GarageBand is, by far, one of the best music creation studios on the market. With a huge range of virtual instruments, guitar and voice presets, and drummers and percussionists, it is a favorite amongst music producers worldwide.
Musicians love how seamlessly GarageBand integrates with the TouchPad on Mac computers and how easy it is to record, play, and create music using it. There’s just one problem — GarageBand is for Mac computers only.
That means that if you own a Windows desktop or laptop, you’re going to have to look for a GarageBand alternative. While you may think you’re out of luck, the good news is that there are plenty of fantastic GarageBand alternatives that can help you record amazing music.
Today, I will be showing you the 10 best GarageBand alternatives for Windows. Let’s get into it.
Reaper is one of the oldest standing DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) on the market. It’s one of the best DAWs for music producers on Windows, as it gives you all the features you need at an affordable price.
While Reaper might not be as easy to use as GarageBand, it is a powerhouse just the same. If you are willing to put some time into it to learn how it works and get through the learning curve, you will find yourself delighted by what it offers, including interface customization and the ability to work with unlimited audio tracks.
Yes, Reaper has a reputation for looking a bit outdated, but that’s what makes its tiny size possible. Reaper, compared to other full-featured Digital Audio Workstations like GarageBand, barely takes up any space on your computer, and it doesn’t use up a lot of resources.
Reaper supports many media types for rendering, importing, and recording. It also supports thousands of virtual instruments and plugin effects from third parties, giving you endless possibilities.
While there are many formidable competitors to GarageBand on Windows, most of the good ones aren’t free like GarageBand is. Sure, some of them, like Reaper, are pretty affordable and come with long and flexible trial periods.
Nevertheless, if you are an amateur artist with a small budget, and you just can’t afford a paid digital audio workstation, Cakewalk by BandLab is the best GarageBand alternative on Windows for you. It is free forever for all global users.
You can add an unlimited number of audio and MIDI tracks to every project. With the Skylight Interface, creating, composing, and editing music is a smooth experience — the interface is also adapted to work with touch devices.
There is a nice selection of effects, with thousands of beats and loops available for mixing. The universal effects work on all devices.
There are over 200 virtual instruments to choose from, and you can also connect your own instruments; instead of importing recordings, you can record live.
With auto pitch correction technology, your music will come out great. Also, all of your work is eligible for free mastering, with technology created by top engineers and musicians.
There are several mastering settings to choose from, from “Universal Mastering” to “Clarity” or “Fire,” depending on how you want your tracks to come out.
Mastering is often the final step that takes your music from the studio environment and makes it ready for official release and distribution. Being able to do it for free, and quickly, is something that will definitely come in handy.
Since your projects will be synced to the cloud automatically, you won’t have to worry about losing your work.
Cakewalk makes collaborating with other artists easy as well, as you can all work online on the same project. Also, whenever you make a revision, your previous versions will be saved, so you can go back and undo a revision if necessary.
With Cakewalk Web Audio, you can create and compose music without any extra software downloads or plugins.
As it is keyboard enabled, you can use your keyboard to play virtual instruments supported by the app while composing.
While Cakewalk allows you to export your music directly to SoundCloud, YouTube, or Facebook, you can also publish and sell it on BandLab.
Using BandLab, you can publish tracks or albums and sell them at your desired price. Not only do you have complete flexibility with your pricing, but BandLab doesn’t take a single cent from you.
You get to customize your album with unique colors, a special background, and more — you can even customize the font.
Not only that, but you can also use the Tip Jar feature on BandLab to make even more money, even if you are publishing tracks for free. Fans of yours can tip you as much or as little as they want, and all the proceeds go straight to you, the creator; BandLab doesn’t take a single penny here either.
However, since BandLab uses Stripe, you will need a Stripe account, and Stripe charges a small commission on each payment.
BandLab for Education is geared for the classroom. With the online cloud system that syncs across all devices, including Chromebooks, educators can collaborate with students on music creation.
Finally, the Android and iOS apps help you stay connected with your music and creations on the go. All in all, Cakewalk is one of my top GarageBand alternatives on Windows, and the fact that it is 100 percent free — with no ifs, ands, or buts — makes it even more amazing.
3. Ableton Live
The next GarageBand alternative for Windows on our list is Ableton Live, also known simply as Live. With a flexible 90 day trial, Ableton Live, available for 64 bit Windows machines, is one of the GarageBand alternatives for Windows.
Like GarageBand, Ableton Live comes with a wide range of virtual instruments, sounds, and effects. Among the 70+ effects for tweaking your music while composing are Echo and Hybrid Reverb.
According to Ableton, Hybrid Reverb “combines convolution and algorithmic reverbs” and allows you to add any type of feel to your music.
With Instrument Packs such as String Quartet, Bass Quartet, and Upright Piano, you can include multiple instruments, such as violins, the cello, a trumpet, a trombone, a flügelhorn, and more into your tracks, depending on the pack you choose.
Like GarageBand, Ableton Live integrates with your keyboards with instant mapping. If you opt for Live Max, you’ll get access to even more instruments.
Using Live, you can splice together different samples from your music library to create beautiful end results. After a live performance, you’ll be able to take the best recordings and moments from that performance and merge them together for a track that best represents your talent and who you are as an artist.
A cool feature is the ability to work on multiple tracks at a time with linked track editing, also allowing you to edit performances that feature more than one musician.
Ableton Live is great for live performances. It can adjust its tempo in real time to incoming audio, and you can set the probability that you will hit a certain note or drumroll and allow the software to generate variations to spice things up.
Overall, Ableton allows you to do more than GarageBand, especially when it comes to MIDI tracks, and it’s available for Windows 10 (check system requirements on the website).
Also, if you’re a student or work in an educational institution, you can get a 40 percent discount on Ableton Live! Check this page for updates.
Cubase has something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner music producer or producing top 100 billboard tracks. Indeed, with its easy-to-follow and seamless workflows, anyone can use Cubase, in any genre.
What makes Cubase so awesome to work with? Here are some of the features you’re bound to find useful:
- An easy to use interface that makes it a breeze to find content you’re looking for
- Colors to colorize mixer channels and make it easier to find tracks
- Chord pads that make it easy to improvise with chords
- A Quantize panel to warp quantize several audio tracks at once
- The ability to record several takes of a performance or song and use the lane tracks to find the best moments from each take and put them together for a perfect end result
- And a lot more
I’m sure you’ll also find the virtual instruments on Cubase awesome, too.
Another good thing about Cubase is that it comes in several versions. This gives you the flexibility to choose the version right for you, based on your needs.
For a full comparison of the different versions, visit this page. Different versions feature a different number of music instruments, effects, plugins, and so on.
There truly is something for everyone, regardless of the size and complexity of your project and your budget.
Overall, I’d say that Cubase is a bit more flexible than GarageBand and offers more functionality, allowing you to get more done — but you might need to spend some more time figuring out how to work it.
A cool GarageBand alternative for Windows is Bitwig, with a free demo trial available. While the demo version does not have any time limitations — you can use it as long as you want — you can’t export or save music you create unless you have a license.
Bitwig is awesome for both composing music and live performances. While there is an extensive library of effects, presets, container devices, and instruments (over 90 to choose from), you can also build your own virtual instruments using “The Grid.”
“The Grid” is a sound design environment with 175 modules and an ultra-quick workflow.
Its intuitive interface makes arranging tracks and albums easy. Its editing features are nothing to laugh at either — within a clip, you can copy, reverse, add, split, rearrange, and perform many other actions.
Also, there is touch support, allowing for gestures, touchpoints, pen touch, and more for editing and composing on touchscreen devices.
Bitwig can automatically stretch your music for you, with eight different time stretch algorithms available; manual stretching is possible as well.
Bitwig aims for stability. It has built-in plugin crash protection — plugins, and other processes, including the audio engine, all run in separate threads so that if a plugin crashes, the whole thing won’t crash.
Not only does Bitwig support Windows, unlike GarageBand, but it now supports Windows 11, which was just released, as well! The earliest version of Windows it supports is Windows 7, though that is subject to change, so do check here for updated system requirements.
Pro Tools, by Avid, is a pretty popular digital audio workstation. It’s one of the best alternatives to GarageBand for Windows if you have complex, advanced music production needs, though it’s not the cheapest.
Nevertheless, Pro Tools has some affordable plans as well, and it even has a limited free version, called Pro Tools First. Pro Tools is currently available for Windows 10 computers, though you can check the system requirements for updated information about technical requirements.
The free version, Pro Tools First, only has 23 plugins, compared to the 120 plugins available on the standard plan. It’s still a great tool, especially if your needs are more simple, so feel free to try it out.
With Avid Pro Tools, you can mix immersive audio, including Dolby Atmos music, for film, movies, and TV.
Pro Tools might be for you if you work on music with a team. With Avid Cloud Collaboration, you can save any project to the cloud, so others can access it from the internet on any device, wherever they are, and add to the project.
If you run out of space, you can always add more cloud storage for your other projects.
Avid Cloud Collaboration is even available for free Avid First users. Nevertheless, you can only have three projects at a time in the cloud if you are on the free plan, though you can swap projects in and out as needed.
If you’re an artist, you might also be interested in Avid Link and Avid Play.
Avid Link is a community of artists and musicians, where you can promote your work and find other producers or artists to collaborate with.
Avid Play, on the other hand, is for music distribution to over 150 streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, TikTok, Deezer, Tidal, and many others.
You can set your own pieces and take 100 percent of the profits. Using Avid Play, you can set songs and albums for prerelease and let fans save them for download ahead of the release, thus building up hype.
You can also set participant splits if you are working on your music with partners.
All in all, Avid Pro Tools, together with other Avid products like Link and Play, are all powerful tools that offer advanced production capabilities on a Hollywood level.
If you have a Windows 10, you can use Reason, which is a perfect alternative to GarageBand on Windows. Actually, you can choose to either make your music in Reason Studio itself or use the plugin, called “The Rack,” to enhance the music you are working on with other tools, such as Avid Pro Tools or Ableton Live.
Regardless of which one you choose, Reason and Rack provide a sound design environment in which you can combine effects, instruments, and a lot more.
The Reason Studio comes with “The Rack” — the digital design playground — included. With a quick and easy sequencer and tons of Sound Packs, you can let your creative juices flow and make your music sound just like you want it to.
When comparing GarageBand to Reason in terms of production capabilities and functionality, Reason would come out as a winner every time.
One of the advantages of GarageBand is that it is an optimal tool for beginners. Despite being a powerful tool, it isn’t that difficult to figure out — it is simple to use and doesn’t involve a complicated learning curve.
Many of the alternatives to GarageBand that exist for Windows, while being powerhouses in their own right, are a bit more complex. If you have some music production experience, you won’t find most of them confusing — but if you are a complete beginner, with zero experience at all, they can seem a bit overwhelming.
If that is you, Magix Music Maker is the best GarageBand alternative for Windows for you. Designed for newbies, Magix Music Maker has a huge library of loops and sounds you can select from to mix and match and create awesome music.
With a simplistic interface designed for those starting out with music production, Magix Music Maker allows you to access virtual instruments, synthesizers, drums, and more. Music Maker also supports recording from real instruments, so feel free to plug in your keyboard or guitar and start creating music.
You can also plug in a microphone and sing, though if you feel shy or don’t like the sound of your voice, there are vocal samples available for use as well.
The best part is that there is a free version! The free version is pretty extensive, and if you are a complete beginner, I would suggest starting out with that instead of one of the premium Magic Maker licenses.
To be clear, Magix Music Maker is hardly a full-fledged digital audio workstation. Rather, it’s more of a simplistic way for complete beginners to play around with music, so if GarageBand is too confusing and advanced for you, Magix Music Maker might be what you need.
Studio One is a digital audio workstation famous for its drag and drop workflow, which has now become the standard in the DAW industry, adopted by many other DAWs. Using the Studio One browser, you can drag and drop instruments, effects, loops, and more into your project.
Studio One uses drag and drop for a lot more than that, though. You can convert audio into MIDI and vice versa using drag and drop, for example.
You can use the Impact XT environment to create unique beats and combine multiple instruments together to create customized sounds. The advanced analysis tools allow you to make sure you got your music just right, and, once the music is mastered, you can burn it onto a CD or upload it directly to SoundCloud, among other distribution methods.
You only need 4 GB of RAM on a Windows 10 to run Studio One, unlike many other Windows DAWs which require RAM of 8 GB or more. Check the Tech Specs for updated system requirements.
I suggest getting Studio One only if you are an advanced artist, and you can afford to get Studio One Professional (the more expensive version of Studio One). It is more advanced than GarageBand, though also being expensive.
On the other hand, if you are a beginner, there are simpler alternatives to GarageBand for Windows that are cheaper or even free.
10. FL Studio
Finally, the final GarageBand alternative on our list is FL Studio. It is available for Windows, and it is a bit better suited for professional production needs than GarageBand, though it does involve a bit more of a learning curve.
It comes with an unlimited free trial, which never expires — you can even save and export projects. However, you’ll need the full license to get updates, reopen projects you saved during the trial, get free content and technical updates, and more.
The best GarageBand alternative for Windows is Reaper. Reaper is a complete digital audio workstation with a lot more functionality than GarageBand will ever have.
Nevertheless, it is not free. If you are looking for a free GarageBand alternative for Windows, I would have to go with Cakewalk; there is no other good free alternative that has the necessary capabilities for advanced music production.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.