Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

00 anvil logo   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]As a self proclaimed amateur musician who uses GarageBand, the most common question I get asked all the time from my fellow musicians is what’s the GarageBand alternative for Windows? When I answer that there’s none, most of them just can’t believe it.

That’s why, as happy as I am using GarageBand, I’m always on the quest to find free, easy to use, user friendly, beautiful, and yet powerful music creation software that runs under Windows. So far, I still haven’t found any that can match all of the requirements.¬†Still there are alternatives worth mentioning. One of them is Anvil Studio. While it’s not as user-friendly (and not nearly as beautiful) as GarageBand, it’s free and it gets the job done.

A Full Featured Studio In A Small Package

One thing that I found amazing from this application was the installer size. It seems impossible that anybody could pack a full featured music creation software into a 2MB file. I even thought that I still had to download additional elements during the installation process.

The app promises users the ability to build songs from scratch, note by note, in MIDI, record external sound sources, and do multi-track recording. You can use MIDI instruments that you have as the input as long as you can connect the instrument to your computer. There’s also the “practice” feature to help users polish their musical ability.

I installed the app out of curiosity. The first thing that I got after installation was suggestions to get better performances. It turned out that my sound card setting was different from the app. So I followed the instructions to adjust the settings. You might get the same message if your audio setting is different too.

01a audio settings   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Let The Music Start

At first glance, I found the application interface to be crowded, unintuitive, and unpolished. Coming from GarageBand, I felt frustrated in trying to navigate around the app. But after some getting used to, it’s actually not that bad. The developer tries to help users by providing help text under every interface.

01b main screen left   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

The best place to start exploring is the “View – Mixer” menu where you can see the grand scheme of everything.

02a view mixer   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

To start writing down your song, pick a track and go to “View – Composer” menu. You’ll get some blank notation lines. Creating your music is as easy as choosing the notes value (4th, 8th, 16th etc) and placing the notes on the bars, either by pointing to them using your mouse or by pressing the virtual keyboard.

02b compose midi   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Similar to GarageBand, you can also build the song using piano roll (“View – Piano Roll Editor” menu). Click to place the note in the location that you want, then drag the edge to determine how long the note should last.

02c piano roll   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Guitar players can switch to tablature view. Unfortunately, you can’t edit the notes in this view.

02d tablature view only   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Taming The Tracks

Even though you could create a song with only one instrument, modern compositions are usually the combination of several instruments. This is where the ability to add tracks will really help. You can combine pianos, drums, vocals, guitars, etc., in your song by placing each instrument in its own track.

To add a new track, go to the “Track – Create” menu and choose one of the track types. For MIDI instruments, choose “Instrument Track“. To record real instruments or vocals, choose “Audio Track“.

02g create track   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

The list of tracks is visible in the Mixer mode. You can edit elements of the track just by double clicking on the element.

02h multiple tracks   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

For example, to change the instrument on Track 2, click the instrument column on track 2 and choose one of the available musical instruments.

02i choose instrument   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Never forget to save your song. Go to the “File” menu to do so.

03b save song   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Playing & Practicing

If you want to, you can play external MIDI files using Anvil Studio. Go to the “File – Open Song” menu.

03a open song   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

The best thing about playing MIDI files using Anvil Studio instead of an ordinary media player is the ability to view the MIDI in piano roll.

03d play midi   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Or if you prefer, in the musical notes.

03f play midi in composer   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Another unannounced feature is the “Practice“. You can polish your musical ability by going to the “Practice – Notes” menu.

04a practice menu   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

You can test your ability to read musical notes by clicking on the guitar at the right place or by writing down the note’s name using your computer keyboard.

04b practice notes   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

Or you can also give your answer by clicking on the virtual piano in the right location. It’s not GarageBand’s Artist Lesson, but it’s a start.

04c practice with piano   Anvil Studio: A Free & Powerful Song Builder [Windows]

After playing with the application for a while, I think that Anvil Studio is a very capable music builder. If you are an electronic musician looking for Window’s GarageBand, Anvil Studio could serve as an alternative. There are lots of features that we haven’t explored here due to the article limitation. I’ll leave them for you to discover.

Try the application and let us know what do you think of it. If you know of any other worthy alternatives to GarageBand, please share them using the comments below. Plus don’t forget to download our¬†Recording Your Next Hit With GarageBand PDF guide.

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5 Comments -

0 votes

Bri guy

Thanks for the info. The closest thing to Garageband I’ve found for Windows is Mixcraft. It’s really good. I’ll check this out though. :)

0 votes

Phillip

One I’ve got that I can plug my guitar into is MU.Lab from MUTools. The free version is only 4 tracks, but there are some amazing free amp cabinets you can plug into it.

0 votes

Mike

Reaper is great as a simple powerfull DAW

0 votes

Zach

Zynewave podium is another good piece of software and they have a free version.

0 votes

Bmusic1992

Amateur for sure. ANYONE that uses programs like Garage band is amateur. Try some high end midi sequencers like Sonar, even pro tools. With some high end VST’s, like the ones provided at Soundsonline. East West Quantum Leap has amazing instruments, all real.