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WestleighIsNotHome*Beep*

Best GarageBand alternative for Windows that's free?

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So Im really interested in composing and creating music, but I can't play any instruments. GarageBand's ease of use and variety of instruments is stunning! Is there a program that gets as close to GarageBand's quality and functions in a similar way? And if it's necessary to note, I want to make music with the same quality and variation as that of Undertale, so I hope i'm asking for something reasonable. Thank you for your time and have a great day!!!!

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Realistically, I don't think you'll find anything that is 100% free that does what you want.  That being said, I almost always recommend Reaper for any audio work.  It's not free, but there is an unhindered demo that technically never expires- it's well worth the cost though.  You could use this to edit MIDI and host VST instruments, as well as any other mixing/mastering/editing/etc you might need to do. 

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I love Reaper but the only problem is it has very limited 3rd party support in regards to virtual instruments. It's true that you can find many cheap or free sample libraries out there but be prepared for a wide range of quality and functionality. It could be WELL worth your time and energy to get a DAW that has built in/bundled instruments and effects. With Reaper you really need to have a decent library of 3rd party instruments to make music from the start.

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I've never tried a VSTi in Reaper that didn't work.  ¯\_(?)_/¯  But you're right, there's basically no built in instruments, but there are free ones out there.

Maybe there are better tools for the job, but probably not for the asking price of $0 (initially at least) for a great full-featured DAW.  FL is probably a great tool for more of the midi/loops kind of editing, but it's more expensive, especially if you want the full-featured version.  As soon as you start looking at much else, price goes way up as far as I've seen.

To be fair, I haven't done much shopping around for DAWs either recently, so if there are reasonably-priced alternatives with a similar feature set, I'm all ears.

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So what do you guys think? Should I not touch music seeing that most of the good stuff costs money, and should find someone to do that for me?
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So what do you guys think? Should I not touch music seeing that most of the good stuff costs money, and should find someone to do that for me?

 

If you want to learn to compose music - go for it! I was just trying to make sure you set the right expectations. Cheap(er) or free software can sometimes not sound as good. If you're prepared for that and willing to see past that while you learn, then go for it. But if you're going to compare your works to top level game/film soundtracks - you may get frustrated. 


I've never tried a VSTi in Reaper that didn't work.  ¯\_(?)_/¯  

 

That wasn't my point. :) Any VST I've used in Reaper worked, I just meant sometimes free/cheaper VST instruments have fewer options or features as a paid, commercial VST. But not always! 

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heap(er) or free software can sometimes not sound as good.

For VSTs yeah, probably.  I don't do much with virtual instruments, but I've gotten a fair bit of use from the free TAL stuff.  For learning, that could be a good way to go- costs nothing to play around with it.

Should I not touch music seeing that most of the good stuff costs money

Nah, go for it anyway.  Free/cheap stuff is not "bad".  I've produced a couple of albums, and a tiny bit of music for games, using mostly free VSTs.  Reaper is not an inferior product to other DAWs by any means- it just doesn't have a lot instruments bundled in, and some of the built-in plugins are a bit ugly to looks at (the ui is simple, but the sound is what's important), so you'd have to find plugins to do some specific things, but that's no reason not to dive in.

Another route might be to find any generic MIDI editor, or one of those apps that does guitar tabbing, and use those for composition, then import the MIDI into whatever you're comfortable with for mixing and instrument sounds.

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If you truly want to go free and use a modern windows computer, I would suggest using the windows release of LMMS. Its not exactly as nice as using the more standard DAWs out there (ProTools, Cubase, Sonar, Reaper, etc.) but it can do a lot of what you need to do in a DAW to make music. Vestige will allow you to run quite a few VSTis as well, which unless you want to use basically a bunch of synths and oscillators you will want, because most of the stock stuff in LMMS is quite heavily electronic. If you are looking for some basic free VSTs to use, check out Plogue's Sforzando so you can play sfz files. Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra is a good easy way to build orchestral pieces, as well as VSCO2 Community Edition. DSK has a lot of fairly basic VSTs. Musyng Kite is a large library of free (not always great) instruments. Also check out bigcat1969's site for a lot of cool free stuff. 

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So Im really interested in composing and creating music, but I can't play any instruments. GarageBand's ease of use and variety of instruments is stunning! Is there a program that gets as close to GarageBand's quality and functions in a similar way? And if it's necessary to note, I want to make music with the same quality and variation as that of Undertale, so I hope i'm asking for something reasonable. Thank you for your time and have a great day!!!!

 

Pro Tools can be leased for $5 a month if you can figure out some excuse to get avid to sign it over an academic license.

I'd be curious to see if anyone else here thinks stock plugins in any DAW are passable for final delivery in game audio. Sole use of stock plugins for a finished product are out of the question for the rest of the audio industry. Film, audio, or broadcast post, mastering....you will never get an acceptable product without 3rd party tools. Can not it be done in any other sectors of audio production.

Here's the reason I ask. I examined some of the audio from Undertale (as referenced in the OP). It's pretty lightweight stuff in terms of FX processing, VI's, pattern generator engines, and I think also in terms verbs and other time based plugins. So for a track like that, COULD you actually get by with nothing but your DAW?

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