Band In A Box Vs GarageBand: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re interested in Band in a Box vs Garageband and how they compare for making music, you’ve come to the right post!

I’m not a music expert, but I have played various instruments since 2000 and have been writing and recording music since 2007.

So what’s the difference between Band in a Box and Garageband?

Band in a Box is more of a musical arrangement tool for preparing sheet music. As a result, it’s particularly helpful for viewing and understanding the music theory of your piece. On the other hand, Garageband is a digital audio workstation for recording and creating music.

I’ll unpack this more in the sections below.

Band-in-a-Box Overview

Band-in-a-Box (or BIAB) is a piece of software that helps you write music. It has been out for quite some time now, ever since the 1990s.

And yes, it’s not about recording. Sure, you can record within it, but it’s not its primary function. Instead, you write the music with all the chords and melodies and then let the program emulate an actual band. 

So you can essentially generate melodies and chords and then alter them as MIDI. Each individual note has its pitch, volume, and duration. And, the best part is that you can edit them all as individual notes.

When you open BIAB, you get this blank workspace. Everything is organized in measures. As you write music for individual instruments, you can also view it as sheet music or even as guitar tablatures.

It also allows you to edit the key, tempo, and time signature. At the same time, you can also change these as the song goes by. Essentially, it allows you to completely write music. It makes the songwriting and arranging process much easier.

Of course, knowing some theory helps you use BIAB to write music. You need to know how measures work, as well as basic notation. The overall interface is simplified so you can even use the software to learn theory if you’re a beginner. However, it’s not exactly designed as a beginner-oriented tool.

Here’s an in-depth overview of BIAB that should be super-useful for beginners.

Band in a Box 2018 Review

GarageBand Overview

GarageBand, on the other hand, is a digital audio workstation, also known as DAW. We’re looking at the same type of tool as Logic Pro especially because both are made by Apple.

We can also draw parallels with other programs like Reaper or Cubase. However, GarageBand and Logic are Apple-only and are not available for Windows, just iOS.

This DAW is a simplified version of Logic. It’s free to use and has some limitations. However, from the perspective of a home-recording enthusiast, it’s more than enough. In fact, you can even record quality pro-level recordings with it. After all, you can do up to 255 tracks with it in a project.

Essentially, you can lay down tracks, add effects, and even do mixing. This is all accompanied by the option to use VST plugins. This means that you can add custom effects and even write virtual instruments using MIDI. Just pair it up with a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI-supported instrument and you’re good to go.

The best part about GarageBand is that it’s super simple. Here’s a brief beginner tutorial if you want to have a closer look at it.

Garageband Tutorial - Learn Under 10 Minutes

Band-in-a-Box Vs GarageBand: How Do They Compare?

Honestly, this is like comparing apples and oranges. While both are music creation tools, GarageBand is like any other DAW. It functions as a music studio within a program.

On the other hand, Band-in-a-Box serves a different purpose. Sure, you can lay down your tracks within BIAB. However, it’s not primarily a recording tool. It’s a musical arrangement tool relying on MIDI. You’re basically writing stuff and letting the software emulate a band.

In short, BIAB is not exactly the most convenient tool for laying down multiple tracks and getting your final mix. However, it’s something that can certainly help you write music and it can complement your work in a DAW.

Therefore, BIAB and GarageBand are not music creation programs that we can directly compare. Instead, they can work with one another. For instance, you can create individual tracks of emulated instruments in BIAB. And then you export them, sync them in GarageBand, and go from there. You can mix them, add effects, and even record on top of them.

So these are two entirely different pieces of software.

Their primary similarity is that you can also use GarageBand in the same way as BIAB. You can write virtual instruments as MIDI, using a MIDI instrument or a mouse and your keyboard.

Band-in-a-Box Vs GarageBand: Which One Is a Better Choice for Me?

Now that you know how they differ, the better choice for you depends on what you’re planning to do.

As you may have gathered, Band In a Box is more of a musical arrangement tool.

So you could start with it if you’re keen on music arrangement and seeing the sheet music and theory of your piece.

And because GarageBand is better-suited for music production and home record, it’s probably a better second step.

That said, unless you’re particularly skilled in music theory and you want to see the sheet music of your arrangement, you don’t need to start with Band in a Box.

In fact, most musicians looking to write music at home simply use a DAW like Garageband.

When I was in high school, I used a DAW called FL Studio to record a few tracks like the one below.

Orchestra by Harrison Alley

And you can do similar things with GarageBand.


Although I know much more about DAWs than I do Band in a Box, I hope this article has helped you understand the difference between these two programs.

And if you have questions I didn’t answer in this article, let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. Steve Doyle says:

    Can you directly play and record biab SEQ files in Garage Band?

    1. Juan Cornejo says:

      Hi Steve! The audio files that can be imported into a GarageBand project are AIFF, CAF, WAV, AAC (except protected AAC files), Apple Lossless, and MP3. You can also import MIDI files.

      If you have SEQ files from BIAB and want to use them in a GarageBand project, you can save them as MIDI files first. Hope this helps!

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