The story of free software does not begin and end in the studio. For the realm of the stage, there’s a similar deluge of free downloads that just might be the difference between an awkward performance and a night your audience will never forget.
While we’ll take it for granted that you’re working around a computer setup, this guide offers a delicious platter of freeware (and freeware) gems.
From fast, flexible beat-making to instant vocal tuning and even a feature-rich, show-ready DAW, our list is aimed squarely at those looking to enhance their live sound.
1. Akai MPC beats for free
Not just an official virtual reproduction of Akai’s legendary gold standard MPC, but a robust performance DAW in its own right. MPC Beats contains a comprehensive sequencer, 80 effect plugins (compiled by Air), time stretching, hardware integration and a huge 2GB sound library. live performance.
2. Sound Bridge
While this feature-rich DAW can easily function as your new studio hub, its fast sequencing and multi-touchscreen support mean it’s also a definite consideration for the live performer. Basic mixing plugins aside, its RitMix Drum Machine is a mega tool for on-the-fly beat generation. If you’ve had enough of Ableton Live, take a walk on the Soundbridge.
3. Serato DJ Lite
A fantastic way to get into the DJ-ing world if you haven’t dipped your toe yet, Serato’s free version of their track-flip benchmark platform lets you stream, beat and manipulate a wide selection of tracks, as well as perform them in front of a virtual audience. This free incarnation is also perfectly comparable to many hardware controllers. You’ll be tempted to go Pro, trust us.
While Harvest’s main purpose is to conjure up new melodic and beat-making ideas in your creative process, its randomization options can also be a superb starting point for impromptu live improvisation. Its Rhythm Tap option offers a huge range of rhythmic patterns that can unleash all sorts of jaw-dropping, jam-worthy diversions.
5. Melda MAutoPitch
Got a little sore throat? Or maybe you just want to muffle your live vocals with retuned effects or harmonics. Melda’s MAutoPitch is a first-class, easy-to-use pitch corrector and vocal retuner. While it’s a tasty addition to your plugin arsenal, it’s definitely also a choice for quick scene work.
6. YouTube Live
The undisputed king of online video sharing also sports perhaps the best live music streaming platform. When we’re all hungry for real live music to come back, streaming a show via YouTube is an undeniably fantastic and free way to get your music heard and watch your performance. You’ll need to promote it of course – but to paraphrase Kevin Costner – if you build it, they will come.
YouTube isn’t the only free way to stream your music live. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also offer live streaming facilities, although choosing which one to stream on can be a bit of a headache. The solution may lie in signing up to a multi-streaming platform such as Restream. At no cost (apart from an email sign-up), your streams will be delivered live to all selected platforms simultaneously. You can pre-record your shows and schedule them to air at a certain time, and analyze the data across platforms afterwards as well.
If you want to go more pro and monetize your live performances, StageIt offers a free way to host (and charge for!) your shows, through its bespoke monetization system. The only downside is that you’ll have to persuade others to sign up to watch. It’s also worth mentioning Twitch.
Originally a gaming-focused streaming platform, Twitch has become a densely populated hotbed of content creators, including live music artists. It also has a pretty generous affiliate program to help you monetize your streams.