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App Friday: GarageBand for iPad

…we salute you. Demoed at last week’s iPad 2 event, GarageBand for iPad has finally arrived in iTunes. We’ve spent this afternoon playing around with it and it’s hands down the best music/song composition app out there.

You get to choose from a huge array of instruments, including the basics (drums, guitar bass) and can record vocals through a selection of special effects. You can use the iPad’s microphone to record samples and (provided you’ve got a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter) record your own guitar licks on top.

Best of all it’s all really easy to use, meaning that novices and 8-track veterans alike can get stuck in straight away.

You play around on an instrument, record a take, and then layer more instruments on top and arrange everything in the mix. When you’re done you can export songs to your iTunes or email them to a mate. Songs are automatically converted to m4a’s when you email them.

Strike a chord

You can choose to play individual notes and chords on each instrument yourself, or, if you’re lacking in confidence in your musical ability, you can choose from one of the many Autoplay options.

This is a bit an apreggiator on a synthesiser, where you simply tap or hold down a key and GarageBand will strum, pick or play a guitar lick or keyboard groove for you.

There’s also a neat drums pad (called Smart Drums) where you can create loops by simply dropping drum components into a grid which has a simple-complex, loud-quiet axis, so you can have a loud and simple thudding kick drum with some intricate hi-hat and cymbal work going on.

I play synth, we all play synth

The keyboard section allows you to choose from a range of pianos, organs, clavs and a dazzling array of synthesisers. More than enough to keep any budding Keith Emersons and East London d**kheads happy. When recording vocals, you can add effects to make it sound like you’re singing in a small room or a large concert hall, or singing through a bullhorn or telephone.

Anyone who wants to plug their guitars in and play straight into GarageBand will want to check out the virtual guitar amps. There’s nine ‘heads’ to choose from as well as a number of cabs (called things like ‘Seventies Metal’, ‘Industrial Overdrive’ and ‘Americana Tremolo’). There’s even a chromatic tuner built in, so you can tune your axe up from within GarageBand as well.

Recording and editing

Recording a take is dead easy. Once you’ve worked out how your drums, guitars and basslines are going to go, simple press the red record button at the top.

You’re counted in for one bar at the start, and a metronome chimes along to help keep you in time. If you mess up, just hit stop, tap undo and start again.

GarageBand for iPad lets you record eight tracks per song. When mixing everything, the interface is really similar to GarageBand on a Mac. So if you’ve used that before you’ll feel right at home, but if not, it’s fairly self-explanatory.

You can expand, shrink, delete and move tracks around and add a series of loops and other instruments. Once you’re done you can export your efforts to iTunes or GarageBand on your Mac or PC, or email it to a friend.

Amazingly, GarageBand for iPad costs just £2.99 from iTunes. For that you essentially get a portable 8-track that you can easily create demos on, a metronome/drum machine and a guitar tuner. Bargain much?

GarageBand for iPad requires iOS 4.2 or later.


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