GarageBand Alternatives For the Chromebook
Chromebooks (“Chromebook” is a generic term for a laptop form factor device that runs Chrome OS, a variant of Linux that uses the Chrome browser as its principal user interface) first rolled out in 2011, and in the years since then, the platform has struggled a fair bit to find and define its niche. This struggle is due mostly to Chromebooks being unable to run software made for PCs and Macs.
Because 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. Even Chromebooks had the power to perform these tasks, you still wouldn’t be able to use apps like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro due to software limitations.
But how about music creation? Well, a Chromebook might not be the first device you think of when you think about making music, but the platform actually has some good applications for music development.
Of course, GarageBand, the popular music-making app for Macs, is not available on Chromebooks. But that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.
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.
Alternatives to GarageBand on Chrome OS
While you might not be able to use popular programs like GarageBand, there are certainly some good alternatives for Chromebook users to take advantage of.
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.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives to GarageBand for Chrome OS.
Since Chromebooks are mainly intended to run online, one obvious approach to making music with a Chromebook is to use a web-based app. Web-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 multi-platform by nature, meaning, 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!
Ultimately, Soundtrap is a very powerful web-based application that should satisfy many of your needs when making music.
Audiotool is another GarageBand equivalent for Chromebook that is definitely 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 sound sets.
The interface is similar to Soundtrap and Audiotool with either an instrument view or a 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 beatmaker but with a heavy social aspect to it. It is as much about sharing your creation as the creative 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.
Chromebooks are great for a lot of reasons, but they definitely struggle when it comes to media products. Whether it be music production, video editing, photo editing, or other similar tasks, Chromebooks simply can’t compete with Windows and Mac computers.
But that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. If you’re looking for an alternative to GarageBand, any of the options included in this article should do the job.
Do you have suggestions for great websites or apps for Chromebook-based music creation? Share them with us in the comments below!
If you like this article, make sure you check out our picks for The Best Chromebooks Under $300.