Over the last decade, the world of music production has been revolutionized by the ever-increasing capabilities of mobile devices. Things that were available only in professional recording studios are now literally at your fingertips, often for free, resulting in a plethora of options for music producers of all levels.
Choosing the right music-making app will have a drastic impact on your workflow, unleashing your creativity and allowing you to produce and record anytime, anywhere. So today, we'll take a look at some of the best apps for music productions: some of these apps are focused on beat making, others on recording sounds, and others offer a portable DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that can help you sketch out entire songs on the go.
Let’s dive in!
The Best Music-Making Apps for Android & iOS (Free & Paid)
For this article, I focused on standalone music production apps, leaving aside instruments and effects or apps that let you control desktop DAWs through your smartphone. We might cover other music-making apps in the future, but for now, I wanted to offer an overview of portable recording studios that can help you bring your ideas to life on their own.
Here you'll find free music production apps and paid apps available on Apple, Android, or both operative systems. I'm a big advocate of free software to create music, as I believe everyone should be able to get a free app to express their creativity, so I included a few lesser-known (but high-quality) free apps to make your own music.
Great for: An exceptional tool for music creation on Apple devices, completely free and with endless options to customize and edit audio.
If you're an iOS user, you might find in GarageBand the free music production software you'll need to produce and record music. Since its inception, GarageBand has been one of the most popular free music-making software because of its versatility, extensive library, and professional effects that empower users to create professional music on all Apple devices.
Some of GarageBand's best features include multitracking up to 32 tracks, compatibility with audio interfaces to record analog instruments, a wide array of synthesizers powered by the iconic Alchemy engine, and professional effects to expand your sonic palette.
Music production with GarageBand is intuitive and fun, so it's an excellent free music-making software for both beginners and expert music producers looking for a tool to sketch their ideas on the go.
OS: iOS / Android
Price: $ 14.99
Great for: One of the most all-inclusive music production apps, with endless creative tools and all the features needed to complete an entire song. FL Studio Mobile offers an excellent user interface to musicians of all levels and styles.
My personal favorite, FL Studio Mobile is the mobile version of the legendary FL Studio, used by electronic music producers to create worldwide hits. In a market where iOS overshadows the competition, the multi-OS FL Studio Mobile is one of the finest Android music-making apps you can get.
What I love about it is that FL Studio Mobile offers plenty of features included in its desktop version, but with upgraded accessibility and simpler workflow, making it the perfect app not only to sketch out ideas but also to make a song from start to end.
In this app, you'll find Image-Line's iconic piano roll and step sequencer, audio recording, and exceptional MIDI functionalities. Plus, the professional built-in effects will allow you to mix your audio tracks professionally before exporting them in your format of choice.
Price: $ 5.99
Great for: Not just a beat-making app, Note can help you sketch out melodies in seconds, thanks to a fluid interface and the powerful features designed for Ableton Live.
When it came out in 2022, Ableton Note caused quite a stir in the music industry. Based on Ableton Live, one if not the most popular DAW globally, Note is a minimalist music-making app that allows you to create beats, melodies, and loops on the go.
Despite being extremely intuitive, Ableton Note makes the most of Live's advanced features and focuses on delivering an effective and simplified workflow to music producers. The result is the perfect app for the restless music maker who always needs tools to record ideas at their fingertips.
The great thing about Note is that it’s interconnected to Ableton Live, meaning you can seamlessly transfer your ideas from Note to Live to finalize your drafts. Right now, Note is only available to iOS devices, with plans to expand to Android in the near future.
Price: $ 26.99
Great for: One of the best beat-making apps, Beatmaker 3 lets you create beats in a flash, with plenty of free sounds to enhance the music creation process.
While its name suggests that this might be a tool designed with hip-hop and electronic producers in mind, Beatmaker III is a fantastic, all-around music production tool that gives users plenty of options to customize and finalize every aspect of a song.
Beatmaker III is MIDI compatible, comes with a built-in 128 instruments library, and allows you to bring in all your AUv3 and IAA plugins to further expand your sound. All in all, this is an excellent solution for making music on iOS devices.
OS: iOS / Android
Price: $ 9.99
Great for: Caustic is a great option for artists looking to craft interesting sounds and their unique sonic palette, though the learning curve is a bit steeper than with other music apps.
Drawing inspiration from rack-mount synthesizers, Caustic is the perfect solution for the music producer who wants to have complete control over their sound.
Thanks to a skeuomorphic workflow based on digital cables and dials, you’ll be able to craft your unique sound using 14 popular machines, from analog subtractive synthesizers to harmonic vocoders and drum machines.
Caustic is an excellent solution for producers who want to get their hands dirty and design their signature sound from scratch. However, for those looking for a simple interface to make beats in minutes, this might not be the best music-making app.
OS: iOS / Android
Great for: Artists looking for an intuitive beat maker and hip-hop producer pads will love Groovepad. DJs and electronic producers will love the drum machine but might frown at the lack of personalization options.
Perhaps one of the most intuitive music production apps, Groovepad offers an extensive library and some basic effects to create tracks from scratch, live loops, and the Beat School video tutorials to help you create your own beats. Not bad for a free music-making software!
Groovepad is designed with DJs and electronic music producers in mind, and while it makes the workflow extremely intuitive, chances are you won't be able to make a whole track on it due to its limited effects and standard sound bank.
The app lacks and personalization features needed to create a unique sound signature, yet it’s a perfect free music production software for sketching ideas or sharing music drafts with other creators.
OS: iOS / Android
Price: $ 14.99
Great for: Producers who want to explore the great sound of synths that made the history of electronic music. Available on both Apple Store and Google Play.
I’m actually a huge Roland fan and have a couple of their analog synths in my studio; however, that’s nothing compared to the exceptional collection of Roland sounds included in the Zenbeats app.
With over 14,000-plus presets, including the legendary JUNO and JUPITER synthesizers (powered by the cutting-edge synth engine ZC1), Zenbeats is a professional powerhouse that allows you to create your sound using professional instruments and a straightforward workflow. From audio editing to beat-making and mixing audio, the Zenbeats interface will give you everything you need to bring to life finished tracks.
Price: free version + multiple paid plans
Great for: Excellent for beat makers and for those constantly collaborating with other musicians, Soundtrap has a fluid user interface that allows creating great music in just a few minutes.
Powered by Spotify, Soundtrap is another great app for making music on the fly. The most exciting features included in this free music maker include the built-in vocal tuning by Antares (a must-have for singers these days), seamlessly sharing tracks with other artists or across multiple devices, intuitive beat-making, and automation to craft a professional sound.
The real-time collaboration option opens up plenty of opportunities for artists working together on creative projects: you can update and comment on tracks, share ideas, and implement them in seconds through any device.
OS: iOS / Android
Great for: Producers who want the power of a professional DAW without spending a dime. It might not be as intuitive or automated as other options, but this free music-making software will transform your Android phone into a recording studio.
How can you not love BandLab? It's a free music-making software and offers everything an artist needs to record, mix, master, and even release music professionally. It's an all-in-one solution for the creative person who doesn't want to use dozens of software and services to get their music out there.
Speaking of music production, the BandLab app comes packed with 200 built-in instruments, dozen audio effects, plenty of royalty-free music, samples, loops, and a professional interface that's in no way inferior to more expensive DAWs.
Whether you're new to music production or simply looking for a new all-around solution to your artistic endeavor, BandLab is one of the best options to take your music career to the next level. Plus, it's one of the best solutions for Windows users looking for a free DAW that has everything they need to release high-quality music.
Price: $ 3.49
Great for: Recording high-quality audio easily, thanks to a single window interface and basic interface that encourages capturing every idea on the fly.
Sometimes, all we need is a basic recorder to capture and export our ideas. If that sounds familiar to you, I'd recommend the J4T Multitrack Recorder: a compact 4-track recorder for Android users with basic audio editing features, a straightforward interface, and zero latency for multitrack recording.
The professional compressor is great for mixing tracks and creating a balanced sound, while listening in playback allows you to combine multiple recordings before exporting in any format you like.
Ultimately, the J4T Multitrack Recorder is one of the best Android music-making apps for anyone who simply wants to record music without delving into the intricacies of modern music-making apps.
I hope this guide will help you choose an app for making music that'll suit your needs. The good thing about these apps is that they’re often inexpensive, meaning you’ll be able to switch from one to the other without huge financial losses (unlike with desktop DAWs, for instance).
Just a few final tips before we conclude. My first recommendation is to always look for what other artists in your music field use to create their music; for instance, electronic music producers should definitely look into FL Studio Mobile, as many successful artists use it to sketch out their hits.
Also, take into account your creative workflow. Do you use a MIDI control and plenty of MIDI tracks? Do you need a pattern editor or sequence editor to make adjustments to your tracks? Consider all these options before choosing your music app, and look into the specs of each one to ensure you find one that’s in line with your workflow.
Finally, base your decision on your actual needs. Some of these music-making software offer almost as much as a desktop DAW, but if you're looking for an intuitive tool to sketch out ideas on the go, you should get a basic app that offers precisely that. Having too many options might have a negative impact on your creativity, so choose wisely, and most of all, have fun!