A common search phrase for beginning desktop musicians would be “Free DAW” or “Download Free DAW”. Which is understandable because why pay for something you have just started getting into. What if you don’t like it, then you may have wasted $100 of dollars. I agree, when starting out, it is best to try different Free DAWs and get a feel of how Desk Top Music is made. All DAWs have their differences but they do share a common structure, they will all have a visual sequencing window scrolling from left to right.
Can you make professional sounding tracks with a Free DAW?
Yes and No, but I would steer towards No, especially if you are a starting out. These free DAWs may look pretty and give you the basic functions but will probably lack the functions required to polish up tracks. e.g. Compression, Eqing, Normalizing etc. Some may support VST instruments however they may have a hard time or even freeze up your computer when trying to process multiple instruments at the same time.
Is it worth investing in a DAW, even for a hobby?
Definitely yes, even for just a hobby you’ll want to make solid sounding tracks to show off to friends or upload to social media. Avoid getting bootlegged copies. I did that at first then found out that I was missing out on important updates for members. These updates consisted of plugins, instruments, effects and of course bug fixes. It is definitely worth paying a few hundred dollars to get lifetime updates and upgrades.
How about free VSTs?
You will get luckier finding decent free VSTs around the net however it is worth investing if you want professional instrument sounding VSTs. A good example is an electronic piano VST I often use called “Lounge Lizard”. This is an excellent alternative to a real electric piano. All you need is a MIDI controller and this VST running through a DAW to get amazing professional sounding keys. I actually already have a synthesizer keyboard, KORG Krome but I sometimes prefer the sounds through Lizard lounge. I have my Korg connected via Audio and MIDI at the same time, so I will sometimes just turn the volume knob down to zero and use it as a MIDI controller for the Lounge Lizard VST.