When the iPad 2 launched, a ripple of excitement ran through the music-making community. Not only because the successor to Cupertino’s tablet continued to prove to be a tantalising mobile production tool, but also because Apple chose the same keynote speech to launch Garageband for iPad.
For the uninitiated, the original Mac-only Garageband launched in 2004 with its sights aimed squarely at music makers wanting an intuitive and uncomplicated way of producing music. What kept more seasoned producers interested was the fact that Garageband borrowed a handful of Apple’s professional sequencer Logic’s features. Now in the era of pinch and zoom, Garageband has arrived on the laps of iPad musicians, and the proposition of starting a track on a bus and finishing it in the studio has become a reality.
Garageband for iPad offers eight different audio channels to be sequenced. Each channel can record audio (via the built-in microphone or by plugging in your guitar), import pre-recorded Apple loops, or house a virtual instrument. Audio can be processed further through preset effects or via an array of simulated amps and stomp-boxes. A broad selection of keyboard sounds are available, ranging from grand pianos and organs to classic synth pads and spacey effects, with each sound offering a couple of tweakable parameters.
It's a well-balanced selection of instruments that will appeal to a wide range of genres. For those less proficient at playing, Garageband's smart instruments will strum, pluck and bang on your behalf. With a choice of smart keyboards, basses, guitars or drums, songs can be created by simply choosing which chords to be played or defining a particular scale and which beats to provide accompaniment. It's a clever concept that may sound like a cheat, but in practice we found it a surprisingly handy way of creating hooks. Finally, an old school-style sampler pitches any recorded sound across the entire keyboard, enabling you to create Paul Hardcastle-inspired moments in a joy-filled instant.
One major disappointment is the lack of editing. Recorded phrases can be quantized, cut, copied and trimmed, but currently there's no way to edit individual notes. As such, if you've made a mistake, you'll need to record the whole part again. A recent update has introduced the ability to import your own audio files and supports the copy and paste of audio across third party iPad music applications; however, the much-needed MIDI editing is still a notable absentee, which we hope will be addressed in future updates.
The devil is in the detail, both during editing and recording, so stop talking and listen. Listen very carefully. Then really listen, and then close your eyes and listen some more...
DON’T KILL YOUR EARS
Everyone loves feeling the bass punch them in the chest, especially when it’s your own music. But monitoring too loud will cause your ears to lose that fine sensitivity essential for creating a great mix, and cause long-term damage.
DEPTH AND SPACE
Electronic music inherently lacks the ambience found in live recordings, so add some depth and space by using reverbs and delays. Clever use of reverbs will give a mix space, and cunning application of delays adds depth to elements.
TRANSLATION IS EVERYTHING
When mixing down a track, it’s all about how it will sound on various different soundsystems. From a club system right down to an iPod, your tracks need to sound great on all formats. If you don’t have an amazing set of monitors and an acoustically-treated room, then make sure you check your mixes in lots of different scenarios.
|Ease of Use||8.0|
|Value for Money||10|
Ridiculously cheap way of making tunes and a whole bag of fun.
Lack of MIDI note editing.
|Conclusion||Garageband is great fun to use and its simplicity is part of its appeal. It's clearly not a competitor to pro DAWS, but instead should be viewed as a musical sketchpad that focuses users on creating musical ideas to be expanded later in the studio. If you own an iPad, it's an essential purchase.|