10 Free Garageband Alternatives For Windows (2023)
GarageBand isn’t available on Windows. Any claims that you can get it working on Windows are essentially trying to emulate the Apple environment on your PC. It’s generally a much better idea to use a program that works natively on Windows.
Fortunately, you have many other options that act as alternatives. In this article, I’ll show you 10 of the best free alternatives to GarageBand.
- 1. Waveform Free
- 2. Cakewalk by BandLab
- 3. Audacity
- 4. LMMS
- 5. Ableton Live Lite
- 6. Ardour
- 7. SoundBridge
- 8. Avid Pro Tools First
- 9. Studio One Prime
- 10. FL Studio
- Notable Mentions
- Why Is GarageBand Not Available on Windows?
- Is GarageBand for Windows Safe?
- Why Shouldn’t You Use VM Workarounds to Install GarageBand for Windows?
- Will Apple Ever Release a Version of GarageBand for Windows?
- Is Logic Pro Available for Windows?
1. Waveform Free
Go to website: Waveform Free
Waveform Free is a free version of the Tracktion Corp. Waveform 11 DAW. Since it’s free, it doesn’t have all the features of its older brother but still has the overall quality and versatility.
The main selling points are that it allows for unlimited use of third-party VST plugins. This is a nice feature as you can use as many plugins as you like. The best part is that they work in a sandbox system, meaning that if they start crashing, you can just turn them off without affecting the whole program.
Another great thing is its unlimited track count. This is a great feature for people who need many channels at once, as many of the free daws limit the max number of tracks in one project.
2. Cakewalk by BandLab
Go to website: Cakewalk by BandLab
Cakewalk is the free reincarnation of the old Gibson’s Sonar, which was discontinued a few years ago. This is a full-sized DAW that offers a lot of opportunities to musicians. It can be a bit overwhelming for beginners as it has a lot of options for customization, but once you get the hang of it, you will love all the versatility you are getting.
With it also comes a very decent sound base of instruments that can be used for free with this DAW. Mixing and editing options are various and can give you a professional sound. This is new software developed by BandLab, so it’s expected to have good support over the years and develop even further from now.
Go to website: Audacity
Audacity has been the legend of the free DAWs for decades now. It’s built to be a simple, rugged option for people who don’t need top-shelf quality, but something to get their job done quickly and with quality.
Audacity has an unlimited number of tracks and can be used for pretty much everything, from music to podcast recording. It also has a lot of built-in effects, and you can run it on any computer, so you won’t have to worry about your system requirements.
The only downside of Audacity is destructive editing—you can’t change some effect later in the project without undoing everything you’ve already done. This is a bit frustrating for large projects, but if you have smaller projects, this is a perfect pick for you.
Go to website: LMMS
LMMS is one of the newest additions to the market. It’s its own program, such as Audacity, and not a lite version of some larger DAW. It has an intuitive and versatile interface, similar to the legendary Fruity Loops.
This software’s unique feature is that it supports both VST and LADSPA plugins, giving you a vast range of free plugins to choose from. It also has its own pack of very nice plugins, instruments, and synthesizers you can use. The only downside of this program is that you can’t record directly in it. You can use MIDI input, but there is no option for standard audio recording, which can be a bit of an issue for a home-based musician.
5. Ableton Live Lite
Go to website: Ableton Live Lite
Ableton Live Lite is the lite version of Ableton Live, one of the world’s best-known DAWs. This is a toned-down version of its big brother, but for a beginner, it’s a perfect tool to learn the basics. Advanced users can get to taste the feel of Ableton Live before committing to purchase.
In this, you will find an intuitive clip-based design that is somewhat different from other standard interfaces in the DAWs. Also, there are tons of preset tones, effects, and samples you can use straight out of the box. Ableton was one of the first DAWs to have automatic sample matching, so DJs quite often use it for this feature.
Check it out: Ardour
Ardour is a pretty handy open-source DAW courtesy of a collective of musicians, developers, and recording engineers. It lets you record, edit, mix, and master audio in a straightforward manner. It’s a great software to unleash your musicality whether you’re an audio engineer, musician, composer, or editor.
On Ardour, You can add as many tracks and buses as you want. You can edit them however you want. And Ardour allows both destructive and non-destructive editing.
There are hundreds of plugin options for you to choose from. Although, there are times when the software can be a little overwhelming. If so, you can always find if you feel like it’s too much, you can always find helpful tutorials online.
Ardour is compatible with Windows, mac-OS, and even Linux. Also, it supports multi-core distribution.
Keep in mind that although Ardour will be easily installable from the package manager of most Linux distros, it generally won’t be the most up-to-date version. If you want the latest version, then you will either need to pay a once-off or subscription fee to get an installable version. Alternatively, you can get the source code and build it yourself, though that’s not for beginners!
Check it out: SoundBridge
If SoundBridge wasn’t called SoundBridge, it’d be called SimpleBridge. Or SoundSimple. Anyway, the point is SoundBridge is one of the easiest to use DAW out there.
It has a minimalistic interface with several basic and advanced features. The interface offers you everything from sequencing, mixing, and FX rack to MIDI mapping, MIDI, audio, and automation editing. While some of its professional features include high res skins, linked faders, a virtual MIDI keyboard, detachable GUI mapping, and many more.
SoundBridge has a RitMix drum machine that is sort of a compound of MPC Pad Section and 16-Step Sequencer. What they do is let you create rhythm and beats, and record them in one place.
The DAW has third-party VST plugins with low latency and high-fidelity sound driver support. It also requires very few system requirements and comes in 32-bit and 64-bit formats.
8. Avid Pro Tools First
Check it out: Avid Pro Tools First
Avid Pro Tools is a well-established DAW among both professionals and amateurs. However, before you immerse yourself into the creative process of Pro Tools, Avid lets you use Pro Tools First. A Lite and free version of the former.
Of course, it’s not as dynamic as the full version but you can still satisfy your basic DAW needs. First, it uses the same format as Pro Tools.
Second, it allows you to record 16 tracks and 16 virtual instruments (pianos, drums, synths, basses, guitars, strings, horns, and more). You can also record 4 tracks simultaneously or loop tracks. There’s also an in-built virtual instrument Xpand!2 that offers a nice range of sounds.
Pro Tools First offers decent MIDI editing tools, a 500MB sample library, and some 20-odd effects and plugins. One great thing about being a member of Avid’s Artist Community is that you have access to musicians around the world with whom you can easily collaborate.
9. Studio One Prime
Check it out: Studio One Prime
Studio One Prime is one of the best music software for beginners or students. It’s great for anyone getting into the world of music production as it makes learning fun and is completely free.
It has a simple, single-window work environment that doesn’t leave you clueless. It allows an unlimited amount of tracks, virtual instruments, and FX channels. You also have around 2GB of loops and music content to choose from.
In addition to all this, Studio One Prime comes with a Presence XT sampler for keys and synths. And intuitive drum and melody composer.
The only drawback of Studio One Prime is that you need VST and AU plugin add-ons. That and it only runs on a 64-bit OS.
10. FL Studio
Check it out: FL Studio
Image Line’s FL Studio is one of the most popular daws in the world, therefore, it is one of the best GarageBand alternatives, especially since it has a very friendly user interface. FL Studio’s piano roll functions are top-notch and particularly useful for hip-hop and EDM beatmakers.
This is a full-fledged DAW for Windows PC, however, if you meet the minimum system requirements (RAM, CPU speed, etc.), it might have some latency issues as the software is not very CPU efficient.
You can download FL Studio for free to give it a try, however, if you want to unlock its potential and lift the limitations, the paid version should suffice. It is by far one of the most affordable professional DAWs in the world.
Here are some honorable mentions to consider as well:
If collaborating with other musicians is a big part of your musicianship or if you want to have some fun with your musician friends, then Ohm Studio is a good choice. This is pro-quality software to create and record music on your own or as a collective. Ohm Studio offers low latency, high-frequency audio, VST, and MIDI. You also get an extensive sound library, unlimited soundtracks, automation, and a very fast and friendly UI.
Stagelight is a standalone Windows DAW that features a very similar interface to GarageBand. Even the coloring is very reminiscent of GarageBand. This software can be used on your PC, iOS (iPhone, iPad), and even Android devices. It has some incredible features for making music as well as audio recording, great stock VSTs, and comes as both free and paid versions.
MAGIX Music Maker
MAGIX Music Maker is another standalone DAW that is great for making music. It’s a very suitable alternative to GarageBand since it features a similar user interface and has VST support, effects, MIDI functionality, and more. It features a free and paid version, however, the paid version has way more features, loops, the number of tracks, and even an Auto-Master function for beginners.
Akai MPC Beats
Akai’s MPC Beats is a great option for beat makers for real-time and studio use. It doesn’t come with many stock VSTs, however, you can easily download more and expand your library. On the other hand, it does feature very good FX plugins (delay, reverb, echo, compressors, etc.), over 80, to be precise. Considering the functionality, CPU-friendly design, ease of use, and the fact that it is FREE, this is a very suitable alternative to Garage Band.
Why Is GarageBand Not Available on Windows?
As you probably know, Apple has a big selling point on exclusivity. As such, they have their own version of everything and tend not to make it available on devices other than their own. This has been a company policy since the beginning, ensuring that they can sell more computers and other devices with GarageBand as one of the selling points—getting a full-on DAW for free.
If you try to install GarageBand on your Windows, you’ll see a lot of instructions and nothing more. There is no safe version of GarageBand for Windows. These instructions will either teach you how to use an Apple virtual machine on your Windows computer, emulating the macOS settings or sell you an unsafe program that can be anything except GarageBand for Windows, as such a thing doesn’t exist.
Is GarageBand for Windows Safe?
As we already established, there is no version of GarageBand for Windows. If anybody tries to sell you GarageBand for Windows or a link to download GarageBand, it’s not a safe version, and you shouldn’t rely on it or that person.
Why Shouldn’t You Use VM Workarounds to Install GarageBand for Windows?
Using a virtual machine or an emulator on Windows (like the VMWare workstation 10) to run GarageBand is not ideal. Audio drivers may not work as well, and CPU performance may be much lower. Music production can take a lot of processing power. You should be running a DAW that works with your native system instead of using a VM.
Will Apple Ever Release a Version of GarageBand for Windows?
Never say never, but since their foundation, Apple and Microsoft have been in a very open war with one another, and it hasn’t changed since. Given that information, it’s not likely that Apple will ever release a version of GarageBand for Windows, but that can always change. However, for now, no such plans have even been mentioned.
Another reason why this is unlikely to happen is that Apple doesn’t need to compete with the dozens of DAW makers currently fighting over the Windows market. This way, Apple has more or less its own backyard and a much easier job at hand.
Is Logic Pro Available for Windows?
Logic Pro is the “older brother” of GarageBand. Since it’s made by Apple, it’s not available for Windows, and everything we said applies to GarageBand.
Finding an alternative to GarageBand for Windows is a lot more difficult than it seems. Even if there were such a thing as GarageBand for Windows, Apple has its own virtual machine for making its software work on the Mac and wouldn’t easily release such an application as GarageBand on any other platform.
Luckily, there are some great alternatives to GarageBand for Windows. The ones on this list will have a similar design and ease of use. They’re also free alternatives, so you don’t have to pay for your ability to create music on the Windows platform after all.
Many of these options explore the vast and deep world of VST and plug-ins, so you can use your favorite plugins in your favorite DAW. This means you don’t have to change the way you work to get a great outcome when it comes to music production.