What is a good computer program to practice sound mixing?
I’m interested in trying out sound mixing but I don’t know if there is a cheap way to test it out. Are there any programs for students to use if they want to practice editing and mixing sound?
Good question. Sound mixing/editing is a good skill to have and once you get the hang of it is really fun. You can do fun stuff like create your own ring tones for your phone, create your own songs, or make sound tracks for your own videos and movies.
And you are in luck. There are a ton of really good software options out there. Many are free or have free basic versions with more full-featured pay options. Some are very easy to use with intuitive controls, and some are super complicated and are used by professionals.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have not used all of these and I am by no means a pro myself. However, I frequently use these programs to capture and edit audio, mostly for videos.
I would recommend you start with a basic, free program that you like to get used to the process. If you like it and find you are good at it, upgrade to a pay version and then graduate to the professional versions. Even if you have the money, I would not recommend buying a pro program right out of the box. Almost all of them have a steep learning curve and you may get discouraged. You can get amazing results out of the more basic programs. Some professional music editors use the basic ones even though they have access to whatever they want. Once you get the hang of one program, you can pretty easily learn others because the concepts are similar.
Here are some of the top programs you should look at:
- Audacity - Audacity is a great little program that is absolutely free. It's pretty intuitive and is a good one to get your feet wet with. Nice, clean interface so you don't get confused. I used this one a lot to capture sounds and do quick edits. Only bad thing is that it's a little limited in the audio formats it can eat and export.
- WavePad - This is a great, easy-to-use program that also has some more advanced features you can tap when you're ready for them. You can work with most of the major audio file formats (MP3, WAV, VOX, GSM, WMA, OGG, AAC, etc.), and the interface is nice and clean so you don't get lost. It comes in different versions from free to pro, which is nice because you can start with the free one and if you like it upgrade later to get more features without having to learn a whole new tool.
- FL Studio - When you're ready to step up your game, FL Studio is a good choice. This is much more full featured, professional digital audio editor tool. The interface is busy and can be a little overwhelming. There is not a free version.
- Ardour - This is another pro-level tool that works on both PC and Mac. I've not used it but it gets good reviews.
- Wavosour - Another great free program that fits between the most basic and more complex ones is Wavosour. I've not used it but people who have are impressed with its ease of use and power. Windows versions only, unfortunately. This is a good one to start with.
- Adobe Audition - This is a great, full-featured professional audio editor. I've used it but the learning curve is steep, as I've found with many Adobe products. Works on PCs and Macs and you can get it as part of Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription. They have a student discount. Lots of training videos on line, but I would wait before spending money on this until you get your feet wet on more basic tools.
- Sony Sound Forge - This is another full-featured, professional grade system. I've used this one and it is complicated to learn, but not impossible. Nice thing is it's pretty cheap (about $60).
- Steinberg Cubase - This is not one I've used but if you want a program that was designed for musicians, this is a good choice. Instead of including a gozillion tools you won't ever use, this software focuses on the ones that help you with your creativity. The interface is super cool, too. I think it's the best looking of them all.
- Acid Pro - This is another one I've used but it's not a good one to learn on. Wait until you've mastered the basics, but the interface is really good. It's supposed to be really good for making loops and connecting with instruments that have an electronic (MIDI) interface. This is not what I used it for but if you play an instrument this is a great option. Pricey though. Starts at about $150.
I would suggest you find one tool you like (free is best) and stick with that for a while until you get the hang of it. Don't jump from tool to tool because if you do that you'll never get comfortable or really good with one tool. If you find the free versions are not powerful enough, you can upgrade to a pay tool. Most have student or artist versions that have all the features, but are cheaper than the pro versions.
Good luck, Here is a site where you can check out reviews of some of the best software tools. https://beebom.com/best-audio-editing-software/
Matthew L. recommends the following next steps:
In terms of studio mixing, all the programs above are good choices. There are also some free software programs that are available when you purchase audio mixers. For example, Presonus digital mixers have a free digital audio workstation (DAW) you can download and use.
Another option, if you're a Mac user, is Garageband. Its interface is not really like other softwares - it's meant to be super basic - but it does have free audio clips you can use to play with and edit sounds. And if you use it and like it, you can upgrade to its big brother, Logic, which is unfortunately not free, but comes with an incredible collection of plugins and sounds for the price.
Between these options, and the ones mentioned previously, you should be able to get started fairly quickly. Good luck!