Review of GarageBand
The Killer App of
By Tweak, revised for GarageBand 3
when we buy a computer,
we are used to getting simple little applications like stripped down wave
players, picture grabbers, and calculators. Windows XP upped the ante
last time by offering a rather full-fledged Windows Media Player.
Oh boy, we can listen to MP3s without forking over for some other program.
The Apple came out with iTunes and they really blew the WMP away, with legal
downloadable music. Now they have stuck the knife in and twisted it
with GarageBand. Sure, passive entertainment like listening
to music is important on a computer, but active entertainment is much more
vital. Up till now, freebie active entertainment on a computer has
been playing games, writing letters and books, drawing pictures, online
chat and maybe making a photo album. Apple has upped the ante.
You can now create your own music, out of the box, without buying another
piece of software. This changes things, and is this sense the inclusion
of GarageBand is a revolutionary event.
You can't buy Garage Band by itself.
it is part of the iLife '06 bundle that comes free on new Macs and
under a hundred bucks for those who are already registered Apple users.
This is a no-brainer if you own a Mac. It is almost impossible for
me to think of a reason not to get it, aside from poverty. Even then,
all the more reason to get it as the results can rival those made on Logic
and Digital Performer. To be sure, all the bells and whistles are
not here in Garage Band, but the important ones are here.
What GarageBand is Not. Its
not a dorky little freebie application that you will use once then put aside.
Sure it looks simple and it is simple to use. But the results are
outstanding and are right up there with what you expect, audio wise, with
a full-fledged sequencer. It also doesn't sound as bad as most garage
bands I played in.
What GarageBand is:
- It's a Sequencer that applies full MIDI
editing for software instruments
- You can construct songs with Apple Loops,
Software Instruments, or Audio tracks
- An Audio recorder with as many tracks
as you want
- An effects generator with plenty of onboard
plugins and the ability to use 3rd party Audio Unit plugins
- An Audio renderer that pipes your song
files right into iTunes (where you can burn them to CD)
- A soft synth engine with several tone
generating models which is also capable of using 3rd party softsynths and
samplers just like the big boys.
- Its easy to use and it sounds excellent.
Repeat that one, OK.
supports drag and drop importing of audio files/loops from any directory
on your Mac. You can also record and overdub quickly, and monitor through
effects processors if you want. With an modern audio interface, there
is very little latency, as you would expect. The supplied audio instruments
come from a variety of sources. Peeking in the GarageBand library
reveals Logic EXS instruments and samples at the core of many of them. Other
instruments are based on different tone "generators" (synthesizers) such
as modeled analog and digital (FM) synthesis, electric piano, clav, and
tonewheel organ models. Very Cool: You can even program your own sounds
from these models and save them as presets. Don't like the supplied
analog synth patches? Well, dude, roll your own. I imagine soon the
web will be flooded with GarageBand presets to exploit every nuance of these
generators. I have not figured out how to add EXS instruments to GarageBand,
except through Kontakt, which will import them in its engine. GarageBand
can use the Kontakt, Battery, Atmosphere, Reaktor, FM7 engines and I think
any softsynth that adheres to the Core Audio (Audio Unit) standard. This
was quite a pleasant surprise.
- Amp Simulation
- Automatic Filter
- Bass Amp
- Bass Reduction
- Speech Enhancer
- Track Echo
- Treble Reduction
- Vocal Transformer
The supplied instruments range from OK
to excellent. Some of them have that GM-like ring to them, which is
not surprising, but others sounds fantastic. The Grand Piano is very
nice and the EPs and Clavs are phenomenal, and sound like there may be an
EVP88 and EVD6 hidden in the background. The loops sound really good
too. There are the now obligatory dance and trance loops and various
others. While you get enough to get started, there's not nearly enough
for serious loop composition. You can import acid loops. However
to get the most mileage out of acid loops you may want to first convert
them into Apple Loops. That way, they can be entered into GarageBand's
easy to use database making them a snap to find.
Integration with Logic Pro
GarageBand 3 the latest version
as of this writing, works great with Logic. If you have Logic 7.2,
the conversion is fantastic. With earlier versions of Logic you might
get an alert that some of the newer GB plugins are missing. Its quite
nice to start a song in the easy GB interface then as the song gets more
complex, load it into Logic where you have your advanced tools. I
have used GarageBand 3 with many different 3rd party audio unit soft synths
and they all work and convert to Logic without a hitch, including the giant
libraries like the East West Symphonic Choir, Kontakt 2, RA, and many more.
Even the presets you save on 3rd party synths show up in Logic's directories.
Nice. All the Jampacks show up in Logic of course, so anything you
create and save in GB is also available in Logic, whether it be a song,
plugin setting, preset for a virtual instrument, or a directory of audio
New features in GarageBand 3
The big thing is the ability to make
Podcasts, both audio and video, using the iLife '06 package.
New sound library that podcast makers will love is included. Its a
simple matter to import your movie files from iMovie or QuickTimePro.
Adding audio was never easier. Naturally, you can use all of GB's
virtual synths and effects to add spice to your composition. It's
so easy that those using Final Cut Pro and Logic might have to think twice
on whether they might get the job done more efficiently with GB and iMovie.
Its a wonderful way to start as a newbie and a great option for a professional
doing a short project.
Problems with the Band
As of version 3, there are few issues that
I can find. Of course, loading huge software instruments like Atmosphere's
Hollywood Studio Hybrid Strings (245 mb) will take several seconds to load,
same for big Kontakt instruments. Once they are loaded they do fine.
In the first version of GB, I did manage to invoke the "spinning wheel of
death" a few times with GB, carrying out some intensive operations.
So I was left wondering if there are some leaks in what must be a vast underground
series of audio pipes under the application. The leaks appear to be
fixed. GB3 is strong and stable. Waves plugins initialized
aggravatingly slow in GB1. I am happy to report you only have to endure
this once in GB3, the plugins are cached to allow for speedy initialization.
There are some things you just can't
do with GB. You can't record and play external MIDI instruments; this
is a software MIDI environment only (that does not require a MIDI
interface if you don't want to play notes in with a keyboard). However
as of GB3 you also can now use multiple outs on your audio interface.
You can move your audio loops to different drives to free up space on the
The Fun Factor
There is no doubt in my mind that is more
fun to record in real time with GB than any other sequencer I have used.
Being able to monitor effects while recording is nice. And there are
killer effects. Many of them have a familiar ring to them, and I suspect
at least some of them are Logic's plugin technology in the background.
And there are some that Logic does not have, like some great guitar amp
models that are 1st class all the way. Plug in the guitar and you
can wail, with no add-on boxes or V-Amps. My wish is that there are
more of these models.
Naturally, for those who want to expand
their sound collection the easy way there is the GarageBand JamPack which
includes more than 2,000 additional Apple Loops, over 100 new Software Instruments,
more than 100 additional effects presets and 15 guitar amp settings.
Now we are talkin' serious. I now have all 5 Jampacks. They
are all great, and I advise getting them all if you can afford to.
This is my personal favorite.
Jam Pack 4 Symphony Orchestra
a symphony orchestra in tow, you just may have to spring for bigger quarters.
But if you’re planning to conduct your own orchestra, you’ll want better
acoustics anyway. Using Jam Pack 4: Symphony Orchestra and GarageBand (or
Logic Express 7, Logic Pro 7), there are virtually no limits to the types
of sophisticated music you can create. Taking advantage of the prerecorded
Apple Loops (more than 2,000 in Jam Pack 4), you can compose everything
from classical music to movie soundtracks. Or you may want to lend some
symphonic power to your pop, rock or hip-hop arrangements.
I really like GarageBand. Anything
that makes the job of recording music in real time more fun and easier has
my vote, and this statement is aimed at pros as well as newbies. You
don't have to enable tracks, set outputs, set inputs before your record,
you just hit cmd/option.N to make a new track then press R. Things
have gotten too complex in the sequencer world, even for those who know
what they are doing. It is refreshing to have an application that
simply does it and is built as elegantly as GarageBand. And the price!
Who in their right mind can complain. It's the music making deal of
the decade for those who already run OS X on Macs.
Review of the GarageBand Jampacks
Review of iLife
Want to Talk about GarageBand? Go to
Studio-Central Mac forums
Other Articles on Sequencers by Tweak
Sequencers and DAWS Index
Review of Cubase 5
Logic Studio 9
Pro Tools LE 8.1
Logic Studio 8
Review of Sonar
Review of Reason
Reason (1st review)
Logic Pro 7
Logic Pro 6
Logic Platinum 6
Logic Platinum 5
Early History of Logic
Mac vs PC for Music?
Cubase SX (original)
Using a Mac Pro as your DAW
Using Notebooks as your DAW
Which Sequencer is Best?
MIDI Time Code and Sync Issues
Custom Bank Select Methods in Logic
Write a Sonar Instrument Definition File
Sequencers Price List
zZounds Sequencer Store