GarageBand Alternatives For the Chromebook
Chromebooks (“Chromebook” is a generic term for a laptop form factor device that runs the Chrome OS, a variant of Linux that uses the Chrome browser as its principle user interface) first rolled out in 2011 and in the years since the platform has struggled somewhat to find and define its niche. Because the Chrome OS is much more efficient at resource management than the Windows or Mac operating systems, Chromebooks can run on lighter hardware, which makes them cost-competitive. However, the platform has significant limitations and there are things that Chromebooks simply aren’t good at.
There is a general sentiment in the computing world that media creation is one of those things, and it is true that a Chromebook is a poor choice for someone who wants to do video editing or even serious image processing. The machines tend to just not have the hardware chops to do that kind of processor-intensive work. But how about music creation? Well, a Chromebook might not be the first device you think of when creating making music, but the platform actually has some good applications for music development. Is there a GarageBand equivalent for Chromebook? Is it capable of creating high-quality music?
In this article I will take a look at some of the leading music creation apps that will work on Chromebook. There are now a few credible GarageBand equivalents for Chromebook.
Making music on the Chromebook
Most music programs for Chromebook are cloud-based. That means that your musical creations are stored online (although usually you can pull down a local copy whenever you want). This has the advantage of making your creations accessible from anywhere, at any time.
Since Chromebooks are mainly intended to run online, one obvious approach to making music with a Chromebook is to use a website-based app. Website-based apps have the advantage of doing most of the heavy processing on the server side, so your Chromebook’s lightweight hardware is less of an issue. They are also going to be multiplatform by definition; if your device has a web browser, you can probably use these apps from Windows, Mac, Linux, and of course your Chromebook.
Soundtrap comes in a couple of flavors, standard Soundtrap and Soundtrap for Education. The program is cloud-based and provides the ability to make music, create beats, loops, synthesize instruments and connect your own real instruments. You can also collaborate with others and utilize social tools.
The interface is relatively simple and provides a good grounding for music production. The main view is a multitrack view with menus to cover every eventuality. You can use hundreds of predefined loops or record your own with your voice or instruments. If your singing is anything like mine, the neat autotune feature is a sure-fire winner!
Audiotool is another GarageBand equivalent for Chromebook worth checking out. Like Soundtrap, it’s cloud based and works entirely online. Audiotool is a modular platform, meaning you can bolt on new features as you need them or as they are released. The core product is very capable and allows you to create music using synthesized instruments or by connecting your own.
The UI is slightly more complicated than Soundtrap but is clear and easy to get to grips with. It allows you to view multi track recordings, create loops, sample and more. There are over 250,000 samples built in while there are thousands of instrument presets to experiment with. All your creations will be stored online but you can download or publish them as you need.
Soundation is another program that has a standard version and an educational one. It is a very accomplished music creation tool with a ton of features. This app has a range of levels, the free version offers over 700 loops and lots of virtual instruments while premium subscriptions enable more features such as live audio recording, online storage, more loops, effects, and soundsets.
The interface is similar to Soundtrap and Audiotool with either an instrument view or multi-channel mixing view. Menus are straightforward and logical and everything is where you expect it to be. Creating music is relatively simple once you figure out where everything is and nothing gets in the way of the creation process. Whether you’re looking for home use or school, Soundation is a credible option.
Looplabs is our final GarageBand equivalent website. It is mainly a beat maker but with a heavy social aspect to it. It is as much about sharing your creation as the creation process itself. Some will get on well with that while some may find it a distraction. Either way, creating music is simple. It isn’t as fully featured as the others in this list but for getting to grips with putting music together, it’s more than capable.
The UI is straightforward and slightly less busy than others can be. The mix view allows you to create your loops or use the ones provided. You can add effects, instruments, beats and all sorts while changing tempo, chopping and all the tools you might need. It is not up to the complexity of GarageBand, but for beginners it is more than capable.
The Chromebook is capable of running a huge portion of the standard Android app ecosystem, and music apps are no exception. Here are a few of the best GarageBand alternative apps that I’ve been able to discover.
Music Maker JAM
Music Maker JAM is the leading music creation app on Android, with a wealth of features. The app offers (paid) access to more than 300 mix packs containing over 500,000 loops, has an eight-channel mixer for live recording, and has easy-to-use controls. Music Maker JAM supports direct uploading of tracks to YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media networks. The app also has global challenges for creators to submit music too, offering the potential for immediate exposure and the development of a following.
BandLab is a music studio and social network rolled into one. There are millions of people using the app and sharing their music all over the world. BandLab starts with a solid studio suite including a multi-track mixer, a daily hot beats list, more than a hundred preset instruments, a looper, and a built-in tuner and metronome. That all happens with a huge ecosystem of other creators meeting, critiquing, and collaborating with other musicians. With more than 6 million tracks created as of March 2019, BandLab is a very hot platform and worth exploring.
Walk Band is a full-featured music studio app with a lot of built-in instruments. It offers piano, guitar, bass, and drum pad built-in, and supports MIDI instruments via a USB port. Walk Band has a multitrack synthesizer with MIDI and voice track recording and editing, and the app supports uploading music files to the cloud. Walk Band is ad-supported in the free version but offers an upgrade to get rid of the ads and also has available add-ins for users wanting to expand the app.
edjing Mix: DJ music mixer
Edjing Mix isn’t a music creation app per se; instead, it is a mixing and sampling app that has a high degree of functionality for DJing. It has sampling and remixing functions, including access to a library of free samples and many paid sample packs. The app also integrates with your own music library and with Soundcloud and (with a paid subscription) Deezer.
Mix isn’t the program to get if you’re looking just to create your own original compositions but for anybody planning on DJing or synthesizing new and old music into something original, it’s a must-have.
Do you have suggestions for great websites or apps for Chromebook-based music creation? Share them with us in the comments below!