GarageBand 2: Features of Note

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Those following the latest iteration of Apple’s easy-does-it music creation application, GarageBand, are well aware of the big features—simultaneous recording of up to eight digital audio tracks and one Software Instruments track (which works flawlessly, by the way, on my 1.25GHz PowerBook G4 and Mark of the Unicorn 828mkII), musical notation view, pitch shifting, and Mac-keyboard input. But the program has some other very cool features that are easy to overlook. Allow me to swap my troubleshooting hat for a conductor’s baton and direct your attention to GarageBand 2’s additional highlights:

Keyboard Sensitivity Slider You’ll find this one tucked away in the Audio/MIDI tab of GarageBand’s preferences. When you move this slider to the left, your MIDI keyboard becomes less sensitive to your touch. In other words, it takes more force to trigger the sounds that kick in at higher velocities. If you routinely trigger pitch bends or squeaks in guitar and bass patches because your keyboard is too sensitive (or you’re too heavy handed), this is for you.

Resizable Keyboard You probably recall that the original GarageBand’s on-screen keyboard was tiny. The one in the latest version of the program appears to be just as tiny but you can resize it not only horizontally, but vertically as well. This is a cool feature for educators who want to show a class which notes to play on their keyboards (yes, when you press keys on a MIDI keyboard attached to GarageBand, the on-screen keys light up).

Loop Grouping If, like me, you’ve installed every one of Apple’s Jam Packs, your loop library is enormous. GarageBand 2 allows you to view loops by their Jam Pack library. Just click the Eyeball icon to reveal the Loop pane and click the Loop Browser button at the bottom left of the GarageBand window. Click on the top of the first column marked Loops and you’ll discover a pop-up menu that lists the Jam Pack libraries you’ve installed. Just select one of these libraries to view just the loops in that library (this is incredibly handy when you want to hear just the new loops that have been installed with a new Jam Pack).

Additionally, if you’ve dragged a folder full of other loops into the browser—Acid loops, for example—that folder will appear in this pop-up menu as well.

Add to Loop Library (or Don’t) GarageBand 2 includes a new Add to Loop Library command that allows you to convert audio files into Apple Loops. This function was previously performed by Apple’s Soundtrack Loop Utility. However, not all of the Soundtrack Loop Utilities functions are found in GarageBand 2’s Add to Loop Library command. If you’d like to tweak loops the way the Big Boys and Girls at Apple do, download the Apple Loops SDK. Within this self-same software developers kit you’ll find the Soundtrack Loop Utility, which allows you to tweak loops within an inch of their lives.

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