How To Produce Music On Chromebook | Introducing Soundtrap by Spotify

music production on chromebook - decibel peak

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If you want to learn how to produce music on Chromebook, you’ll be making lots of sacrifices (prepare for that). However, it’s become possible for us to produce music on Chromebook using cloud-based music production software such as Soundtrap. Is that all there is to it though?

Before learning how to produce music on Chromebook, you’ll need to become aware of Chrome OS’s current limitations. You’ll also need to make sure the equipment (audio interface and/or keyboard controller) is compatible with both your Chromebook and the music production software you’ll be working with. That’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this article! Keep reading to find out what you’ll need.

Can you run a DAW on a Chromebook?

The simple answer to this question is NO. It’s currently impossible to install/run music production on your Chromebook. However, I’m only talking about the music production software we’re familiar with in the professional world.

These DAWS:

  • Logic Pro
  • Pro Tools
  • Cubase
  • Sonar
  • Reason
  • FL Studio
  • Ableton Live

The list goes on, but none of these DAWs are compatible with Chrome OS.

Not even Audacity!

Unless it’s available on the Chrome Web Store and/or the Google Play Store, it’s not compatible with your Chromebook. Even if you enabled Linux-mode on your Chromebook, you still wouldn’t be capable of running music production software.

Well, why not?

It’s simple…

Mac OS X and Windows both have drivers that facilitate the CPU-heavy signal processing and let’s not forget, these computers actually have CPUs that can handle the task! Chromebooks aren’t known for their performance and they also don’t currently have the necessary drivers.

Does this mean that it’ll never happen.

Who knows?

However, we all know that Chromebooks were designed to run in the cloud. That’s why it’s become possible to host music production software INSIDE the cloud. 

That’s what we’re talking about next!

Can I make music on a Chromebook?

By using the cloud-based music production application (that we’ll be covering in the next sections), it’s possible to make music on a Chromebook. However, you’ll still want to consider the type of Chromebook you’ll be using.

I understand that using Chromebooks to produce music is rather affordable, but…

It’s still important to get the best computer you can afford!

I personally recommend NOT making music on a Chromebook, but if you’re determined to get the job done, here’s what you’ll be needing:

  • Chromebook
  • Audio interface
  • MIDI/USB controller

The audio interface and MIDI/USB controller are actually optional, but completely necessary in my honest opinion. It’s possible to use your Chromebook’s microphone to record audio and touchscreen to play software instruments, but I’m teaching you how to do it professionally.

Or as “professionally” as we’ll get!

It’s REALLY important to note, however, that not all devices are compatible with Chrome OS.

There’s not much information on the internet but based on my experience, my old Zoom H4n Pro wasn’t compatible. My M-Audio KeyRig 49 was compatible, but my M-Audio Hammer 88 wasn’t recognized by my Chromebook.

In other words, you’ll need to look for specific hardware.

Luckily, I’ll be recommending the right tools for the job (towards the end of the article).

Now, we’ll be looking at these cloud-based music production applications!

Music production on Chromebook using Soundtrap

Did you know that Soundtrap was recently acquired by Spotify? That’s right, the popular streaming platform provides an affordable option for music creators on-the-go (there’s even a FREE plan for those just getting started).

It’s available on the Chrome Web Store and the Google Play Store.

You’ll need to be connected to the internet if you want to run the application from your Chrome browser (obviously), but the Google Play release runs mostly offline. However, you’ll need to be connected to save your projects to the cloud.

Soundtrap also states that it is compatible with every audio interface/keyboard controller.

It’s important to keep in mind that Soundtrap works on pretty much every platform:

  • Mac OS X
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Chrome OS
  • Android

That means they’re not talking about Chrome OS exclusively.

In other words, you’ll still need to make sure to purchase compatible hardware.

That being said, I still think that Soundtrap is an excellent option for Chromebook-users. The minimalist design reminds me of GarageBand and it comes loaded with plenty of loops/samples along with some software instruments.

Now, keep in mind that these aren’t “professional” sounding.

The biggest disadvantage with running your DAW on Chromebook is that you’ll be limited to using the integrated effects/plugins. In other words, you cannot use VST plugins on music production software operating on Chrome OS.

However, it’s got plenty of features to get you by!

  • Amp Modelling (plug in your guitar/bass)
  • Auto-Tune (pitch correction for your vocals)
  • Automation (just like the “real” DAWs)
  • Drum Machine
  • On-Screen Keyboard
  • Loops/Presets

There’s much more under the hood, but I’ll leave the exploration to you!

Using other DAWs found on the Google Play Store

This is where things get complicated… I mentioned earlier that Soundtrap has an app on the Google Play Store, but you need to use the one from the Chrome Web Store.

Remember all that talk about drivers?

If you use other DAW apps like:

  • Soundtrap Studio
  • WalkBand
  • FL Studio Mobile
  • n-Track Studio

You can easily make music using the integrated instruments, but it’ll be impossible to connect an audio interface. Using external MIDI/USB keyboard controllers is possible, but you’ll need to work with your device’s internal microphone for audio.

Cloud-based music production platforms like Soundtrap are different.

The drivers (if that’s how it works for them) is hosted on their server.

In other words, the application is like an online “operating system (OS)” dedicated to music.

That’s why Soundtrap is pretty much the only option for Chromebook-users. The only exception being if you don’t intend on using real guitar/bass and your voice (professionally, anyway). However, you could still create some great tracks with the basic sounds.

I just want to prepare you for the inevitable sacrifice… 

Is it really worth it to save a few dollars? If portability is your priority, I think you’ll be much better off going with an Apple/Windows laptop. If you insist though, you’ll want to keep reading.

These next two sections are important!

Which audio interfaces are compatible with Chrome OS?

We’re going to be getting straight into some recommendations! I’ll only be listing the audio interfaces that have been listed as compatible by Soundtrap or by users on forums pertaining to the same topic (compatible audio interfaces for Chromebook).

Here are two of the most affordable options:

Behringer U-phoria UM2:

Behringer UMC202HD:

You can also experiment and try other audio interfaces… If you do, please post your results in the comment section. It’d be incredibly helpful for other Chromebook-users.

Now, let’s move on to MIDI/USB controllers.

Which MIDI/USB controllers are compatible with Chrome OS?

It’s slightly more complicated when it comes to MIDI/USB controllers… Chrome OS supports these types of controllers, however, it’s not guaranteed that they’ll all work. It’s also most likely that you’ll be losing some functionality due to the lack of drivers.

In other words, I’d pick one of these controllers if you want to play it safe:

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MKII:

iRig Keys 37:

I can personally vouch for the M-Audio KeyRig 49, but it’s been discontinued…

I can also guarantee that the M-Audio Hammer 88 WON’T be compatible.

It’s honestly difficult to make any real guarantees because there are so many different Chromebooks and so many different MIDI/USB keyboard controllers. However, it seems like the general consensus is that “class-compliant” devices WILL be compatible.

Either way, let us know in the comments if you’ve had success with any other models!

Are you making music on your Chromebook?

Are you one of the rare music producers making music on your Chromebook? I personally wouldn’t do it (not seriously anyway), but I can’t speak for anybody else! I simply wanted to provide some general knowledge/research for those you were asking themselves the same question that I was back in the day.

It’s true that it would probably save you around 500$, but is it really worth it?

I think you’d be much better off with one of the computers that I recommend…

I like affordable hardware as well, but I NEVER compromise quality. That’s why I’m personally using the Apple 2018 Mac Mini (entry-level) and I couldn’t be happier! However, you may prefer one of the Dell laptops I talk about if you’re into affordable/portable solutions.

Either way, I’d like to know how many of you out there work with Chromebook.

It’d be great if you could describe your setup (audio interface, keyboard controller, etc…). Also, please share some examples of your music as well. I’m sure most of us would be more than interested to hear the possibilities of making music with a Chromebook.

Thanks for reading, now go make some music (with or without your Chromebook)!

Sources:

https://www.reddit.com/r/chromeos/comments/8e7nr4/chromebook_w_audio_interface/

https://www.reddit.com/r/chromeos/comments/6xn26g/midi_keyboard_support_in_chrome_os/

https://support.soundtrap.com/hc/en-us/articles/205504062-What-audio-interface-should-I-use-

https://support.soundtrap.com/hc/en-us/articles/205505362-What-MIDI-keyboards-and-devices-work-with-Soundtrap-

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