Looking for the best beatmaking software and music production programs around?
We give you the run-down on everything from beginner to more advanced beat makers.
We’ve used a lot of them, and we’ve gradually transitioned from one to another, and sometimes even back again. But we always remember one thing…
It’s not the tool itself, it’s how you use it.
Trust us – you can make straight HEAT or complete TRASH, regardless of the software you use. And it doesn’t matter what genre of beats you make either.
But choose your weapon wisely, because workflow, ease of use and features DO matter.
For example, if you like the hands on feel of hitting pads maybe Maschine of MPC Renaissance is for you.
Or if you like to make trap style beats, FL Studio makes it easier to get those crazy hi-hat patterns southern beat makers are known for.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference and how you use the music production software you have.
So here’s our take on the best beat making software for 2016 and beyond:
Dr. Drum is an online beat making program that’s hella simple to use – making it a great choice for beginner music producers.
But that doesn’t mean it’s basic. It has the exact same main functionality as more expensive beatmakers at a fraction of the price. Don’t think it can’t bring the heat!
Complete beginners will get the most out of this beat making program.If you’ve never made beats and you know nothing about music at all it’s the perfect tool to start with.
It’s simple to use – even the most newbie beat maker can make decent sounding beats within minutes of learning the software. And learning it isn’t as hard as other music production programs.
Once you’ve used this software for a while and know you want to make beats for the long-term, you can graduate to one of the options below.
If you’ve made beats before or can already play piano or guitar it may not be your best choice. If you know anything at all about how music works and have a good idea of what type of beats you want to make, don’t choose this software. In that case it’d be better to go with one of the other pieces of software below.
Below are the really powerful pieces of software which give you a lot more control over everything in your mix. But as a beginner, it can be too difficult to learn, so it’s better to start off with this app first, before moving on.
Propellerhead Reason is another great software beat maker that we’ve used a lot. It’s a completely stand alone program –and NOW (after years of hoping) Reason users can finally use VST plugins (virtual instrument plugins) directly inside Reason..
Before this latest update, my biggest problem with Reason was the lack of VST support. Reason does have a ton of sounds, samplers and synths included and people design sounds specifically for reason as well. But having VST functionality is a game changer.
I may start using Reason again now, just because it’s still a great piece of software. It’s a staple in the electronic and urban music production scene. Many beat-makers get their start on Reason and a lot stick with it throughout their careers.
And now with VSTs AND the ability to record, it makes sense to stick through it.
The idea behind the Reason user interface is like having a virtual studio rack on your computer.You can add in an unlimited number of drum machines, synths, effects processors and combine them all. The team takes it further by letting you route the virtual gear just like you would a real physical studio rack.
It looks cool af…
It’s a solid piece of software that goes a long way. Some people also find the workflow very easy to get the hang of. I’ve used Reason for years… But then I eventually upgraded to Maschine, which I currently use now.
If you want a professional-grade all-in-one solution Reason could be a good choice for you. It’s got a great interface and a really easy workflow. It’s a simple-to-use software beatmaker that still packs a punch.
If you like producing electronic (EDM, Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, etc) music quickly and don’t mind using the mouse for the majority of your production try Reason out. You can use hardware controllers (like midi keyboards, etc) but the way Reason works doesn’t require it.
There are a ton of “ReFills” that you can purchase to expand your sound library. And of course, you can import your own audio samples if they’re in WAV format. You can also sample other songs easily with the patented REX loop technology (and an additional add-on).
So if you want a REALLY solid, but easy to use beat maker you should definitely get Propellerhead Reason.
The biggest drawback to Reason used to be that it doesn’t support outside VST instruments – which can limit you. But not anymore.
If you do a lot of audio recording and want a more Digital Audio Workstation style experience, Reason may not be the best option for you. If make a lot sample-based Hip-Hop, you should probably go with one of the software/hardware combos below. You can use and chop samples with reason (with the help of an add-on), but it’s so much easier in other beat making software.
Best for: Basic Beat + Loop Making w/ Limited Instruments/Effects
This version is bare-bones and has the following features:
Best for: Full Instrumental + Song Creation
This version is the full version and has the following features:
FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops) is one of the most popular pieces of music production software and has been used by heavyweights from 9th Wonder to Zaytoven and many others.
You’ve probably heard of it if you’re into making beats at any level.
What makes FL Studio really great is the loads of features and tools that are super easy to use.
Want those signature trap-style hi-hats? How about the MPC-style swing? FL Studio does it in a couple of clicks.
Since everything can be done with the mouse, it’s a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want (or can’t yet afford) a midi hardware controller (like a keyboard or drum pads)..
FL Studio is one a popular beat making program for a reason. It’s useful for everyone who wants to get serious about making beats, but doesn’t need a hard-core Pro Tools setup.
If you plan on making trap music or the very complex EDM stuff coming out now, it’s probably your go-to weapon of choice. Trap, especially, because FL makes it easy to get complicated hi-hats that are signature to trap music.
If you’re not interested in playing keys or learning to finger drum on pads then this is definitely the right choice for you. This software was totally made for the click-producers and programmers, so if that’s how you plan on making beats then definitely get FL Studio.
If you prefer to play piano or tap out drum beats on pads then FL Studio isn’t your best choice. For that you’ll want to pick one of the next two pieces of beat making software we review.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of audio recording, then FL Studio may not be the best choice for you either. Although the more expensive versions have audio recording capability, other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) handle it better.
Best for: Basic Loop Creation With Minimal Functionality Included
This version does not include any of the following features:
Best for: Full Song Creation – Includes Audio Recording/Editing Functionality
This version does not include any of the following features:
Best for: If You Want Full Functionality of FL Studio (extra plugins)
This version includes EVERYTHING except the following:
Maschine is the revolutionary beat production software from the powerhouse electronic music company Native Instruments that combines the best of both worlds – hardware beat makers..and software studio applications.
Just like FL Studio above, you’ve probably heard about this amazing hardware controller + studio software combo.
What makes Maschine really great is that you get the hands on feel of a hardware sampler (like in the old-school beat making days) combined with the flexibility and power of a computer studio setup..
It was the first of it’s kind that was truly integrated, intuitive and easy to use. And it’s still the best – which is why producers like DJ Numark, 9th Wonder, No ID and many others prefer it.
Since it combines both hardware and software you get the feeling of making music organically, instead of drawing in squares and rectangles with a mouse. Combine that with an unlimited array of tracks, sounds and effects on your computer, and it’s easy to see why this beast is a best-seller..
Quick Note: If you plan on using Maschine to make beats, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND signing up for Maschine courses at ADSR. They’ll show you the ins and outs of Maschine hardware, software and workflow.
Native Instruments has pioneered and revolutionized the music production era where hardware meets software. It’s useful for everyone who wants to get serious about making beats, and likes to tap out drums or use actual music production hardware instead of just the mouse.
It doesn’t matter what style of music you make, it can all be done on NI Maschine. The included sounds are killer and there is a lot of functionality in the 2.x version of the software..
If you love to make music on your computer but wish you could use hardware to bang out your drums, synths and samples – this is for you.
If you make sample-based hip-hop music (or if you sample at all) you should definitely consider Maschine. Even if you currently use a hardware controller like the Akai MPD series of the drum pads from M-Audio, Maschine will take your production game to the next level.
If you don’t want to tap our drum beats or sample patterns with your hands and prefer the mouse and grid approach, then stick to FL Studio. .
Also, if you’ve already been using a specific piece of studio software (like Cubase, etc) for a long time and use a third-party midi hardware controller (like the Akai MPD, etc) then you might consider not switching to maschine.
The way the software works causes your workflow to change. It runs on patterns and scenes, not your typical DAW timeline. So it can take some getting used to, but it’s not exactly a deal-breaker. Decide what’s best for you and your situation.
Best for: Entry Level Beat-Makers
This model is the smallest hardware size and has the following features:
Best for: Classic MPC-Style Workflow
This model is the original type + size and has the following features:
Best for: Complete Physical Control + Visual Feedback without need for mouse + computer monitor
Largest sized model with the most functionality:
With the blow-up success of the Native Instruments Maschine, Akai had to come up with a worthy competitor. The Akai MPC Renaissance is exactly that.
NI Maschine was actually based on the original MPC hardware. Producers loved the feeling and workflow of using an MPC, but wanted to use computers and software for the numerous advantages. Native Instruments came to the rescue and is still our preferred Beat Maker software.
But soon after, Akai realized they should’ve been the first to do it. Unfortunately they were a distant second, and the Renaissance hasn’t seen nearly the same success that the Maschine has.
The features that make the Renaissance unique from Maschine are the original MPC pads and the coveted MPC swing/groove settings.
Based on the now-legendary Akai MPC hardware units (which have been used to make some of the most classic EDM and Hip-Hop/R&B songs ever), the MPC Renaissance is the “hardware-meets-software” version.
It’s similar to Maschine in the way it combines software and hardware. The software interface is much different, though. The workflow is based on the original MPC stand-alone hardware.
NO LONGER AVAILABLE IN US – Imported from Japan via Amazon.com
If you need that original MPC Swing, or absolutely love the original MPC drum pads then you should get it. Those two things are literally all that differentiates it from competitors – and the software/workflow of course.
But it’s no longer available from a lot of stores and so support is going to be very limited. But that could just mean that the V2.0 of the hardware/software is around the corner. So maybe you’ll want to hold off, but there’s no telling when Akai will decide to release it.
Again – only get this beat maker if you’re a die-hard MPC fan or need that MPC feeling right now.
Pretty much everyone else…
Try buying the MPC Renaissance nowadays and it’ll be tough – no one stocks or carries it anymore. What’s more is it was just released too late. Maschine had already taken the first place position in terms of hardware/software combinations.
But the MPC has a MASSIVE fan-base who will love this thing.
So if you’re not a die-hard that needs that MPC feeling/sound, then go for something like NI Maschine. At least you can get support and the warranty won’t be a headache. And it’s way too expensive for what you’re getting.
Best for: Hardcore Akai MPC Fans
This model is the only one available and has the following features:
The full version of the software is a virtual music recording, producing, mixing and mastering powerhouse. It’s an extremely powerful digital audio workstation that is capable of doing more than just banging out a few beats.
Cubase is a really dope piece of software. It’s an entire studio setup that supports VSTs and is great for post-production like mixing and mastering. It’s got some great included effects, but with full VST support you can use third-party effects easily.
It used to be sort of a cumbersome program to use, but in version 9 Steignberg says they’ve completely streamlined the workflow – meaning it should be easier/faster to use now.
Cubase is used by many professionals and you can do pretty much anything you need music-wise. We use Cubase all the time and have for years. It’s a great DAW, but has a steep learning curve. But it’s a solid piece of software. There aren’t any hardware controllers included so you’ll have to buy separate beat pads, mixer/transport controls and keyboards.
If you plan on making full songs, not just beats then Cubase is an awesome DAW that will cover all your needs. If you’re a music composer or if you do (or plan on doing) a lot of mixing and mastering you might want to consider Cubase with the separate fader/knob/transport controllers available.
It’s a powerful combination and gives you the power of really good effects processors with the feeling of mixing on a real board. If you want to be a full-service music producer Cubase is a great option to buy. But you’ll also want to pick up some other instruments, effects and midi controllers with it.
If you already have some midi controllers and VST instruments/effects it’s probably the perfect DAW for you.
If you’re just planning on making beats and not full songs then you should just go with one of the other beat making software options above.
What that means is it’s a bit weird producing beats and instrumentals in it. It’s amazing, though, for recording, mixing and mastering. So if you don’t plan on producing entire songs and albums then don’t get it.
Best for: Singer/Songwriters/Bands, Basic Home Recording Setups
This model is the bare-bones version of the software and has the following features:
Best for: Pro Music Producers, Project Studio Owners, Pro Artists and Bands
This model is the middle of the road version of the software and has the following features:
Best for: Full Song Production, Music Composers/Scoring + Mix Engineers
This model is the full software and has the following features:
This is the now famous software that you hear everyone in the “industry” talk about. Pro-Tools is the standard music production software and digital audio workstation (DAW) of choice in many major label studios.
It’s got a very steep learning curve and can be extremely expensive, but is also very powerful. There are literally over a dozen different versions of this studio software and different versions can run thousands of dollars and requires a lot of hardware to run best.
But we’ll be talking about the regular Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD versions
If you haven’t heard of Pro Tools, you might be living under a rock. If you’re working in the industry with a lot of major studios or artists, it’s a great software to learn because you’ll probably run into it at some point.
If you do get your hands on a copy, however, it doesn’t hurt to play around in it and see if it’s something you could dedicate a lot of time to learning. If you know Pro-Tools you’ll be able to work in most major studios you come across.
But with all the other options available today, which have all the bells and whistles, it doesn’t make sense for most people to get Pro Tools. And a lot of studios nowadays run different software. There was a time when Pro Tools was THE go-to standard for pro audio, but not anymore.
If you plan on doing a lot of work in the studios of major label artists, or you are hoping to work in the mainstream music industry it probably makes sense to learn Pro-Tools. It is pretty much the standard in the music industry and is used by major acts everywhere in the world.
But it’s very expensive and tough to learn. The workflow is not as easy as other options. But if you’re trying to get into the industry or get a job at a big studio (most of which don’t exist anymore) then you should pick up a copy of Pro Tools and learn it inside/out.
Most beat makers and bedroom music producers shouldn’t choose Pro Tools. It can be prohibitively expensive for most people and it just isn’t worth it in many cases.If you want to just make beats easily, definitely don’t get Pro Tools.
If you’re not planning on working in a lot of other people’s studios (especially major artists/large studios) then you probably don’t need to learn Pro Tools. You should try out a different DAW for now like Cubase or Logic.
Best for: Beginners who just want to try Pro-Tools out.
This stripped-down version of Pro Tools has the following features:
Best for: Pro’s who need advanced functionality for sound and picture
This version of Pro Tools has the following features:
Best for: Audio, Film and Post Production Pros who need maximum quality/performance
This full HD version of Pro Tools has the following features:
Mac lovers have an additional choice that PC users cannot use when it comes to pro DAW software. If you own a Mac instead of a PC then you might want to consider trying out Apple’s Logic Pro X digital audio workstation.
Many popular producers – like Adele’s producer – swear by this software and it has a lot of cool features and instruments/sounds. There is no PC version, though, so you have to be a mac user. It’s also similar to Cubase and Studio One in it’s feel, but has it’s own unique workflow and design.
Logic Pro X puts a complete recording and MIDI production studio on your Mac, with everything a pro musician needs to write, record, edit and mix like never before. All in an intuitive interface that puts the tools you need right where you need them.
Logic Pro X is a complete MIDI music production and audio recording studio solution for the Mac. Because it’s made by Apple it’s the perfect choice for anyone who uses a Mac based computer studio setup.
It comes with a massive collection of instruments, effects, patches and loops you can’t get anywhere else. And the seamless transition from free music production software like GarageBand makes it a Mac User favorite.
Mac users who love Apple so much they can’t step outside the Apple ecosystem.
There are a lot of people who sweat by logic, so I’m sure there’s great things about it’s workflow and included instruments/tools/sounds/etc.
Can’t make a recommendation one way or the other because we’ve never used Logic.
PC All Day Baby….
There are a lot of other great pieces of beat making software available for you to buy, but the 9 choices above are the most popular with today’s beat makers.
But that doesn’t mean the ones we mention below are any worse. Again – it’s not about the tool, but how you use it.
It’s really a matter of personal preference. Maybe you prefer the workflow or look of a particular piece of software. Other times, certain tasks/techniques are done easier in certain beat makers and more difficult to do in others.
We should have better reviews on these software options soon.
It supports 16 tracks and boasts over 3000 included sounds. It’s also got the full capabilities of any other hardware music production workstation. What’s different than Maschine and the MPC Ren is the way the pads are laid out. Instead of in a 4×4 grid, they’re setup like a chromatic keyboard/piano octave looks.
The best part of the Beat Thang Virtual is it’s 4-hour battery life, extreme portability. You can take it anywhere and make beats on the fly easily.
Learn More About the Hardware
Studio One is a relative new-comer to the beat making software/digital audio workstation fold. It’s a piece of software that’s similar to Cubase and Logic in that it has functionality for everything you’ll probably need.
The big deal behind Studio One is that it was designed by professional audio engineers and producers for audio engineers and producers. It’s got a very intuitive and easy to use workflow/interface
We don’t have too much experience with it, but we’ll be reviewing this piece of studio software more fully soon.
Learn More About the PreSonus DAW Software Versions Available:
So what is the best beat making software app? Which should you choose?
It really depends on you. They all do the same things, just differently. Like I mentioned earlier – it’s really all about differences in interface, graphics and workflow.
Some of the included sounds/synths/instruments may differ but there’s a good chance most of the sounds and instruments you end up using will be third-party anyway.
Having one particular software for making music will not allow you to “make beats like [insert favorite producer here].”
What really matters is what you want to do. Every case is going to be different, but don’t worry about making the wrong choice.
At the end of the day, you’re able to do pretty much anything on any DAW. How you do them may end up being different, but that’s it.
Once you get the hang of it, then you can move to something else if you want. At that point our top 2 recommendations are FL Studio and NI Maschine – those are hands down the best beat maker apps for the price/quality.
It’s all about how you use the software and how well you know it. Then the limits are non-existent. You can make any type of sound or style of music you want.
At Deviant Noise, we’ve used most of the above mentioned software and love them all. But currently our setup is based around the Native Instruments Maschine Studio hardware and software. We’re big fan’s of Native Instruments and the entire studio is based on their products – including Komplete Ultimate (virtual instruments) and a Komplete Kontrol S-Series Keyboard.
These guys are really on top of their game and we love em. There’s a few features we’re missing, but it’s nothing we can’t get around with a little bit of creativity.
And that’s another point – one that we’ll end on – you don’t need to only use one piece of software. If you like different features of different beat makers, get them all and use them however you feel. That might get expensive, but making music is an expensive hobby! But one, that’s so worth it.
Good luck with your beat making – leave us some comments letting us know your choice/preference. And if you know anyone that would find this article useful, please share it with them.
Back in the day one had to have a ton of different instruments (as well as people to play them), huge pieces of studio equipment to record with and massive budgets to make professional records.
But all of that has changed with the rapid improvements in music technology. Now there are easily available and very affordable choices of music making software. What the best music production software is, however, is really dependent on what you are planning on doing, and the features most important to you.
And once you start making lots of music and beats, you’ll see that workflow is REALLY important.
Every music producer has their favorite beat making and music production software – just pick one and try it out. Learn the software’s ins and outs – don’t just get frustrated.
Whatever you choose, just make sure you’ve got some sick drum samples and sample packs to use with it.