Garageband or similar software

So I’m thinking of laying down some basic tracks and a friend tells me he uses Garageband. He’s a Mac user and I’m a PC guy (and, of course, he’s 25 and I’m 42, just to keep things going).

Tell me about Garageband. Does it work on PCs? If not, is there any similar software suite that would let me record 4-8 tracks and mix?

I’ve had people recommend Audacity to me for podcasts, but I’m not sure how well it supports your needs. It’s free, and fairly simple to use.

I’m a Mac user, but I haven’t touched Garageband. I have the impression that it’s more than just a multitrack recording program; it can provide rhythm and instruments to accompany what you provide via microphones. Presumably it accepts MIDI input as well from external instruments, and can control external sound boxes.

As far as I know, Audacity is just audio recording software. I’ve used it a little. If you’re making MP3s with Audacity, you have to download a separate program (the LAME encoder?) to use with Audacity to encode them.

I’m getting ready to buy a Mac with Logic Express. My buddy who is into recording big-time does most his work now on the full Logic program which is better and easier to use that the in-home studio he’s invested tends of thousands of dollars in. I write songs but the technology of recording has always been too difficult for my attention-deficit brain to absorb, so I have never bought this stuff in the past. I’m only prepared to buy now because he has shown me how easy it is to program drum tracks, fix mistakes in music tracks, copy and paste sections, and all the other stuff I want to do. Logic Express also comes with a ton of sounds, plenty for me, although my buddy buys all kinds of plug-ins to get sounds and features that even the full version doesn’t offer.

Two shortcomings of Logic Express that I know about:

  1. Really pricey, mainly because it only runs on a Mac and I don’t currently have one. Also LE needs at least 4MB of RAM so I will need to upgrade the regular MacBook. With the computer and program I’m looking at $2000. Which is why i haven’t pulled the trigger already.

  2. No great guitar sounds. Since I play keyboards, it would be really helpful to have guitars that sound like the real thing.

Yeah, and the recording capability is what I’m after. I’ve got most of the instruments already so I need something with line-in capabilty for guitar, bass, vocals and such. On board drums and keyboards would be a great help.

I just looked at the Garageband pages at Apple. Yep, more than just a recording program. I don’t think there’s a PC version. Now, what PC programs are out there that do similar, I don’t know.

I don’t have much experience with it myself, but my husband has used the last couple of versions of Sonar, by Cakewalk, and been very pleased with the results.

One PC program I happen to know of is Anvil Studio, but since I’m not a musician myself, I can’t comment on it.

There’s Acid from Sony.

When I was managing a punk band we used Cakewalk. It was really, really handy.

Reaper is a fantastic, fully-featured, free (albeit with an ad at the very beginning encouraging you to buy the full version, which only removes said ad) digital audio workstation.

You could take a look at some of the eJay offerings - some of those are a bit garageband-ish

Or this

My general recommendation: buy the latest issue of Computer Music magazine. It is £6 (about USD10-12 I guess). On the cover DVD is enough non-demo software (the CM Studio) to do a hell of a lot of stuff. EnergyXT (CM edition) is a multi track audio/midi DAW that is pretty powerful, and the collection of Instruments/Effects is impressive, too.

You will need a decent audio interface, though. The Line-in on your sound card won’t cut it. There is a huge range now available, from a basic and cheap 6.5 mm jack-to-USB to multichannel firewire mixers. It is the one place you will need to spend money. And you really do get what you pay for with mic pre-amps (if you want to use a mike for vocals/guitar cabs/etc).