5 GarageBand Alternatives For Windows (That Don’t Suck)

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  • GarageBand is one of the most respected free DAWs out there.
  • What can you do if you’re running Windows and want GarageBand?
  • Here are 5 of the best free GarageBand alternatives (that are better than Audacity).

GarageBand is one of the most recognized names when it comes to free DAWs or ‘Digital Audio Workstations’. One of the main reasons for this is obvious – it’s totally free!

But really the overall success of GarageBand is down to its inclusion of instruments, editing tools, native plugins, and a whole host of other ‘semi-professional’ processing tools like compressors and EQs.

But unfortunately, GarageBand is not available for Windows.

Officially, GarageBand is not supported for Windows. But some still persist with dodgy solutions at the risk of being phished or infected with malware.

Thankfully, there are many free alternatives you can download with even greater capabilities, offered by trusted companies.

So, Can You Get GarageBand On Windows?

As GarageBand is developed by Apple, you are not going to find a version for PC/Windows. There are some websites around that “promise” to make this dream a reality but we would advise staying well away from them for security reasons.

What Are The Best Free GarageBand Alternatives For PC?

There are quite a lot of free alternatives available for people looking to produce, record and edit audio using a Windows system.

One of the best routes to take is the path of the ‘lite’ DAW, which is a reduced version of a popular DAW like Ableton Live or FL Studio. But there are also full-featured (and FREE) solutions by other publishers that are well worth checking out.

The 5 best (and free) GarageBand alternatives for Windows in 2020 are:

  1. Cakewalk
  2. Magix MusicMaker
  3. Akai MPC Beats
  4. Ohm Studio
  5. ‘Lite’ Software

The Best Free DAWs in 2020 (For PC/Windows)

1. Cakewalk by BandLab

For those of you screaming “i wanna make music but i can’t get GarageBand!“… enter Cakewalk, one of the best free DAWs for Windows. Allow me to ramble on with more than a few reasons why.

Cakewalk is based on technology partially developed by Roland under their ‘Sonar’ DAW label, which retailed for $600. BandLab have since acquired and further developed this platform to bring you ‘Cakewalk by BandLab’.

Cakewalk has some of the most comprehensive features out of any free DAW and includes a full suite of plugins with compressors, reverbs, EQs and other mastering tools like limiters and multiband compressors.

Cakewalk runs virtually every third-party instrument and effect plugin (excluding RTAS and AAX formats) and is built using the well-known ‘Skylight’ interface, delivering an award-winning end-user experience with its effective and clear GUI.

BandLab lets users run any of their favorite VST plugins, allows unlimited audio tracks, FX sends and MIDI tracks.

Usually these are key features that are locked behind the ‘paywall’ of most Lite versions of industry software. While Lite software might be great for beginners and those new to electronic music production, Cakewalk offers those with more experience all of the tools they’ll need to create industry-level productions right off the bat. 

With a 64-bit mix engine, Windows 10 support and ARA (Audio Random Access) functionality, the user can expect to find a similar level of hardware support & integration to Apple’s patented Core Audio driver.

Even though some hardware drivers may still be required there is a seamless functionality that a lot of DAWs (both paid and free) don’t take into account. Certain instances of Protools actually require you to restart the session when you plug in a MIDI keyboard, which can be a nightmare in the middle of a session, totally killing creative moments.

(Download Cakewalk here.)

2. Magix ‘MusicMaker’

An innovation on the ‘free daw’ spectrum comes from a software company called ‘Magix’. They have been around and releasing their ‘MusicMaker’ DAW bundle since as early as 1994.

Magix MusicMaker is a free and superb package available in both 32 and 64 bit, containing all the necessary tools that anyone from a beginner producer to a professional level producer will appreciate having at their disposal.

Music Maker comes with an impressive load of features and is bursting at the seams with functionality and features including a stack of free studio-quality instruments and VST plugins like:

  • Rock Drums
  • Bass Machine
  • Concert Guitar
  • Drum Engine (MPC style pads)
  • Orchestral Ensemble and Cinematic Synths
  • String Ensemble
  • Choir
  • Power Guitar
  • Analogue Synths
  • SpacePad
  • Urban Drums, among others. 

Combined with this huge selection of free plugins and software, Magix has also thrown in what they refer to as a ‘SoundPool’ – their own unique selection of loops, sounds, samples and other sonic flavours, represented within the DAW and fully functional within the ecosystem of MusicMaker.

MusicMaker functions as you’d expect any pro-level software to, and includes full integration of audio interfaces, midi keyboards, external instruments, microphones and other sound sources, with a full midi editing suite and piano-roll capabilities.

To cap off your sound, you need to polish it and make it shine in your own special way, and MusicMaker allows you to do this by supplying some pretty fly effects and processing plugins as a part of this free bundle. 

These plugins include a decent selection of free audio effects such as wahs, delays and flangers, as well as the pretty meaty Vandal SE amplifier, which is well known for its high-quality tone and distortion emulations. 

MusicMaker caters for producers of all skill levels and this is highly evident through their choice of included mastering software. There are two paths to take, for the beginner there is the ‘Auto Master’ which (similar to LANDR) uses an algorithm to adjust elements of your mix based on which genre you have selected for the song, this can be handy for beginners looking to get their first mixes sounding good and also helps people identify what sort of parameters they might want to be looking at when mastering their songs themselves at a later date.

When that later date arrives, MusicMaker has a very nice, curated selection of stereo-imaging plugins, limiters, EQ’s and compressors, allowing for the more professional level producer to really roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when it comes to carving out those problem frequencies and tightening up any potentially flabby low-end. 

This free software comes with a whole lot more than what’s listed here, in terms of creative capability and being able to get anyone started making music in a matter of minutes – the workflow in MusicMaker is unique, fast and easy to understand. Their integrated store or ‘Sound Pool’ makes it easy for anyone to start making music in a matter of minutes, or to help stop writer’s block by providing some extra inspiration.

MusicMaker secures a place one of the best free alternatives to GarageBand available on Windows.

3. Akai MPC Beats

MPC Beats utilises a massive range of features and functionalities found in the world’s leading competitors’ full-priced DAW’s; including multi-track recording, AU and VST support (enabling the use of purchased third party plugins, effects and instruments).

For those who already run pre-existing DAW’s or may have fully licensed versions of Logic, Live, FL Studio or Reason for example; can actually download and run MPC Beats AS A PLUGIN with their pre-existing DAW, giving the user the ability to essentially have a DAW running within a DAW.

Beats shines as a free DAW’s to consider when looking at specifically making beats and shaping grooves, and as mentioned, MPC Beats will run as a standalone software OR a plugin within your current (free or full-price) DAW of choice. It also integrates seamlessly with their range of hardware, including their MPCs and the brand new Akai MPK Mini Mk3 (read our full review here).

The brilliant thing about MPC Beats is that it provides all the standard functionality of programs such as Maschine (with a focus on making beats and grooves) at absolutely no cost. 

MPC Beats comes with an impressive 2GB of samples and sounds, and also stocks over 80 (that’s right, EIGHTY) of its own ‘native’ plugins including compressors, echo/delay/reverb, EQ, software synthesizers and more. This gives you the utmost of creative freedom to warp and manipulate audio and bend it to your will, in ways that you may not have thought previously possible.

Within your 8 track session, two of the tracks can be converted to stereo audio tracks, meaning you can easily layer and manipulate stereo vocal recordings or other instruments via something cheap and cheerful like the Focusrite Scarlett solo or Scarlett 2i2 interfaces, both brilliant entry-level recording devices.

MPC Beats runs full class-compliance, meaning that any class-compliant device, beat pad, keyboard or other digital instruments should run flawlessly and integrate seamlessly within MPC Beats. 

For those lacking in finances or equipment access, MPC Beats actually has a HUGE library of kits on offer for decent and affordable prices, with kits for genres like deep house, EDM, hip-hop, trap and just about any genre you can think of.

PLUS they have kits that have been designed by industry heavyweights like Aarab Muzik and Decap, who have cut their teeth and made a name for themselves as artists who are again synonymous with akai and the art of finger drumming.

4. Ohm Studio

Ohm Studio is a little-known and hugely underrated music production suite that incorporates peer-to-peer linking and allows for multiple people to work together in the same project in real-time.

The software itself is free to use and has a user-friendly interface that is like a cross between Ableton Live and Protools.

Ohm Studio is a great option for producers working remotely, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and provides an oft-overlooked solution to working together, remotely. Nowadays we have programs like Skype and Zoom, but they don’t directly integrate or allow you to collaborate with separate sound sources like Ohm Studio does.

The interface has a chat box, lets you operate your VST plugins, allows drag and drop audio from saved files or other sessions, and is clean and pleasant to look at. Having tried the software out more than a few times myself, it’s been a real godsend when not able to physically meet up with someone else for a session.

The fact that this utility is a free download is astounding. By allowing super easy collaborations it provides an experience that no other DAW is currently able to deliver. Massive props are due to all the devs working on Ohm Studio as it has come a long way and managed to stay relevant and usable all these years later.

(Download Ohm Studio here.)

5. ‘Lite’ Software

Image credit: Roli

Nearly every major player in the DAW world has a free ‘lite’ version of their software which imposes restrictions on the number of tracks you can have, the overall length of a track or even the output format of your audio.

Checking out ‘lite’ versions is a great way to test out a multitude of industry-level programs and applications to see which one you like the best, or which one suits your workflow and methodology.

Companies such as Cubase, Avid, Ableton, Image-Line, Propellerhead, BandLab, Bitwig and pretty much every developer under the sun offer some sort of trial-based download.

Not everyone feels at home with the first DAW they try. Try a few out first to see which one suits you best.

Honorable Mentions

Audacity and WavePad get an honorable mention as they have both been around since the dawn of time and most producers might have found themselves toying around with them at one point or another, usually early on or as a starting point. Having said this, there are a lot of DAWs that far surpass the capabilities of these programs and Audacity/Wavepad are honestly closer to wave editors than studio quality workstations.

They both lack proper MIDI editing capabilities and neither allow VST synths. But as far as free audio editors go, if you’re looking to do something super basic without a steep learning curve then these programs might be a good place to start.

Final Thoughts

Because Apple make GarageBand, it is highly unlikely they will offer a Windows version anytime soon. GarageBand and Logic are both well respected apps that are exclusive to Mac. Apple know this draws people towards their computers over PCs.

Although it is sad that a Windows version of GarageBand will probably never exist, there are still plenty of free alternatives listed above that offer similar or greater functionality that you can check out right now.