Apple’s latest version of iLife includes a new piece of software, GarageBand, that turns your Mac into an easy-to-use recording studio, capable of making top-quality music.
iLife, Apple’s set of media applications, includes several great applications that bring multimedia power to Mac users. iTunes is considered by many to be the best digital music player. iPhoto lets you organize digital images, and makes cropping and editing them a no-brainer. iMovie does the same for movies, while iDVD lets ordinary users create very professional DVDs.
With iLife ’04, Apple is adding a new application, GarageBand. GarageBand is an studio-quality sequencer designed for novices. It’s simple enough that anybody should be able to play around with it and make music that at least sounds polished. GarageBand uses a drag-and-drop interface that makes loop manipulation easy.
The application comes with over one thousand professionally-recorded loops. To get started with the application, you can drag audio loops into the timeline. The application has a very visual interface that makes it very clear what each track represents. For example, each track shows up with a icon that represents the sound of the instrument (see screen capture).
GarageBand isn’t just a loop tool, though. It also includes very good software instruments, including piano, organ, bass, guitars, sax, and drums, and a wide range of synthesizers. GarageBand makes it easy to record music, too, because the software knows what system hardware you have on your machine and adapts to it automatically. This lets you plug in a mic and go.
GarageBand isn’t a replacement for a full-fledged audio/midi sequencer. However, it raises the bar for entry-level software to an amazing standard. Apple is throwing into iLife an audio sequencer that would have been state-of-the art a few years ago.
One of the greatest things about GarageBand is the way Apple integrates it with other Apple apps. You can make some new background music, and then add it to your iPhoto slide shows, burn it to a CD, or use it as a score for an iMovie and burn it to a DVD. You could grumble that GarageBand doesn’t have some features that pros have come to expect, but it is a minor miracle that Apple has made a music studio that mere mortals can use. This may turn out to be one of Apple’s hottest innovations yet.
GarageBand turns your Mac into an anytime, anywhere recording studio packed with hundreds of instruments and a recording engineer or two for good measure. It’s the easiest way to create, perform and record your own music whether you’re an accomplished player or just wish you were a rock star. And GarageBand is the newest member of the iLife family, so you can add your original music to your slideshows, your DVD menus, burn it to CDs or score your iMovie projects.
You’ll need an Apple laptop, because iLife is a Mac-only application.
Most users will start with loops. Apple Loops are the building blocks of GarageBand tunes. GarageBand organizes loops by instrument, style and genre. This makes it easy to find one loop out of thousands of them. You can even browse by style.
Once a loop has been imported, it can be drag-and-dropped and extended to any length needed. When the various loops are in place, you can mix and balance each track. The loops that are provided are professional, an cover a broad range of styles.
If you want to record something, just plug a keyboard, mic or guitar into your Mac, and you’re ready to go. GarageBand will recognize what you’ve done, and configure the application to be ready to go. Guitarists will enjoy the built in virtual guitar amps, that let you create a lot of standard amps sounds, including jazz, rock and pop styles. Keyboardist can just plug in a USB keyboard, and then play one of the virtual instruments included with GarageBand.
Once you’ve got a great recording, you can sweeten it with effects. GarageBand includes hundreds of effects presets that are designed to make it easy to get great sounding mixes. The effects include compression, equalization, reverb, echo, and more.
Exporting to iTunes
Once you’ve got something you like, you can Export to iTunes. This makes your track instantly available in iTunes, so you can burn it to CD, put it on your iPod, use it as a soundtrack for a iMovie project.
GarageBand doesn’t break new ground for pro users. Instead, it brings a pro-quality studio into the hands of Mac users for the price of a couple of pizzas.