GarageBand for Windows?
April 8, 2011 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Longtime GarageBand user finds himself with a Windows computer. What music sequencing software should he use now?

When I had a Mac, I adored GarageBand. I bought an inexpensive mic and a MIDI controller keyboard, and I made a ton of electronic music I was really proud of and enjoyed.

Since I bought a Windows 7 computer about a year ago, I've missed making music, and I'd like to start doing it again. I've looked at reviews and web pages for Reason, Acid Pro, and Ableton Live, but I haven't come to any conclusions yet.

Here are my parameters:

- I wouldn't mind stepping up slightly in complexity from GB, but basically I'm an amateur/hobbyist.

- I can't spend a ton of money on this. Around $400 would probably be my upper bound. Would love to spend less.

- I quite liked the "piano roll" notation in GB. It made it really, really simple to plug in a MIDI controller and play and then adjust things to compensate for my amateurish playing. I found that very intuitive.

- I would love it if the software could open old GB projects. (I don't know if any other software has that capability, but it would be a plus. I have some unfinished songs on an external HD. (I also bought a Jam Pack for GB -- don't know if any of that can be used with any other program.)

- I once used a free version of Ableton that came with my keyboard called something like "Ableton Lite." I enjoyed it, as far as it went, and I sometimes used it to make drum loops, which I then exported for use in GB. But I didn't use it enough to get much sense of whether I'd enjoy using Ableton as my full-time sequencer. I haven't used Reason or Acid at all.

- I'd really love to be able to add a few things that my edition of GB couldn't do: change time signatures in mid-song; easily find the beat of a recorded sample and sync to it; easily export to multiple file types not belonging to Apple.
posted by thehandsomecamel to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I spent a long time trying out different Windows programs like Ableton Lite, but could never stomach the price tag. Then I found Mixcraft. The demo version is full-featured, and the program is only $75. I have never actually used GarageBand, so I don't know how it compares, but I found it by Googling "garageband for windows".
posted by free hugs at 5:56 PM on April 8, 2011

posted by Danf at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2011

posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 6:13 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mixcraft is designed to be a good analogue/competitor to GarageBand, and would likely have the shallowest learning curve. I've known Reaper users who were pleased, too.
posted by alexandermatheson at 6:21 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Logic does have a significant learning curve, but once you've taught yourself how to use it, you'll understand both all other pro DAW (digital audio workstation) software (e.g. Pro Tools), and, potentially, analog mixing consoles too. By the way, though, an update to current edition 9 of Logic is rumored to be in the works, so you'd want to wait anyways and avoid an upgrade fee.
posted by alexandermatheson at 6:23 PM on April 8, 2011

Pro Tools M-Powered is within your budget and is meant for the home studio.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:30 PM on April 8, 2011

2nding pro tools m-powered, as it's industry standard for recording stuff, and as easy to learn as any other recording and sequencing software around. however, while it comes with a number of free virtual synths, they aren't really all that great. useable, and i suppose you could get by with them, but really you'd probably want to purchase some others, which would definitely blow your budget.

ableton live, being loop based, is probably the closest thing around to garage band.

however, if you don't work exclusively with prepackaged loops, might i suggest reason/record from it comes with loops, and a new slicer/looper that would make importing loops easy and flexible. but it also has some of the best softsynths and samplers around. full disclosure - i don't have record, since i already use pro tools for recording audio. but i've heard good things about it. buy the two together and you have a all-in-one solution that's stable, easy to use, sounds great, yet has amazing amounts of hidden depth if you want to start tweaking knobs and adding loads of fx and just generally digging deeper.

basically, reason/record seems tailor made for people like you: hobbyist musicians who want to get started out the gate easily, but who might one day get around to exploring it's hidden depths, which honestly rival the high end programs. also, ymmv but personally i think reason just generally sounds awesome. thor is a GREAT softsynth!

the price for both programs together is almost exactly $400.
posted by messiahwannabe at 10:51 PM on April 8, 2011

Lots of good answers here. In the spirit of just jumping in with both feet, and because the price was right, I downloaded MixCraft tonight, but if I find I run out of space there I might move up to ProTools or Reason in a few months. Thanks to all!
posted by thehandsomecamel at 12:57 AM on April 9, 2011

Not to confuse you too much, but I wanted to recommend at least trying Ableton Live. The demo has a whole bunch of tutorials to take you through how to get lots of things out of it. It's very flexible and capable, and I found it very friendly and easy to pick up when I first got started with it. It's also (IMO) the DAW best suited to electronic music production, having both the traditional timeline and an excellent, more flexible approach. The full version does blow your budget, but there's a lighter "Intro" version which is much more affordable than the whole package, which you can then step up to at a later date if you find yourself outgrowing the basics.

Btw, I have nothing to do with the company, I just think it's an excellent piece of software.
posted by Magnakai at 3:03 AM on April 9, 2011

UPDATE: Have been using MixCraft for over a week now, and I wanted to report back. I think it's very easy to learn when coming from GarageBand (a few of the controls are different, but a lot of it is quite similar), and there are some excellent tutorials available to get up to speed. I learned a lot from this one, about creating mash-ups.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 9:09 PM on April 19, 2011

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