Help me pick a free DAW?

Hello everyone!

Up until now I’ve been using MuseScore and a free version of FL Studio to study composition theory. I’m now looking for a “complete” DAW that I can use to start more in depth things.

As you can tell from this post I’m really poor and I can’t efford “pro” paid DAWs at the moment so… I have to pick a free one for the time beeing… and then perhaps pick a better one as I manage to save more money :slight_smile:

I’ve done some research and, at this point in time, the best free ones should be one between:

  1. Cakewalk
  2. LMMS
  3. Soundbridge
  4. Waveform

From what I’ve seen so Far:

  • CakeWalk seems to be the most complete option. It really interest me the fact that it comes with a music notation option similar to MuseScore. Also the automations seems nice.

  • LMMS seems to be the more “similar” to FL Studio, but it puzzles me the fact that it seems to only have blacn and green colors… it might make tracks recognition a little harder?

  • SoundBridge seemed to be the “simpler” one to jump into.

  • Waveform was interesting because of it’s “music wave presets”… but there is the chance something like that would actially “slow down” my learning of composition?

Any ideas on which one would be better in your opinion? :slight_smile:


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MuseScore is really nice for sheet music. :slight_smile:
I assume you are on PC?

I would recommend Studio One 5 prime, which is their light but totally free version. In fact, if I was not so deeply invested in Logic Pro, I would totally choose Studio One as my main DAW today. :slight_smile:

You can also check out Reaper, it is not free, but 60 dollar for an individual license is super great value for what you get.

I started with LMMS to, but its not very compatible with most of the VSTs and the fact, that you can’t use CC Values brought me finally to Reaper. I bought it, because i was to lazy to install it every 60 days. It is not free, but for 60 days a very good starting point.

Yes, I am on PC :slight_smile:

I’ll check them out thanks :slight_smile:

@Seven_Tears Thanks for your suggestion too :slight_smile:

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I’m wandering what you guys think of Acid Music Stuio 11. is it good?

Asking because, well… it’s on humble bundle now for like 14 bucks.

Ableton has 90 free trial. I know you said you don’t have the money but 90 days is a long time. You could use it while you decide which free one you want to use.

The problem with some of the free options is that you will at some point reach the limations of the software and then have to move onto something else, which will require re-learning everything.

I’d look at the main DAW’s lite or free versions that give you upgrade options for the future. That way all the time you put into developing your skills in a particuar DAW will be an investment for the future.

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This is why I would recommend Studio One free version, as soon as you grow out of options you can simply upgrade it to access more features, and still be familiar with the same software. :slight_smile:


I’m spending the morning checking all softwares out.

I started with studio one free version… I really liked it… but I was trown back by the fact that unless you buy the professional version (400 bucks) you are NOT allowed to use third party plugins… and since I really need/want to use the BBC orchestra by spitfire I sadly had say no to it.

At the moment I’m checking out cakewalk and reaper tutorials (i downloaded both of them) to see which one I find myself the best with :slight_smile:

The ‘Artist’ version for £85 allows 3rd party plugins. There’s also a version of Cubase for around the same price. I think if you want it to be totally free then there are going to be some compromises.

Yeah I know that… but you got to pay 100 for the artist version PLUS 80 for the addon to use plugins… that’s almost 200 bucks that I can’t afford to pay right now :frowning:

That’s for the older versions only. Version 5 and above of Artist include 3rd party vst support as standard.

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Oh really? I seem to have missed that. thanks!

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Ok so… it was really hard to pick one.

I really liked cakewalk Ui and the way it does automations but doing research it seemed it has some issues with crashing and “heavyness”… so I did put it away.

The pick at the end was from Studio One artist version and Reaper. I really REALLY like studio one, I’ve spent hours just thinking reasons why it would’ve been a smart choice to pick it up since I really wanted to take it… but at the end my “family” side won as I tought those money would have been best invested in buyng stuff for the child and in taxes :sweat_smile:

So at the end it seems I’ll be going with reaper for the time beeing… and the the future’ll tell :slight_smile:

I want to thank everyone for your suggestions tho… it really did help me out into making my “list” smaller and really challenged me on my choices at the same time… and now I also know were to look for the future :slight_smile:


Good choice Luca! :slight_smile:
As I said, if I was not a “power user” of Logic Pro, I would go with Studio One today. I have used many DAWs over the years btw.

The “chord track” feature in Studio One is something I dream about Logic adding some day! :stuck_out_tongue:


Well if I wasn’t poor I’d go for Studio One today too ahah :slight_smile:

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Hey Luca,
i really understand your situation, and i can feel with you, that you don’t want to spend too much money.
What about using Reaper as a Portable Version? So you can use it for 60 Days, and after that you donwload it again and use it again as a Portable 60 Days Trial?
Its just an idea,

Hi @Svalinn85 if you haven’t bought Reaper already I just want to tell you that I have both studio one 3 professional and studio one 4 professional. If I understand it right I’m able to resell version 3 without losing version 4. There’s only a fee for the transfer. Maybe someone here knows how it works?
You can get my version 3 for free if it’s possible without me losing version 4 of you just pay the transfer fee.

Hey Luca! I actually use Studio One myself. I use the $99 artist version currently, but you don’t need the pro version to use third-party VSTs, you just need to buy the Rewire extension for StudioOne wich will cost around $70, I think. So if you can save up about $180, you can have a real nice DAW in Studio One.

They may have also bundled their notation software, Notion, with S1 as well recently. It’s not the best, but it’s better than MuseScore and the nice thing is you can export any score you’re woking on to S1 and vice versa.

You can buy A second hand studio one 5 pro for around $150 so this sounds quite expensive for what you get