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GarageBand gets plenty of love from MacOS users. That’s the problem: it’s a MacOS-only program. This leaves Windows PC users in a tough spot, but they don’t have to be. There are dozens of audio mixer programs out there that can fill the spot GarageBand leaves behind.
Here are seven of the best GarageBand alternatives that can scratch that itch:
The first up to perform is LMMS. Thanks to the work of a volunteer development team, LMMS makes it onto this list as an open-source, cross-platform music production suite. If you have a serious aspiration of mixing music, LMMS is your holy grail, and it’s completely free.
You’ll have plenty of instruments to choose from, just enough to test the waters without drowning in options. LMMS offers samples and effects right off the bat if you aren’t ready to make your own. New users might be frightened by the interface; there’s a lot going on. However, once you’ve created a few audio clips for yourself, you’ll realize it wasn’t so bad.
For synthesizers, LMMS is built to read your keyboard strokes and convert them into musical notes. As for drums, an instrument with a plethora of moving parts, a visual mapping tool was created to streamline the complicated nature of the drums.
LMMS has one drawback, though: no live performance recording. Luckily, that isn’t much of an issue because LMMS does allow external files. You can create the performance via outside methods like a smartphone or a separate live recording program and simply import the external file into LMMS.
And as an added bonus, if you’re looking to share your music, LMMS fosters a music community on their online forum. You’ll have the opportunity to join their yearly competitions and see how popular your piece can get. If that’s not for you, SoundCloud is a viable alternative.
LMMS is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Like its name suggest, Reaper is not for the faint of heart. This is less of a toy, and more of a professional-grade program. Using Reaper is like graduating from training wheels to a bike. You’re expected to know what you’re doing beforehand; the touch and go strategy doesn’t work with Reaper.
Consider this, LMMS is great for aspiring mixers, but Reaper is for the users that have moved passed exploring the world of mixing and have moved into committing to it.
Reaper comes with everything you expect a licensed digital audio program would come with. You’ll have access to a notation editor, FX capabilities, VCA control, even syncing audio to video, to name a few of its features. Reaper even plays nice with third-party plug-in effects and virtual instruments. To top it off, Reaper has what LMMS lacks: live performance capabilities.
There is a catch though: Reaper isn’t free. Not forever. If you’d like to test it out, Reaper offers a 60-day trial. When you’re satisfied, you can buy their personal or commercial license.
Reaper is available for Windows and MacOS. Experimental builds are currently available for Linux as well.
3. Music Maker Jam
Music Maker Jam breaks away from the professional scene and, instead, enters the realm of fun. Music Maker Jam is not a program that is packed to the brim with options; that’s not where its head is at. Think of Music Maker Jam as those moments spent drumming away on a desk, trying to make music with limited options–that’s Music Maker Jam.
To start you off, you’re giving several genres to choose from. Once you’ve decided on a genre, Music Maker Jam gives you sound loops that you can move around and adjust, as well as throw in a few FX options. To top it off, you can even add in a vocal track you’ve made. Music Maker Jam is free to use, however, you can buy additional pieces. Musicians and professional DJs are always offering new sounds packs for you to buy.
While Music Maker Jam aims to be fun for everyone, it does offer a competitive scene. They hold many competitions that, if you win, will get showcased on their official YouTube Channel.
Music Maker Jam is available for Windows, Android, and iOS.
4. FL Studio
GarageBand is great for aspiring mixers, that much is true. However, when you’re ready to move past that, FL Studio is always a good choice. If you’re apprehensive about making the leap, you can always test out their free trial. It won’t offer as many tools as retail, but you’ll be given plenty of options to base your decision off.
FL Studio, like LMMS, takes a much broader approach to its mixing. In fact, they offer much of the same features. FL Studio’s goal in mind is simplicity without sacrificing depth, and it does it well. You’ll have mastery over adjusting synths and recordings.
Furthermore, FL Studio has a drum mode that lets you create drum tracks in a fun and interesting way. Mixing music doesn’t always have to be about choosing the right note with the click of a button.
Fl Studio has been doing its job, and doing it right, for the past 20 years. It’s available for Windows and MacOS. FL Studio Mobile is available for Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones.
5. Mixcraft 8
Mixcraft 8 is more or less a go-to for any budding music producer. You’ll have ease of access to a library of loops that you can stitch together into a real song, and still consider it a song. If you’re familiar with GarageBand, Mixcraft 8 isn’t much of a leap. You won’t gain much from switching to Mixcraft 8 if you’re coming from Garageband.
Mixcraft 8 is better as an introduction to producing. The icing on the cake, though, is the ability to sync with live performance. By that standard, it is on par with LMMS.
There are two downsides to Mixcraft 8: it isn’t free, and the home edition doesn’t come with a large library of instruments and samples. However, there is a 14-day free trial.
Mixcraft is available for Windows.
Cubase is an impressive mixing software that comes with a laundry list of features that make its price worth investing in. You’ll be able to create, produce and mix your own music with their large library of instruments and sound effects.
Cubase comes with features that are staples to high-end music creation software. You can edit audio with warp quantize, channel strips, as well as recorded vocals. You can even record and edit live audio. Cubase as a serious contender against Reaper, many features are shared between the two.
The downside is Cubase’s price tag. Cubase isn’t for beginners. Don’t bother with Cubase unless you’ve committed to producing music and audio.
Cubase is available for Windows and MacOS.
Audiotool takes a lightweight approach to mixing audio and applies it to a browser. And it’s free. Audiotool has its own cloud to store any and all tracks you make. So, if you create a track on a separate device, rather than go through all the trouble of transferring, you can simply pull it from your cloud.
Audiotool also opens up its features with a modular structure. As for samples, the community helps expand its library of audio samples themselves. With over 250,000 samples to choose from, you should have no problem finding the sound you’re looking for.
You won’t be disappointed if you graduate to Audiotool after you’ve cut your teeth on the simpler audio mixers.