BandLab vs GarageBand

BandLab and GarageBand are two of the most widely used audio production and music recording apps for a good reason – they are both free. This makes them readily available and easy for beginners to dive into. 

Even though both apps cost nothing, they have a few differences worth pointing out, mainly related to the features and interface each offer. It’s good to know these before deciding which one to learn. 

My name is Donovan, and I’ve been an avid musician for most of my life. I love to write, record and produce music as often as possible, and I have experience working with both BandLab and GarageBand. 

This post will spotlight the differences and similarities between BandLab versus GarageBand. I’ll point out some key information on both apps to help you understand which might best meet your needs and preferences. 

Let’s get into it. 

Quick Comparison

Ease of UsePretty easy to use with simple functions and a relatively intuitive user interface. Very user-friendly interface that caters to people familiar with Apple products
Features/FunctionsBasic recording and editing functions. Includes some plugins and software instruments. Basic recording and editing functions. A few plugins and software instruments. Good help function. 
Professional Capabilities Not designed for professional studio use. Basic capabilities but lacks full studio production features. Entry-level DAW that lacks more professional-level capabilities. Especially true with editing/mixing.  
WorkflowNot many workflow considerations. A few slightly customizable options. Too simple for many workflow considerations. Can adjust the view, which can help. 
LimitationsLimited plugins and effects for expansive production and mixing possibilities. Only available on Apple devices

Detailed Comparison 

Here is a more in-depth look at BandLab versus GarageBand to give you a head-to-head comparison of what each offer. 

1. Ease of Use

Let’s start this comparison by looking at one of the aspects where both BandLab and GarageBand excel – ease of use. Even if you don’t have any experience working with music production at all, these apps are relatively easy to figure out. 

These apps were created with beginners in mind, so an easy-to-use interface was intended from the start. That’s essential to help you get the hang of setting up and working within recording projects without a huge learning curve. 

GarageBand is a bit more intuitive from a user-interface perspective. And this is especially true if you are used to using Apple products and apps. You can get started with a project in seconds, and everything is easy to see and makes sense. 

There is also an excellent feature in GarageBand called Quick Help. If you click on this icon to turn Quick Help on, you can hover your cursor over a part of the project to find out more about it. This reduces the learning curve and is great for troubleshooting. 

BandLab is also pretty easy to learn and features a relatively intuitive user interface as well. It’s not quite as simple as GarageBand, but you can still figure out the basics of setting up a project without needing any experience whatsoever. 

BandLab has more of a unique or unfamiliar main project window. This doesn’t make it any harder to use. It just means you’ll need to spend at least a little time figuring out the tools and menu items before diving in completely. 

If you have basic computer skills, you can figure out either of these apps without any help. If you don’t, there might be a slight learning curve, but they are fully designed to be easy to use. 

Winner: Tie  

2. Features/Functions

One of the reasons why BandLab and GarageBand are great for beginners and easy to use is that they aren’t that complex compared to other DAWs. This means they don’t have nearly as many features and functions as professional-level DAWs. 

That said, there are still plenty of features within each app that you can take advantage of to create basic recordings. Just don’t get your hopes up in thinking that a free app will allow you to construct a complete recording studio. 

BandLab hypes itself as a “recording studio in your pocket.” This is a pretty accurate statement, and you can use the app on a phone to take it with you just about anywhere. That flexibility in use means you can use it to record just about anywhere you go. 

BandLab also comes with a range of guitar, bass, and vocal effects that you can use in your audio projects to make them sound better. These are basic effects, but they are still better than nothing and make a nice feature in a free app. 

GarageBand also works as a good option for a quick and easy mobile recording setup. If you have an iPhone, GarageBand is preinstalled on it, so you don’t need to download it to start recording. 

GarageBand comes with a few software instruments and plugins that allow you to create music without even recording anything live. This can be very convenient if you don’t know how to play an instrument or just want to stay creative with limited equipment needs. 

Winner: Tie

3. Professional Capabilities

The free nature of BandLab and GarageBand means that they aren’t technically intended to be used in a professional sense. Can you make commercial recordings with one of these apps? Sure. But would you really want to? I doubt it. 

You could never charge another musician or producer for studio time and expect to be taken seriously if you are running GarageBand or BandLab as the brains of your operation. They just don’t have the capabilities professionals want and need. 

But there are still more than a handful of features to mention that might be useful when making projects in your home studio or on the road. One cool aspect of Bandlab is that all of your projects are automatically synced to the Cloud so that you won’t lose them. 

BandLab also has a pretty capable AutoPitch feature that gives you real-time pitch correction when you have it on. It’s not quite on the same level as other AutoPitch features, but it’s still effective and a step in the professional direction. 

GarageBand also has a few features worth mentioning that are designed to enhance the professional capabilities of the app. The software instruments and plugins are great for making music without having live instruments. 

You can also use the project templates to set up a nearly complete track for you to build on. This will help you produce more professional-sounding tracks than your actual studio skills may currently allow. 

Winner: Tie

4. Workflow

Workflow is an essential consideration for any DAW. There aren’t many workflow possibilities within BandLab or GarageBand, and that’s because they are beginner apps that just don’t have enough features to provide you with this. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t establish a decent workflow within these apps. You just can’t go very far with it. Workflow is a personalized thing anyways, so using a beginner app can give you a beginner’s look into these types of considerations. 

The easy-to-navigate project windows within GarageBand are pretty awesome for workflow. You don’t need to spend a lot of time setting up or organizing a project, and you can get straight to work within minutes or even faster if you have experience. 

The virtual drummers and project templates in GarageBand are also awesome features with workflow in mind. This takes a lot of work out of writing or recording rhythm tracks or setting up a new project, which immediately boosts workflow. 

BandLab also features easily accessible project windows, allowing you to set up projects quickly and effectively without much experience. You don’t need to dive in at great depth to get rolling, which is excellent for beginners. 

Another workflow consideration built into BandLab that I like is the full version history that the app provides. You can look at previous versions of your projects at any point to revert back or check in with settings. It makes for a solid learning tool. 

You won’t be able to get a professional-level workflow out of either of these apps because neither is designed for it. When you are ready for more tools and functions, you’ll be prepared to move on to a more expansive DAW. 

Winner: Tie

5. Limitations

Every music production app has at least a few limitations, and these two are no exceptions. The first big one is that you can’t make professional-sounding music recordings with either BandLab or GarageBand. 

I touched on this fact earlier in the sections above, but it’s worth exploring again. These apps are capable in a fundamental sense, but you don’t have all the tools and features needed to create audio at the highest levels. 

This is essentially limited by design, and it’s to be expected from entry-level audio production apps such as these. That doesn’t mean they are bad or that you shouldn’t use them. It just means you should be aware they aren’t professional-quality. 

Another pretty big limitation worth mentioning with GarageBand is that it’s only available on Apple devices. You can use the app on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, but you won’t be able to run it on any Windows devices. 

BandLab doesn’t have the same limitations, and it’s available on both Apple and Windows devices. It also has a mobile version, so you can run it on Android phones if you want to put that pocket recording studio slogan to good use.  

There is a slightly higher learning curve with BandLab than with GarageBand. BandLab can take a little more time to figure out the basics. It’s still relatively easy but not quite as simple in the long run. 

Winner: Tie

6. Pricing

One of the best things about both BandLab and GarageBand is how much they cost. Both apps are free, and you don’t need to spend a penny to use them. This is great news for beginners or any musician or producer on a budget. 

The only downside to being free is that you can’t upgrade or expand the apps. You’ll be stuck with what you get, which is totally fine for beginners but might hold more experienced producers back. 

Winner: Tie

Final Verdict

BandLab and GarageBand are two of the most widely-used free music production apps around. They are both easy to use and come with many features you can take advantage of to get started with recording and production. 

But these apps are not designed to make professional recordings and come with obvious drawbacks because of that. They are suitable for beginners, but serious musicians and producers should choose other DAW options. 

Have you used BandLab and GarageBand? Which do you like better and why? Let me know in the comments below. 

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  • David

    Hi Donovan, I use a variety of mobile and desktop apps
    Cubase Pro and Logic Pro on the desktop and GarageBand iOS and Cubasis on iPad / iPhone.

    I’ve made good finished releases just using GarageBand iOS and I found it to be a lot of fun to use.
    Things I like about it.
    Loads of sound packs, loops, good range of instruments, drummer is amazing, huge range of drum machines, plenty of plugins, good synths and smart instruments..
    Song sections is a really good way to compartmentalise your song parts to build up an arrangement.

    I wish it came with a chord pattern arpeggiator to generate rhythmic syncopated chord riffs from a midi chord pad.. that would be great and I wish it had a good analog synth with random wave LFO and flexible modulation abilities.. but there’s plenty of workarounds that can get you by plus 3rd party instruments and plugins.
    I can’t see why you couldn’t have an internet viral pop hit made with GarageBand iOS .. Great for novelty pop tracks too.. Rgds David

    • Donovan

      Hi David,

      That’s awesome you’ve had so much fun and success with GarageBand. It’s a great tool, no doubt. And ultimately, it’s the creative process that matters and not the platform or DAW. Go ahead and write that pop hit! Cheers.

      • David

        Hi Donovan, yes absolutely and that’s where the iPad touch screen approach is really good plus the portability of the iPad brings about a different approach to music making (in my mind) when compared to going into a studio room and commencing work and laying down ideas with a typical desktop setup.
        (and that is the bulk of my work approach too).

        I haven’t tried Logic Pro for iPad as my iPad Pro is the 9.7” (6) model, but GarageBand and Cubasis work just great on it.

        Also, the simplicity of GarageBand in particular and its song sections feature tend to lend itself to creativity and getting ideas down and productions happening.

        Your argument regarding a commercial studio not using GarageBand is well founded as GB is not fully featured enough particularly for pitch/time correction plus a whole host of automation, plug-ins, editing, abundance of soft synths, sampling etc… Not impossible to have a commercial studio to be using it but it’s unlikely.

        But for personal projects and projects made on-the-go it offers a great approach.

        There’s a composer/producer called Tony Longworth in the UK using the iPad with the Korg Gadget app making movie soundtracks..

        All the best,


        • Donovan

          That’s awesome, David. Sounds like you have a good workflow rolling with everything, and like I said – whatever stokes your creativity the best is what you should work with. I’ll have to check out this guy making the soundtracks. Seems pretty awesome. Thanks for sending, and cheers to making music! I haven’t used the iPad much in recent years, but I did use one as my wireless controller in Logic, and that was awesome. The wireless connectivity was a huge bonus when I had a large session set up in multiple rooms. I’m sure things have improved quite a bit since then.

  • James McDunn

    Thank you, Donavon, for writing this article and for compiling all of that information.

    I have two comments: I am unclear what you are referring to when you speak about workflow. Perhaps you could help me to understand what the means.

    Second, and this is a personal opinion, I think that Garage Band can be used for professional recordings, and I think I could support my claim with a myriad of songwriters who agree with me. Further, a Google search confirms my opinion. Dozens of artists turned to Garage Band to complete their albums. I am not sure what their motives were. I could be that Apple paid them to do so, or that was a sort of experiment. Assuming Garage Band doesn’t have the features to complete a professional product, the user could upgrade to Logic, which I am quite confident has the necessary features to record professional pieces.

    I hope you found your essay rewarding. I learned many new facts that I did not know about both products.


    Jamey McDunn

    • Donovan

      Hi Jamey,

      Thanks for reaching out and for the kind words about the article. Workflow is basically just your personalized setup for all the settings and parameters you want in a recording project. Everyone has their own unique workflow, and that’s typically learned through experience. Workflow considerations help you speed up, improve, or alter your projects in the ways that make the most sense to you as the producer or engineer.

      As far as GarageBand being used in a professional capacity goes, I just don’t know many professional musicians personally who use it. Is it possible? Sure. But you’re going to get so many more options with Logic or another DAW when it comes to what you can add to a mix. If you snoop around any professional recording studio, there’s no way they are going to charge musicians for recordings done in GarageBand. I know it’s a sweet free DAW, but it’s like a diet version of Logic that helps beginners much more than professionals. Those Google searches you mention aren’t really backed up by anything that proves recordings were actually made with GarageBand. Again, I’m not saying those are wrong, I just think it’s pretty unlikely.

      • Simon

        Garage band definitely can be used professionally, I made loads of commissioned music using it (before upgrading to logic – which is compatible, so major feature as well!). It is indeed the diet version of logic – you don’t have the flexibility of routing to groups etc which is the main drawback compared to logic, but other than that, they’re very very similar. All the drawbacks can be overcome with workarounds/bouncing etc… such as parallel compression or fx tracks – simply duplicating fx tracks instead of making groups. The MAJOR thing that makes it professional is the use of plugins. I use top sample libraries which overcomes some of GB’s limited quality of sampled sounds, and loads of industry standard mixing plugins, from Waves/Plugin Alliance and more. With all those plugins, the daw itself is actually only a basic hub for collating the sounds.

        • Donovan

          Hi Simon,

          Thanks for your response, and that’s awesome to hear you’ve made commissioned music with GarageBand. I think you are in the minority of musicians and producers who do so, as most of us upgrade to Logic like you did when they start to do things at a professional level. I agree that plugins are a critical component of every DAW and often matter much more than the program itself sometimes. I personally enjoy all the added capabilities and possibilities with Logic compared to just using GarageBand. But if you are just getting started or on a budget, GarageBand can get you to a completed track and one that sounds professional no doubt.