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Can You Produce Music on a Chromebook?

The Chromebook is a fairly recent addition to the computing world. The first Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung were seen at a Google conference in 2011. Other manufacturers followed suit soon after.

What Exactly Is A Chromebook?

It can either be a tablet or a laptop. Its operating system is Linux-based Chrome OS. They were originally designed to utilize web applications using Google Chrome. But, six years after the launch, they had developed, so they were able to run Linux apps and Android.

These days, supported apps can be launched simultaneously. It has some great and useful applications to work with. However, one question that some want to know is can you produce music on a Chromebook? I will move on to that soon.

Are They Popular?

Their continuing development and expansion of the business show that they are becoming popular. The surprising thing was that in 2020 Chromebooks were bigger sellers than Apple Macs. 

However, most of that market share was actually taken by Windows laptops. But it shows the Chromebook is here to stay.

Making Music on Computers

The Apple Mac is the most popular computer for making music. For those who want to make their music to a high standard, it is very desirable. It has got plenty of power and disk space, but there is more to it than that. 

The reason for its popularity can be summed up in one word. Garageband. It is a deciding reason why Apple is considered better than Windows-based systems by many musicians. It is a sophisticated, powerful DAW. 

Additionally, it has very good samples of instruments, and a choice of drums/percussion built into its library. There are great add-ons/plug-ins, plenty of effects, and it produces an excellent product. 

More Than Just A Bit Of Music Fun

But, there is more to Garageband than just a bit of music-making fun. Anything you create on Garageband fits seamlessly into Logic Pro, also an Apple product. 

Logic is used in many of the top studios in the world. Therefore, you can record your files, take them to a great studio, and finish the job at a professional level. 

Not Just Garageband 

There are plenty of other DAWs, of course, that produce quality work. But how does a Chromebook match up with these packages? Which brings me nicely back to our original question, “Can you produce music on a Chromebook?”

Music Production and Chromebooks

Music Production and Chromebooks

Music-producing software is a great asset if you are always on the move. But can a Chromebook give you what you need? 

Even up until the last few years, the answer would have been no. These rather small notebooks were thought to be too low in the quality they could produce. Also, they were very limited in many other ways necessary to support the production of music.

Time Moves On

These days, you can produce basic music on a Chromebook. You can achieve this by using web-based or Android apps. Software like Soundtrap can give you some simple-to-use facilities. And some of the apps are compatible with Mac OS.

However, it ought to be noted that whilst some things are possible, it isn’t possible to run professional DAWs using Chromebook. That is a little time in coming, if indeed it ever does.

So, Who Will Get The Best From Chromebook Musically?

It’s fair to say that today’s Chromebook is not going to give professional musicians what they need. It doesn’t have enough features, and the quality of the sound will just not be what is required.

But, for aspiring musicians or songwriters, it could be a useful tool to have around. Going back to those who may be traveling away from home a bit, it is a useful option to carry with you. 

I suppose you may now be wondering if Chromebooks are expensive when compared to a Mac or similar laptop. I shall look at that later.

Producing Music On A Chromebook?

It can be done. But, you won’t get the level of performance that you can get from Mac or Windows computers and their music software. It is only a viable solution in two situations:

  • Musicians who are moving around and need a very basic music production computer system.
  • Beginners or people who won’t require a high-quality sound production.

So, yes, it can be done, and there are some tools to help you. But don’t set your ambitions too high. You will find that there are plenty of limitations to what you can do and can’t do. And you may also need to buy an audio interface and keyboard controller.

But, all things considered, those purchases might be the least of the problems for producing music on a Chromebook.

The Digital Audio Workstation

This may be identified as the real difference. The Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW, is an essential piece of software that provides all you need for music production. It comes in various shapes and sizes, but it is what makes things happen.

Before you buy your Chromebook with music production in mind, the lack of a DAW is something you need to consider. You will not be able to download, install or even run a professional DAW on a Chromebook.

Not enough under the hood…

The power required to support the very CPU-heavy processing of audio that you need to run the DAW isn’t there. Mac OS and Windows operating systems are built to be able to support heavyweight processing, but not the Chromebook.

In case you may be looking at music production software, let’s just identify some of the more commonly used packages:

  • Reason.
  • Sonar.
  • Audacity.
  • Cubase.
  • Logic Pro.

None of those packages can be used with a Chromebook. There have been occasions when one solution was to go to Linux mode. But music production is complex. And, as I said, a Chromebook cannot handle the sort of processing requirements that are needed.

Technology Changes Fast

Technology Changes Fast

While the Chromebook doesn’t do anything more than basic recording, all hope is not lost just yet. Things in the technological world move very fast. A Chromebook isn’t powerful enough today, but tomorrow, who knows?

Using “The Cloud” could well be one way forward and, in the future, could be an available, viable option. It will be a case of “watch this space.” Possibly not too far away in time, you will be able to have some form of DAW on your Chromebook.

Web-Based Applications

The use of Android apps has been a favorite for Chromebook users. But, as we stand now, you might like to give some thought to web-based applications. This is instead of using Android apps.

I have mentioned Cloud-based options. But, there are some real benefits to be had from using Cloud-based apps. There are two important and relevant advantages.

No Downloading or Installing?

You don’t need to download anything or make any installations. Simply access what you need at any time from the Cloud, which is also where everything created will be saved. You just need to use an up-to-date browser like Google Chrome.

Not Tied To One Device

Working with Cloud-based applications means you are not going to be tied to one device. That means that some of the work you want to do you can accomplish on your Chromebook. What you are doing can then be finished on a more powerful machine at a later date.

Some Examples

What are some web-based applications for creating and editing music? Here is a small sample of what is available, all of which are supported by Chromebook.

  • Soundation.
  • Audio Tool.
  • Soundtrap.

All are quite basic, but let’s take one and have a closer look to see what it can do.

Soundtrap 

This is considered the best music editing web-based app for Chromebooks. It offers these production features:

  • Work Offline.
  • Multitrack Recording.
  • Drum machine.
  • Amplifier modeling.
  • MIDI editing.
  • Screen-based keyboard.
  • Auto-tune.
  • Automation.

One extra feature is that Soundtrap can operate on several platforms. It is compatible with Chrome OS, Windows, Mac OS, Android, and of course, Linux.

Using Apps

If you want to create music on a Chromebook, the two options are web-based software and apps. I have already looked at web-based options, so let’s take a quick look at what Play Store apps offer.

To run music production apps from Play Store, you will need to have one of the newer Chromebook models. That applies to either free or paid apps.

The Latest Chromebook Updates

Android apps have been designed principally to work with tablets and smartphones. But, because of the latest Chromebook updates, they will also work on your notebook.

I do need to make a point, though. Not all of the apps you see listed will be accessible from your Chromebook. Some have not been optimized to run on Chromebook.

Web-Based or Apps?

So, you have two options to choose from. For creating music on a Chromebook, Web-based options are probably going to be better. They will usually offer more features.

However, one big advantage of Android apps is that they don’t need an internet connection for you to use them. If you happen to be in an area with a poor WiFi connection, then you can still work on your music.

Some apps you might like to take a look at are:

  • SongMake.
  • BandLab.
  • JAMBL.
  • FL Studio Mobile.

Is Chromebook The Right Choice For You?

The answer to that question will depend on how you intend to use it and what sound quality you need. As I have already said, the Chromebook will not be the first choice for musicians and songwriters, even if they are looking for cost-effective machines.

Quite simply, the power just isn’t there to run the kind of software that will produce good results. And when I say good, I mean a product that is moving towards a professional standard.

Is It Your Only Way of Creating Your Music?

Creating Your Music

If you are buying it to use as your primary source for music creation, then you need to consider the downsides. If you are expecting good quality music productions, then you might be disappointed. 

Additionally, you may find you have to invest in extra equipment that is Chromebook compatible. And, of course, you will not be able to use a good DAW.

Furthermore, much of what we have looked at here is relative only to the newer Chromebook models. If you are running an older model, you might find that very little works at all. Be it either web-based software or Android apps.

So, Can You Produce Music on a Chromebook?

We have seen that it is possible to create and edit your music in a very basic form using Chromebook. If that is good enough and all you need, then the Chromebook should be considered.

One Last Consideration

Earlier, I mentioned that I would return to the subject of price. Below are three Chromebook models and a MacBook. As you will see, there is a difference in what you will have to pay. That might be a consideration for some people.

Two basic Chromebooks that have all the recent updates we mentioned are the Lenovo Chromebook S330 Laptop and the Samsung Chromebook 4. Another Chromebook, but with some extra features, hence the price point, is the ASUS Flip 2-in-1 15.6″ FHD Touchscreen Chromebook Laptop.

And, for a current MacBook with plenty of memory for running a powerful DAW, there is the Apple MacBook Air 13.3″.

Interested in Making Music?

We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Audio Interface, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Low Latency Audio Interface for Recording, the Best iPad Audio Interfaces, the Best Portable Audio Recorders, and the Best Multitrack Recorder you can buy in 2022.

Also, take a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Audio Mixers, the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording, the Best Desktop DAC/Amp, the Best Portable DAC/Amp Combo, and the Best Cheap Voice Recorder currently on the market.

Can You Produce Music on a Chromebook – Final Thoughts

The answer is yes, but with some reservations. Chromebooks need to be recognized and appreciated for what they are. They are computers that offer-notebook like solutions. 

It has an operating system that is based on Linux. That means it won’t support too many functions, but what it does, it will do well.

Making Compromises

You can record and produce music on Chromebooks providing you are happy with limited functions and making some compromises.

You can’t use a DAW, but there are some more basic limited function alternatives. If what you need is a portable machine for some basic recording without too much quality, Chromebook is a good solution.

Until next time, let your music play.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear heat and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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