Band-ain-a-Box is a revolutionary piece of software that has been around for over 30 years now. Released in 1990, the music accompaniment software makes it possible for users to create full songs simply by inputting basic chords.
It is no secret that writing music is hard! The entire process is complicated and time-consuming. Whether it’s which software or plugin to use, how to arrange everything properly, finding the right inspiration, or simply starting out for the very first time, Band-in-a-Box (BIAB) is a great solution that can help.
The software is hugely popular and provides simple production solutions for musicians needing an original track but who do not possess the ability or financial resources needed to record using live instruments.
In this article, we’ll have a look at 5 of the best Band-in-a-Box alternatives as well as covering the pros & cons of each, who they are aimed at, and why we think that if you can’t produce music the old fashioned way, using this type of software is a pretty good alternative.
1. Chordpulse – Best Paid Option
Chordpulse is a direct competitor to Band-in-a-Box and offers many of the same features. Off the shelf, Chordpluse comes equipped with the ability to generate backing tracks based on chords chosen by the user.
The simple to use software allows you to create, arrange, teach, and compose. Whilst the exploration of chord progressions and teaching capabilities of the program are there for all to see, the real beauty is in the auto-generated songs.
With over 100 styles of music and multiple instruments to choose from, Chordpulse stands out from the others on our list when listening to the final product. We also loved that there are options included that allow singers and vocalists to get the most out of the program.
With a low price point, Chordpulse represents excellent value for money. Whilst it doesn’t come prepacked with all of the features BIAB does, it stacks up very well as an alternative.
Who Should Use This?
If you’re looking for a Band-in-a-Box alternative then you should be considering Chordpulse. It features all of the basic functionalities that BIAB does at a fraction of the price. The developers are also bringing out regular updates to fix issues and add more and more options, meaning it just gets better and better.
This program has a great reputation within the music producing community and if automated tracks on a budget are what you’re after then look no further.
- Price point
- Ease of use
- Excellent support and regular updates
- Helps vocalists improve accuracy and annotation
- Helps musicians improve timing and versatility
- Large range of instruments and styles available
- Despite a good range of features, there is still a significant drop off from Band-in-a-Box
2. Impro-Visor – A Great Best Band-in-a-Box Alternative
Impro-Visor is a great alternative to the industry leader, Band-in-a-Box. This music creation tool has a particular focus on jazz and allows users to seamlessly and easily generate jazz solos.
Short for ‘Improvisation-Advisor’, this product creates original music to help musicians better understand the complex construction of improvised solos.
Despite its origin as an educational tool, this powerful program also has the capacity to generate entire songs based on user-entered chord sequences. This independent improvisation allows Impro-Visor to be used as a play-along tool as well as an educational and production one.
Much like Band-in-a-Box, chords are entered and the program auto-generates songs suitable for backing style tracks. The really clever element of this software, however, is how it produces freeform-inspired solos.
To achieve this, the tool colors notes, draws on its database of licks and generates them from grammars learned through transcripts. The final form and style can then be edited by the user, allowing for greater control over the created sounds.
Who Should Use This?
The software is perfect for any budding musician looking for a tool that allows you to generate backing tracks to play along to as well as being able to generate solos and help with understanding how they are produced. This program will suit those who play jazz in particular, however, it is important to note that it is well suited to a range of other styles too.
- It is open-source and totally free to use
- Excellent for jazz musicians
- Simple to use
- Good reputation with plenty of online support and guides
- Excellent education tool
- Feature light. There are other Band-in-a-Box alternatives that come with many more features and options
3. Guitar Pro – Great for Learning
Guitar Pro is a brilliant bit of tech, regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you are. With a wide range of features, it caters to much more than just those looking to auto-generate backing tracks.
Among a whole host of features is the ability to not only read scores and tabs but actually customize your own and create multitrack scores. This means musicians can keep their arrangements to one program, without the need for exporting large files.
This, coupled with its ability to write and edit sheet music, mix your sounds, and share your finished productions quickly and easily are why it makes our list. But the reason that we rate it so highly for learning is because of Guitar Pro’s commitment to education.
Guitar Pro offers a 50% reduced rate for academic subscriptions as well as having a brilliant online support network for those of you who may be right at the beginning of their guitar journeys.
When you also take into account the hundreds of built-in diagrams to help with finger positioning on chords and scales, it’s easy to see why this particular program is so well suited to music students.
Who Should Use This?
As we’ve mentioned the people who will get the most value from this are guitar students. With its wide variety of features and learning aids, Guitar Pro provides a great educational resource.
However, that is not to say more experienced players won’t benefit from the software. It’s a case of weighing up what you need versus what Guitar Pro can offer.
- Free trial
- Quick and easy sharing capabilities
- Discount for academic accounts
- Higher price point than many on our list
4. Sibelius – Worth a Mention
Sibelius is a score creation program developed by Avid. With a particular focus on piano sounds, Sibelius contains myriad features that any composer needs when crafting new songs or when working on existing projects.
One real benefit of working with Sibelius is the number of templates that come preloaded. Helping producers get to work quickly by providing inspiration and supporting those who are learning the craft by providing a rigid framework to work within.
Genres like Funk, Classical, and Latin are covered alongside a whole host of others, making the program highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of tastes and sounds.
A built-in MIDI function also provides users with the option of plugging their keyboards in, giving it the edge over some of the competition. Of course, there is a brilliant virtual keyboard also available for those who don’t have access to MIDI controllers.
This virtual keyboard can be configured to any octave as well as being able to harness effects such as reverb and tone. There is also a feature that allows composers to sample projects in different keys and invert any chords they are using. These features mean producers of all abilities are well catered for.
Who Should Use This?
Sibelius is a pretty comprehensive piece of software that encompasses many aspects of the music production process. Therefore we wouldn’t recommend this for absolute beginners or the casual user who is looking for simple songwriting solutions.
- Easy to set up and use
- Excellent range of features and controls
- MIDI input and export options
- Relatively inexpensive
- Limited export formats
5. MMA – Musical MIDI Accompaniment – Best Budget Option
There are plenty of reasons that MMA had to make our list. In the end, we settled for recommending it for any budget-conscious buyers out here. MMA is totally free but often performs just as well as some of its paid counterparts.
With MMA you are getting at its core an accompaniment generator. Whereas some of the other products on our list offer a little bit more in terms of production features, MMA does the very basics but does them well. It is ideal for those looking to create backing tracks to play over or background music that uses specific chords.
There is an active community of MMA users and regular updates are rolled out. This means the program is always being improved and bugs are usually resolved quickly. All this for free!
Who Should use This?
MMA is perfect for the more casual user. Someone who is not looking for multiple songwriting or composition features but values ease of use and value for money.
That’s not to say that more experienced musicians should avoid it, MMA is a great piece of software with a lot to offer.
- Price point (i.e. there isn’t one)
- Simplicity/Ease of use
- Regular updates
- This is a simple program, as such, you may need others depending on what your needs are
Benefits of Creating Music
Music brings so many elements to people’s lives that are often easy to forget about or totally overlook. Simply jamming away on your favorite instrument or getting creative and working on a new track provides vital mental and often emotional stimulation.
Using tools such as the ones we have outlined in this piece allows musicians of all ages and abilities to enjoy these benefits at little or no cost at all. Auto generating a backing track and playing away for hours and hours gives a lot of people a sense of escapism and achievement. For those starting out or at the very beginning of their musical journey, the tangible improvements you see whilst learning are hugely rewarding.
Here are some other benefits associated with creating music;
It Keeps Your Brain Healthy
The stimulation your brain receives is highly beneficial. Think of it almost like a workout for one of your most important organs!
This element of making music becomes even more important in later life. Keeping an elderly brain active and engaged helps with all sorts of issues associated with getting older.
The endorphins released when listening to music are just as prevalent when creating it. A few hours with an instrument helps keep you happy and can even combat mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Helps with Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate
Hear us out on this one. A number of studies have been carried out over the years into music’s ability to actually strengthen the heart and boost the recovery time for patients suffering cardiac issues. The relationship between the two is not fully understood but it is believed that the endorphin release caused by music is the driving factor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many people have questions when getting into music production or when trying to decide which pieces of kit or software is best suited to their needs.
Here we’ve outlined some of the most common queries people have and given you the answers based on our industry expertise and extensive research.
Answer: Our pick for alternatives suitable for beginners is Guitar Pro. This is because it comes jam-packed with additional features to help you learn guitar and arrange music, as well as producing backing tracks for you to play along with.
However, Guitar Pro is aimed at, you guessed it, guitar players. If that’s not you and you just want a simple program that will generate music, MMA is a great option.
Answer: Not necessarily, no. All of the programs outlined in this feature have their pros and cons and each one comes with a different set of features aimed at a slightly different market.
The programs themselves function well and you won’t see a noticeable drop off in performance between free and paid variants.
Where you will likely see a difference, however, is when looking at the range of features available to you. If literally, all you need is the ability to generate tracks, then a free option such as MMA would be perfect.
But if you require more, such as the ability to arrange music, or are looking for something with learning aids then a more comprehensive (and most likely paid) software would be more suitable.
Answer: The short answer is no. This type of software acts as an aid when playing or producing. It simply allows you, the player, to focus on playing your instrument and honing your craft.
They are designed to provide a quick and simple solution to a common problem, not to be a pillar of the music production process.
The Bottom Line: Best Alternatives to Band in a Box
There are very few software products that live up to the hype and reputation of Band in a Box. PG Music has been developing the industry-leading software since 1988 and 34 years later, with countless updates and tweaks under its belt, it’s not hard to see why their product is the go-to for anyone looking for quick and easy auto-generated sounds.
But despite their dominance, many suitable alternatives have emerged. Some are integrated into larger, more complete packages, and some are stand-alone products almost perfectly mimicking the BIAB blueprint.
While it’s hard to pick an outright winner, our favorite has to be Chordpulse. The program works seamlessly and is used by many musicians around the world. It’s simple to use interface, many incorporated styles and sounds along with its low price point make it our overall winner.
If you’re interested in learning guitar then make sure you check out our recommendations for the best online courses. Likewise, if it’s the equipment you’re looking for be sure to check out our brilliant guides electric guitars, amps, and pedals.
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Jodie is a trained classical guitarist. She is also a full-time blogger and loves to write about different types of guitars. Just give her 60 seconds of your time, and she’ll tell you all that you need to know about any guitar of your choice.