From trap and techno to house and hip hop, electronic music production and beat-making software have changed a lot since the heyday of hardware samplers and analog synths. In today’s computer-powered era, the best beat-making software makes it easier than ever for producers and musicians to tap into their inspiration and push the bounds of their creativity regardless of budget or skill level. Whether you’re an experienced beat maker looking for a new go-to instrument that seamlessly integrates hardware and software, an existing musician looking to branch out into different genres, or a beginner looking to dive into the world of beat making, this definitive list of the best beat-making software is a great place to start.

Best Overall: Native Instruments Maschine
Best for Hip Hop and Rap: Ableton Live
Best for Beginners: Image Line FL Studio
Best for Windows: Bitwig
Best Free: Apple GarageBand

How We Picked the Best Beat-Making Software

There are plenty of great beat making and music production software options currently on the market, so we carefully narrowed down this list using a few key criteria.

Versatility: At the end of the day, beat-making software is an artistic tool, and the most versatile artistic tools are always the most useful. We took care to pick software that provides users with large libraries of instruments, samples, and other sounds along with robust sound-editing tools to ensure the most creative freedom possible.

Compatibility: System and hardware compatibility are notoriously difficult to maintain as computers age, and we did our best to include software that works on a range of systems at various versions. Please compare your system’s specs with the software requirements listed before making a decision.

User-Friendliness: Every DAW and beat-making program has a learning curve, and we made sure to include products that will satisfy the immediate needs of advanced users and beginners alike. With a little bit of time and practice, anyone can master the software on this list.

Price: Beat-making software comes at a wide spectrum of cost, and this list covers options that range from free to roughly $800. Many of the products on this list are available in a number of price tiers and versions, each including a different number of features.

Best Beat-Making Software: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Native Instruments Maschine

All-in-One Option. Native Instruments

Why It Made The Cut: Maschine is a cutting-edge combination of hardware and software that puts an entire beat-making sound library at your fingertips.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements:
     Mac: macOS 10.14 or later
     Windows: Windows 10 & 11
     RAM: 16 GB minimum
     Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format: VST, AU

Pros:
— Unique combination of cutting-edge beat-making hardware and software
— Integrated 24-bit/96 kHz audio interface with line and headphone outputs
— Huge sound library and intuitive controls for quick creative workflow

Cons:
— Software element isn’t a full-featured digital audio workstation
— Library and sound expansion packs require additional purchase
— Sampling workflow is a bit clunky

Native Instruments Maschine offers musicians, producers, and beatmakers an entire integrated beat production system built from a combination of software and hardware, winning it our pick for the best beat-making software overall. Unlike the other picks on this list, Maschine is more of an all-in-one musical instrument than a strict piece of recording or beat-making software, with a workflow that's tailored for tapping into users’ creativity and expediting the actual beat-making process.

The centerpiece of the Maschine system is an eye-catching spaceship of a hardware controller embellished with two high-res screens, 16 touch-sensitive pads, and a variety of buttons and knobs that give users full control of the included 8-gigabyte library of drums, synthesizers, and other cutting-edge sounds. An integrated 24-bit/96 kHz audio interface also allows for high-resolution recording of microphones, bass, and guitar as well as high-quality monitoring, making the system a great choice for users who are trying to streamline their setup. 

While Maschine is a great option for pure beat making, its software component isn’t as suitable for production of full songs as other feature-rich DAWs like Ableton Live. Maschine and the Native Instruments ecosystem are also relatively pricey to enter, thanks to their fee-based sound library and expansion pack upgrades that may be financially inaccessible to some users.

Best for Hip Hop and Rap: Ableton Live

Huge Library of Sounds. Ableton Live

Why It Made The Cut: Ableton Live is a full digital audio workstation complete with audio recording, mixing, and live performance capabilities packaged alongside a flexible suite of sound sculpting tools.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements:
     Mac: macOS 10.13 to 12
     Windows: Windows 10
     RAM: 8 GB minimum
     Processor: Intel, AMD, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format:
     Mac: 64-bit VST2, VST3, AU
     Windows: 64-bit VST2, VST3

Pros:
— Best-in-class audio slicing and warping tools
— Lightning-fast workflow for quick beat production
— Newly introduced pro audio mixing tools including comping

Cons:
— User interface has a bland, outdated appearance
— Full-suite edition is expensive
— No free upgrades between editions

Ableton Live has long been some of the best beat-making software for producing hip hop, rap, and electronic music, thanks to its fast creativity-focused workflow and intuitive live performance tools. It’s available in Lite, Standard, and Suite editions, each of which include a versatile library of roughly 1,500, 1,800, and 5,000 sounds respectively. Live 11, the latest version of the software, offers producers and beat makers expanded audio editing tools like take comping and a new effect-stacking system. This adds to the software’s existing one-of-a-kind pitch shifting and sample-slicing tools to encourage experimentation and further streamline the creative process. It’s also designed to work seamlessly with Ableton’s Push 2 Controller to allow even easier sample chopping and beat creation.

Ableton Live Lite edition is relatively affordable, making it a good choice for beginning producers and other beat makers who want to get familiar with the software without spending a fortune. Users who choose to take the plunge on the full Suite edition will have to spend just under $800, making it one of the most expensive beat-making software options out there. Also, while the sound-shaping tools and huge library of sounds may justify this price tag, it’s unfortunate that Ableton doesn’t include free upgrades to new versions as a part of that cost.

Best for Beginners: Image Line FL Studio

User-Friendly. Image-Line

Why It Made The Cut: FL Studio’s streamlined sequencer and piano roll are some of the best in the industry for producing beats and electronic music thanks to their straightforward and user-friendly design.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
System Requirements
     Mac: macOS 10.13.6 or later
     Windows: Windows 8.1, 10, 11, or later
     RAM: 4 GB minimum
     Processor: Intel, AMD, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format:
     Mac: 64-bit VST & VST2, VST3, 64-bit AU, FL Studio proprietary
     Windows: 32-bit and 64-bit VST & VST2, VST3, FL Studio proprietary

Pros:
Relatively affordable when stacked up against other beat making software
Unique step-based grid interface offers a simple, intuitive workflow
Free lifetime upgrades

Cons:
— Non-traditional design limits transfer of skills to other software
— Larger, more involved sessions are difficult to keep organized
— Audio recording and editing features are limited

Since its introduction as a MIDI-based sequencer in 1998, FL Studio has persisted as some of the best beat-making software for beginners thanks to its uniquely colorful and creativity-inspiring interface that encourages experimentation and sequence-based composition. It’s available in a range of editions that cost between $100 and $500, making it some of the most affordable beat-making software on the market, with price tiers set apart by varying degrees of audio editing capability and plug-in availability. The same features that make FL Studio a strong choice for beginning producers may also appeal to experienced users, particularly its grid-based workflow that focuses on constructing songs beat-by-beat and section-by-section. A range of automation tools and some newly introduced audio editing features also make it a viable option for more traditional song production, though its audio features aren’t quite as fleshed-out as those found in classic DAWs like Ableton Live.

Unlike many competing DAWs — some of which are more expensive — FL Studio continues to offer users free lifetime upgrades to its newest version whenever available. This makes it a no-brainer choice for beginning producers who want to work free of the compatibility and update worries that frequently bog down studios as time passes and software develops. It should be noted that larger song projects and session files can easily get out of hand and become disorganized within FL Studio’s interface, and the software’s unique workflow and design stand apart to such an extent that some of the skills aren’t transferable to other DAWs. If you’re just getting started you’ll have a bit more learning to do if and when you pivot to another beat making or recording program, but on the other hand, FL Studio will have you making beats quicker than any other piece of software on this list.

Best for Windows: Bitwig

Allow for Cross-System Collaboration. Bitwig

Why It Made The Cut: Bitwig’s unique modular design and cross-platform compatibility put full control in the hands of its users, making it a fantastic option for collaborative, open-ended beat making and song production.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux
System Requirements:
     Mac: macOS 10.14 or later
     Windows: Windows 7, 8, 10, 11
     Linux: Ubuntu 20.04 or later
     RAM: 4 GB minimum
     Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon, AMD, dual-core x86
Plugin Format: 32-bit and 64-bit VST 2.4, VST3; CLAP (beta)

Pros:
Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems
Creativity-centric, modular workflow with an emphasis on sound manipulation
Priced affordably compared to other beat making software

Cons:
Relatively small sound library compared to competitors
Multi-track audio recording features still behind the curve
Newer, smaller community offers slightly less support than others

Despite being relatively new to the music production world, Bitwig has already established a loyal user base and a reputation for being some of the best beat-making software for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. Its unique cross-platform design and fun, creativity-centric workflow make it one of the most flexible DAWs for electronic music production, particularly in cases where artists collaborate remotely or on different computers. In fact, since its introduction in 2009, Bitwig has been consistently developed with an emphasis on maximizing compatibility and being flexible for its users, which is an unusual breath of fresh air in the software world. Aside from running on a wide range of operating systems, it supports 32-bit plug-ins natively without the need for bridge software, and its developer is currently working on a new open-source plugin format called CLAP that aims to revolutionize plug-in organization, modulation, and CPU processing.

Bitwig is hard to pass up if you’re looking to future-proof your workflow and enjoy a high level of creative flexibility while making beats, but it may be slightly harder to find tutorials and other community support due to it having a smaller user base than older DAWs like FL Studio and Ableton. Bitwig is also priced very fairly at around half the cost of Ableton Live Suite, but it includes a much smaller sound library than Ableton, requiring users to do more manual sound manipulation to achieve a variety of sounds. Its multi-track audio recording and editing workflow is also slightly clunky and unconventional despite being manageable, but if you’re mainly sticking to making beats, sampling, or chopping audio, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Best Free: Apple GarageBand

Simple to Use. Apple

Why It Made The Cut: GarageBand is still one of the best free programs for recording music and making beats thanks to its simple interface, speedy workflow, and well-curated library of samples and instruments.

Specs:
System Compatibility: Mac
System Requirements
     RAM: 4 GB minimum
     Processor: Intel, Apple Silicon
Plugin Format: AU

Pros:
— Large library of software instruments includes drum sounds
— Very simple and intuitive workflow
—Available at no cost for Mac and iOS users

Cons:
— No Windows or Linux version; Apple-only product
— Lacks the advanced functionality and flexibility of other DAWs
—Audio sample rate is locked at 44.1 kHz

If you’re looking to produce beats on a budget, Apple GarageBand is still one of the best free beat-making software options currently available thanks to its snappy, intuitive interface and huge library of high-quality sounds. While it’s not as capable at pulling off advanced audio editing or recording functions as more professional paid options, GarageBand still makes it incredibly easy to sketch and flesh out musical ideas with little effort, making it an ideal tool for developing beats, melodies, and arrangements.

Though it’s not strictly a beat-making program, GarageBand hosts a bunch of unique tools and instruments that are particularly useful for making beats, including an automated Drummer that covers a variety of musical styles and an advanced additive synth called Alchemy that offers a range of sounds and sample manipulation functions. Unlike strict beat-making programs like Native Instruments Maschine, GarageBand also offers audio recording and editing features that make it useful for producing full songs as well.

Despite being free, GarageBand is limited to Mac and iOS devices, which poses a built-in cost if you’re not currently an Apple user. Unfortunately, the beat-making capabilities and flexibility of most free Windows-compatible alternatives like Audacity and Magix Music Maker pale in comparison to that of GarageBand, which is why they didn’t make this list. If you do end up going with GarageBand for making beats, you’ll also have to bear in mind that its sample rate is locked to a CD-quality resolution of 44.1 kHz, which is completely usable but below pro industry standards.

Things to Consider Before Buying Beat-Making Software

Beats, Songs, or Both: Though they’re definitely related to one another, beat making and songwriting are slightly different processes. Certain beat-making software, like Native Instruments Maschine, is more precisely tailored for nuts-and-bolts beat assembly through performance, sequencing, and sample manipulation. Other software, like Ableton Live, offers similar functionality along with audio comping, recording, and arranging functions that are better suited for the assembly of entire songs. While all of the software on this list can ultimately be used to make beats, the creative context in which you’ll be working is a major factor to consider when making a specific selection.

Hardware: Beat-making software and beat-making hardware go hand in hand, and the best hardware controllers allow musicians to physically perform and edit their beats while streamlining their workflow. If you’re considering using a hardware controller to compose and record your beats, an ecosystem where hardware and software are developed simultaneously like Native Instruments Maschine or the Ableton Live Push 2 Controller will give you the best results available. All of the other software picks on this list are also designed to work with hardware controllers, but you’ll have to do a bit of research to ensure that your picks will play well together.

FAQs

Q: What is the easiest program to make beats with?

FL Studio is arguably the easiest program to make beats with thanks to its unique and intuitive sequencer and piano roll that can be operated with just a few clicks. A large number of included demo projects also provides users a crash course on all the ins and outs of FL Studio’s great automation capabilities.

Q: What software do producers use to make beats?

Producers use a variety of digital audio workstations, or DAWs, to make beats. We’ve included all of the most widely-used DAWs on our list, including FL Studio, Ableton Live, Native Instruments Maschine, and Apple GarageBand.

Q: Is there any good, free beat-making software?

For our money, Apple GarageBand is some of the best free beat-making software currently available. Its abilities go far beyond simple beat making, and it grants users a diverse toolbox for music production and recording. Unfortunately, despite being free, you’ll need a Mac or an iOS device to use it.

Q: How much does FL Studio cost?

FL Studio currently costs roughly $100 for its entry-level tier and $500 for its all-in producer package, with two intermediate-priced tiers in between.

Q: What software do I need to create beats?

To create beats, you’ll need a digital audio workstation, otherwise known as a DAW. Some DAWs specialize in beat making tools, while others offer a more generalized toolset for simple audio editing. If you’re just getting started, FL Studio or a free program like Apple GarageBand are your best bet for entering the world of beat making.

Q: What software do professional rappers use to make beats?

While many professional rappers use software like Native Instruments Maschine, Ableton Live, and Apple Logic Pro to make beats, plenty of serious artists have also produced music using free software like Apple GarageBand. As in most creative pursuits, while more advanced or expensive software can offer a wider palette of sounds and tools to use, the actual software is less important than how you actually use it.

Q: How can beginners start making beats?

Beginners can start making beats by checking out beginner-friendly software like Image Line FL Studio or Apple GarageBand as well as watching video tutorials by other artists. If you’re just starting out, choosing easy-to-use software will encourage experimentation and allow you to channel your creativity to great effect with little effort.

Final Thoughts

As a strict beat-making system, Native Instruments Maschine takes the cake for best beat-making software overall thanks to its unique combination of hardware and software and incredible sonic flexibility. If you’re looking for a more traditional DAW that’s appropriate for beat making as well as full song production, Ableton Live is a fantastic choice, particularly for producing hip hop, rap, and other electronic music. Image Line FL Studio is a simple and easy-to-use beat-making program for beginners with a unique and intuitive sequencer, while Apple GarageBand is similarly easy to use for free at the cost of some flexibility and EDM-specific features. Finally, if you’re running a Windows or Linux machine or just want to stay on the cutting edge of electronic music production, Bitwig is a relatively affordable new option that aims to maximize creative flexibility and technical compatibility for its users far into the future.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post. 


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