capsule review

GarageBand for iPhone and iPad

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And then there are the refinements and feature expansions. Let’s start with quantization. A word familiar to musicians who’ve worked with sequencers and digital audio workstations, quantization is simply imposing a rhythmic grid on your music and forcing any notes that don’t land on one of the grid lines to shift over so they play on whatever value you’ve set. So, for example, you could tap the high-hat 16 times in a measure, hoping to produce a steady tick-tick-tick-tick pattern, and discover that your ability to tap out an unwavering rhythm isn’t everything it could be. Quantize the track to impose a 16th-note grid, and your taps will be shifted to the beat and rock steady.

In the original version of GarageBand quantization was strict—choose a 16th-note grid and, by gum, that’s where those notes fell. GarageBand 1.1 adds swing and triplet quantization. Without going into the science of it, imposing this kind of quantization can give your playing a looser, swingier feel. Instead of a thud whack, thud, whack ting ting ting ting pattern you could impose swing quantization and wind up with thud bumpa-da bumpa-thud bumpa ting tingity ting ting tingity ting ting (with perhaps a little scooby-doo thrown in for good measure). It’s a feature that’s fun to play around with, and one that can produce some interesting results.

The arpeggiator feature has been expanded to other instruments. Based on the Italian arpeggio—a musical term that means playing a chord as successive single notes—you can now arpeggiate not only the Keyboard and Sampler instruments as you could before, but also the Smart Keyboard. You can choose five patterns—Up, Down, Up and Down, Random, and As Played. This is yet another fun effect to play around with. The more notes you hold down, the more interesting the pattern. One feature I’d like to see implemented is the ability to latch the arpeggiator (lock it on) and switch instruments so that the pattern continues to play with the new instrument sound. Maybe next time.

Merge Recordings was a feature implemented only in the Drum instrument in the past. It allowed you to loop a recording—lay down a kick drum pattern on the first pass, for example, and then the snare on the next pass, and the high-hat on a third go-round. Merge Recordings is now available with the Keyboard, Smart Guitar, Smart Bass, and Sampler instruments. So if you’re a one-finger pianist most comfortable with playing first the right hand part and then the left hand, GarageBand 1.1 lets you do that.

Follow Song Key is another new feature that will benefit musicians. In the first version of the GarageBand app, when you changed keys—from C to F, for instance—all your instrument tracks save Drum, Audio Recorder, and Guitar Amp tracks were transposed to match the new key. When you switch Follow Song Key off, your recorded tracks don’t transpose—they sound just as they did when you first recorded. However, any new smart instrument tracks you record will match the new key.

And then there are new import and export options as well as support for a broader variety of file types. GarageBand 1.1 now supports import of AIFF, WAV, CAF, Apple Loops, AAC, and MP3 files. This is a big deal not simply because GarageBand converts these file types so that they work with the app, but additionally because this is your avenue for importing loops into the app. If you have the Mac-based version of GarageBand this means you can now select your iOS device in iTunes’ Source list, choose the Apps tab, select GarageBand in the File Sharing area, grab your favorite GarageBand loops (or any other compatible audio files), and drag them into the GarageBand Documents area. Do so, and they’ll be synced to the device and available to add to your songs within GarageBand’s Loops list.

Importing Audio: You can now import audio files in a variety of formats that you can use as loops.

On the export side of things, from the My Songs screen you can wirelessly transfer songs you’ve created (either as audio or GarageBand files) if you’ve enabled Wi-Fi syncing for your iOS device. Also, when you export a song from the app as an audio file you now have the option to save it in a variety of quality settings—64, 128, 192, or 256kbps AAC or 44.1kHz/16-bit uncompressed AIFF.

A couple of other niceties include the ability to ask GarageBand to fade out your song at the end and play your GarageBand tunes via AirPlay, Bluetooth, or over HDMI through Apple’s $39 Digital AV Adapter. You find both these option in Settings -> Song in the iPhone/iPod version and in the Settings menu on an iPad.

One feature not found in the iPhone/iPod touch version that I’m sure GarageBand’s designers miss as much as I do is the ability to use external keyboards and microphones via the iPhone and iPod touch’s Dock connector port. With the iPad this is accomplished with Apple’s $29 iPad Camera Connection Kit. This interface is not supported by the iPhone or iPod touch. And that’s too bad. Given the iPhone and iPod touch’s small playing surface—particularly when using the Keyboard instrument—the ability to use an external keyboard would be a godsend for those who want the ultimate in portable musical solutions. Guitar players who want to jack into GarageBand are more fortunate. The app supports guitar interfaces that plug in via the headphone port as well as Apogee’s $99 Jam interface ( ), which uses the Dock connector port.

Macworld’s buying advice

The buying advice I offered for the first version of the app still holds. GarageBand 1.1 is a remarkable musical powerhouse that can be had for a song. It’s a better experience when run on the iPad because of the larger work surface and ability to use it with external controllers and microphones. But the fact that Apple could create a version as accessible as this one, for more diminutive iOS devices, is a testament to the brilliance of GarageBand’s designers. Plus, the refinements and improvements brought with this version of the app make it a better and more musical tool. Whether you’ve been making music for years or have only dreamed of doing so, GarageBand remains a must-have iOS app.

[Christopher Breen is a senior editor for Macworld.]

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