Why you shouldn't buy a Mac to use GarageBand

So, why shouldn’t you buy a mac to use GarageBand? There are so many people using them, they look great, the connectivity and synergy between devices in the Apple eco system is amazing etc. The net is full of fanboys, posers and digital artists wealth shaming their windows using peers. That is the genius of the Apple marketing machine, in that by appealing to customers aesthetically and targeting their lifestyle aspirations, the product becomes part of their self-image and they become advocates and marketers almost subconsciously.

Well here’s my perspective, having bought a MacBook Pro in 2010, in my case I didn’t just buy it to use GarageBand, as I needed a mac based machine to test applications for work. But certainly, one of the additional benefits was GarageBand to see what all the fuss was about.
Within a month I was having issues, the first one being that an OS update wiped the bootcamp partition meaning I had to rebuild the windows side, luckily, I had a backup but even still it took several mind-numbing hours to get back to square one. Then it turned out the on-board graphics card had an issue (a known issue with that model apparently) which led to a series of unpleasant trips to the genius bar, having to finally pull up articles online before they finally agreed to run the in-house test app specifically designed to find that issue and still tried to charge me for replacing the logic board. Strike 1 & 2 right there. Needless to say, I didn’t pay for the repair in the end, but hardly a hopeful start.

In actual fact, despite the initial problems, I had relatively little trouble with it after that, until the graphics card finally died on me a year back. I suspect that because the windows side always ran hot, with the fans regularly engaging at full rpm the card eventually fried itself.

If this was still 2010, I might still be inclined to recommend one, GarageBand is a genius piece of Software and although I soon outgrew it, I do recommend it as a beginner’s tool. Also, the screen at the time was second to none, the build quality was great (the rubber feet did fall of regularly and required purchasing a kit from apple each time to replace them) but since then, in a bid to extract even more cash from their disciples they’ve upped the built in obsolescence and rather than 9 years I’d be looking at a 5 years max life span on a new mac. The once replaceable memory and hard drives are now soldered to the logic board making upgrades nearly impossible for the average owner. This also increases the initial outlay as it makes sense to buy a higher spec model.

In Short, Apple products are great, but the greatness comes at a price, the sales funneling alone is enough to put me off the appetizer, the Genius bar is the sauce on the doggy doo sandwich.

When you shouldn’t use GarageBand for PC

If you are showcasing your new material and don’t have access to a band to back you or want to enhance a solo performance and add depth with a backing track, it’s tempting to use the original recording and play along with it. GarageBand does of course allow you to mute tracks so you could for example mute the vocal and bass and then play along, but it’s more of a workaround than by design.

If your aim is to record and play live, then GarageBand, despite it’s strengths isn’t the best tool for the job. I’d highly recommend Ableton live, as it’s designed from the ground up to perform that function. It’s important to be able to be flexible in a live situation, so having to play the tune note for note like the original can be restrictive and lack creativity.

Tools like Ableton allow you to create and record loops and arrangements and change them on the fly so you can really produce exciting live performances, without being confined to a particular structure. The recording process is of course very similar to the GarageBand workflow, but in addition to that Ableton also has dedicated live/performance work surfaces, that can easily be connected to midi controllers or even midi pedals to facilitate effortless smooth performances.

Even better, there's Ableton Live lite, which has some limitations but is free to use and download, so you can work it out without any financial commitment and then upgrade if you reach the glass ceiling with it's limitations.

The Alternative to GarageBand for Windows

If you can't or won't buy a Mac and don't want to run Mac OSX in a virtual machine on your windows machine there is another option.

Given the popularity of GarageBand and it's use as a musical notepad and entry level DAW, it comes as no surprise that other software developers have borrowed from that magic and incorporated some GagargeBand-ness into their own offerings, also long term, most of you will need something a little more professional once you realize the limitations of GarageBand itself.

With that in mind, here are some great alternatives to GarageBand for Windows which are designed for the PC from the ground up with varying levels of GarageBand-ness


Cutting to the chase, of all the DAW's listed here Mixcraft (By Acoustica) is almost law suit close to GarageBand. Acoustica's mantra is that software should be easy to use, an ideal with which I wholeheartedly agree with. If the tool is getting in the way of creativity and productively then it ceases to be a tool and becomes a hindrance. 

If you've ever tried GarageBand then the recording and mixing layouts are almost identical. 

But Mixcraft looks deceptively simple, in actual fact it has almost all of the functionality that you find in much more expensive DAW's like logic Pro or Pro Tools but at a fraction of the price. Through it's releases Acoustica have consistently added functionality and value to the point now at version 8 you'd be hard pressed to find something that it hasn't now got. There are several versions available including Studio and Pro with varying prices and features, mostly the difference is in the bundled VST instruments and plugins, the pro version, for example, comes with Ozone one of the industry standard mastering plugins and with all versions under $100 it's easy to see why Mixcraft has carved out an important niche in the DAW market.

GarageBand For Windows

So, you can play an instrument, you’ve maybe done a couple of gigs, what’s the next thing? Maybe you need a demo or want to share your ideas with bandmates or just want to save your ideas for later. Sure, there are super simple ways to record into your phone etc. but they are quick & dirty, if you need something a little better, more professional or you just want to take step one into music production, the very first place many people look is GarageBand.

Why GarageBand?

In a word, simplicity. You can spend hours, days, weeks and months YouTubing tutorials for the top DAW’s but at the end of the day, that can be at the expense of creativity. Information and option overload are the main reasons most musical projects die on the launchpad. Which is why most professionals would recommend GarageBand because if gives you enough to record perfectly decent tracks without needing to learn the complexities of professional music production.

The Good, the Bad and the UGLY

Apple being Apple (let’s not hate here, when a resigned shrug will do) require you to have an Apple device to use GarageBand, moreover, when your learning curve reaches its GarageBand Zenith, Apple do have an option to upgrade to their flagship DAW platform Logic Pro X and you can relatively easily convert GarageBand projects to the Logic Pro format and continue to finish your tracks that way.

No Mac no Dice

It is true that without a MAC you can’t officially use GarageBand, also even if you do an upgrade to Logic Pro X plus some plugins will cost you close to 400 bucks.

So, what are your options?
  1. Remortgage your house to buy a Mac
  2. Go the virtual machine route on a PC (here be dragons, MIT diploma required)
  3. GarageBand for Windows