If you’re an Apple device user, you’re probably already familiar with GarageBand, even if you don’t use it. The music creation studio software is free and comes pre-loaded on all Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
While it’s a great free tool used by both beginners and veteran audio engineers, it may not be the best option for you (or an option at all if you’re on Windows!) Let’s explore some GarageBand alternatives for Mac, Windows, and the Cloud.
Why you might want GarageBand alternatives
As far as digital audio workstations (DAWs) go, GarageBand is one of the most popular options out there. It’s got a lot of great audio editing tools and native plugins as well as an extensive library of instruments and samples. It even has semi-professional audio processing features like EQs and compressors. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of GarageBand is that it’s completely free, making it an excellent option for aspiring music producers on a budget.
GarageBand may be a great choice for many people, but it’s not the only DAW out there. If you’re a professional or someone who really wants to dive into complex features, GarageBand may not be the best choice for you. Not to mention, it’s not even an option for those who have a PC. Fortunately, there are some great GarageBand alternatives out there for Mac, Windows, and even in the cloud.
GarageBand alternatives for Mac
While GarageBand does come pre-loaded on all new Macs, it may not have all the features you need in a music production software. Check out these GarageBand alternatives for Mac for some different software options that might be a better fit.
1. Logic Pro
Logic Pro from Apple offers a whole suite of sophisticated tools for professional songwriting, beat making, audio editing, and mixing. It also includes a huge library of instruments, effects, loops, and samples that you can use to take your songs to a whole new level.
With this software, you can record up to 1,000 tracks for each composition and layer tracks over each other, applying many of the effects while the track is playing. With a wealth of complex editing features, Logic Pro is an excellent choice for Mac users who want advanced features without sacrificing ease of use.
- Seamless punch recording, automatic take management, and support for 24-bit/192kHz audio
- Integrated Dolby Atmos tools that allow you to create spacial audio mixes that go beyond stereo
- Comprehensive selection of instruments, effects, loops, and samples including royalty-free producer packs from Oak Felder, Take a Daytrip, TRAKGIRL, and more
- Multi-touch mixing that allows you to mix from wherever you are in the room with multi-touch faders
- Beat sequencing where you can program drum patters and create dynamic rhythms with a tap of the finger
- Logic Remote allows you to use your iPhone or iPad to control Logic Pro on your Mac
- Key Commands in Logic Remote allow you to create music quickly by choosing from a list of curated commands for workflows
Why you want it: Logic Pro can do a lot more than GarageBand can. So if you’re serious about music production and looking for a professional tool with any features you might need to create music that sounds amazing—Logic Pro is an excellent choice.
2. Ableton Live 11
Available for both Mac and Windows, Ableton Live 11 is a flexible music creation software that comes with a library of effects, instruments, sounds, and creative features—giving you everything you need to make creative music. There are three different options to choose from (Intro, Standard, and Suite) with varying features and price points.
One thing that makes Ableton Live 11 different from other softwares is it’s Session View, which allows you to mix and match your music ideas without a timeline, making it great for improvisation. It also has the traditional Arrangement View where you can create your music on a timeline, bringing together different pieces to complete your masterpiece.
- Take recording and comping that allows you to use the best pieces to create your perfect take or splice together random samples from your library
- Linked track editing where you can link two or more tracks and edit them simultaneously
- Hybrid Reverb lets you place your sounds in any space—whether real-life or otherwise
- Tempo Following which adjusts the music tempo based on incoming audio in real time, which is ideal for DJs and live music acts
- Macro Variations can be created from stored Macros, allowing you to create instant sound variations while performing
- Instrument packs created in collaboration with Spitfire Audio like Upright Piano, Brass Quartet, and String Quartet
- MPE compatibility adds bends, slides, and pressure for every individual note in a chord, allowing you to create subtle variations
Price: $99 for Live 11 Intro; $449 for Live 11 Standard; and $749 for Live 11 Suite
Why you want it: If you’re a DJ or use your produced music as part of a live act, Abelton Live 11 is a great choice as it has features like Tempo Following and Macro Variations that allow you to make real-time changes during your performances.
3. Cubase 12
Cubase 12 is a popular GarageBand alternative for Mac and Windows. With 3 different versions and different levels of features, Cubase 12 offers something for every type of user and budget.
This music production software has a range of professional-grade audio production features, making it an excellent option for professionals. And for those newer to audio engineering, you’ll appreciate the extensive tutorial videos the company provides to help you navigate the complex features.
- Logical editor allows you to customize and build your own workflows or use presets
- MIDI remote integration automatically detects your MIDI controllers and map the controls, allowing you to use your devices
- VariAudio with Scale Assistant makes it easy to set the scale and adjust the pitch of your recording
- FX Modulator breathes new lfe into your sounds allowing you to create your own styles with different effects
- AudioWarp tool lets you edit your audio recordings directly in the Project window or adjust multiple tracks at once in Group Editing
- Raiser is a dynamic processing tool that lets you dramatically increase the loudness of your projects without sacrificing quality
- Native Apple silicon support for those using the latest Mac computers with M1 chips
Price: $99.99 Cubase Elements 12; $329.99 for Cubase Artist 12; $579.99 for Cubase Pro 12
Why you want it: If you’re using a new Mac computer with an M1 chip, you’ll want a software like Cubase Pro 12. It offers native Apple silicon support so that you have a smooth user experience.
Audacity is a free, open-source, cross-platform audio software built for ease of use. This flexible multi-track audio editor can be used on Windows, macOS, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.
Built and maintained by volunteers, Audacity doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that GarageBand does. However, it still features some advanced tools like noise elimination that allow you to create quality music for your projects.
- Supports 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit audio for clear, quality sound
- Record live audio using a microphone or mixer and digitize your recordings from other media
- Import, edit, and combine sound files in many different file formats, allowing you to include multiple files at once
- Editing made easy with cut, copy, paste, and delete as well as undo and redo to go back any number of steps
- Noise elimination feature allows you to sample background hums and rattles and apply those filters to the track
- Supports LADSPA, LV2, Nyquist, VST, and Audio Unit effect plug-ins with the option to write your own plug-in
- Spectrogram view mode allows you to visualize and select frequencies with support for Vamp analysis plug-in
Why you want it: If you’re looking for another free software that’s on par with GarageBand, look no further than Audacity, an excellent option for the budget conscious or those new to music production.
5. FL Studio
With over 20 years of continuous development, FL Studio holds its own on this list of GarageBand alternatives for Mac. Its updated user interface and suite of plugins means that FL Studio 20 has a lot to offer beginners and pros alike.
With an intuitive workflow and a host of native plugins, FL Studio is one of the best options for beginners who are just learning how to use audio engineering software. However, it still has the comprehensive range of features experts want and need when creating music.
- Large selection of native instruments, effects, and loops with one of the most highly regarded synth VSTs on the market
- Step sequencer that works like a beat grid, allowing for any sound or sample to be placed on the grid and triggered in the sequence
- High quality effects available as extra plugins, allowing you to manipulate existing sounds with FX
- Drag any sound or sample directly onto the play list and place it anywhere along the timeline
- Use thousands of presets custom-made for the native plugins so you can start making music right away
- Sync your songs to video effects to create visual content ready to share on social media
- Support for Apple Silicon M1 processors and 64-bit native support for macOS
Price: $99 for FL Studio Fruity Edition; $199 for FL Studio Producer Edition; $299 for FL Studio Signature Blend; $499 for FL Studio All Plugins Edition
Why you want it: FL Studio 20 is a great option for those who are new to music production but want access to an advanced feature set in an easy-to-navigate platform at an affordable price.
GarageBand alternatives for Windows
Since GarageBand is built for Apple devices, it’s only fitting that we include a section for GarageBand alternatives for Windows. While many of the options on this entire list work for both Mac and Windows, these are our favorite alternatives to use on PC.
6. Cakewalk by BandLab
With 30 years of innovation and development, Cakewalk by BandLab is one of the most popular DAWs for Windows. The software features advanced technology and an intuitive interface that makes it easy for users to make creative, innovative music.
With this software, you can compose songs with professional songwriting tools and instruments, and record with pristine quality and unlimited tracks. You can also edit, mix, and master with built-in tools and then share your songs directly to YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, and other platforms.
- Unlimited audio, MIDI, instrument, loop, and auxiliary tracks for every project
- Library of ProChannel modules including powerful EQ, convolution reverb, resonant filtering, dynamic compression, tape and console emulation, and peak limiting
- Designed to emulate the layout of an analog console, build and upgrade your channel strip with an expandable
- Designed to improve workflow efficiency with flexibility in choosing the layout, color theme, and display settings
- ProChannel, the 64-bit mix engine alongside the mixing console interface creates a user-friendly and sleek audio mixing experience
- MIDI and audio features that allow users to adjust plug-in parameters using MIDI controller
- Help module flattens the learning curve by making the learning process quick and streamlined
Why you want it: Cakewalk by BandLab is one of the best free GarageBand alternatives for Windows, making it a must for anyone who needs a fully-featured DAW on a budget.
7. Magix Music Maker
Magix Music Maker is the DAW for aspiring music producers with no experience. Built for Windows, this software offers an easy-to-use interface and intuitive tools that help you get up and running with your music production in no time.
Magix Music Maker is well known for being user-friendly without the steep learning curve associated with a lot of the other tools on this list. While the tool may seem a bit limited for experts, it is a great option for hobbyists and those who want to get started quickly.
- Modular, easy-to-use interface that allows you to customize your workflows and get started with in-app tutorials
- Connect instruments or a mic to your computer to use your own recordings as part of your songs
- Drag-and-drop functionality for arranging sound clips to make creative songs
- Beatbox allows you to create flexible sample-based beats for every genre with 17 drum kits and 200 patterns
- Songmaker AI uses artificial intelligence to help you find the perfect ideas for custom beats with access to 8 Soundpools and 49 sond templates
- Music Maker offers every sound you could need for your songs like drums, synths, basses, guitars, string ensembles and more recorded by pro musicians
- Library of sounds, loops, and parts of songs available in the in-app store
Price: Free, with paid versions available from $59.99 to $119
Why you want it: If you’re a beginner with a PC, Magix Music Maker may just be the best option on this list with its simple yet powerful tools. (Plus there is a free version to get started!)
8. Pro Tools
Having been around since 1983, Avid Pro Tools has become an industry-leading DAW. Popular with professionals and new producers, this software allows you to go through all the stages of music production from recording and editing to mixing and mastering.
Pro Tools may have got its start as a drum machine called Digidrums, but it’s now a complete digital audio studio used by professional artists and producers like Dr. Dre and Pharell WIlliams. While GarageBand is more for the casual user, Pro Tools is a better option for long-term users who plan to produce music often.
- Non-destructive editing tools that help maintain quality no matter what you do with your tracks
- Multitrack recording with an auto-cancel setting which automatically disables record-enabled tracks when you record a new take
- Pencil tool that allows you to draw audio waveforms or modify MIDI notes manually as well as add panning effects with a click and hold
- Smart Tool combines the Trim, Select, and Grabber tools to automate the process
- Dedicated Clip FX window that allows you to apply effects in real time without needing to install any plug-ins
- 6 Pro Tools instruments including boom drum machine with sequencer, accoustic grand piano, AIR Vacuum monophonic vacuum tube synthesizer, and more
- Includes a video editing feature that allows you to import, play, edit, and export video clips on the same timeline where you’re making music
Price: Starting at $29.99 or $9.99 for students and teachers
Why you want it: This is definitely a software you can “grow into” using as both a beginner and a professional. Plus, it’s got more collaboration features than GarageBand if that’s important to you.
9. MPC Beats
MPC Beats is a free, beginner-friendly beat making software that offers MIDI controller support. Those who are new to beat-making can get started with a template, while the pros can purchase the expansion pack to get access to more sound libraries.
This DAW gives you everything you need to create, mix, and master your own beats without the steep learning curve. The ease-of-use and list of features make this a great entry-level option for aspiring beat makers and hobbyists.
- Offers 16 pads for triggering drum samples and loops and support for MIDI controllers
- Includes a 2GB library of samples, loops, and instruments with the option to purchase an expansion pack for additional sound libraries
- Two stereo tracks to record instruments or vocals to add a live component to your music
- Includes a sample editor to quickly and easily chop and edit your samples
- Three plug-in instruments available from MPC, including Bassline, Tubesynth, and Electric
- Over 80 FX plugins from AIR Effects offering a premium selection of tools for adding a professional polish to your beats
- VST/AU compatibility giving you the opportunity to expand your sound library with compatible third-party instrument and audio processing plugins
Why you want it: MPC Beats gives you everything you need to get started making beats, so if you’re new to music production and want to focus on creating beats, this is the DAW for you!
Reaper stands for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording. While a mouthful, this software has a clean layout and customizable nature that makes it quickly familiar to those who use it for music-making and podcast editing.
Compared to GarageBand, it’s got a lot more complex features allowing you to achieve more than you could with the free Mac software. With a free 60-day trial of Reaper, there’s no harm in trying it out for yourself to see if it offers the functionality you need.
- Multi-track recording for live audio or MIDI, suitable for recording a soloist, band, or orchestra
- Real-time network FX application and processing
- Real-time pitch shifting, correction, and time stretch, including multiple pitch and time stretch engines
- Drag-and-drop functionality for production processes like importing, arranging, and rendering
- Use one tool to move, split, glue, resize, trim, loop, time stretch, pitch shift, fade, crossfade, slip, and snap to grid
- ReaSurround which offers spatial visualization and processing for stereo, surround, or multichannel audio (up to 64 channels)
- Customizable experience including colors, icons, layouts, toolbars, and more
Price: $60 for a personal license and $225 for a commercial license
Why you want it: Reaper is ideal for the professional that needs a complex software with a lot of options at a very affordable price point.
Cloud-based GarageBand alternatives
Not only does using a DAW often require you to make quite the investment, it can also require a certain amount of computing power to run. Cloud-based GarageBand alternatives give you the functionality of a traditional DAW while allowing you to create instantly in the cloud.
As one of the first online collaborative music studios available, Soundtrap offers all the same essential features of a traditional DAW. Its collaborative tools make it a popular option for those who want to record with others online.
Soundtrap allows you to record, edit, and collaborate on anywhere on any device with its app. And the best part? All of your projects are stored online in the cloud so you never have to worry about losing any of your work.
- Unlimited projects with access to over 800 instruments and sounds, including over 150k sound effects from freesound.org
- Powerful audio editing tool that allows you to tweak the volume, pan, and use filters
- Includes thousands of high-quality beats and presets like synths, 808s, chords, drum beats, melodies, and more
- Auto-Tune allows you to pitch and modify your voice recordings
- Soundtrap Capture App allows musicians to record and develop music on their mobile device
- Patterns Beatmaker allows you to make your own unique beats for your next track in a simple, intuitive way
- Collaboration with other users in the same place with the ability to see who’s recording and react to ideas in real-time
Price: $7.99/month for Premium; $11.99/month for Supreme; $11.99/month for Storytellers; and $16.99/month for the Soundtrp x Spotify Premium Bundle
Why you want it: Soundtrap is a great option for bands or musicians collaborating remotely and those who are creating music on-the-go.
BandLab is another online DAW that allows you to create music anywhere across platforms. With unlimited cloud storage, using BandLab is like walking around with a recording studio in your pocket. You can record whenever and wherever inspiration strikes from your mobile device.
BandLab offers collaboration tools and technology that allow you to work with other collaborators, no matter where they are. You can even join their network of millions of creators around the globe to find new collaboration opportunities.
- Unlimited projects, collaborations, high-quality downloads, and secure storage
- Access over 200 professionally created instruments like pianos and drum kits, connect your own instruments, or bring in sounds from other DAWs
- Includes universal FX and presets featuring premium guitar, bass, and vocal effects that you can use across devices
- Sync all of your work to the cloud so that all your projects are safe and ready to work on when you are
- AutoPitch tool allows you to automatically correct pitch in real time using BandLab’s proprietary algorithm
- Full version history stores all your revisions so you can restore earlier versions
- Unlimited free algorithmic mastering created by professionals helps you sound your best at all times
Why you want it: BandLab is an easy-to-use and affordable option for those new to music production but want to collaborate with others remotely.
Audiotool is a cloud-based DAW that focuses on the modular, making it a great option for those who want to experience the workflows early electronic musicians. The modular workflow also gives producers full freedom over their tracks, allowing them to route, split, or merge different synth outputs.
One unique thing about Audiotool is that it uses its community to grow its library of 250k+ samples and 50k+ device presets. This DAW is totally free and gives producers the opportunity to get more involved in an active online community of other music makers.
- Extensive sample library features more than 250k samples and presets for different synths and effects
- Includes 28 unique FX which include mastering tools and MIDI effects and a sample editor to tweak, cut, and edit your audio files
- Use 3 drum machines including recreations of vintage drum machines like Beatbox 8 and Beatbox 9
- Invite other producers to collaborate, teach, or work simultaneously in real time within the same studio and communicate via video, audio, and text chat
- MIDI-device support allowing you to play instruments and control knobs and sliders with your physical device
- Community-driven platform that gives you the opportunity to meet other producers within the Audiotool community or share your music in its publishing platform
- All tracks are stored on Audiotools servers, allowing you to access your projects from any browser—no software installations needed
Why you want it: If you want to experience a modular workflow that gives you more control over your sounds or like the community aspect of making music, Audiotool is the ideal cloud-based option.
14. Roland Zenbeats
Roland Zenbeats is a music creation app that allows you to get started on any device or platform. It makes it very easy for users to make beats, take lessons, or sample the world around them right from their mobile devices, while syncing projects to the cloud.
Just because Zenbeats can be used on smartphones or iPads doesn’t make it any less useful or professional than other online DAWs. With its flexibility and affordable price, it’s a DAW that gives you the power to record and produce music no matter where you are.
- Single dashboard interface where you can download song templates as well as open, search, and rename songs
- SampleVerse allows you to play, edit, and capture sounds from the world around you, including live vocals and acoustic instruments
- MIDI Polyphonic Expression, which gives you detailed control over each note’s parameters
- Integrates with Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, allowing you to easily share projects with others online
- Zenbeats Store features a hefty library filled with sounds, loops, and creative tools to help you create new music
- Publish your music directly to SoundCloud to share with your fans
- Compatible with iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows
Price: Free with in-app purchases required to unlock features, instruments, and effects
Why you want it: Roland Zenbeats is a fun, effective tool that allows you to capture inspiration on the go and easily share it with collaborators in the cloud.
Soundation offers a great introduction to cloud-based DAWs. With easy-to-use controls and an extensive learning library, it is fit for beginners or hobbyists and educators who want to teach their students.
Since its creation, Soundation has become more professional and powerful with new features that expand its use. However, without third-party plugin support, it isn’t really the best option for pros.
- Modern-looking interface with intuitive user controls like drag and drop
- Library of over 20,000 loops, samples, baselines, melodies, and drum beats that are ready to mix
- Audio effects to help shape the sound including tremolo, distortion, reverb, phaser, delay, fakie, equalizer and more
- Wub machine, an LFO focused synthesizer used to create grimy wubs for dubstep and bass genres
- Parametric EQ offering 8 bands so you can have better control over every parameter
- Collaborate with other music makers live as the projects sync to the cloud in real-time
- Music community with 150k+ monthly active users and 10k+ songs posted monthly where you can publish your songs to find more fans
Price: $4.99/month for Starter; $9.99/month for Creator; or $29.99/month for Pro
Why you want it: If you’re new to music making and want to get started with a simple yet powerful, cloud-based DAW that’s attached to an active community, Soundation may be the best option for you.
Your favorite Garageband alternative
Finding the best GarageBand alternative for you really comes down to what features you want and need as well as your budget. But you’ll never know which is the best audio engineering software for you until you check out the different options.
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