As a music producer, you require a variety of tools to create your art. In addition to instruments, controllers and know-how, you need versatile MIDI software, also known as a digital audio workstation (DAW). Most of the MIDI programs we included work for multiple operating systems, but a few are exclusive to PCs or Macs.
All of the software we chose supports MIDI controllers, so you can compose and record music organically, input it to your computer, and then adjust and edit through your DAW. Some have particular strengths, and we’ve pointed them out here and in our articles on MIDI software. If you need software for editing strictly audio files, you should take a look at our review of audio editing software. For the professional who wants the tried-and-true DAWs that remain standards in the audio industry, read our in-depth review of recording studio software.
Best MIDI Software That Supports Multi-Touch
MIDI software has been around for decades – and FL Studio is one of the originals. Formerly known as Fruity Loops, FL Studio offers beat makers, producers and songwriters essentially a digital recording studio. For all its simplicity, it also has flexibility and gets as complex as you need it to. For example, FL Studio support multi-touch, which means this software is even easier to use if you have touchscreen hardware. You can select, copy, paint and tap a sample into a track using your finger or a special pen and never touch a mouse or keyboard. You can swipe to scroll, double-tap to add a note through the piano roll tool, pinch the screen at the area you want to zoom in on, and simply press with your finger to right-click. There’s no need for you to pause your creativity.
The MIDI software formerly known as FruityLoops, now FL Studio, has maintained a reputation as a powerful music production software package for any music maker. FL Studio offers a graphically driven interface, customizable workflows and workspaces, and intuitive controller linking features.
Best MIDI Software for Pitch Automation
If you’re new to music production, you might be feeling your way through the process. You don’t necessarily need the ability to read music to create it, or recognize the exact pitch of a tune or voice. That’s why you rely on MIDI software like Digital Performer – it helps you arrange bits and pieces to make a listenable track. It has several tools and features to make this easy, including its pitch automation. You can import music or vocals, or record them directly, into the software, and Digital Performer detects the pitch automatically. Then you can adjust the pitch until your song has the desired tone.
You can convert a live audio performance to a MIDI track and then play around with a few tools in Digital Performer or add more instrumentation and move the segments around however you like. Digital Performer makes it easy for you to change the sound of a song, such as its pitch or arrangement, with just a few clicks and drags.
The versatile, feature-rich and graphically impressive Digital Performer has all the ingredients of indispensable MIDI software. Other MIDI and audio production programs that have some – or all – of these ingredients, but only a handful of them ever manage to combine them in a user-friendly fashion. Digital Performer is among those that provide high-end, detailed MIDI tools, features and functions in a manner both usable and user-friendly.
Best MIDI Software for Mac
Many MIDI programs exist that work for both PC and Mac users, and one of the best MIDI controller software titles is Cubase. Not only are you able to control everything from laying down a beat to sequencing, this program makes it easy for you to focus on the creative process, rather than spending your time reading through documentation to learn all the tools and features. Cubase includes automatic vocal harmonizing so you can get the sound right from the beginning.
Cubase has a plethora of tools to make your job as a producer, composer or songwriter easier. Its interface is reminiscent of pricey audio consoles you’d find in traditional recording studios, but it’s a fraction of the cost and you can use it on your iPad or laptop for a portable solution. It works with almost any MIDI controller, so you can quickly plug in and start importing your composition to the software. Then you can use the Key Editor to further develop your music.
Best MIDI Software for Beginners
Although ACID Music Studio no longer has the Sony name attached – Magix owns it now – it has a reputation of its own as one of the best MIDI keyboard software titles for a beginner. The simplicity of this software lends itself well to those just getting started with their music hobby or career. You can simply hook up your MIDI keyboard and create a loop. Through ACID Music Studio, you can change the loop however you like: slow down or kick up the tempo.
This MIDI software comes with thousands of premade loops, so you can experiment with those sounds and make them your own. Even more useful for beginners are the built-in tutorials in ACID Music Studio. You can jump right into the program and start learning.
ACID Music Studio
ACID Music Studio is one of the few audio production and MIDI software programs to be almost entirely self-contained. Equally viable for experienced and beginning producers, ACID Music Studio provides resources for every stage of the production process. With the built-in tutorials and intuitive interface, producers of all experience levels can quickly gain a handle on the program.
Best MIDI Software With Customization Plugins
All the MIDI software we include here can help you create music and edit your MIDIs to make your sound completely unique. To take it to the next level, though, you may want to experiment with various plugins. SONAR – formerly known as Cakewalk – is a popular MIDI program and one of the best software titles that offer lots of plugins. You can use plugins that change the compression of your tracks, add filters, or pass your vocals through emulators to dirty the sound a bit and get a vintage sound, like that of a cassette tape or a record. You get amplifier plugins too, which give your tracks the warmth you would get from playing music through an actual amp. There are also plugins for mastering, reverbs, equalizing, delays and echoes. You can add special effects through several plugins that let you add stuttering effects, video game sounds and more.
If you've been in the audio production industry for a while now, then Cakewalk is a familiar name. The company changed its digital audio workstation (DAW) name to SONAR, but the product is the same MIDI software you knew from back in the day – only better. You can use this audio production program to compose, record, edit, mix and master all your audio creations.
How you create, augment and produce your music is as important as the music itself. The right MIDI software lets you control what you input from your MIDI keyboard or other MIDI device and fine-tune the tracks so you can express your creativity as accurately as possible.