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!

Dell XPS7390 13" InfinityEdge Touchscreen Laptop, Newest 10th Gen Intel i5-10210U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 10 Home
If you’re looking for portable/affordable computers for music production, you’ll be MUCH happier with the Dell XPS Series. Music production on Chromebooks may be possible, but it doesn’t mean it should be done…

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-

14 Responses

  1. I see there are plenty of DAWs available on the Play Store that I can install on the Chromebook.

    Di you try them?

    * FL Studio Mobile
    * n-Track Studio DAW
    * BandLab
    * Caustic 3
    * …

    Also, about the hardware, it’s not the case anymore that Chromebooks are toys. You can find models with 11th gen i7 Intel CPUs and 16 GB of memory.

    1. Hey, I’ve tried all of these apps besides Caustic 3.

      I’m pretty sure I covered this in the article, but…

      Most of the DAW apps you’ll find on the Google Play Store don’t allow you to connect an audio interface. Most of them also don’t allow you to install any 3rd party plugins.

      For professionals such as myself, this is a deal-breaker.

      That’s why I can only recommend Soundtrap. It works with some audio interfaces (although it doesn’t allow you to install 3rd party plugins).

      I’m also currently checking out Cubasis by Steinberg which is a new app. I’ll most likely be updating this article in the future with these newer additions.

      Maybe you’re not as demanding as I am. Maybe you don’t need to connect an audio interface or use 3rd party plugins.

      In that case, maybe the apps you mentioned will be more than enough for you. However, I definitely can’t recommend them for professional use (not even Soundtrap).

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything else.

      Thanks!

      – Stefan

    1. Hey Stephen!

      Thanks for sharing, it seems like an awesome app. I’d never heard of it.

      Which controller(s) and/or audio interface(s) are you using with it?

      Take care!

      – Stefan

  2. I plugged My new chromebook hp to my serato sb and you can hear it with headphones on youdj and also with extra speakers but not on the actual chromebook unless you connect headphones. Meaning the speakers on the laptop are muted

    1. Hey Christine,

      I’m glad to know the Serato SB (from Pionneer?) is compatible with your Chromebook. I’m sure someone else will read this comment and find it useful.

      The reason you’re having difficulty routing audio is because of the lack of drivers/support for these devices on Chrome OS. On PC/Mac computers, you’d normally have the option to switch audio drivers/devices. It’s still pretty impressive that it actually works with an app, but you obviously won’t get the best results with a Chromebook.

      Thanks for your input, let us know if you find any solutions!

      – Stefan

  3. Hi – I don’t see any mention of Audiotools here – seems to work pretty well on my Chromebook (though I haven’t yet pushed it hard)

    1. Hey Phil!

      The reason I didn’t include Audiotool in the article is because of its innability to record audio. In that sense, it isn’t the same as SoundTrap.

      However, you’re absolutely right about it working on Chromebook. I actually think it’s a great option if you’re not into sound recording. Of course, you’ll still be quite limited compared to professional DAWs out there (using 3rd party plugins, advanced tools, etc…).

      I really appreciate the comment though, I think many people will find your suggestion useful!

      This article has already been updated multiple times, so I’ll most likely include Audiotool once I get around to it.

      Thanks for dropping by. Take care!

      – Stefan

    1. Hello Wade,

      That’s an interesting solution, I’m sure others will find it valuable indeed! However, I still don’t believe you’ll get good results when it comes to recording.

      It may work for light audio/video editing but at that point, I think it’d be more efficient to rent a computer server. I sometimes use https://maximumsettings.com/ for gaming, but it’s also great to to run high-demanding audio/video applications. It’s basically a Windows-machine in the cloud and you choose how powerful you need it to be.

      However, audio latency/performance would still be a HUGE issue when it comes to recording. That’s why I still can’t recommend Chromebooks, unless you’re simply a hobbyist.

      Thanks again, it’s interesting to hear what solutions everyone has come up with!

      – Stefan

  4. My windows laptop is dying and I am really enjoying this low budget chrombook my neighbor gave me. I do some home recording but this budget chromebook does not have the storage/power to see if getting a newer/better one would suit my needs. You say there are no DAW’s for Chrome. I see Reaper and Audacity both have Linux versions available and have found videos on installing them after activating Linux on a Chrombook. Are you aware? Have you tried them and they are not functional?

    Thanks

    1. Hello Brian,

      It may be possible to install Audacity/Reaper on Chromebook, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get results.

      The major problem with Chromebooks is the lack of drivers/support for these high-demanding audio applications. You’ll experience horrible audio latency at best and at worst, it probably won’t even connect to your audio interface.

      Hypothetically, even if you would purchase the best Chromebook… You’d be paying as much as say, one of these Dell XPS laptops (review here) and the performance would still be WAY under.

      If you’re serious about sound recording/music production though, I wouldn’t even consider Chromebooks. I only wrote the article to entertain the idea, but it’s only possible using one of these online DAWs like Soundtrap, Bandlab, etc… That doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future but even if it did, Apple will always have the lead when it comes to performance for these types of applications. I personally use the innexpensive 2018 Mac Mini and there’s the even less expensive 2020 Mac Mini with Apple’s new M1 chip.

      These are just some suggestions based on the fact that you seem to be looking for something portable/affordable.

      Let me know if you need anything else. Take care!

      – Stefan

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