If you’re starting to think about recording your songs, you’ll need high-quality recording software. Here are our top picks.
At some stage, every musician thinks about getting their music recorded. These days, you don't need a studio to do that, just look for recording software that meets your needs.
The best recording software can record high quality, industry-standard audio, plus have no problem with multi-track sessions. Beyond that, there are a few core features that will be suited to the kind of music you make.
At the top of the list are DAWs, but that doesn't exclude audio editing software too. To help you choose, here is our list of the best recording software for musicians.
The best recording software for musicians lets you record and edit audio in a way that's easy and intuitive. It also has to be robust and reliable. Look for these core features when choosing recording software:
Going by this criteria, the most trusted and popular audio recording software is a DAW (or Digital Audio Workstation). They are feature-rich and just about cover every audio recording and editing function you could ever need to capture professional recordings of your music.
This list includes some of the top DAWs currently available, with the exception of one audio editing software. There are a couple of free options, while the remainder are paid. You can find out what the difference is by reading our article on Free vs. Paid DAWs.
It's also worth considering audio recording apps. In case you are not quite at the level where you need the extensive functions of a DAW, recording apps offer a cheaper alternative. In fact, some of the DAWs mentioned here have a companion app that offers a stripped-back and simplified version of its desktop software. Here are some of the best recording apps for Android worth checking out.
It's hard to go wrong when choosing from the top recording software available today. Just about every single one has the baseline features needed for professional audio recording. The difference usually comes down to set features that pivot the software toward a specific musical niche.
For example, Logic Pro X has an amazing library of plugins, synths, and samples perfect for electronic music or sound design. Alternatively, Ableton Live has a comprehensive live-looping interface that is suited to DJs.
Here is what you can expect from the best recording software available to musicians.
Pro Tools is often called the industry standard of recording software. It has no problem handling multi-track recording which is exactly what you need to capture anything from a four-piece rock band to a full orchestra. Additionally, the audio editing tools are quick to access and extremely precise.
While Pro Tools offers some of the best heavy-weight tools for recording, that doesn't make it fit for everyone. For a studio, Pro Tools is an essential piece of software, but for the growing number of bedroom producers out there, it can be too much.
Audio recording is definitely the strong suit of this recording software, so if you need to record digital instruments or work in MIDI, then you may want to consider other options.
Logic Pro X excels in electronic music production. It has a live looping feature, some of the best stock synthesizers, and it has a smart Drummer feature that can drop in a drum track when you don't have one to record.
With Logic, you can comfortably record electronic instruments, samples, and beats. Because of this, it's particularly well set up for bedroom producers who don't have a large studio to record in.
You can of course record audio tracks without a problem too. Logic has a feature called Track Stacks that lets you neatly put audio tracks into folders, keeping your session clean and tidy.
Comparing Logic with Pro Tools is an age-old battle that continues to this day. Some people argue that editing audio in Logic is less efficient than in Pro Tools because of how the editing tools are laid out. But of course, you can easily become proficient in either software given enough practice.
Logic Pro X is available exclusively for macOS computers, so if you use Windows you will have to look for another option.
GarageBand is another macOS software. In fact, it's really the younger sibling of Logic Pro X with many of the same features ported down over time. The best part of GarageBand is that it's free if you already own a MacBook or Apple computer.
For recording purposes, it's completely capable of doing the job. GarageBand comes with many of the same features as Logic, such as a sound library, digital instruments, samples, and synthesizers. Usually, these are scaled back and presented in a simplified version for beginners.
Regardless, it means you can still record beats or virtual instruments, not to mention live audio. With GarageBand, you won't get a full mixer to play with, but if you're new to recording audio then it's the basic recording process that you will be occupied with learning first.
There's no doubt that GarageBand is a great place to start if you're a beginner at recording music. In any case, it's hard to go past free recording software that has so much to offer.
Audacity is the only recording software on this list that isn't a DAW but an audio editor. It doesn't have support for live mixing, and real-time effects were only introduced in 2022, with limited options for native plugins.
Despite its status, Audacity has a dedicated community that enjoys using this free and open-source recording software. Audacity gives you a simple place to learn the basics of recording and editing, especially if you are new to music production.
It doesn't have support for MIDI, but you can do multi-track recording. And though it's not particularly well-designed to handle tons of tracks in one session, this likely isn't your goal as a beginner.
Instead, you might want to get familiar with recording a single instrument at a time, and get good at editing and re-recording individual tracks. The great thing about Audacity is that it supports high-quality audio, which means you are fully capable of producing polished recordings.
Having been around for decades and still going strong, Audacity is a stepping stone into the world of professional recording software. And since it's completely free and compatible with both Mac and Windows, it's not one to dismiss.
Ableton Live is well-loved by its strong community of users, especially by musicians who use samples or plugin effects live during performances. This makes sense given the name.
When it comes to recording, it has the basics well covered. Where it gets interesting is the ability to record and play back your audio in a non-linear arrangement window, as well as the traditional linear timeline. Ableton Live has a fantastic workflow that's flexible enough to suit the way you want to make music.
The vertical arrangement view really lets you experiment with your music as you record, giving you the option to listen to your audio on loop (fitting neatly with the time signature), and layering it with other elements by simply turning them on and off. You can even record the output directly into the timeline, as you play it in real-time.
A robust selection of built-in audio effects means that moving between recording, and manipulating your sound, is just as fluid too. The result is: you get to focus on capturing your music in the moment.
Ableton Live has always been cross-platform and will work on both Windows and Mac computers.
As a musician, you have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to the best recording software. Each DAW has its own merits, so look for the one that is most suited to the kind of music you make. And if the price is a key deciding factor, then don't go past Audacity, one of the top audio editors out there.
Whichever recording software you choose, you can be assured that it has the features you need to capture high-quality audio. Whether you are starting with a single instrument, or trying your hand at multi-track recording, one of these great software will have you covered.
Garling has a Master's degree in Music and over a decade of experience using creative technologies. In particular, she loves writing about music production, film, and DIY electronics. Outside of writing, you will find her taking photos or editing audio.