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iLife Review Feature: Garageband

We take a closer look at Garageband in our next iLife Review

When Apple created iLife it clearly tried to cover all the bases in terms of creativity. Unfortunately, creating music isn’t something that everyone thinks they can simply use an application to do. There is an assumption that you need a base level of talent before you can even kick things off. It has been GarageBand’s aim to dispel this myth by trying to be as simple and as accessible as possible for those that have little to no musical knowledge, but at the same time powerful enough to appease those who might want to do something altogether more professional. Apple has accomplished a vast amount with this application and their efforts to try to lure new users have even gone as far as creating built-in music lessons with recording artists.
In this revision Apple has taken things a step further, both in the entry-level element and the advanced level too. Not only that but Apple has successfully kept GarageBand true to its core strength, which is simplicity and ease of use. Starting with the entry-level aspect, GarageBand has a new system in place for learning instruments. In the launcher window that appears when GarageBand starts, you have the option of navigating to a section called ‘Learn to play’. Here you can opt to learn piano or guitar. You get one loaded lesson. On top of the HD movies that take you step by step through learning the basics, you also get a system that can track what you play and grade you on your progress. More than that, it can actually pinpoint the places where you have made errors so that you can go back and focus on problem aspects of your playing. As a learning tool it is pretty exceptional. The focus is on accessibility and for complete beginners it couldn’t be more perfect if the teacher was actually in the room. Of course, there is a requirement that you own a keyboard or guitar, but if you have already taken that step then you’ll be even more likely to get really good results from this element of the software.

Once you’ve mastered the lessons that come free as part of GarageBand, you can then download more from the lesson store. The extra lessons are can be downloaded directly from GarageBand. Artist lessons will still cost you money but they’re not that expensive and we’re guessing the price is there to simply to cover the artists fees. In GarageBand 11 new artist lessons have been added too. The other incredibly exciting elements that have found their way into GarageBand have come from its older brother Logic Studio. There are two tools that centre around musical analysis and have been given the miraculous GarageBand simplicity treatment. The first is called Groove Matching and it basically allows users to take music they have recorded out of time and magically make it in- time with a single click. A master track is chosen (of course this has to be in time in the first place, in the demo, Apple used a loop) and then all the other tracks are synced to it. Apple has been careful to add a human element to the software so that the synced results don’t sound too robotic.
The second element that will also make musicians’ lives much easier is called Flex Time and it allows users to edit recorded tracks without any worries about changing the timing of the notes they have played. Let’s say, for instance, you have been playing guitar and made just one error during the song, playing a chord out of time. Rather than having to record the whole sequence again or chop the audio up into hundreds of pieces to isolate the element you need to move, GarageBand has already done that and will let you simply drag the faulty chord forward or backwards into time without disturbing any of the other recorded parts in the same sequence. It its truly stunning. Flex Time comes directly from Logic and is one of the program’s biggest selling points. Many users will probably not be able to find an excuse to buy the pro app when its little brother is pretty much on a par in terms of functionality. Apple has also added a few more amps to the equation for good measure.
These changes in GarageBand are the perfect example of an application that is evolving perfectly. It retains the elements that make it accessible. It is easy to use, it’s great fun and it
will actually teach you music. GarageBand 11 also appeases those that have been using it for years by providing avenues for greater control and sharper results. We think this version of GarageBand is the surprise smash hit in the iLife ’11 suite and hope that more and more people will be inspired by it and begin to get musical on their Macs.