I've found that lists of "best free music software" are almost exclusively focused on free daws or plugins because those categories are what most people are seeking. the unfortunate side effect of this is a lot of terrific standalone applications are rather difficult to discover. I wanted to highlight some of the free osx applications I use most in the hope that more producers take advantage of their great features. read about five of my favorites below & click the download button below each entry to try them for yourself!
paulstretch is a program by Paul Nasca capable of extreme sound stretching like this art piece that involved Beethoven's 9th Symphony stretched for 24 hours. almost any sound can be processed into a beautiful, haunting texture to be listened to on its own or to add ambience to a track. it's a process I relied on heavily while producing some of my first songs:
there are no shortage of granular stretching plugins, but what makes paulstretch remarkable is how smooth its output is & the fact that it can literally stretch audio for trillions of years in hyperstretch mode.
beyond this, I really like its process tab. the octave mixer, spread, & built-in compressor are particularly useful but make sure you play with the tonal/noise slider which can mix in the "white noise" artifacts of the stretch to taste.
I used to convert the .wav tracks I rendered out of ableton by importing them into itunes & selecting "make .mp3 version" on each one. obviously, this is not a workable system, especially if you want to convert more than a handful of tracks, & eventually I came around to look for a batch converter & that's how I came upon xACT.
xACT is fantastic for how many utilities it packs into its list of features. the ability to "delete original files after encode" & its fully fledged ID3 tag editor are my favorites, but on every tab you'll find something you'll need at one point or another that will make you glad you have this one-stop-shop among your mac's applications.
have you ever wanted to sample something you heard on online or off your computer's system sounds? soundflower is a virtual input & output that was initially created by cycling '74, the makers of MaxMSP. it's a handy tool you can use it to route audio across your computer so you can record between programs.
setting up soundflower is pretty easy as it just appears as a normal audio device after installation. all you need to do is set soundflower as your system's output & as your daw's input device. the only potential downside is that your speakers won't output audio (as it is being routed to soundflower) so monitor through your daw & make sure to switch back to your default output afterward. there are some workarounds for this, but I use it to capture sound rarely enough that I haven't found it worth setting up.
as a music producer, you're subject to the realities all digital media creatives face: the constraint of limited hard drive space. with the advantages of solid state drives outweighing their affordability, most laptops are equipped with insufficient storage for the multitude of projects that build up over time. you've almost certainly encountered the notorious "startup disk almost full".message in the midst of working on a track & found yourself diverged into a distracting disk cleanup. osx doesn't provide any good resource to find what's eating up your storage exactly, & that's where daisy disk comes into play.
daisy disk represents your files in an easy-to-navigate & gorgeous interface. as you browse, files & folders are organized by size so you can quickly hone in on the files that are eating up the most hard drive space.
daisy disk is not a free app, but its test drive mode provides unlimited browsing capability to see what's going on with your storage & that alone is extremely useful. if you shell out the $10 for the paid version, you get a lot more features that could prove important for your workflow so definitely check out the full version if you like what the trial offers.
if you dj with software you've probably used harmonic mixing to cleanly move between tracks. the same tool can be used in your daw to assemble a mix of songs if you can identify their key. save yourself the trouble by automating the process with software!
keyfinder is a simple application that identifies the keys of songs, just like dj software like traktor. if you have a lot of tracks you'll be mixing, you can run them through keyfinder & add the key to the name so you can have the key on hand when you work with it..