Free Beat Making Software for DJs and Producers on a Budget - Careers in Music
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If an 18-year-old can use GarageBand to produce a hit track for Kendrick Lamar, the rest of us can use free online beat making software to make dope music.

“Free” doesn’t always mean “crappy.”

I’m going to introduce you to three free online programs that may open up a new world for you.

In this discussion of the best beat making software that’s free, we’ll cover:

  • The benefits of using free beat making software
  • The best free online beat makers and how they work
  • Sampulator: a review
  • Splice’s Beat Maker: a review
  • Soundtrap: a review
  • How to become a Beat Maker and Music Producer

The Benefits of Using Free Beat Making Software

So the question here is: “Why not just buy some high-quality beat-making software? Why even mess around with online beat makers?”

Those are valid points.

If you have the money to spend on a beat-making program, feel free to get the best software you can. The problem is, many home studio Producers don’t have a ton of money, especially those who are just starting out.

So let me quickly point out some benefits of using an online beat maker:

  • They’re often free or very affordable.
  • You don’t need any equipment besides your computer (no need for an audio interface, DAW, or MIDI controller).
  • They’re very easy to use.
  • The beats you make are usually shareable.
  • You can easily collaborate with friends.

I’ve hand-picked three that meet most or all of the points on that list.

The Best Free Online Beat Makers and How They Work

I tested out three of the top free online beat makers: Sampulator, Splice, and Soundtrap (and you can listen to the beats I made with each). They all have their own pros and cons, which I’ll be listing under each heading.

Sampulator: A Review

Sampulator offers several really cool sounds that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear in a song featured on a top Spotify playlist.

You get a full drum kit, a few 808 sounds, some congas, and even a gunshot sound. Plus, you get keys, guitar, and a handful of samples, like people saying “Hey,” “Yeah,” and “Holdup.” And you can control all of these sounds with the keyboard on your computer.

On top of this, there’s a Sampulator shop with a bunch of free (and paid) sample packs you can download. Perfect if you want to produce a full track with your DAW.

How to use Sampulator:

  1. Hit “Shift” to record.
  2. Play a beat with your computer’s keyboard.
  3. Musical typing often has a lag, so when you’re done recording, you can move the parts you’ve played to your liking, snapping them to the grid as you would a MIDI note.
  4. The next time you hit “Shift,” it will record on a new track automatically.
  5. You can mute, solo, or delete a track by clicking the three dots on the right side of each track.
  6. You can change the BPM, time signature, or the number of bars from the right side of the screen.

Simple enough, right? Now here are some pros and cons of Sampulator:

Pros & Cons

  • Clean, easy to navigate design.
  • Samples are professional sounding.
  • Sampulator shop with free sample packs.
  • Can’t copy/paste or add notes.
  • Can’t move multiple items at once.
  • Can’t download your beat (but you can use Audacity to record the beat).

Listen to the beat I made with Sampulator.

Splice: A Review

Splice is a well-known name in the music software world, mostly because of their plugins. Their Beat Maker is the perfect addition to their offerings. Although it doesn’t allow musical typing, it’s super easy to add or remove sounds. You get the basic kick, snare, close/open hi-hat, one tom, and a couple other supplemental sounds.

Just a heads-up, you can make a beat for free, but to download it, you’ll need to become a subscriber (which is about $8 a month).

How to use Splice’s Beat Maker:

  1. Click a square to make the instrument on that line hit where you want it to.
  2. To delete an instrument hit, click the square again and it will disappear.
  3. Hit the spacebar to play your beat.

You can also add sounds by hitting the “+” at the bottom right. And you can listen and add to other Producers’ beats by choosing a person from the drop-down box at the top-right corner (underneath “Sign Up”). This will bring up the beat that person made, which you can then edit to your liking.

Pros & Cons

  • Out of the three beat makers on this list, Splice’s is the easiest to use.
  • Can hear and build off of other Producers’ beats.
  • Limited sounds.
  • Can’t download beat unless you pay to be a subscriber.
  • No musical typing available.

Listen to the beat I made with Splice’s Beat Maker.

Soundtrap: A Review

Soundtrap, like Splice, also has squares you click in order to initiate an instrument hit. But unlike Splice, Soundtrap has musical typing and has a bunch of different sounds to choose from — drum kits, guitars, synths, pianos, strings, pianos, and more. You can even record a live instrument and do a lot of things your DAW can do.

Most of the samples are for paid subscribers, but there are plenty of sounds available with a free account.

How to use Soundtrap:

  • Select your type of drum machine/kit.
  • Add instrument hits by clicking the corresponding squares or via musical typing.
  • Edit each instrument’s sound with reverb, pan, and volume.
  • Play your beat with the space bar.
  • Download your beat as an MP3 (WAVs available for paid accounts).

Pros & Cons

  • Easy to edit and arrange your beat.
  • Plenty of sounds to choose from.
  • Can record your own instrument.
  • Collaborate with others by clicking the icon showing the two people (right side of the screen).
  • Can’t download WAVs with a free account.
  • Shareable link lasts only 30 days before expiring.

Listen to the beat I made with Soundtrap:

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How to Become a Beat Maker and Music Producer

So as you can see, you don’t really need to spend any money to start making dope beats. You just need a computer and an internet connection. That’s it.

So now what? How do you start making good beats? You have the tools, but how do you know where to start?

Music is subjective, so your workflow is really up to you. But there are certain elements of a beat you should include:

  • Rhythm: drum kit, bass, supplemental percussion.
  • Music bed: chords, chord harmonies, extra musical sounds.
  • Melody: the main hook of the song, the melody people will remember from your song.
  • Song structure: transitions between verses, chorus, and maybe a bridge or tag.
  • Miscellaneous sounds: this could be a gunshot sound, a bell, a dog barking, or whatever spices up the song.
  • Contrast and surprise: you need ups and downs throughout the song, calm parts and energetic parts, higher frequency instruments and lower ones.

Now that we’ve got the main elements down, here are some basic tips for making the best beat possible:

  • Don’t make the beat too busy — someone may end up singing or rapping over it and things will get muddled.
  • Try starting with the basics — just lay down the kick and snare as a foundation, then build the beat, melody, and other instruments from there.
  • If you have a melody idea, start with that — build the beat and bassline underneath.

So if you’re looking to become a beat-making Producer, the first step is to make beats. Make a lot of beats. Practice, get better, hone your craft. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where other artists will want to work with you.

You should start by reaching out to Singers, Rappers, or Songwriters you know: see if they want to collaborate. For example, you make the beat, they add the lyrics and melody. You may not end up with a hit song on your first collab, but keep trying. You never know what will happen.

And they may be surprised you made such good music with a free online beat maker.

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