When you’re first starting out…
It’s fair to say that not many guys will commit to the expense of a pro DAW….
Without first “getting their feet wet” with some free stuff…
To see if home recording is something they’ll actually enjoy.
And if that sound like you right now…perfect.
Because in today’s post, I’m going to show several great ways to help get you started…
With my list of the Top FREE Recording Software Options of 2017.
The 3 Best Options…
After days of in-depth research on this subject, what I discovered is that newbies basically have 3 FREE options to choose from:
- Online Recording Sites
- Free Downloadable DAW’s
- Included DAW’s that come with an audio interface
And while all of these are technically free, truth is…NONE of them are 100% free.
Because while the software itself may be free…to use it, you still have to spend some money elsewhere. If not now, then eventually.
So the new question I began asking was:
Which of these solutions offers the best features for the lowest OVERALL price?
And here’s what I discovered:
Option 1: Online Recording Sites
At first glance, the benefits of online recording sites seem promising…
- All files get stored in the cloud.
- Social sharing is built-in.
- You don’t need to bother with software licenses or downloads.
But once you look a little deeper, it’s also not hard to see the many downsides:
- Unreliable Internet – All internet connections drop out occasionally, which could easily rob you of good recording takes.
- Questionable Content Rights – Even if current “Terms and Conditions” give ownership to the creator, as Facebook and other big sites have shown, those rules are always subject to change.
- Freemium Business Models – Many top sites bait you with a free signup…but ultimately charge monthly fees for full use of the product. And over time, those fees add up to more than the cost of a professional DAW. And that’s absurd.
So while it does have its advantages, online recording clearly isn’t good enough to pay for.
And while I’m sure there are some musicians who have had success with online recording…I’ve honestly never met any of them personally.
So personally, I would avoid these sites in general. And I would especially avoid any sites that charge you anything.
Of the truly free sites though, here are two that look pretty promising:
NOTE: If you want to try online recording, but you don’t have a laptop yet, check out a Chromebook.
If you aren’t familiar with them yet, Chromebooks are the laptops designed by Google that work solely as an internet browser.
Because the stripped-down design uses no native applications, their price point is significantly cheaper than standard laptops.
And since you only need a browser for online recording, these two options compliment each other nicely.
Here’s an example: Acer Chromebook – (Amazon).
Option 2: Free Native DAW’s
While they’re slightly harder to learn, at first…
Native DAW apps avoid ALL the major problems associated with online recording…
While offering far more in functionality.
In my opinion, the extra time invested in learning them is well-worth it.
And I definitely recommend them over online recording sites.
The top 4 DAW’s I recommend are:
- Audacity – the most popular 100% free open-source DAW software on the planet for many years now.
- Garageband – the super-cheap, (though not technically free) DAW for Mac OSX, which many folks say is easier to learn than Audacity.
- Presonus Studio One 3 Prime – the first totally-free DAW based on professional software.
- Pro Tools First – the newest beginner version of Pro Tools 12.
Of the 3, Studio One and Pro Tools are my top picks. Because once you outgrow the free version (and you will)…
It’s far easier to upgrade to a paid version of the same DAW, rather than start over with an entirely new platform.
Since Studio One 3 comes in 2 paid versions:
…it’s super easy to upgrade from the FREE version if and when you ever need to.
And you can upgrade to Pro Tools 12 (paid) here.
Now finally…for the best option of all…
Option 3: Free DAW w/ Purchase of Audio Interface
Earlier I mentioned how no recording software is ever truly free.
And that’s mostly because, you still need either:
…to actually get sound in and out of the computer.
So here’s a thought:
Since you need one anyway, why not buy one that includes a free DAW superior to any of the earlier ones we covered?
Not many companies offer this deal…so the only one I can really recommend is Presonus.
(Avid does this as is well, but their interfaces are a little too pricey for most beginners).
With the following interfaces, Presonus includes Studio One Artist as part of the package:
- PreSonus AudioBox USB – (Amazon)
- Presonus AudioBox 22VSL – (Amazon)
- Presonus Audiobox 44VSL – (Amazon)
Because the both hardware and software is built by one company, you’re ALWAYS guaranteed full-compatibility and tech-support…which you DON’T get when you buy them separately.
That’s why I believe the “DAW/interface combo” is the absolute-best-option for anyone starting out with home recording.
To wrap up this post, here are a few useful articles to help you find the other tools you’ll eventually need to start your studio:
1. Cheap Studio Mics
To record sound into your audio interface, you obviously need a mic.
And even though some pro microphones can be insanely expensive, there are plenty of cheap options as well.
In this post, I show you several of the best:
2. USB Mics
As I mentioned earlier, USB mics offer a cheap and simple shortcut to record sound directly into your computer…
Because they eliminate the need for ALL other hardware, including audio interfaces, mic preamps, and headphone amps…
Which gives you way more free DAW options as well.
If this sounds like a good fit for you at the moment, check out this article to see which ones I recommend:
Now that you can get sound IN to the computer, next you’ll need a way to get it OUT.
The tools you need are: studio monitors and headphones.
And in these next two articles, I reveal some good cheap options for both:
- The Ultimate Guide to Studio Headphones for Home Recording
- The 10 Best Studio Monitors for Home Recording
And finally, here are the two essential accessories you’ll need to complete your setup:
- The Ultimate Guide to XLR Mic Cables for Stage and Studio
- The Ultimate Guide to Microphone Stands for Stage and Studio
After that, you’re all set to start making music.