Use a bath towel
So, yeah I got a little side tracked this weekend while doing laundry and kept playing with GarageBand on the iPad. The nice thing about doing laundry is, you’re stuck doing it for the duration, so in between the folding and switching from washer to dryer, you really have a nice chunk of time to mess with the iPad.
I did 2 different songs this time. “Dream Puppet Show” is really a tip of the hat to Dream Theater. The by no means is a master piece, but many of the sections are right out of the DT text book ;) I wanted to see how GarageBand handled odd time signatures, and the quantization with a triplet feel where a quick straight 4 riff was inserted into the rhythm. I also went completely off the tempo in one very short section, then went into a normal straight 4 feel. The results were mixed. The quantization feature is limited in that it’s applied to the recorded section. So if you apply it to a drum part, and that part happens to be what i described above, you’re screwed if you can’t play it straight enough on your own. What you hear in this piece is not quantized in the first half of the song. It’s not bad, and I was able to consistently play the guitar and bass rhythms the same. The drums however, are still not quite where they *could* be to make this thing great. Their much closer than any other drum app on the iPad, but still inconsistent. The guitar however, was a ton of fun and I was able to use the note bending feature in a realistic way – that ended up being a ton of fun!
Listen: Dream Puppet Show
The next piece is called “Groove”, and this one I wanted to open it up and see what it could do. The First half of the song just loops a main drum part that i recorded over 4 bars. It was very very very very very frustrating to get right. With the other songs (Genesis and Dream Puppet Show) the tempo was much slower, and the parts were pretty straight forward. With Groove, the parts were much more intense and notes were much closer together and required accuracy. When I tried playing the 2nd half of the song with the ride (32 bars straight), I had to record the snare, crash and kick separately, then do a pass with the ride. When I tried to do the ride along side the snare, I nearly punched a hole in my iPad or nearly threw it across the room in fury. Not kidding. Finally, I turned on airport mode, killed all applications, restarted the thing and that helped. But the thing that made the most difference was putting it on a bath towel and laying it flat. I know they use the accelerometer to measure sensitivity, so when I was using the cover to prop it up and play or flat on a glass table, I wondered if that was causing the inconsistency with the snare hits. After putting it on the towel I had MUCH better results. Still, there’s plenty room for improvement, but I’m really encouraged at how good it is now. Not great, but very good.
In the end, I think I’ll actually be able to put ideas down with the iPad for the first time ever. I’ve always just fired up the mixer, played my kit, recorded some guitar, you know – the old fashion way ;) But considering I’ve put out 3 solid ideas in the past few days, I’d say this actually has a future in music and not just some toy to lower the learning curve for kids who lack the self control to learn how to play a musical instrument.
Wish list so far:
1. Quantize “selection” – allow me to select a region of recording and select the quantization type
2. Add a china and a splash cymbal – please.
3. Allow merging of channels
4. Let me name my sections – “section A” is a little hard to keep straight
5. Put Pan over in the mixer controls
6. Group channel faders – so I can lock the bass/guitar/keys together and move one slider – they would remain relatively the same volume to each other.
7. Volume and pan throughout the mix – for final mix, I’ve been playing it from the headphone jack into the computer and mixing live for things like fades, solos etc
8. Assign 1 sound to the entire snare – the areas are a bit small for people who have bigger fingers than Alvin.
9. Give the option to *not* use the sensitivity per drum/cymbol/keyboard etc. Sometimes, when i hit the note, I really just want it full blast ;)
10. Give the ability to move higher up on the guitar neck in Notes mode with no scale selected.
11. Show the notes on the fret board when a scale is selected.
12. Allow for setting stomp boxes per recorded piece. It’s a bit annoying to have to decide whether or not you want it for the entire song on the one guitar.