Pro Tools and GarageBand differ from one another pretty significantly. While they are both apps you can use to record and produce music, GarageBand is for beginners, and Pro Tools is for professionals.
There are more differences between the two than just this, including cost, function, and ease of use. If you don’t already know some of these differences, then you are more likely to use GarageBand than Pro Tools.
I’m Donovan, an avid musician who loves writing, recording, and producing as often as possible. I’ve worked in the music industry and have experience with both Pro Tools and GarageBand. I know how they differ from one another.
This post will spotlight Pro Tools versus GarageBand. I’ll provide you with some key information on each of these DAWs to give you a better understanding of which is best suited to meet your needs as a musician or producer.
Let’s jump in.
|Ease of Use
|Not as easy for beginners to learn the basics. Easy for experienced producers.
|Very easy to use, one of the most simple and straightforward DAWs
|For professional producers and musicians to use in real-world settings
|Built for beginners or those with only a basic understanding of music and production
|Large amount of features and functions that can be used to create professional-level music and audio projects
|Limited in function and only provides the basics when it comes to recording and editing features
|Numerous workflow possibilities with customized options that cater to individual preferences
|Not many workflow considerations. Basic design and limited features might hold you back.
|Available on many systems platforms. Only real limitation is the learning curve.
|Only available on Apple devices. Limited features.
|Monthly subscription options $9.99/$31.99/$99.99
Here is a detailed comparison of Pro Tools versus GarageBand to give you a better understanding of how the two hold up next to each other.
1. Ease of Use
There are some major differences between Pro Tools and GarageBand, and we’ll explore many of them here. But ease of use is one of the most glaring and is good to know about regardless of your skills as a musician or producer.
Pro Tools is one of the most widely used DAWs in the industry, and it’s a fully capable professional-level option. It’s relatively easy to use if you have experience working with similar apps, but it’s not all that user-friendly for the complete beginner.
Pro Tools has a pretty good help feature that allows you to find out what a particular tool or icon does if you don’t know. This streamlines the learning curve a bit for beginners, but there are still many higher-end functions that aren’t as simple.
GarageBand is extremely easy to use. It’s even a good option for people with zero musical experience, and that’s one of the main reasons those people use this app. It’s also one of the reasons it’s so widely known.
When you open GarageBand, there is a Quick Help feature that gives you the ability to move your cursor over a tool or feature to get information on what that feature does. This makes an easy app even easier to use.
GarageBand’s simplified nature can be useful for people who just want the basics for recording small, uncomplicated projects. But even though Pro Tools is more complicated to learn, it’s much more capable overall.
2. Intended Demographic
Pro Tools and GarageBand also are designed with two very different groups of people in mind. These apps’ intended demographic are basically opposites, so it’s good to understand which one you are in to get the music tools that match.
Pro Tools is a highly functional and professional DAW. It’s one of the top DAWs in the industry for many reasons, but a big one is the fact that it is packed with all the tools you need to create commercially viable recordings and other audio projects.
If you are a musician or producer with experience working with other DAWs and want to upgrade your capabilities as high as possible, Pro Tools is one of the best options. It’s built for professionals and delivers excellent results.
GarageBand is on the completely other end of the spectrum. It’s one of the most basic audio recording apps you can find, and it’s designed with the needs of the beginner or entirely inexperienced person in mind.
You can still make decent recordings in GarageBand, but you will not be able to make highly professional ones. But that’s ok if you are a beginner and just learning about music production in general.
Pro Tools is the easy choice here if you want professional capabilities. It can work for beginners if you are willing to deal with a longer learning curve. But GarageBand is an ideal option for people with limited production skills.
The features and functions of a DAW are what makes it tick. These dictate how well the app will work for recording, editing, and all other aspects of a project. So it’s good to know what a DAW offers before you start using it.
Pro Tools is packed full of features and functions. There are far too many to highlight in this post, but just know that you’ll have access to some of the best tools you can imagine within a DAW if you set up your studio with Pro Tools.
Pro Tools has everything from basic project window tools to complex plugins and settings that you’ll want during the editing and mixing process. And if you purchase the full version of it, you’ll have access to more than you need.
GarageBand is pretty limited in what it offers in terms of features and functions. It comes with the basics, and you can use this to record some live music or create a track with the software instruments built into the app.
But if you want to start editing or go in-depth with your recordings, you’re not going to make it very far. GarageBand doesn’t have many features outside of recording, and although it has a few plugins, it doesn’t have enough to really create full projects.
Similar to how the two DAWs differ significantly with their intended demographic, they also vary greatly in features and functions. Experienced musicians and producers will be frustrated quickly with GarageBand, but beginners can use it without being overwhelmed.
Winner: Pro Tools
Workflow is another key consideration for any serious musician and producer. If you want to improve your skills in the studio and work more efficiently, learning how to dial in your workflow and having a DAW that supports this are essential.
Pro Tools offers many different tools and features you can use to benefit workflow. One of the reasons is the industry standard DAW is because of this. This is the choice if you want to have all sorts of tools at your disposal and many ways to use them to your advantage.
Pro Tools Playlists is one workflow feature worth mentioning, as it allows you to have more than one version of audio on the same track. It can be helpful in certain situations and shows just how specific Pro Tools workflow can be.
GarageBand doesn’t have that many workflow considerations to mention, which is expected with such a basic recording app. You can slightly customize your view, which can help with workflow, but not much more than that.
Really, the people who are using GarageBand won’t have much need to think about workflow. This isn’t an issue that comes up when you are learning how to record or use a DAW. It appears when you take things up to a pro level.
With that in mind, Pro Tools is the clear winner regarding workflow. It’s one of the best DAWs around for that reason and provides seasoned musicians and producers with everything they need to be more effective in the studio.
Winner: Pro Tools
When it comes to your creativity and production skills, you never want to feel held back. Limitations in a DAW can cause a range of issues and prove problematic time and time again.
Pro Tools doesn’t have that many limitations, which is why it’s one of the most widely used DAWs in the industry. This is a full-scale production powerhouse, giving you endless possibilities without much holding you back.
The only real limitation with Pro Tools is the learning curve it takes to master it. You’ll need to spend a lot of time within the DAW to unlock its full potential. But if you get that far with things, you won’t have many limits left.
GarageBand, on the other hand, has plenty of limitations to mention. It’s simply not a full DAW, meaning you can’t complete entire recordings on it. This is especially true regarding the editing process, and there are plenty of limits with that aspect in mind.
The other big limation with GarageBand is that it’s only available on Apple devices. You’ll need a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to use the app, which is not available on Windows devices. That’s fine if you already like using Apple products, but still a limitation if not.
Pro Tools is the easy winner if you want more possibilities and don’t want even to entertain the notion of feeling limited.
Winner: Pro Tools
Price is always a big determining factor with music software, and Pro Tools and GarageBand have two drastically different price points as well.
GarageBand is free. That’s one of the main reasons it’s such a widely known and popular recording tool. This makes it easily approachable for just about anyone, and the app comes preinstalled on Macs and iPhones.
ProTools is currently available as a monthly subscription. The most basic version of it will cost you $9.99/month with limited features. The most common subscription, Pro Tools Studio, costs $31.99/month.
The full professional version of Pro Tools costs $99.99/month. But this higher price gives you access to everything you would want as a professional musician or producer.
Pro Tools and GarageBand represent opposite sides of the DAW scale. Pro Tools is one of the most complex and capable DAWs you can use, and it’s the industry standard for the professional capabilities it allows.
GarageBand is one of the most basic recording apps, and its free availability and easy-to-use interface make it a preferred option for beginners.
Have you used Pro Tools and GarageBand? What do you think is the most significant difference between the two? Let me know in the comments below.