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.
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.
The best place to start exploring is the “View – Mixer” menu where you can see the grand scheme of everything.
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.
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.
Guitar players can switch to tablature view. Unfortunately, you can’t edit the notes in this view.
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“.
The list of tracks is visible in the Mixer mode. You can edit elements of the track just by double clicking on the element.
For example, to change the instrument on Track 2, click the instrument column on track 2 and choose one of the available musical instruments.
Never forget to save your song. Go to the “File” menu to do so.
Playing & Practicing
If you want to, you can play external MIDI files using Anvil Studio. Go to the “File – Open Song” menu.
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.
Or if you prefer, in the musical notes.
Another unannounced feature is the “Practice“. You can polish your musical ability by going to the “Practice – Notes” menu.
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.
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.
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.