When it comes to free DAWs, or “Digital Audio Workstations,” GarageBand is among the most well-known names. Its complete lack of cost is undoubtedly one of the key factors.
The fact that GarageBand has a wide range of “semi-professional” processing capabilities, such as compressors and EQs, as well as editing tools, native plugins, instruments, and samples, is actually what accounts for the program’s general popularity.
A great option is to use a “light” DAW, which is a condensed version of a well-known DAW like Ableton Live or FL Studio. But there are additional fully-featured (and cost-free) options from other publishers that are highly recommended.
The top 5 (free) alternatives to GarageBand for Windows right now are:
- Microsoft MusicMaker
- MPC Beats by Akai
- Hey Studio
- Waveform Tracktion Free
1. Cakewalk by Bandlab
If you’re shouting, “I want to compose music, but I can’t obtain GarageBand!”… Take Cakewalk, one of the top free DAWs for Windows, for example.
The ‘Sonar’ DAW label from Roland, which sold for $600, served as the foundation for Cakewalk. Since then, this platform has been acquired by BandLab and extensively expanded to provide you with “Cakewalk by BandLab.”
A full suite of plugins featuring compressors, reverbs, EQs, and other mastering tools like limiters and multiband compressors is available in Cakewalk, which boasts some of the most complete music production features of any free DAW.
The well-known “Skylight” interface was used to build Cakewalk, which supports almost every third-party instrument and effect plugin (aside from RTAS and AAX formats) and offers an award-winning end-user experience thanks to its efficient and understandable GUI.
Users of BandLab can utilize any of their preferred VST plugins, as well as an infinite number of audio tracks, FX sends, and MIDI tracks. In terms of appearance and functionality, it is also the closest DAW to Garageband.
The majority of industry software’s Lite editions typically lock these essential capabilities behind a “paywall,” yet Cakewalk includes all of them without asking you to upgrade or subscribe.
A 64-bit mix engine, Windows 10 support, and ARA (Audio Random Access) features will provide users with hardware support and integration on par with Apple’s proprietary Core Audio driver.
There is a seamless functionality that many DAWs (both commercial and free) don’t take into account, even if some hardware drivers may still be needed. When a MIDI keyboard is plugged in, some versions of Protools really force you to restart the session, which may be a hassle and completely ruin creative moments in the middle of a session.
2. Magix ‘Musicmaker’
A software company called “Magix” has developed a new “free daw” product. Since as early as 1994, they have been operating and releasing their “MusicMaker” DAW bundle.
Magix MusicMaker is a fantastic, free program that is available in 32- and 64-bit versions. It has all the tools that producers of all skill levels will value having at their disposal.
There is a tonne of free studio-quality instruments and VST plugins in Music Maker, which has an incredible number of capabilities and is packed to the gills with functionality. A few examples include:
- drums ok
- Drum Machine
- Guitar Concert
- Drum Machine (MPC style pads)
- Cinematic synthesizers and orchestral ensemble
- String Orchestra
- Guitar Power
- Analog synthesizers
- Urban Drums, among others.
In addition to this enormous array of free plugins and software, Magix has also included what they call a “SoundPool”—their own distinctive collection of loops, sounds, samples, and other sonic flavors—that is represented in the DAW and is fully usable within the MusicMaker ecosystem.
The pro-level features of MusicMaker include full integration of audio interfaces, midi keyboards, external instruments, microphones, and other sound sources, as well as a complete midi editing suite and piano-roll capabilities. It also performs as you would expect any product of this caliber to.
Your music composition needs to be polished and made to shine in your own unique way to complete it. MusicMaker enables you to do this by including some slick effects and processing plugins as part of this free bundle.
Along with a sizable number of free audio effects including wahs, delays, and flangers, these plugins also feature the robust Vandal SE amplifier, which is renowned for its realistic tone and distortion simulations.
MusicMaker offers mastering software that is appropriate for all levels of producers, and it even has a function for beginners called “Auto Master” that is comparable to LANDR.
In terms of creative capacity and being able to get anyone started making music in a matter of minutes, this free program has far more to offer than what is stated here. MusicMaker’s workflow is also distinctive, quick, and simple to grasp.
Their built-in marketplace, or “Sound Pool,” makes it simple for anyone to start creating music in a couple of minutes or to get some extra inspiration to aid with writer’s block.
3. AKAI MPC Beats
The most expensive DAWs among the world’s top competitors use a wide variety of capabilities and functionality, including multi-track recording, AU, and VST compatibility (enabling the use of purchased third-party plugins, effects, and instruments).
For individuals who currently use pre-existing DAWs or may have fully licensed versions of Logic, Live, FL Studio, or Reason, for example, they can download and use MPC Beats AS A PLUGIN with their existing DAW. This allows the user to effectively have a DAW operating within a DAW.
The amazing thing about MPC Beats is that it offers, for free, all the basic features of programs like Maschine (with an emphasis on creating beats and grooves). Additionally, MPC Beats includes a whopping 2GB of samples and sounds in addition to over 80 of its own “original” plugins, like compressors, echo/delay/reverb, EQ, software synthesizers, and more.
Full class compliance means that MPC Beats should operate smoothly and connect with any class-compliant device, beat pad, keyboard, or other digital instruments. MPC Beats actually has a HUGE library of kits available at reasonable and affordable pricing, with kits for genres like deep house, EDM, hip-hop, trap, and just about every genre you can think of. This is especially helpful for individuals without access to equipment or money.
Additionally, they feature kits created by titans of the industry like Aarab Muzik and Decap, who got their start and established themselves as musicians who are once again synonymous with Akai and the practice of finger drumming.
4. Ohm Studio
Peer-to-peer connection and the ability for numerous individuals to collaborate on the same project in real-time are features of the little-known and drastically underappreciated music production suite Ohm Studio.
The software is free to use, hosted on Steam, and offers a user-friendly interface that resembles a hybrid between Ableton Live and Protools.
Ohm Studio is a fantastic tool for producers who want to collaborate remotely and offers a solution that is frequently disregarded. Programs like Skype and Zoom are available today, but they don’t directly integrate or let you work with different sound sources as Ohm Studio does.
The user interface is clear and appealing to the eye, including a chat box, allows you to manage your VST plugins, and allows you to drag & drop audio from saved files or other sessions. Having used the software myself a number of times, it has truly come in handy when unable to physically meet up with someone else for a session.
Amazingly, you can get this tool for free. It offers a service that no other DAW at the moment can offer by making collaboration really simple. Ohm Studio has come a long way and has managed to remain useful after all these years, so major props go out to all the developers that have worked on it.
5. Tracktion Waveform Free
With big promises and no cost, Traktion Waveform Free joined the market. According to their statement, they would “provide more capabilities than most enthusiast producers will ever require.” They have done a good job of keeping their half of the agreement, even though most of this is just typical marketing.
Traktion Waveform Free is a stepping stone to eventually buying the “Pro” edition, however, it essentially gives you the keys to most of the castle already.
Tracktion Waveform Free provides all the capabilities you require to begin making music, including infinite track counts, the option to add well-known VSTs, automation features, a drum sampler, and a synth that is already included.
You may quickly switch between the many primary menus using the bottom left corner of the screen and the interface’s strong workflow. You may access master transport, record modes, output meters, and other useful information on the other side of the screen.
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