In the computer world, laptops are quickly becoming the new “norm” for people. They’re portable, small and lightweight, and generally have more than enough power for peoples’ everyday tasks. Take a Chromebook, for example: these laptops, which run on Google Chrome’s operating system, are very popular because of their sleek design, portability, and easy access to Google Chrome, Google Docs, and other everyday-type applications. Not to mention their incredibly inexpensive cost, almost always below the $1000 price tag. All of those features make Chromebooks a very popular laptop choice.
So a natural question then for music producers, especially those just starting out and looking for a very budget-friendly computer, is: “Can I use a Chromebook for music production? And if yes, what’s the best bang-for-the-buck?” Fortunately for the Chromebook lovers, the answer to both questions is ‘YES’ – that’s what we’ll unpack together in this article.
Can I use a Chromebook for music production?
The short answer – yes. It is possible to use Chromebooks as a musician and a producer. Are they the best option? Chromebooks often aren’t quite as powerful as other laptops/PCs/desktops, and music software options that can be used on Chromebooks with ChromeOS are much more scarce than other computer operating systems, so they certainly aren’t the best tool in the toolbox for music production. But if you’re primarily a musician or producer that doesn’t need an incredibly powerful computer, or a beginner looking for your first music computer, then Chromebooks are great for recording and handling smaller projects and simply starting out.
If you’re looking to produce a “professional” project from the ground-up using a Chromebook, it would be best to look elsewhere. The popular industry standard software options, like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton, or even GarageBand, are not available for ChromeOS. Instead, Chrome OS makes use of a variety of online software options, including online DAWs. The Google Play Store offers alternative software options, including Android apps, many of which are free and offer a wide range of capabilities to cover most basic needs as a musician or producer. Here’s a few to get started with:
● iReal Pro – this app covers all of your arranging needs. You can chart out and arrange full songs, and even use their automatic backing track generator to hear specific chord changes that you enter for your song.
● Amazing Slow Downer – this is a great tool for transcribing music, so a handy tool for any musician or producer.
● Walk Band – this software offers virtual instruments ready to record, like drums, bass, guitars, and keyboards.
● Beatlab – a Chrome OS-compatible DAW that not only allows you to create music in a “beginner-friendly” interface, but also share it easily with others online.
● Soundtrap for Education – a user-friendly online DAW that allows you to create easily using virtual instruments and loops, and also record yourself live. A lot of Chrome OS software is only available online, so you’ll need an internet connection to use a lot of this software, which is worth noting especially if this laptop is for on-the-go portable use.
Another point to be aware of for music production on a Chromebook is their compatibility with external instruments, microphones, and controllers. Unfortunately, any MIDI instruments that require software or driver installation on your laptop won’t be compatible with Chrome OS. Similarly, any microphones that aren’t direct USB, “ready to record out of the box” microphones won’t work with a Chromebook. So if you’re using a microphone, MIDI keyboard, or any other external instrument in your production, you’ll need to choose an option with a direct USB connection with no other drivers or software required.
What’s the best bang-for-the-buck on Chromebooks?
Now that we know the pros and cons of producing music on a Chromebook, let’s look at the different options available, and which is the best laptop for the money.
● Google Pixelbook Go – This is Google’s latest Chromebook, and comes in several different variations with regards to processor, RAM, and storage. A plus to this model is the quality of the internal speakers, which may not be a big swaying factor if you’ll be using studio monitors or headphones, but can come in handy if you need good audio on the go.
● ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 – One of the most popular and highly rated Chromebooks, the Flip C436 was awarded “CES Editors’ Choice” by USA Today. It comes with great processing power (either the latest 10th gen Intel processor or 8th gen), and great
speakers as well.
● Acer Chromebook Spin 13 – This Chromebook comes with great specs right out of the box which can handle most music production needs: Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. A plus to this model is its touch screen capability (and included stylus), which can turn your music production into a hands-on tactile experience.
● Acer Chromebook – If a cheap laptop that will get the job done is all you’re looking for, then this Chromebook from Acer will do the trick. It’s got great reviews, and checks in around $200.
While Chromebooks are far from the industry standard or top choice for music production, they certainly are an attractive option for many beginners looking for a cheap entry point to “wet their toes” in music production. It’s important to be aware that any professional quality productions will be very difficult to achieve with a Chromebook as your music computer, but it is a great option for beginners. You’ll find software for your Chromebook, whether online or through the Google Play Store, to cover all of your basic production needs. They’re very portable, inexpensive, and definitely worth considering for your first music laptop.