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Best beat making software 2021

Best beat making software
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If you're an aspiring or established musician, having the best beat making software to hand is essential. Not only will it help you recreate a bigger band experience, whatever musical genre you operate within, but it'll help you create your own music or remix other tracks. While the best beat making apps require some kind of payment, to allow you to access all the premium features, there are a good suite of free beat making and music apps that will suit beginners or anyone less dedicated to the craft.

So, why do you need to use the best beat making software? If you're simply using it to create loops, or to remix pre-set beats, then something simple and free and easy will probably suit you perfectly. Magix might be good in this scenario. However, if you're creating your own tunes from nothing, and you want control over every aspect of the track then you'll need something more premium. Most of the bigger apps, like Apple Logic Pro and FL Studio (which is a full DAW app) will allow you to record from MIDI devices too, so you can sample your own beats from things like drums, electric pianos, and guitars. But this may be too much detail for some.

Just be aware that while most of these beat making apps include free samples and pre-recorded beats, you may need to hunt around for additional sounds, or create your own. Beginners will be fine with what's included in most programs here, but more experienced users may want to consider additional audio converter software, or some of the best audio editing software, to complete their set-up.


1. Apple Logic Pro: Best beat making software overall

Apple Logic Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Logic Pro

If you want beats with lots of extra options, this is the best production software

OS: Mac | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

Great virtual instrument selection
Intuitive interface
Good selection of royalty-free loops and samples
Mac only

Apple Logic Pro is a superb option for creating beats, topping our list, in spite of this being an Apple only program. The relatively low price offers so much bang, or beat, for your buck. This takes the already impressive free GarageBand from Apple and brings it to the professional level.

A vast virtual instrument library allows you to create music from scratch. In fact you can even build your virtual drums to make a custom set for the perfect beats to suit what you're doing. Logic’s virtual drum plug-in uses an AI algorithm to adapt a virtual drummer to the style of music you produce, presuming you want to record a melody first.

Logic’s workspace window is arranged nicely, with the transport controls at the top of the window. You can create up to 255 audio and MIDI tracks, which are more than enough to let you build an intricate arrangement and continually add new ideas to a song. The flexible mix window lets you add up to 15 insert effects and eight sends per channel.


2. Magix Music Maker: Best budget beat making app

Magix Music Maker

(Image credit: Magix)

Magix Music Maker

For a budget friendly beat builder, Magix has you covered

OS: Mac and PC | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

425 free sounds and loops
24 virtual instruments
Easy to use
Too basic for some

Magix Music Maker is an affordable way to create beats and more using a program that's one of many offered by a company that specializes in this area. As a result you get a whole lot of functionality for your money. There are 425 free loops included as well as a whopping 25 virtual instruments right from the outset.

Everything is easy to use, making it friendly enough for a beginner but detailed enough for more experienced producers. This works with MIDI devices like keyboards and drum pads to create beats and uses an intuitive interface for controls and effects. More virtual instruments can be bought as add-ons or you can upgrade to get more features included.


3. FL Studio 20: Best for hip hop

FL Studio 20

(Image credit: Image-Line)

FL Studio 20

If you want to get hip hop beats, this is the software to use

OS: Mac and PC | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

Genre-specific loops and instruments for hip-hop and EDM producers
Great customization and usability features
Free upgrades
Clunky recording and editing process
UI can be imposing

FL Studio has been a big name in hip hop since it was released known as FruityLoops. Since then it has come on hugely and now is the professional producers choice in many cases. This is thanks to features like multiple arrangements working so well and the ease of using time signature markers. The fact it also comes with free updates just further adds to its value.

FL Studio 20 is a full DAW meaning it can be used to make beats but also works as a full production system. You get 500 tracks as standard making it great for quick and easy work. Separate workflows allow for an easy way to stay in control without the interface looking overwhelming. This does make it easy to use but this is still complex and is aimed at the more professional end of the music production market. 


4. Ableton Live 10: Best for EDM

Ableton 10 Live

(Image credit: Ableton)

Ableton Live 10

This is the software built for EDM producers

OS: Mac and PC | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

High quality virtual instruments for EDM
Fantastic Capture feature
Lots of excellent sounds
Superb beats builder and synth
No comping

Ableton Live 10 has a great selection of electronic drum and synth plugins, which are the most important instruments for EDM producers.

The user interface looks markedly different from the other programs we tested, but once you get the hang of it, the workflow becomes simple and efficient. The Drum Rack plugin helps you layer multiple samples in a 16-pad grid that looks familiar to those who use classic EDM hardware instruments.

Ableton is one of the best music production programs for producers that want to take their arrangements to the stage. Once you produce a track in the software, you can use hardware control devices to launch samples, adjust tempo and record samples from other hardware instruments. 


5. Waveform Free: Best free DAW

Waveform Free

(Image credit: Tracktion)

Waveform Free

For a free DAW look no further than this superb offering

OS: Mac and PC | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

Free to use
Works on lots including Mac and PC
MIDI pattern generator
Fewer plugins than the Pro version

Waveform Free, from Tracktion, is the company's first split from its paid software to offer a free version. As such you get all the high quality of a paid-for DAW but in a free tool. Despite that, this still packs in all you could want, even for professional producers. From no artificial limits to third-party plugin functionality and a super streamlined interface, this does it all.

Alright, you don't get some of the plugins that the Pro version has, but as we said you can just use third-party options anyway. There's full MIDI support if you want to plug in your kits and the inbuilt drum sampler sounds superb. Full automation is another big draw on this free software that looks and feels as good as some of the top-end kit.


6. orDrumbox: Best drum specific free software

orDrumbox

(Image credit: orDrumbox)

orDrumbox

For pure beat building, in a simple and free setup, this is it

OS: PC | MIDI: Yes | Custom drum kits: Yes

Free to use
Great automation
Rhythms and sounds database
Not the most refined finish
Learning curve

orDrumbox is another free offering but this one is built for drum beats specifically. It's also built by the people for the people. While that means it's built to task and offers some great features as a result, it also results in it being a little rough around the edges with an interface that looks basic. But under the surface this offers lots for both beginners and more advanced beat builders.

Automation helps with creativity while the drum naming allows for easy storage to help categorize new instruments without effort. MIDI import and export are supported and final export is available in lots of formats to make this a very user friendly experience, the result of which is widely sharable. 


How much should you spend on beat making software? 

A full-featured digital audio workstation (DAW) costs upwards of $500. We chose to focus this comparison of music production software on programs that cost less than $200 for novice sound engineers who want to produce and arrange music on a budget. 

The biggest differences between some of these entry-level versions and their more robust counterparts are the editing and mixing tools. The user-interfaces look the same, and all the programs we tested accept third-party plugins and virtual instruments. However, if you plan to produce, mix and master your arrangements, consider one of the more advanced versions of the software in this comparison.

Important features to consider when choosing a beats builder

Genre-specific instruments
All the programs we tested provide often-used virtual instruments like piano, drums and strings. If you plan to produce a genre like EDM or hip-hop exclusively, consider a program that has a good synthesizer and electronic drum machine collection because the hardware equivalent is expensive, and you may be using several layers of each. If you write rock music, it will be important to have good acoustic drum sounds and electric bass and guitar plug-ins. Even if you plan to record real instruments, we learned that using virtual instruments to set a roadmap can save time.

Recording
Recording vocals and external instruments can be an important aspect of music production. Beat-making programs that allow you to record multiple sources simultaneously eliminate the need to rent time at an expensive studio. The total track count is important too, especially if you prefer to build an arrangement with many short samples or short recordings of real instruments.

Effect plug-ins
If you plan to finalize a product that is worthy of posting on YouTube or Spotify, consider a program with a good selection of effects. Virtual instruments and samples usually don’t need too much manipulation, but it is important to compress and EQ the master bus in a project to make sure the song is at a proper volume and sounds good in headphones and larger speakers. Effects like reverb and delay are also important because they add texture and depth to virtual instruments.