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4 Garageband Alternatives You Should Explore

So many producers and engineers I know have gotten their start with Garageband. Why wouldn’t they? It is a free starter DAW that honestly is super easy to use and easy to gain access to. But it doesn’t come easily on Windows. That is where some beginners hit a wall and have to become inventive.

Hopefully, you save yourself a headache and find our compilation of free DAWs that are on the same level as Apple’s Garageband. – all of which are available on windows. 

Garageband  Alternatives Highlighted

  1. Audacity – best for slower computers
  2. Studio One Prime – best for included plugins
  3. Pro Tools First – best for a true professional grade feel
  4. Cakewalk – best for working at full capacity 

Garageband  Quick Review

Garageband has become a household name of the digital audio world for its easy to use interface. It is easy to see why so many will pull it out for any quick edits or projects they need to accomplish. 

GarageBand on a Macbook iOS
GarageBand on a Macbook iOS

Why Users Like Garageband :

  • Loops – All loops and samples available in Garageband are royalty-free and can be used in any track you publish.
  • Mobile – Apple has developed a mobile version of Garageband that can accomplish a lot more than most would think while on the go.
  • Transform Pad – With the Transform Pad, you can morph the sound of your synth to fully match the vibe of your song. 
  • Drummer Audition – If you are looking for a stylistic sound other than a basic 4/4 beat, you can “audition” and choose from 5 drummers and their styles.
  • Plugins – Garageband comes with its own array of plugins set up to help you learn their functions as well as create a capable sound.

Compatibility:

  • Apple iOS only

Price:

  • Free

Garageband  Users:

  • Rihanna – Umbrella
  • T-Pain – Rappa Turnt Sanga
  • Oasis (Rock)

Audacity

Audacity
Audacity

Audacity is another of the long time greats of free DAWs that is open for anyone to use. I have had a few opportunities to use it and was pleasantly surprised at the quality I then found.

Features Like Garageband :

  • Group Effort – The creators of Audacity have made it a team effort to build and maintain their plugin and welcome all help in the coding.
  • Third Party Plugins – Works with a majority of VST Plugins but not most midi instruments.
  • Platforms – Available on all platforms including Linux.

Compatibility:

  • Mac
    • 10.7, 10.15
  • Windows
    • 10

Price:

  • Free

Studio One Prime

Studio One Prime
Studio One Prime

Studio One is produced by Presonus, an amazing company that creates fantastic interfaces of all sizes. This program is a fantastic introduction to its big brother Studio One 5.

Features Like Garageband :

  • Sample Library – a library of over 1 Gig of samples and there are more samples listed fairly cheap in Presonus’ digital store.
  • Free Trials – You get the offer to try out the upgraded version of Studio One when you are signing up. 
  • Plugins – Studio One Prime includes some of the great plugins that come with the full version that you cannot live without. 

Compatibility:

  • Mac
    • OS 10.13 or higher
    • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
  • Windows
    • 10
    • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
  • Tablet

Price:

  • Free

Pro Tools First

Pro Tools First
Pro Tools First

Pro Tools is an industry norm, and everyone has had some taste of it in one way or another. It seems fitting that they have some way for you to try it without buying the entire package. 

Features Like Garageband :

  • Plugins – Pro Tools First comes with over 20 plugins that are also included with Pro Tools Standard. 
  • Editing – All editing such as mixing, cutting, tracking, etc. is the same in Pro Tools Standard as well as Pro Tools First so you can transition your workflow seamlessly between the two. 
  • Air!XPand2 – One or Avid’s most popular synths is free with First.

Compatibility:

  • Mac
    • OS 10.13 or higher
    • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)
  • Windows
    • 10
    • 4 GB RAM (8 GB or more recommended)

Price:

  • Free

Cakewalk

Cakewalk
Cakewalk

Last but not least is Cakewalk by bandlab which is almost the Windows version of Garageband. It is only available on windows and includes some formidable features.

Features Like Garageband :

  • Industry Best Engine – Cakewalk has one of the leading engines and is VST3 as well as touch screen compatible. 
  • Award Winning – This is the only free DAW that I know of that has won any awards for its user interface.
  • Plugins – Not only does Cakewalk include some amazing plugins of compressors, eqs, and effects, they also work with third party plugins.

Compatibility:

  • Windows
    • 7 or higher
    • 4 GB Ram

Price:

  • Free

Cakewalk Users:

  • Slow Mike – ChoQuib Town
  • Javier Colon – Winner of the Voice
  • Adventure Club (Electronic Music Generators)

Free for All

In any field you want to get as much product as you can for as small a price as possible. You also want to make the most educated choice you can. With the DAWs we listed today, some are built to be a full package while others are there to get you comfortable, before making the leap fully into the world of that workstation.

Now you may get all that you need out of the free version or you may feel the need to move into the full version. Either way we are here to help you make the best choice for your circumstance. 

If you want to know more about DAWs and what each one is good for, we have a section where you can learn more here.

Earlier we mentioned third party plugins being compatible with a few of our choices. If you are having trouble choosing which would be best for you or are just looking to learn more we have a wide selection of information on plugins here.