We’ve looked at dozens of products and found Soundtrap to be the best beat making software for most users, from beginner beat makers to more advanced producers.
Sick rap, dubstep, EDM, and trap-style beats are all within reach if you have the right beat-making software to back you up. The best beat making software makes mixing and modifying music a breeze with streamlined workflows, huge sound libraries, and intuitive editing tools.
It should be affordable and compatible with third-party VSTs and AU instruments. Plus, the top beat making software should give you the power to share your creations by allowing you to export your music in .mp3 and .wav formats.
For these reasons (and many more), we believe that Soundtrap’s browser based software is the best beat making software today!
Other programs are better for true beginners who want to learn by mixing preset beats or creating their own loops. They may not need audio recording or more advanced editing options because they’re not creating beats to perform or sell.
Regardless of what you need in a beat-making program, though, we’re sure it’s on this list. Below we cover the six best beat making software programs. Read on to learn more about our favorites.
1) Soundtrap – Best Overall
Soundtrap has a free trial to it browser-based beat-making software app. You don’t have to download anything to use it and can instantly collaborate with other users online. It’s fantastic for hobbyists and students who are dipping their toes into the beat-making world.
For a free app, Soundtrap has excellent features. It offers a vast sound library and allows you to work on unlimited projects. You can also purchase a subscription to access more advanced features like autotuning and time restore. Subscription users can also export their work to high-quality formats and receive new sounds every week.
For students and teachers especially, Soundtrap is incredible. If you’re teaching someone how to produce beats, Soundtrap allows you to collaborate with them in real-time. You can help them troubleshoot and teach new techniques as you go. You can also create projects together and with artists all over the world.
There aren’t many advanced editing or mixing tools, but that’s okay for beginner users. And, there are occasional bugs in the software, though Soundtrap issues regular updates to fix them. For a while, there was no scrolling through sound clips, for example, you had to use arrow keys. Still, for a free or low-cost application, Soundtrap exceeds expectations.
Soundtrap is available as a free, browser-based app. Alternatively, you can purchase it as a subscription service. The subscription version comes in two tiers for music makers: premium and supreme.
- Huge library of sounds with bi-weekly updates
- Unlimited projects
- Internet-based means easy collaboration with other users
- 150K+ sound effects
Music Makers Premium
- All of the free inclusions, with weekly sound updates
- Time restore
Music Makers Supreme
- All of the premium inclusions
- Priority mixing
- High-quality downloads
- 300+ sounds from Splice (limited time only)
- Can record and collaborate with users all over the globe
- No download required
- Free version available
- Few advanced editing or mixing tools
- Software bugs
Who Should Buy
Soundtrap is more about learning and collaboration than it is about performing or selling beats. It’s perfect for students or those who want to learn basic techniques.
2) Reason Software – Best For Total Customization
Reason Studios, formerly Propellerhead Reason, is known for providing incredible synths and a vast library of sounds. With their latest software, you can purchase either “The Rack” or Reason Plus.
The Rack is a plugin, not a complete music production program. You can use it in combination with other music production software, including FL Studio and Ableton Live. The Rack plugin offers all of Reason’s instruments, sounds, and effects. However, it doesn’t include sequencing or mixing. That’s left to whatever music production software you choose to use with it.
Reason Plus offers everything in The Rack plugin along with sequencing and mixing capabilities. It also provides audio recording and supports third-party VSTs. That makes it a full digital audio workshop with a wide range of mixing and editing possibilities.
Reason Plus is relatively intuitive to use, and it comes with a tutorial for beginner beat makers. However, there are some features that come off a little clunky. Their zoom feature is hard to use, which may slow down your workflow. And, there are those users who don’t like Reason’s interface at all, citing a cluttered screen with too many visible controls.
If you happen to like the interface, though, Reason is incredible for making beats. It features all sorts of tools to customize your sounds, including a grain sampler, which you can use to splice, stretch, and slice your tracks in a myriad of ways.
Its advanced step sequencers are particularly useful for composing complex drum patterns, as you might hear in Hip Hop or EDM. And, its huge number of drum samples and stock instruments provide plenty of fuel for the creative mind.
Reason Plus is available as a subscription service rather than a one-time download. Though a monthly fee can become expensive, the upside is that you’ll receive regular updates. They offer a thirty-day free trial so that you can decide whether it’s worth it before you buy it.
- Huge number of virtual instruments, synths, and effects included
- Supports third-party VST instruments and effects
- Grain Sampler to splice and stretch tracks
- Advanced step sequencers
- Easy to use
- Includes a massive library of high-quality beats, synths, and samples
- Everything shows on one, streamlined screen
- Regular updates included
- Subscription service means monthly fees
- Clunky zoom feature
- Not the best for recording
Who Should Buy
Novice to advanced beat makers who want professional-level software will love Reason Plus or the Reason Rack plugin. Those who specialize in EDM or Hip Hop may find it particularly useful thanks to its stellar step sequencers.
That said, Reason offers audio recording, but it’s not the highest quality. So it might not be the best option if you want to record, mix, and master with one program.
3) FL Studio – Best For “In The Box” Production
FL Studio is practically synonymous with slick beats. Where it lacks other features, it makes up with its incredible electronic music-producing tools.
FL Studio, originally called Fruity Loops, is a renowned beat-making program from the Belgian company, Image-Line. It’s fantastic for “in the box” production, but it’s not as great for recording guitar or live recordings. Most beat makers rely heavily on “in the box” content, though, so FL Studio is perfect for them.
The program is available in four versions compatible with Mac and Windows computers. The basic level, called “Fruity,” features everything you need to create beats but doesn’t offer audio recording.
Each level above that offers audio recording plus a variety of effects plugins. The top-level is called the “All Plugins Bundle” and features a whole host of Image-Line synths like Morphine and Poizone.
Regardless of which version you pick, Image-Line will provide free updates for life. Most software manufacturers charge for updates or force users into a subscription model. Getting free updates, then, is a huge plus!
The user interface for FL Studio’s software is clean and streamlined. You can use it the way you would a physical mixing board, moving multiple faders at once. The layout is intuitive and relatively easy to pick up, even if you’re a beginner.
This beat-making software also comes with a sound library. It’s decent in size, but a lot of the sounds are a little thin, and some seem outdated. Many of the included presets are high pass synths, great for dance and EDM mixes, but less useful for other endeavors.
FL Studios comes in four versions, all available as one-time purchases with Image-line updates included for life.
- Selection of synths and effects plugins
- Step sequencer
- Piano roll
- Event editor
- Automation support
- All free version offerings
- Audio recording
- Sytrus Synth
- Everything in Producer Version
- NewTone Pitch Corrector
- Time Editor
- DirectWave Sampler
- Additional guitar and drum samples
All Plugins Version
- Everything in Signature Version
- Huge selection of Image-Line synths
- Streamlined workflow
- Free updates for life
- Advanced Step Sequencer
- Not suitable for audio recording
- Outdated sound library
Who Should Buy
If you focus on “in the box” production, meaning you don’t want to bring in recorded vocals or physical instruments, FL Studios is perfect. The included sound library isn’t stellar, but you can add to that easily. FL Studio’s streamlined workflow and advanced step sequencers are worth having, especially if you’re creating intricate beats.
4) Magix Music Maker – Best For Beginners
Magix Music Maker is an affordable, easy-to-use beat-making program perfect for beginners and hobbyists. Don’t let its entry-level nature fool you, though. Magix Music Maker is very capable of producing professional-level sounds.
Upon downloading any of its three available versions, you’ll find that Magix Music Maker is exceptionally intuitive to use. It comes with a relatively large library of ready-to-use sounds, loops, and beat samples.
Thanks to the program’s drag and drop functionality, you can easily choose and layer those sounds and samples in any way you’d like. All of Magix Music Maker’s loops adjust automatically to fit your song’s pitch, so it’ll sound good even if you don’t have professional editing experience.
With Magix Music Maker, you’ll also have access to a set number of VST instruments and effects. VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. VST instruments and effects replicate the sounds of popular hardware synthesizers. Having access to them through Magix Music Maker means your tracks will sound similar to radio hits.
More advanced producers may find the free and plus versions lack a few features. However, the premium version should have everything they need. It supports 3rd party VST instruments and includes Sound Forge Audio Studio so you can record and edit professional tracks.
Sound Forge has set the standard in sound editing for the last two decades. It’s a trusted name in audio, and access to it with Magix Music Maker’s premium version is a huge plus.
However, advanced beat makers may find that Magix Music Makers is a little too automated for them. They may want a DAW (digital audio workshop) that provides more flexibility, one that gives the producer more control.
Magix Music Maker offers three versions of its beat-making software; a free version, a “PLUS” version, and a premium version.
- 425 included sounds in the loop library
- 4 additional compatible sound collections or “sound pools”
- 3 VST instruments
- 8 VST effects
- 8 available tracks
- Everything in the free version, plus additional sounds
- 1 additional “sound pool”
- 2 additional instruments
- Everything in the PLUS version, plus additional sounds
- 1 additional “sound pool”
- 1 additional instrument
- CoreFX VolumeFormer Plugin (volume automation tool)
- Supports 3rd party VST instruments
- Expandable sounds, effects, and loop libraries
- Tons of tutorials available on website
- Lots of automation; advanced producers may want more functionality
- Limited included effects
Who Should Buy
Magix Music Maker is best for beginners and hobbyists who want an affordable option with an easy learning curve. More advanced producers will get a lot out of the premium version, but the free and plus versions may not give them enough control. Check out the full Magix Music Maker review here.
5) Serato Beat Software – Best For DJs
Serato Studio is beat-making software for those with a background in DJing. It integrates with Serato’s popular DJing software, so DJs can mix mashups of tracks they already have.
The program is exceptionally beginner-friendly. You can produce beats quickly without a background in music theory, which is Serato’s goal.
Serato uses a Master Key feature to keep all your instruments and samples in tune. At the touch of a button, the program will shift everything you’re using into the same key. You can turn off the feature if you know what you’re doing, but Master Key is just one of the ways Serato caters to beginner beat makers.
The program also offers top-notch drum sequencers and note sequencers. You can easily create complex patterns and note sequences with any instrument. Serato even works with VST and AU plugins, so you’re not limited in that area.
The entire interface certainly caters to DJs, though. For example, you can only use DJ EQing, meaning you have the options of “High,” “Mid,” and “Low.” More advanced programs include compressors, limiters, and other features that give you more control.
Serato is available in free and paid versions. The free version offers select sound packs, drum samples, demo tracks, and instruments. It’s great for learning the basics of making beats.
You can purchase the paid version of Serato either as a one-time download or as a monthly subscription. Both include all of Serato’s sound packs, unlimited tracks, drum samples, instruments, and demo projects. Plus, you’ll receive automation support and the iZotope plugin.
Serato comes in a free or a paid version. The paid version is available as a one-time purchase or on a monthly subscription basis.
- Select sound packs and samples
- Access to Tutorials
- All sound packs, samples, and instruments
- Unlimited tracks and decks
- Export to mp3, .wav, or stem formats
- Automation support
- iZotope Plugin
- Beginner-friendly features and workflow
- Available in free or paid versions
- Tons of tutorials included
- Quality drum and note sequencers
- Integrates with Serato’s DJ software
- Only supports DJ- style mixing
- Less advanced features
Who Should Buy
Serato obviously designed their beat-making software with DJs, specifically, in mind. If you’re used to using a DJ channel mixing strip, the program is highly intuitive. You’ll be making mashups and edits in under ten minutes.
The free version is perfect for beginners who are just learning the ropes, but it limits how many tracks you can work on at once. So, intermediate and advanced users should look into the paid version. With the paid model, users can work on unlimited tracks and export their work in multiple formats, including .wav and .stem.
6) Ableton Live – Best For Experienced Beat Makers
Ableton Live isn’t an intuitive program; it has a steep learning curve. Once you learn how to use it, though, it might be the best software available for making EDM-style beats.
Its minimalistic interface and unique workflow helps creatives produce intriguing tracks. Ableton Live’s “Session” view, for example, is like no other beat-making software. It works like a giant sketchbook, so you can edit and manipulate tracks in real-time without hitting stop on the audio. That might not sound like much, but it can be a game-changer for efficient production.
Ableton Live can also temp-match with live performers. If you record a live drummer, for example, you can set the rest of the track to match their beat automatically.
That and other unique performance features make Ableton Live the ideal choice for artists who perform their beats at live shows. It’s also great for artists who want to note their ideas quickly because its workflow is so efficient. However, many artists choose to refine their ideas using a more traditional digital audio workshop.
One of the best parts of Ableton Live is its huge sound library. Even if you purchase the base level, you’re receiving access to a ton of sounds, samples, and loops. There are plenty of synthesized sounds, orchestral tracks, and even acoustic instruments to choose from.
Ableton Live isn’t inexpensive, and you will have to pay for upgrades. However, there are three versions, and the lowest level (Ableton Live Intro) is perfectly adequate for the beginner, or even intermediate, beatmaker. Advanced users may want to think about the Standard or Suite versions which include audio slicing and linked-track editing.
Ableton Live comes in three levels: Intro, Standard, and Suite.
- 16 audio and MIDI tracks
- 16 scenes
- 1500 sounds
- 4 software instruments
- 21 audio effects
- 11 MIDI effects
- Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks
- Unlimited scenes
- 1800 sounds
- 6 software instruments
- 36 audio effects
- 13 MIDI effects
- Audio slicing
- Linked track editing
- Unlimited audio and MIDI tracks
- Unlimited scenes
- 5000+ sounds
- 17 software instruments
- 59 audio effects
- 15 MIDI effects
- Audio slicing
- Linked track editing
- Efficient workflow
- Huge sound library
- Unique editing tools that cater to beat making
- Pricey, upgrades not included
- Steep learning curve
Who Should Buy
If you’ve been creating beats for a little while and want to try a new production process, learning Ableton Live’s workflow might be the creative boost you need. It challenges creatives to think in a new and often rewarding way.
It’s not for everyone, but for those who acquire the taste, Ableton Live is great. It’ll force you out of your comfort zone and into the world of fresh beats.
What you need in your beat-making software depends on what you’re trying to create. Many industry experts rightfully say you can make any type of beat using any of the available software programs.
However, some options are better suited to specific styles. Reason Software and FL Studio, for example, both offer advanced step sequencing, which allows you to compose complex drum patterns easily. That makes both of them ideal for composing Hip Hop and Trap.
Certain features are also user-specific. The workflow should align with your preferences, and the program should be easy to use. Essentially, finding the right DAW is all about finding what works for you. In this buying guide, we’ll discuss the seven features we used to find the top software for making beats.
Wait, What’s a DAW?
Before we dig into those features, though, we should probably explain the term DAW.
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workshop. Technically, it refers to everything you use to record, edit, mix, and master your own audio and music. That includes your outboard gear and computer. Most of the time, we use the term to refer to software, though.
When you’re buying beat-making software, you might notice manufacturers market their products as fully equipped DAWs. That simply means the product technically has everything you need to edit and mix multiple recordings into one produced piece.
Most music producers, even beginners, and hobbyists add on extra equipment. You’ll obviously need a computer to run the software, but beyond that, you may also want an audio interface, microphones, MIDI keyboards, outbound processors, and other accessories. It just depends on what you’re producing.
Now that we understand the terminology, let’s look at the seven features everyone should consider before purchasing beat-making software.
Most DAW’s have a similar user interface. Studio FL looks similar to Reason and Magix Music Maker. Even Ableton Live doesn’t look that much different. Still, the slight differences in the user interface can mean everything to the individual beat maker.
If you hate the way the zoom screen looks or find you have to switch back and forth between windows a thousand times to finish a task, the program isn’t a good fit for you as a music producer.
Most beat-making software programs offer a free trial of some sort. Take advantage of them and use that time to explore the user interface. Make sure it works with your creative process before committing to a purchase.
When beat makers talk about MIDI instruments, they’re referring to digital instruments.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and it includes the communication protocols, digital interface, and electrical connectors that run between electronic musical instruments, computers, and audio devices. It’s what allows digital musical instruments from different manufacturers to communicate.
All DAWs include MIDI instruments. Most of them include popular ones like piano, drums, and strings. However, different DAWs feature MIDI instruments that cater to different genres.
For example, if you want to produce EDM or Hip Hop using a DAW, you should seek out a program with a solid electronic drum machine collection. If you’re creating rock music, though, acoustic drum sounds and an electric bass might be of more concern.
Many beat producers record live instruments, leading some to believe the included MIDI instrument offerings aren’t necessary. In reality, though, most producers use a least some MIDI instruments, if only to save on expenses. Even if you use all live instruments, mapping a song out with the MIDI instruments first can save a ton of time.
So, the MIDI instrument offerings of your beat-making software is important. Think about the instruments you’ll use to produce your preferred genre and seek out a DAW that includes them.
Not all DAW programs include audio recording; sometimes, you need a separate program for that.
If you’re making beats, you may not think you need audio recording. You might think you can get by with the included sound banks and MIDI instruments. But sometimes, adding in vocals or an external instrument is just what a track needs to make it pop. That’s why seeking out a program with audio recording is a good idea.
The best beat-making software will allow you to record multiple sources at once. If you can do that in your home studio, you’ll virtually never need to rent out expensive studio space!
Every DAW is different when it comes to workflow, though some are more intuitive than others. Reason and Magix Music Maker are both relatively easy to learn and use, whereas Ableton Live might take some practice.
What matters most, though, is that the workflow makes sense to you. It should work with your creative process rather than hindering you. Still, there are certain workflow features all of the best DAW’s include.
The top beat-making software programs will include templates to help streamline your workflow. Producers used to look down on templates because the quality was subpar and saving them took up a lot of valuable storage space.
Now, though, thanks to better audio and MIDI in/out mapping, templates are a powerful tool for beat producers. Creating a few that work for you will save you a ton of time. And with cloud storage available these days, saving them won’t clog up your hard drive.
On top of that, the best DAWs will support key commands. They’ll also provide prompting to support good file management.
Key commands or keyboard shortcuts can make your workflow that much smoother. Most programs will allow you to create custom shortcuts to program simple jobs that you do hundreds of times per session. Commands for zooming, switching between windows, and other simple tasks can make everything that much faster.
Good file management means copying your audio to a project file when you import it. That way, you don’t risk losing or accidentally deleting the original audio later on. The best beat-making programs will do this automatically. Good versions will at least prompt you to do so manually the moment you import the audio.
With good file management habits, the process of making beats becomes that much smoother. Finding a DAW that supports those habits is a huge benefit to beat producers.
Audio Mixing Capabilities
Top-end beat-making software includes built-in EQ and compressor plugins to facilitate audio mixing. You need to EQ and compress your tracks to create a professional sound, so having this built-in can be a huge timesaver.
Some DAWs have limited audio mixing capabilities, which may be fine. You can always outsource your tracks to a mixing engineer to polish the audio once you’re through recording and editing. Still, it’s much more convenient to have those capabilities at your fingertips.
Included Effects Plugins
When you mix your audio, you’ll typically add effects (normally referred to as “FX”). There are effects plugins you can download, but the best DAW’s will include at least a few.
Delays, reverbs, autotune, and chorus effect plugins are standard with most beat-making programs. Using them can add depth, especially if you’re relying on virtual instruments. That means implementing the right effects plugins can make the difference between amateur and professional tracks.
Many DAW providers include huge loop and sample beat libraries on their websites that users can download for free. FL Studio and Ableton Live, for example, both have extensive collections via the user forums on their websites.
Having access to a large loop and sample beat library could be vital, but it depends on your preferences. Some producers could care less about the size of an included loop library because downloading loops and sample beats as you need them isn’t hard; sorting through a substantial sound library might be.
For some, searching an extensive collection of loops and beats simply leads to ear fatigue. That said, most beatmakers, especially beginner beatmakers, benefit from large loop libraries. They can be great sources of inspiration, and you need big pools of content to skim through while you’re developing your sound.
Finding the best beat-making software has a lot to do with your beat-making prowess. If you’re an old pro, you’ll want something that gives you total control, a program that lets you build beats from scratch.
If you’re a novice audio producer, though, you might want a library of samples and sounds to work with. Intuitive tools and a simple user interface won’t hurt either.
For most beatmakers, Soundtrap provides the broadest range of tools at an affordable price and within a beginner-friendly interface. It offers a wide range of tutorials and allows access to a sizable sound library.
On top of that, intuitive features that automatically keep instruments and samples in key ensure you create professional-sounding beats. Slightly more advanced users can use Magix Music Maker to connect and record MIDI instruments, which only expands the program’s creative capacity.
Other DAW’s like Reason and FL Studio come in as close seconds to Sountrap. They’re great for those who want a little more flexibility and perhaps a few advanced features. Ableton Live is better left to beatmakers with a bit of practice, who want total control over their creation. Serato excels with DJs.
If you’re taking our advice and going with Soundtrap, we doubt you’ll be disappointed. It’s a wonderful option for most would-be beat producers, and even those with a little experience will love its intuitive set-up.
Click the link to get started with Soundtrap right away! It’ll take you straight to the purchase screen so you can get started on your beat-making journey today.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.