GarageBand, iPad and Me
[tweetmeme source=”neoRiley” only_single=false]Well, as soon as I saw the GarageBand video for the iPad and them bending strings on a virtual guitar and bragging about sensitivity on the drums/piano, I knew I was going to loose an evening playing with this thing!
It didn’t take me long to figure out the layout and controls and the fact that you had to add “sections” to create a tune. Yes, you can wax poetic and just open it up and play for as long as you like, but it really does make sense to take your composition section by section, especially if you plan to re-use any of your performances later in the tune. The sliders work fairly well for adjusting volume, and pan is located in a sub panel you access from the top right. You can also add basic effects that are good enough for doing a scratch track version of your master piece. You can mute and solo a given track as well as play along with a click.
The quantize feature is rather nice and works per-track as well. Keep the stuff you want sloppy, sloppy, and the neat stuff… neat. In saying that, the drums worked decently well. Certainly better than most of the drum machines i’ve downloaded from the app store. Most of their shortcomings have to do with response time – the more notes you attempt, the slower the response. And most are just behind the beat you’re playing most of the time anyway – seriously, all of them are like that. The drums in GarageBand do not lag behind and even go the extra mile in giving you “sensitivity”. If you listen closely to the song I’ve posted (Genesis), you can hear the soft ghost 8th notes on the floor tom followed by louder accents on the 2 higher toms. I was actually pleased at how I moved from “oh nice, it doesn’t lag” to “I can actually emulate ‘everybody wants some!’ by Van Halen”. Why did I pick that song? I don’t know, but the toms sounded like it and I could play accents, so it was an easy fit. On top of that, one nice – and very obvious feature – was how the kick drum fires when you hit the crash cymbal. I have to laugh – it’s one of those “duh” moments and you wonder why nobody else tried doing that.
Another thing I was really happy with was the Stand up Bass play and the Acoustic Guitar picking. I was able to come up with a nice pattern for the chorus that fits in the background really nicely and if you didn’t know better, you’d figure it was a real guitar – really very nicely done. The stand up bass was great – I’ve always loved fret-less bass sound and I was able to slide notes and practice good intonation with this thing! You might hear some of the notes not quite square on the money, but hey – that’s what I would argue as something that makes this feel real rather than digitally baked.
Finally I added some strings and then decided to add some ethnic drums behind the main drums. So, I played the drums with my fingers on the desk right next to the iPad and put a “Bullhorn” effect on the recording – sounds like a really dead animal skin stretch across a birch Indian drum shell – no?
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at the final result and I definitely had a alot of fun putting it together. I’ve got a ton of music apps on my iPad and have used them as instruments on real recordings, but anytime I tried to record on the iPad or sequence anything, it sucked. I went in thinking this wouldn’t be much different, but I’m happy to report that someone over at Apple does know a thing or two about UI, User experience and music. And holy crap, $5? Seriously, it’s the best $5 you’ll spend as a musician on the iPad. By far.