The freeware story doesn’t start and end in the studio. For the realm of the stage, there’s a similar deluge of free downloads that might just make the difference between a clunky performance and a night that your audience will never forget.
While we’re going to take it as read that you’re working around a computer-based setup, this guide offers up a delectable platter of free software (and free platform) gems.
From swift, flexible beat making, to instantaneous vocal-tuning and even a feature-packed, show-ready DAW, our list is aimed squarely at those questing to tighten up their live sound.
1. Akai MPC Beats Free
Not just an official, virtual reproduction of Akai’s legendary MPC beat-making gold-standard, but a robust performance DAW in its own right. MPC Beats contains a fully-featured sequencer, 80 effect plugins (compiled by Air), time-stretching, hardware integration and a whopping 2GB sound library. A beginner-friendly, ready-to-roll launchpad for live performance.
Though this feature-packed DAW could easily work as your new studio hub, its brisk sequencing and multi-touchscreen support means it’s a definite consideration for the live performer, too. Core mixing plugins aside, its RitMix Drum Machine is a mega tool for on-the-fly beat generation. If you’re tired of Ableton Live, take a stroll on the Soundbridge.
3. Serato DJ Lite
A fantastic way to enter into the DJ-ing universe if you’ve yet to dip your toe, Serato’s free version of their track-flipping benchmark platform allows you to stream, beat-match and manipulate a wide selection of tracks, as well as perform them to a virtual audience. This free incarnation is also perfectly comparable with many hardware controllers. You’ll be tempted to go Pro, trust us.
4. Harvest Mini
While the primary aim of Harvest is to conjure new melodic and beat-making ideas into your creative process, its randomisation options can also work as a superb starting point for an impromptu live improvisation. Its Rhythm Tap option splurges out a huge array of rhythmic patterns that can trigger off all kinds of jaw-dropping, jam-worthy deviations.
5. Melda MAutoPitch
Having a bit of a throaty off-day? Or perhaps you just want to smother your live voice with some effects or re-tuned harmonics. Melda’s MAutoPitch is a top class, and easy-to-use pitch corrector and vocal re-tuner. While it’s a tasty addition to your plugin arsenal, it’s certainly a pick for rapid stage-work as well.
6. YouTube Live
The undisputed king of online video sharing also sports perhaps the finest live music streaming platform. While we’re all hungry for actual live music to return, streaming a show via YouTube is an undeniably fantastic, free, way of getting your music heard, and your performance watched. 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 live music. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also sport live-streaming facilities, though choosing which to broadcast on might be a bit of a head-scratcher. The solution may lie in signing up to a multistreaming platform such as Restream. For no cost (aside from an email sign-up) your streams will be live-distributed to all selected platforms simultaneously. You can pre-record your shows and schedule them to stream at a certain point, and analyse the data across the platforms after, too.
If you want to get more pro and monetise your live performances, StageIt offers a cost-free way to host (and charge!) for your shows, via its bespoke monetisation system. The only downside is that you’ll need to persuade others to sign up to watch. It’s also worth mentioning Twitch.
Starting out as a gaming-oriented streaming platform, Twitch has grown into a densely packed hotbed of content creators, including live music performers. It’s also got a fairly generous affiliate program to help monetise your streams.