January 17, 2004

Beautiful music

I am beside myself after spending just 3 hours with GarageBand. Wow. I put together a little 1:30 ditty just to run it through its paces and I'm more than impressed. It has a lot more depth than you would expect and the instruments and loops make it 100 times more useful than a high-end multi-track audio program like Deck which costs 10x as much.

The first thing I love is the looping. You can just take a pre-recorded snippet, or record your own, and loop it with the drag of the mouse. I layed down a 2 measure bass track with my Squire P-Bass and instead of having to play it over and over and over and over, I could expand it out as long as I needed to fit the time. Is it cheating? Sure, but who the fuck cares? It makes the creative process so much easier.

The next thing I love is recording real instruments. You record them dry (w/out effects) and then you have a full software engine of goodies to apply to them. Want to change the amp simulator you used to record that lead guitar track? No problem, just flip the switch. Try that with your normal 8-track recorder -- you'd have to re-record the whole track! Want to add wah or compression or reverb? Just check the box. No need to re-record.

Like I said, it took me about 3 hours to, from scratch, come up with a little ditty on which I used my p-bass and two of my electric guitars (the SG and the Les Paul). Lay that over a pre-recorded drum track (drummers smell bad anyway, right?) and you've got yourself a song.

I noticed a few things that don't affect me, but might affect others. First, I couldn't plug my guitars directly into the line-in of the Mac. I had to use the headphone out of my GT-3 guitar processor (set to as dry as possible). I guess the signal coming out of the guitar itself is too low. The second is that the software and pre-recorded loops are great, but you can't easily lay down, say, a 12-bar blues progression and then jam over it. The loops are short snippets made in a single key and you can't get the same loop in other keys (say IV or V). You can transpose a loop, but transposing it up 7 steps (for V) makes it sound terrible. I can just lay down the bass or rhythm myself, but others may not have that option. Another oddity is that when you close the main window, the app quits, and it's not so zippy to re-launch. What a strange decision on Apple's part.

If you are a musician, you really want this little app. It's incredible.

Here's my ditty, called IME (for Initial Machine Experiments). It's nothing special, I did it just for fun and didn't obsess about every note or bend I missed. You get what you pay for.

Posted by pinkerton at January 17, 2004 4:17 PM