GarageBand is one of the best free DAWs currently available. The problem is: it’s Apple only. In this article we are going to look at 10 great alternatives to GarageBand for windows users as well as show you how to download GarageBand for Windows should you choose to.
While GarageBand is one of the most recognized DAWs, I’m here to tell you that there are some alternatives the are actually better for Windows.
Note: As of this date, GarageBand is currently not available for Windows, however, continue reading on to see what you can do.
Should you be new to music production, you should find this guide below to be extremely helpful as I will be breaking down free options as well as professional options.
Table of Contents
- 1 What If I Really Want GarageBand For Windows?
- 2 Alternatives To GarageBand For PC (All Free Options)
- 2.1 1) Cakewalk By Bandlab – Best GarageBand Alternative
- 2.2 2) LMMS – Great For Beginners
- 2.3 3) Reaper – Pay What You Want (As Low As $12/Year)
- 2.4 4) Stagelight
- 2.5 5) Ableton Live Lite (Requires Product Code)
- 3 Paid Options
- 4 Wrapping Up
What If I Really Want GarageBand For Windows?
GarageBand is possible for Windows, however, not without going through some extreme hoops and hassle to make it happen.
I personally don’t recommend going this route as I think it’s not worth going through all of the troubles.
Warning: There are several websites that promise you a free download for GarageBand. Our advice is to stay away from those downloads for malware reasons.
Should you really want GarageBand for Windows, you have to do the following:
- Download An Apple Emulator such as Smartface
- Make sure you have all the requirements met
- Load up the emulator and run GarageBand
If you are looking to download GarageBand for Windows 10, 7, or 8, you can try watching this video. Proceed with caution whenever downloading software to your PC. I’m not responsible should you download malware software.
The above option is a total pain to do, but it can be done should you really want to download GarageBand for Windows.
Below we are going to list 10 alternatives to GarageBand for Windows that will get you to recording music in no time.
Should you be a GarageBand user now who isn’t looking to switch to Windows, you might be interested in our article that breaks down 5 great MIDI Controllers for GarageBand.
Alternatives To GarageBand For PC (All Free Options)
Frustrated that you can’t find any good alternatives to GarageBand? Fear not, here are some incredible options.
1) Cakewalk By Bandlab – Best GarageBand Alternative
Cakewalk by Bandlab is currently the best GarageBand alternative available. This is a fully functional DAW that allows you to do even more than GarageBand and it’s free.
If you’re familiar with other professional DAWs, you can do the same thing with Cakewalk as you can with DAWs like Cubase or Ableton Live.
One of the biggest downfalls of free software is that you typically are extremely limited. Cakewalk is going to give you access to your favorite plugins and also be able to handle them in most formats excluding AAX and RTAS.
Cakewalk comes with a 64-bit sound engine and Windows 10 support, making it compatible with the newest computers.
For those of you who want to make music and learn how to do it at a professional level for free, Cakewalk is your top choice.
Cakewalk is based on the same software that was developed by Roland under the name ‘Sonar.’ This software at one point was selling for $600. Over time, BandLab acquired the software and made Cakewalk.
This is why when we say, “you are getting a very professional DAW for free,” you truly are.
When talking about free DAWs, most people will mention major Daw’s free versions such as Ableton Live Lite. While that’s a decent choice, it’s extremely limited as its sole purpose is to get you to purchase the full version.
With Cakewalk, you are getting a full DAW that at one point was retailing for $600, and it’s free.
Features & Pros
- Supports all VSTs
- Unlimited audio tracks
- Unlimited MIDI tracks
- Simple UI
- Use your computer keyboard as a MIDI controller
2) LMMS – Great For Beginners
LMMS is rising quickly to the top when it comes to free software. It’s compatible with Windows and it gives you some serious power for composing music.
The main focus of this DAW is to allow artists to compose music quickly and easily. LMMS is limited in the sense that you can record audio yet with it.
Loaded with over 100+ effects, LMMS is ready to instantly give you the capability of producing some great productions.
It has unlimited tracks playback as well as unlimited tracks to record.
Game enthusiasts who are looking to making music for free can make the most out of LMMS. It is very popular when it comes to Chiptune music as it is free and has the capability to produce electronic music.
One of the things with this DAW is that it is extremely similar to FL Studio. Should you be familiar with FL Studio, then you will definitely gravitate towards this option.
- 100+ effects
- Unlimited tracks
- Easy download
- Works with all VSTs
3) Reaper – Pay What You Want (As Low As $12/Year)
Reaper is not completely free. With this being said, it’s an incredible DAW that is capable of doing basically everything a paid DAW can do.
On top of this, you can pay as little as $1 per month or $12 per year to use it. For this reason, it is one of the more popular options that college students are often using and talking about in musician forums.
I also wanted to include this under the free options as I didn’t want to discourage you and have you think it costs hundreds.
Reaper is a great alternative that allows you to have unlimited audio tracks and it also comes with 18 effects.
The biggest knock on Reaper is its clunky and unintuitive interface. It’s not the easiest DAW to use and this is really the main drawback of it.
With this being said, Reaper is inexpensive and quite powerful, providing producers with features similar to something like Pro Tools or Ableton Live.
Another thing to mention with Reaper is that it doesn’t come with any instruments or loops built-in. For a DAW that is often mentioned as a top 10 DAW, this can be a little frustrating for beginners.
The one thing I would say is that I rarely use the built-in sounds from Ableton Live, even though there are some great options. The reason being that I use VSTs that I purchase.
- Inexpensive (Pay what you want or can afford)
- Very light CPU download
- Unlimited Audio tracks
- Great community to help answer questions
Stagelight is great for Windows 10. This is a standalone DAW that works with Windows as well as your tablets or android phones.
As far as features, Stagelight gives you a great look at what a professional DAW would offer. While there is a free version, there is also a paid version as well that gives you some additional features and abilities.
The UI is very easy to follow and it seems like this DAW is growing in popularity. This is only going to make it get better in my opinion, as the demand will continue to grow.
Most Stagelight users that I have talked to typically use it with their cellphones as a way to jot down ideas quickly.
This is similar to GarageBand as a lot of GarageBand users can mess around with it on their phones as well since it comes with every iPhone.
While Stagelight gives you some great features, it does have a couple of drawbacks.
Stagelight decided to go the route in which it has its own interface. This could be a good thing, however, in this case, it actually has added more complexities.
It’s difficult to use at first, even if you have experience with other DAWs. You will need to watch a bunch of different tutorials on Youtube in order to figure out how to do most things.
The last thing that isn’t the best is that everything is fullscreen. Even a piano roll is full screen.
Overall, I wouldn’t let these couple of things deter you from checking it out, as this could be a great choice for your needs.
- 100+ Effects
- Record 12 tracks
- 12 playback tracks
- VST support
5) Ableton Live Lite (Requires Product Code)
While Ableton Live is one of the most popular professional DAWs, the lite version is actually free. It can be used on Windows and it gives you a great look at what this DAW can do.
This being said, Ableton Live Lite is pretty limited. Ableton gives you just enough to show you what the software can do in order to get you to purchase the full version.
While the full version is expensive, it also the most popular option for musicians who are touring.
Should you try out Ableton Lite as an alternative, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade to the full version.
Ableton is built to help producers perform live. While it also is used at the highest levels to record records, it is second to none when it comes to having to perform music live.
This is something that you’re not going to really see musicians do with GarageBand.
Ableton Live Lite is a great choice for those who are looking really pursue writing and recording their own music. You will need to upgrade surely at some point, but should you become familiar with the Lite version, you’ll be able to adapt to the pro version fairly easily.
- A look at one of the best DAWs
- VST support
- 8 audio and MIDI tracks
- Currently free
Here is a look at some great GarageBand alternatives for Windows that are paid options. While these cost money, they also provide you with more professional software.
1) Fl Studio Pro – Closest Paid Alternative For Windows
Fl Studio Pro is closest to GarageBand in terms of the interface. FL Studio is a full-on DAW that is completely compatible with Windows.
There are countless videos on Youtube that will help you transition from GarageBand to Cubase and it also one of the most popular DAWs available.
Almost all VSTs are compatible with FL Studio and it also comes with a bunch of free plugins to try out. Some of these free options are also great and can be used even in professional songs.
FL Studio is available in four different versions, with each version being slightly different in price:
- Fruity – $99 (no audio recording)
- Producer – $199 (Ability to record with microphones & access to more instruments)
- Signature – $299 (Pitch correction & time editor tools)
- All Plugins Deal – $899 (Includes a bunch of expensive plugins)
Should you choose FL Studio, I would go with either the producer or signature versions. While the all plugins deal is nice, I would rather save the money and purchase additional VSTs down the road.
FL Studio now supports time signature changes. This is a big feature if you’re someone who likes to dabble in math rock or various genres that switch up the time.
Some DAWs don’t give you the capability and keep you restrained to always recording or looping in 4/4 and this can be a bit of a letdown.
- Great Looping Capabilities
- Free Updates
- Multiple Price points & downloads
- 60 Effects included
- 40 instruments
- 1 GB bundled software
- Mixer view
Cubase has grown its user base over the years dramatically. It has become one of the most popular options currently available. This works as a far superior alternative to GarageBand as it’s capable of much more.
Cubase has extremely strong roots when it comes to the simplicity of the MIDI layout. It is really easy to quantize and see MIDI when editing. Why is this important? It is important because it will make your life 1 million times easier when editing MIDI.
As far as the UI goes, it’s super straightforward and provides for a super fast workflow once you get the hang of things.
Everything is laid out nicely and after a few hours and a couple of tutorials, you’ll be flying around.
Cubase is well worth the look and the money should you be looking to pursue recording professional music.
Cubase currently comes in 3 different versions, which all have their own purpose:
- Elements – $99 (A stripped down version)
- Artist – $309.99 (Full version minus a couple of plugins and instruments)
- Pro 11 – $559.99 (Full version with additional plugins and instruments)
I would recommend going for the Artist version or the Pro version as they extremely powerful and worth the additional money.
- Unlimited audio tracks
- 8 instruments included
- 90 effects included
- 18 GB of Bundled Content
- Notation tool
- Pitch Correction tool
- Mixer View
- Beautiful Key editor View
3) Ableton Live – Best For Live Music
Ableton Live is the most practical alternative to GarageBand for those looking to ever perform live. It functions very similarly to GarageBand and also looks a little bit similar in the UI.
While Ableton Live can provide you with basically everything you would want in a DAW, it also has unlimited tutorial videos on Youtube.
Ableton Live has built-in instruments that have been used on some incredible tracks including songs from twenty one pilots.
A lot of synths used on the album “Vessel” were actually directly from Ableton Live free instruments.
This makes Ableton Live a very hot pick, aside from the abilities you have when it comes to looping and playing live in general.
I strongly encourage you to use Youtube as a learning tool when it comes to any of these alternatives in this article. Any of your questions can be answered quite easily usually and you will also find yourself learning a lot of new tricks.
- 55 GB bundled software
- Incredible for live performance
- Notation tool
- Easy to follow MIDI editing
- 12 instruments
- 36 effects
- Unlimited audio tracks
- Easy to use interface
Reason is currently one of the more popular DAWs on the market. Reason provides you with an interesting look at the interface by introducing rack mode.
While this mode can be a little impractical at times, it is nice to change up the workflow at times when things are monotonous.
As far as how Reason compares to GarageBand, I would say it’s definitely a major step up as you it allows the producer to create in any way that prefer to.
Reason is most popular when it comes to EDM and hip hop music.
Where Reason falls a little bit short when compared to other DAWs such as Ableton is in the track editing.
As far as pricing, Reason runs with the following prices:
- Reason Studio Suite – $599 (Includes additional software)
- Reason Studio – $399
- Reason Intro – $99 (Limited)
I would recommend going with the Reason Studio option should you choose Reason as an alternative.
- Use the rack as a plugin
- Bundled Instruments
- Fast composition workflow
- Mix compression and EQ
5) Studio One – Budget Paid Option
Studio One gets our pick for those on a strict budget, yet still looking for a paid GarageBand alternative.
It provides you with a fast workflow and it is also a very capable DAW. For those who also can’t afford to pay, they also offer a free version.
One of the unique features of Studio One is that it will suggest names for your projects or tracks you’re working on.
While this is minuscule, it’s nice to have this option when working quickly.
Studio One has recently upgraded to version 5. Since doing so, they have made some major improvements which have really enhanced the producers workflow.
If you’re someone who is heavy into film-scoring and composing, Studio One could be a great choice.
Studio One comes in the following prices:
- Studio One Professional – $399
- Studio One Artist – $99 (Limited)
- Unlimited audio tracks
- 5 instruments
- 41 effects
- 30 GB bundled content
- Pitch correction
- Mixer view
While GarageBand doesn’t currently exist for Windows, we have provided you some amazing alternatives as well as explained how to get GarageBand on PC.
Being that Apple owns GarageBand, we also don’t see GarageBand ever being available for Windows/PC in the future. With this being said, this can actually give you the opportunity to try a more professional option like the ones we have mentioned above.
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