Garage Band is an excellent quality DAW that works perfectly for beginners and people who only want to use the basics of a digital audio workstation, so while it doesn’t have as many effects and functions as other DAWs have, it can be a very good tool for people that don’t really need a professional level of depth.
There is one little thing, though: you can only get Garage Band on Apple devices, so if you want to try it out on your Windows PC, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, that is why we are here, to help you find some fantastic alternatives that will allow you to get a very similar experience with the same quality and of course without paying at all!
Best Garage Band Alternatives
If you want to try out DAWs that share similarities with GarageBand, take a look at this list, you will find beginner-friendly software with great quality and a variety of features, and all of them are free, or at least a free version of a bigger more complete paid version.
Also, remember that this list is mostly focused on Windows since that is probably the reason why you are looking for an alternative to the already popular GarageBand.
This is one of the best options that can get you very similar features to GarageBand, as it has all of the essentials but it also gives you more options in the plugins and effects department so it’s a great option to get started with DAWs.
Cakewalk is also considered to be a great one due to being partially developed by Roland under the “Sonar” label, although it later went to BandLab who invested a bit more in the DAW.
Cakewalk will let you add most of the VSTs and plugins you can find online, and have unlimited tracks on your mix, and the best part of it all is that most of these features usually have a paywall, for example having more tracks, or more plugins, etc. Fortunately, Cakewalk proudly offers a very complete free version that will keep you satisfied.
If you are looking for something new to start editing and producing your music, you should give cakewalk a try, even if you are an experienced musician.
Audacity has been one of the most popular free DAWs available for some time now, but not because of a flashy stylish interface or a big amount of effects, the real magic about Audacity lies in its simplicity, accessibility, and intuitive UI that will make everything easy even for beginners.
You’ll be able to add an unlimited amount of tracks and modify them with a decent selection of effects so you can edit any type of audio you want, including music, podcasts, and more.
This is without a doubt one of the best DAWs if you want something simple but functional, however, do keep in mind that once you add an effect to a track, you won’t be able to edit it unless you undo and do it again, which can be a bit frustrating, so while Audacity can be great for specific things and straight to the point editing, you might want to upgrade to a more diverse DAW, but don’t forget about it, you might still have some uses for it, for example, it can run on almost any computer, so that is very useful.
Ableton is amazing in every aspect, and for many producers and artists, it’s their go-to DAW for making music at the professional level, right next to Pro Tools and Logic. You can get your hands on Ableton for free in two ways, the first is that you can create an account on the official Ableton site and download a free trial for the latest Ableton version. The other is that a lot of sound equipment comes with a code that you can use to get a full version of Ableton, the version we are going to talk about right now is the lite version, which is a toned-down version of the original.
By getting started with this version of Ableton you will get a very generous amount of sounds, clips, effects, and more at your disposal to get a feel for what it is to have a bigger DAW. Ableton will also give you a lot of presets that will help you experiment and learn how to play around with the tracks, effects, and mixing, so make the most out of those for your training grounds.
You will be able to get more plug-ins and effects, but if you are a beginner we recommend you play around with what you have for a while. Ableton can be great to use but it’s not as easy as Audacity, so take your time to learn and watch some YouTube videos if you lose your way around this DAW.
Akai MPC Beats
MPC Beats is another great underrated DAW, mostly because it has a lot of features that are often only found in fully-priced software, including multi-track recording, VST support, and more.
Another great aspect of this DAW is that you can download this software and run it as a plugin on another DAW. This is a great feature that makes MPC Beats great even if you already have a preferred digital audio workstation.
Also, as the name suggests, you’ll get the most out of this DAW by focusing on the beats, so you will enjoy everything from a wide variety of kits, plugins, and Maschine included to help you create the best grooves.
Studio One Prime
This is a great one for people learning the basics, it’s fun to get into and of course, it’s free!
One of the most important things, in the beginning, is to learn with a DAW that has a simple interface, you will eventually try out other more complicated software but if you get into a hard to learn hard to master DAW very early in your journey, you will have a hard time understanding the basic concepts of music production.
You won’t find Ohm Studio in many lists or recommendations but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Popularity isn’t synonymous with quality, and this DAW is proof of that, not only does it offer great quality editing and mixing functionalities that are often underrated, but it also offers a very useful function that’s perfect for musicians that work remotely.
This DAW has peer-to-peer linking that allows multiple people to access the mix and work on the same project in real time. This is an awesome solution to make the recording and production process a lot more natural, allowing constant communication between artists. Remote composing has been a thing for quite a while now and it only grew stronger after 2020, so it’s great to see that there are options that focus on this type of approach to music.
Ohm Studio also has a chat box so you can either use this or just help yourself with Discord or Skype while using this DAW.
If you were wondering how much it cost to have such useful software, we have great news, it’s free, so trust us when we say, it’s worth checking it out.
Tracktion Waveform Free
Waveform wasn’t free from the start, so the free version had a lot of speculation around it such as, what would they take away from the paid version and is it really worth getting.
They specifically stated that the Waveform Free would offer more than an “enthusiast producer will ever need”, and that is a big claim, but fortunately in many ways they have delivered and that is why this is on our list.
This version is great, but having a clear superior “Pro” version makes this free version a bit of a trial to get used to it and learn the basics. Thankfully you’ll be able to get unlimited tracks, add VSTs, and play with a lot of stock effects and synths that come with the software.
The biggest quality about this DAW is that it’s very intuitive, so you’ll be able to work on your music and access various menus without affecting your workflow or speed with complicated UI issues.
If the most important quality for you is how easy it is to use then you should take a look at SoundBridge due to its very minimalistic approach to its UI that doesn’t take away any of the essential features you need.
You’ll get sequencing, mixing, MIDI mapping, a RitMix drum machine, and more. Oh and if you don’t have a very powerful computer, you don’t need to worry, everything this DAW offers doesn’t have strict system requirements, including the third-party plugins that come with it.
if you are looking for straightforward editing and enjoy an open source software then this could be of interest to you, regardless if you are a musician, an audio engineer, or a content creator.
You can get a lot of plugins with this software, but it can get a bit too complicated so we suggest you watch any of the tutorials that you can easily find on YouTube.
Make sure you don’t skip this one when you’re trying out new things.
Similar to Audacity, this software is not a free version, free is all there is, and it’s also another great option for beginners, offering a similar simplicity to Fruity Loops.
You can use both VST and LADSPA plugins but the biggest downside is that you can’t record directly with the software, this means that you can use the MIDI input but you won’t be able to record, so it depends on what you are looking for as an artist.
Avid Pro Tools First
Pro Tools is one of the most used DAWs in the music industry so it’s not strange that they also decided to have a free version in order to get started.
This free version of Pro Tools will allow you to use one of the best in the market but without some features, such as having a limit of 16 tracks and 16 virtual instruments.
You’ll also have access to great MIDI editing tools, a decent 500MB library of samples, and some effects. So while it doesn’t offer the same amount of variety as its priced counterpart, it’s still a great way to get started and eventually reach a professional level of music production.
Tips to Get Started with a DAW
If you are reading this article, you may be a beginner trying to learn how to produce your own music on your computer, so you may need a few more tips in order to use any of these recommendations.
There are a few essential concepts that you need to be familiar with so you can begin trying these DAWs out without being too confused with their interface, This is important because if you don’t really know what’s happening you won’t be able to tell which one is better or which one you prefer.
So if you are getting started with a DAW similar to Garage Band, you should know a few things first:
This is where you will have your recorded audio of a specific instrument or sound, most of the time you’ll have an unlimited amount of tracks that you can have on a project but sometimes you will have a limit on trials and some free versions.
You can record audio for your tracks in two ways, you can record from MIDI, which would involve using digital sounds and Plugins with a MIDI controller or you can record an instrument through an interface.
DAWs come with their own set of effects, which include everything from equalizers, compressors, and limiters, to overdrives, reverb, and delay.
Effects are a very important part of music production since they will allow you to achieve a clear mix and let you experiment with unique sounds by also adding external effects with plug-ins.
If you are getting started with any of these DAWs we just recommended, we would suggest that you get familiar with EQs, compressors, and reverb, these are the main effects that you will need in almost every good mix, and luckily for you most DAWs offer good quality EQs, reverbs and compressors, so you can learn with those before getting another one for free or buying one.
This is where a lot of the fun happens, these will enhance your experience with more effects and virtual instruments that are separate from the DAW. A lot of the time these are digital versions of real instruments or effects, so explore online and find some that can give more variety to your music.
A Musical Instrument Digital Interface will allow you to establish communication between an electronic instrument and computers or other devices. The most common MIDI controllers are keyboards, which you can use to control sounds from your DAW.
There are a few types of MIDI controllers which tend to vary depending on the instrument they emulate, so it’s mostly about the way you play and how it feels to play, the sounds are completely up to the plug-ins and the DAWs so as long as you feel comfortable with something that suits your style of playing and genre then that’s perfect.
- Drum/Percussion Pad
- Mobile MIDI Controller
- Guitar and Wind MIDI Controller
This is as simple as the real-life mixer, which has faders to increase or decrease the volume.
There are many more concepts and features you’ll familiarize yourself with eventually, but with these, you can start experimenting and learning the basics. The best way to get started is, to begin with, a project from scratch and start with a beat or a melody, make sure you have the metronome playing so you can maintain the tempo.
After that just get creative and put things on top of each other, eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and know exactly where to look for a specific instrument or effect.
Is GarageBand Ever Going to Come Out for Windows?
You shouldn’t wait for it, first Apple has no plans to release a version of the DAW for Windows because it wouldn’t make sense for them as adversaries, and second, Apple has no reason to be competing on the same grounds as all the others DAWs for Windows, it’s almost a different thing.
GarageBand is a great DAW for beginners and it gets a lot of exposure and popularity due to its good reputation, but if you don’t have an Apple computer, you don’t need to worry now that you know of all the alternatives you can try.
The thing is that there is something for everyone out there so make sure you try them out and don’t go for a paid version until you are sure about the one you want. If you like GarageBand you are probably getting started so stick to the free DAWs, or get the free version of some more expensive ones.
And if you are considering Apple computers for your future projects, you can also think about taking the leap to Logic. Logic also has a free trial for you to get familiar with it before committing to the DAW.
We can guarantee that some of these are even better in some aspects than GarageBand so don’t get to attached to a specific name or brand, greatness is everywhere you just have to know where to look!