help you figure out which one is the best for you.

For the following music production software reviews, we’ll be talking about the latest versions as of the time of writing, so some of this information may become outdated and won’t always apply to earlier versions of the software either.

Finally, nobody can quite agree on what the best software is. You’ll see people valiantly defending their favoured choice whilst dismissing all alternatives. The truth is that somebody without any experience of the software will not be that great with it - so it’s better to start using one of them rather than sitting around paralysed by indecision.

Naturally, if you're interested in the best music production software then we recommend checking out these other articles on How To Set Up A Home Recording Studio and the Best Free Synth VST Plugins!

At A Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Music Production Software On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to consider before buying the best music production software

  • Play with the trial versions for a few days before settling on one in particular. I used to think that Propellerhead’s Reason software was the absolute best until I shifted onto Ableton, and even then it’s not always what I use.
  • Check the OS requirements of the software you use. Some are exclusive to Mac and Windows, and the plugins that you’re thinking of using may also have this issue.
  • Investing in a good external soundcard and monitor speakers or studio headphones is going to make your production capabilities skyrocket.
  • Decide whether you just want to be able to produce music or if you want to be able to play it live. Not all music production softwares are equally capable at both tasks.
  • If you don’t have much experience with electronic music production, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity. Some are much more accessible than others, so keep this in mind.

5 Best Music Production Software

1. FL Studio

FL Studio

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FL Studio, formerly known as Fruity Loops, is an extremely accessible piece of software for newbies to music production. The UI is fairly intuitive, and the less obvious aspects are simple enough to learn from documentation and over-the-shoulder production videos which can be found aplenty online.

What makes FL Studio one of the best music production software for beginners is the comparatively low cost, even for the full suite. Professional music producers and artists have a lot more money to play with than bedroom producers and amateurs, so it’s nice to get access to a full range of tools, sounds and effects without having to refinance your house at the same time.

The built in range of sounds isn’t massive, but you can do a lot with the tools you do get without having to include third-party addons. The presets have a great range too, so even if you’re not confident with understanding how all of the different oscillators and other parameters work, you can get a lot done on your first couple of days.

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2. Ableton Live

Ableton Live

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Ableton is particularly great for those of you who aspire to play your created tracks live. Unlike traditional instruments, you can’t just rock up to a venue with your laptop and start playing your music with most music production software. Unless you just want to hit the play button and stand there like a lemon, that is. With Ableton Live, you can create a track and then switch into ‘Live’ mode, from which you’re given complete control over what happens when.

Another feature that really stands out with Ableton Live is how well it integrates with MIDI-input devices. Nearly all MIDI keyboards, pads and other types will readily automap to Ableton’s interface. Rather than having to do it yourself, you can usually just plug it in and go.

There’s a large amount of included sounds. Adding VST’s can get prohibitively expensive, but with Ableton Live you can make some pretty decent tracks just using the presets. Once you get a little more comfortable with the parameters, you can put a unique stamp on your music without much difficulty and without additional cost.​

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3. Cubase


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Like most professional music production software, Cubase has a number of different versions of the base software with differing amounts of features. If you can afford it, Pro version is best. However, this can be prohibitively expensive, so Artist and Elements are both worth checking out. In the end, you’ll find most of your limitations come from skill rather than the tools you’re using.

Where Cubase really stands out from other DAWs and music production software is the mammoth library of built-in sounds. If you’re looking for enough variety to sustain you through an unlimited number of musical styles, Cubase could just be the one for you.​

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4. Studio One

Studio One

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Studio One isn’t the new kid on the block exactly, but as a fully fledged standalone DAW it’’s got a bit of catching up to do as something everybody thinks of straight away.

What we love most about it is the simplicity. Rather than having to fuss around in order to get Studio One to do what you want it to, most of the software can be programmed and controlled simply by dragging and dropping.

There’s a powerful little community pumping out sounds for Studio One. The Exchange marketplace, in addition to in-house Presonus developments, lets you find new presets, effects and more content from other users.

The built-in browser makes it easy to find the tool you’re looking for, rather than having to search through endless nested lists to find the particular effect you were looking for, and the keyword-based searching lets you find a tool that can perform a function even if you aren’t sure which one you need.

Finally, the integration of Melodyne 4 makes editing your tracks come much more naturally. We can’t go into too much detail on what Melodyne is within the scope of this article, but let us just say that it will make it much easier to take the ideas in your mind into the real world.​

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5. Pro Tools

Pro Tools

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As you might have guessed from the name, Pro Tools is the music production software deemed best by the pros. It’s about as close to an industry standard as you can get - although don’t ignore the others just because of this.

It was originally designed for the Mac OS, and much of the framework the latest versions are built on this. Whilst the software is now available in WIndows 64-bit version, the Mac version has the best results.

The range of EQs, plugins and more is on the larger side of things, clocking in at nearly 100. However, learning to use all of that is going to take a while.

Having said that, if you’re afraid of the learning curve you really shouldn’t be. Yes, it’s a complex and deep piece of software. But if you’re really serious about becoming a professional grade producer, then you need to be prepared to invest that time and energy into mastering your craft and your instruments. In this case, Pro Tools actually stands out due to the dedicated learning programs available just for its use.

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Sp What Is The Best Music Production Software?

I wish we could give you a definitive answer to this question, but it’s impossible. Anybody who says otherwise is just telling you what their favourite is.

Despite that, we’re going to try.

Are you a complete newbie to music production? Try FL Studio.

Are you looking to emulate the current crop of pros? Try Pro Tools.

Do you want a smoother workflow, and more powerful editing capacity? Try Studio One.

Do you want a massive library of samples, presets and loops? Try Cubase.

Do you want to perform your music live? Try Ableton Live.

And now that you’ve got this far, I want to make a deal with you.

Whichever music production software you go with, make a one minute track on your first day. Post a link to it in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with!​

​Image Credits:

Featured image source: photo by Pinnacle_College / CC BY-2.0​​​​​

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.

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