App Review: GarageBand For iPad

US Lets see what Apple can do      22/03/11

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    MP4 12:53 mins

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We’ve all been exposed to the hype surrounding iPad - well it does seem like it was not that exaggerated, with sales of 15 million plus of the first gen, outselling regular PC hardware. With the  souped-up iPad 2 now in the stores or just coming, Apple have upped the game with the introduction of Garageband for the iPad. But surely this must just be a toy?
Available for iPad only and on iOS 4.2 and above, Garageband weighs in at a 369MB download from the iTunes store. It runs only on iPad and also only in Landscape orientation.
There are several instrument groups - Keyboard (pianos, organs and synths), Drums, acoustic and electronic, Guitar Amp - lots of models - 32 combinations of Amp and  three stomp boxes (10 to choose from) - you will need some kind of 3rd party guitar input, Audio Recorder - from the iPad mic in or USB audio interface, with a selection of post effects, Sampler - single sample - trimmable, tuneable, Smart Drums - a drum machine with a difference, Smart Bass - simple chord progression assisted bass sounds with autoplay, Smart Guitar - the same - with accoustic, electric and rock voicings, Smart Keyboard - easy play chords and inversions.
The sounds are OKAY, they are like Garagband for Mac instruments lite, with tweakable parameters for the synths and electronic keyboards, but more importantly velocity sensitive from the touchscreen - a combination of acceler-o-meter and finger size we think, but workable.

All of this uses the usual iPad app interface tricks to get you playing - its actually pretty usable, but stick a USB Camera Connection Kit and a MIDI keyboard and things really start to hot up - we used the M-Audio Oxygen 49 - which is bus-powered and plugged and played, the Axiom 61 did not work - it threw up a “requires too much power” message - even though I had it plugged in with a power supply.

But the result is pretty great - almost negligable latency and glitch-free audio, making this a most playable experience - who dares to use it for a gig first?

Open your instrument, record - then flip to the arrange page to trim, split, cut and paste your recordings is how it rolls. And it really is pretty simple and intuitive. Oh yeah and there’s a bunch of Appleloops for you to get  down with too - searchable by genre and keyword. Occaisionally the app pauses and runs some optimization routine - looks like track freezing to me to save resources, but you werent planning on using this for live performance recording were you?

Up to 8 tracks, each with volume,mute and solo - you can also send to echo and reverb master effects to sweeten it all up. No mastering quality fx here, but come on, this is an oversize PDA after all..

I was able to easily create with this, the technology didn’t get in the way, sure the sounds aren’t the top of the range, but if you are a songwriter, that shouldn’t be a problem, and certainly enough to get some ideas going.
Save the song, mix it down and email it as an AAC file, or send it into iTunes in AAC or Garageband format. Presumably that means you can open it in Garageband proper or even Logic and use elements in a final version. Unfortunately I was unable to locate those files on my 10.5.7 equipped Mac, so I cant prove it to you, but its gotta be possible.

I must admit, I was expecting great things of this app seeing as Apple made it, and I was not disappointed. A slick, creative interface it most certainly is. It provides immediate music for the novice and a usable sketchpad for the more experienced. Perhaps we will see some more contemporary sound packs and instruments coming in the future, to give us a larger palette of sounds to play with and fill up those valuable GB on the iPad’s memory.

£2.99 from the iTunes store


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