When many people think of music composition software, they think of expensive commercial packages only within the reach of professionals. In fact, though, these are more attainable than amateurs might think, as there are an infinite number of free tools that cover practically all parts of the music composing process, from basic audio editing to sequencing and synthesizing, to applying sound effects or subsequent mixing in direct. Here are 10 examples:

LMMS

Let’s start strong here. Linux Multimedia Studio (which is, rather paradoxically, multiplatform) is a multipurpose music composing suite that includes a synthesizer, sequencer, and tracker, and support for VST plugins and editing and recording of MIDI instruments in real time, not to mention its integrated drum machine, 64-channel mixer, or piano roll so you can manually edit each note. An unmissable all-in-one with a GNU license.

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Hydrogen

A pattern-based sequencer that functions as a drum machine by using samples in WAV, AU, AIFF, and FLAC format, with unlimited tracks and support for up to 192 beats per pattern. Hydrogen is the ideal drum machine tool to create loops and repeat sequences for your songs.

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MuseScore

MuseScore is one of the best freeware music notation programs out there. It lets you create, edit, and play all sorts of scores, as well as transcribe MusicXML or MIDI and export your creations in said formats. Besides working with scores in its own file format, it’s also possible to generate PDF, PNG, or SVG docs to print your scores.

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Mixxx

Composition isn’t everything, though, and occasionally a good post-processing tool comes in handy to mix beats while you’re playing your stuff live. Mixxx is a virtual mixing console for playing DJ, and can sync the tempo of two tracks, among many other tools, with effects that you can apply in real time.

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DarkWave Studio

If you’re not convinced by LMMS, there are many alternatives out there, like DarkWave Studio, a complete modular music composition workstation that includes a pattern editor, sequencer, and multitrack recorder compatible with instrument plugins and VST/VSTi effects. If offers native support for 64-bit operating systems and multicore processing, and also includes a large collection of integrated plugins, such as an arpeggio assistant, MIDI input and output in real time, and an 8-track stereo mixer.

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Audacity

Most secuencers and other music composition programs work using samples, and although normally they come with their own audio and waveform editors, it’s always helpful to have an external tool. Audacity is one of the best audio recorders and editors available and can work with OGG Vorbis, MP3, WAV, AIFF, AU, LOF, and WMP formats. It also includes loads of effects and modifiers as well as a powerful cut tool and multitrack editor.

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Famitracker

In the prehistory of audio editors, roundabout the 80s, trackers made the leap to fame: these used a system of timeline composing in several channels, with the oddity that each instrument was itself a sample integrated into a music file. In addition, instead of music notes trackers use hexadecimal characters. FamiTracker is one of the best representatives of this style, which allows you to make music, principally chiptunes—that is, the retro music style that is typical of classic consoles and is still so popular today.

Traverso DAW

An editor and recorder for non-linear audio processing and studio mastering. The most important features of Traverso are its control system, featuring simultaneous use of a mouse and keyboard, and its clear and direct interface, so it takes up very little space and is very light.

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Anvil Studio

A highly versatile MIDI recorder, composer, sequencer, and music player, which can function as a real-time track editor through its piano roll, where you can adjust notes manually. Anvil Studio also allows bidirectional score transcription, as well as the waveform digitalization of virtual instruments.  Includes an rhythm and drums track editor as well as loops and sound effects. Although exporting WAV files is limited in the free version, you can work with MIDI files with no restrictions.

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Music Editor Free

An alternative to the aforementioned Audacity, this program lets you record audio from all sorts of sources, and can also work with waveforms, allowing you to cut, copy, paste, erase, and insert sections. Includes several integrated tools for normalization, amplification, equalization, or ambient effects. Music Editor Free also includes its own CD track recorder.

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