GarageBand

Make and record music ... on a budget!


GarageBand Audio Examples  •  "Sound Track" Examples  •  Apple Jam Packs  •  Books  •  Tutorials
Audio Interface & Hardware Recommendations    •   Avoid PCI cards  


Apple & EMagic

Around about 2004 EMagic is one of the day's top audio software companies. Logic Audio was EMagic's flagship product, and one of the preferred applications for audio/MIDI recording, ranking in the top four with Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Cubase.

Then Apple purchased EMagic, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

GarageBand is a result of Apple's ability to bring it's resources to market. (Is it just me, or does it seem like Apple is steadily infusing Pixar's technology into the Mac OS Aqua interface and applications?) Anyway, it's safe to say, GarageBand is a slimmed down version of Logic Audio,. ( I hear that many prefer it over Logic LE.) Unlike Logic, GarageBand is Mac only product. It does run under any release of Windows.

Garageband comes installed free with any new Mac as part of Apple's iLife Suite (which also includes, iPhoto, iMovie, IDVD and iTunes.) For those with older Macs, or for those who want the latest version of any of these application, iLife it is available for $79, and now includes Garageband 2. If the trend continues, Apple will release a new version of iLife each year, so if you want to keep up to date, you'll need to plunk down some cash per annum ... except for iTunes, which though it's included in iLife, it is free to Mac and Windows users. iTunes is the gateway to Apple's music store.

Apple sells another audio product called SoundTrack. There is confusion regarding the difference between SoundTrack and GarageBand As I understand it, SoundTrack is primarily a loop editor/player. It does not have the recording or MIDI capabilities that GarageBand possesses. GarageBand however is a great tool for loop arranging, and now in Garageband 2.0 you can create your own loops as well. Thus I believe GarageBand 2.0 has rendered SoundTrack nearly obsolete.

The GarageBand Niche

In short GarageBand is

  • a loop arranging/editing tool
  • a powerful digital audio multi-track recorder
  • a MIDI sequencer
  • an automated mixer

Apple carefully crafted Garageband for the prosumer, amateur/hobbyist and newbie market. GarageBand is for anyone who wants to get involved with recording digital audio or who wants to experiment with an inexpensive yet powerful tool. Free (with your new computer) is quite inexpensive! With Apple's iLife Suite selling at $79, you can think of the cost of Garageband as under $20! ) There's nothing else that competes.

Professional aspects::

  • It produces CD quality sound.
  • Certain features equal, rival and even surpass the pro packages.

Consumer aspects:

  • GarageBand takes a lot of the initial grief out of setting up an audio interface and a MIDI configuration. It quickly gets the user involved without discouraging at the outset. It's easy to get confounded at step one with most audio packages.
  • With simplicity come limitations, specifically regarding input, output, and editing. Many professional tools are intentionally withheld, otherwise Apple would be giving away Logic Audio.
  • Think of Garageband as an iBook, and Logic as PowerMac G5. The iBook doesn't have gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, DVI output... GargageBand 1.0 only lets you record one stereo track at a time, there's limited MIDI editing, there's no way to export MIDI, doesn't support 24 bit audio, no MIDI outs, so you can't drive external sound modules. ... You get the idea.

Apple also sells a number of Jam Packs. These are tailored collections of loops and instruments that fit a certain niche: Hip Hop, drums and rhythms, symphony orchestra. For the record, I've been very happy with Jam Pack 4 -- Symphony Orchestra. I've been able to easily construct some convincing sound track clips.

It's almost overwhelming just listening through all the loops and instruments that come with GarageBand. Each Jam Pack ($99) contains an addition 2000 loops, plus more instruments!

GarageBand supplies you with loops and not much more, so it's tricky to construct a piece with an honest ending. A studio fade is easy way out, but sometimes you just want a real ending. With a combination of MIDI and some musical creativity, you can create and fashion your own endings any way you want. However, creating endings for GarageBand's digital audio loops is a regular undertaking, with uncertain outcome. How you gonna get that long, sustained last chord? This is the main area where GarageBand falls short. Ideally Apple include alternate endings for each type of "real instrument" loop provided. Let's hope they do.

It almost goes without saying, anytime you're working with audio or video, a fast computer is recommended. Garageband is not a light weight program. It has an appetite for CPU resources and hard disk space. Nevertheless, I had no problems with GarageBand 1.0 on a Dual 1.25 GHz G4 under OS 10.28. GarageBand 2.0 runs well too, however it requires Mac OS 10.3.

NOTE: Here's a list of the main improvements in GarageBand 2.0:

  • You can record up to eight tracks live.
  • There's a notation view of single MIDI tracks.
  • Finally you can import MIDI files (Unfortunately, still no MIDI export.)

GarageBand Learning Resources

Here's a list of GarageBand resources that I uncovered in my research, including discussions, documentation, examples of user's achievements, and related products.

Online:

Apple info and discussions
  • http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband
  • http://discussions.info.apple.com
  • http://www.apple.com/feedback/garageband.html
    (Here's a place where you can provide Apple with your feedback and enhancement requests!)

Apple Documentation

  • http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93615
    (Apple PDF Manuals are located here!)
  • http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93701
    (If this article doesn't appear at this page, search for 93701 at http://www.apple.com/support/)
  • http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/logic/Logic_for_GarageBand_Users.pdf
  • http://www.apple.com/logic/

Installed on your computer, installable, or downloadable:

GarageBand/Help takes you to Apple's Help Center. As usual Apple's Help Center is only marginally helpful, erring on the side of brevity.

Apple's documentation from Apple's iLife '04 DVD (installed but easy to overlook:
  • Macintosh HD:Library:Documentation:Applications:GarageBand:GarageBandAtAGlance.pdf
  • Macintosh HD:Library:Documentation:Applications:GarageBand:English:GarageBandTutorial2.pdf
  • Macintosh HD:Library:Documentation:Applications:GarageBand:English:GarageBandTutorial1.pdf
  • Macintosh HD:Library:Documentation:Applications:GarageBand:English:GarageBandTutorial3.pdf

Sample GarageBand projects:

On iLife 04's DVD in the :GarageBand Demo Songs folder. These examples are not installed with GarageBand 1.0, You have to copy them from the DVD to your hard drive They are about a half a gigabyte, which is probably why the installer doesn't automatically copy them to your disk.

"G3 projects" folder:
  • For the Mind
  • Half Dome Shufflin'
  • Guitar Blues
"G4 - G5 projects" folder
  • Daydream
  • Glide
  • Meadow
  • Reflection
  • Shufflin' Piano Blues
Books:
  • GarageBand: The Missing Manual by David Pogue  (davidpogue.com) 
    Covers GarageBand 1.0
    http://www.oreilly.com
    List Price: $19.95 (Street price: $13.50)

  • GarageBand 2.0: The Missing Manual by David Pogue  (davidpogue.com)
    Covers GarageBand 2.0
    http://www.oreilly.com
    List Price: $24.95 (Street price: $16.50)
  • Apple Training Series: GarageBand 2
    By Mary Plummer .
    ISBN: 0321330196
    Mar 25, 2005
    List Price:$29.99 (street price $13 - 20)

GarageBand related software

  • Dent Du MIDI -- for importing MIDI into GarageBand 1.0
    http://homepage.mac.com/beryrinaldo/ddm/

    NOTE: GarageBAnd 2.0 imports MIDI, so Dent Du MIDI is no longer needed

Diablo Valley College (Classes in digital audio)

DVC has an excellent Music Technology Center in the music building. The center opened in 2003 so it's up to date, state of the art, with about 36 stations, a couple of sound booths, and good equipment all 'round.
I took an excellent course there on Pro Tools. It was a surprising amount of work, but I got a working knowledge of Pro Tools and a lot of insight into digital audio, signal routing, effects, etc. My instructor, Tim White, was great. I started another class with Nick Peck, a honcho from Lucas Studios. He was quite a force! As a pre-requisite, you should have bit about MIDI and multi-track recording, or take MUSIC-172 .
DVD offers once-a-week Saturday classes. See the schedule at:  http://www.dvc.edu
MUSIC-172 Introduction to Electronic Music and MIDI
MUSIC-174 Introduction to Pro Tools
MUSIC-175 Applied (Advanced) Pro Tools
NOTE: Previously these courses were listed as 190 classes.

Other music software offerings:

  • Melody Assistant (Notation shareware, $20)
    http://www.myriad-online.com/en/products/melody.htm

    Harmony Assistant (Notation shareware, $70?)
    http://www.myriad-online.com/en/products/harmony.htm
    http://www.myriad-online.com/en/index.htm
  • The Amazing Slow Downer
    http://www.ronimusic.com
    Play CDs at any speed without changing the pitch -- great for musicians who learn by ear!
  • ScoreWriter
    http://www.geniesoft.com
  • Overture
    http://www.geniesoft.com

Hardware Options

USB Microphone/Line input device
The iMic by Griffin Technology offers the easiest way to connect a mic, electric guitar, or line level piece of audio to your USB ready Mac, and Griffin's tech support is great!

        http://www.griffintechnology.com

Why iMic? Many Mac have no mic and audio inputs. Finally Apple again includes a line-level input on many models., but not on iBooks, iMac ... but even still a mic signal is not strong enough for a line level input, so you'd need a mixer or a preamp.
Tascam US-122 -- I like the layout of this interface. The knobs and inputs are in the right locations. Just plug it in. No drivers required. Only wish it had a digital input.
Microphone
Sony ECM MS-907 is a great all purpose stereo mic. It lists for $99, but street price is about $75.
Keyboards
I use a M-Audio Evolution MK-449C keyboard which connects directly through USB and requires no batteries or AC power. I'm not wild about this keyboard: the fell is pretty spongy, and the display is hard to read -- ten point type? But for $99 it is portable and adequate for many projects.
If you're looking for a keyboard I'd consider one by Edirol or Fatar. The low end Edirol sells for about $99 too! The keyboards Apple sells are by Edirol, owned by Roland, and M-Audio, formerly MIDIman ... recently purchased by DigiDesign.

GarageBand Sample Projects

Here's a couple of my GarageBand 1.0 projects:   

MaxMacBlues.mp3 This project is entirely MIDI — the MIDI sounds are generated by QuickTime Musical Instruments. No digital audio was used.

The entire accompaniment of MaxMacBlues (bass, rums and organ) was made with drag-and-drop components built into Apple's GarageBand 1.0. The bodacious "guitar" solo was recorded via an M-Audio Evolution MK-449C keyboard which connects directly through USB (no MIDI interface required) and it requires no batteries or AC power Clearly lots of pitch bend was used.

 LatinStrings.mp3
The sounds of LatinStrings (strings, bass, percussion, applause) are drag-and-drop components built into Apple's GarageBand 1.0. The strings are digital audio loops, which unfortunately are slightly out of tune. The rest of the sounds are MIDI. The bass was a GarageBand MIDI loop, however the line need edited to match the chord structure of the string part. The low string pad was improvised and recorded via an M-Audio Evolution MK-449C keyboard.

Eastern.mp3
This piece too was built entirely using GarageBand loops--even the audience sounds and applause. There's a little drum solo in the middle ... which, you may have noticed, drives the "audience" into a frenzy. The solo's drum rhythms came directly from GarageBand's bongo loops. The most frenetic loops were cut into small pieces and stitched back together to simulate an solo.

Worth mentioning: It sounds like the audience recording was made at a soccer match. You can hear a referee's whistle!

 MaxMacFunk.mp3 What can I say, with good loops it's pretty easy to create funk!
This was a GarageBand 1 project.You can sound like Stevie Wonder.

Here's are some sound track clips created with GarageBand 2.0 and "Jam Pack 4 -- Symphony Orchestra"

OpeningScene.mp3 This is a "sound track" clip that shows off the types of orchestral audio that comes with Jam Pack 4. I am especially impressed with the quality of the synthesized sounds. Only MIDI was used. To prevent this from sounding like all other Jam Pack 4 projects, I positioned the loops, so they're offset, starting one or two measures off from they're logical beginning. Naturally this creates unwanted dissonance. To fix that I tweaked the MIDI, and shortened some loops.
 Dawn.mp3

Suspence.mp3
 
"Dawn" and "Suspense" were created with GarageBand 2 and Apple's Jam Pack 4. I used similar techniques as mentioned for "OpeningScene." I didn't write any of the lines, but only made small alterations to the pitch and position of the MIDI notes.


NOTE: I plan to include a list of other online collections soon, where you can listen to GarageBand creations from around the world!

You are welcome to use these MP3 files strictly for experimental purposes in personal, home video productions. However, before showing or distributing any production in which you have included these compositions, please contact me for permission, licensing and credit information.

All recordings and compositions Copyright John J. Blasquez 2005




NOTE: This section is a work in progress. These are rough notes that I will continue to update. Much more to come!



Pros


Sound card support

If you have a professional sound card installed on you Mac, you can use it as your input/output device. You can select it in GarageBand preferences

MIDI recording through USB or MIDI interface.

Loop Intelligence

"How does it know?" That's a comment I hear from audio professionals who take a peek at Garageband.

The Loop Browser previews loops at the tempo of your project, so you can hear how they'd fit with the tracks you've already established.

You can easily change tempo of your final project!

16bit, 44.1 MHz sample rate

No more, no less.

NOTE: There are LOT's more Pros than I've listed. I guess it's easier to gripe!

GarageBand 2.0

Multi-track recording. Now you can record up to eight audio tracks and one software instrument track at the same time. To do so you will need some sort of audio interface, PCI, firewire, USB 2.,0 ... It is known that Apple has been working to release one.

Imports MIDI files. No need for the old Dent Du Midi anymore

Imports MIDI files. No need for the old Dent Du Midi anymore.

Music notation view. Shows regular notation of the "current" track only. No score view. No notation layout or printing.

Freeze/Lock renders an audio track— saving it as AIFF to your hard drive and freeing up RAM and processing power. You can unlock rendered tracks and make changes at any time."


Cons


Mic Hookup

Does you Mac have a microphone input? Possibly, but probably not.

Audio monitoring (latency) when recording additional tracks or "overdubbing". The only solution is to monitor through a mixing board, by listening to the computer output and your live signal.

Mixing

With most audio applications you can efficiently create multiple mixes of a recording. Each mix merely "points" to the massive audio files on your hard drive, and contains a minimum of information: just the details, such as volume levels, pan, effects, automation, etc.

You can create new mixes in GarageBand with "Save as". That's simple ... but you pay a big price in hard disk storage each time do because Garageband creates a complete new project. In the process it duplicates and included all audio files the resulting "package." With a CD quality mono track audio weighing in at 5 MB per minute, an eight-track recording three minute in length contains 120 MBs of audio. Obviously you don't want to duplicate that needlessly.

Exporting

You can't export MIDI tracks. Unfortunately this is still true in GarageBand 2.0

If you ever send feedback to Apple, tell them you want MIDI export from GaraggeBand ... and direct audio exports to a number of formats. MP3 for sure.

Apple's feedback area is on Apple support/discussions area.

        ==================

Can't export directly to MP3. You have to go through iTunes.

You'd think GarageBand would offer a direct way to export a mix to an MP3 file. I looked and looked ... but the only way out of GarageBand is through iTiunes.

GarageBand export format is strictly AIFF. Unlike a typical "Save as," exporting does not allow you to choose a file name or destination. The only option is File/Export to iTunes.

This creates an AIFF mix down and saves it directly to you iTunes Library. The file will bear the name of your GarageBand project. You have no choice in the matter.

Now, even with iTunes import preference is set to MP3, GarageBand exports an AIFF file. There's no way around that. Once you find your file in iTunes you use Advanced/Convert Selection to MP3.

Command-click any iTunes recording and "Convert Selection to mp3" appears in the pop-up menu. (This is also in the menu Advanced/Convert to mp3.

Contrary to its name, "Convert Selection to mp3" does NOT convert the selected iTunes song. The original recording remains unchanged, and iTunes creates a new MP3 version of the recording, it adds it to the iTunes library ... and it uses exactly the same name as the original -- so there's no way of telling the two apart except by looking at the file type in the Kind column, or with File/Get Info (command-I). Behind the scenes, on your hard disk, iTunes append .MP3 to the name of the file, but it hides the extension (too PC) when it shows it in the iTunes library. So if you add .mp3 to the file in iTunes, it will be yourtune.mp3.mp3 in the Finder!

Ideally GarageBand would offer a normal array of options at export: File name, audio file type, file destination, etc. As it stands, it's so automatic it's cumbersome!

==========

Loop Quality: Some loops sound like they match in pitch and timbre ... some are out of tune with MIDI instruments, and there is no way to fine tune the pitch of the QuickTime Instruments.

==========

Most audio programs make it excruciatingly difficult to delete an audio recording -- sometimes I wish they'd stop trying to protect myself from myself. But with GarageBand permanently deleting a file is a bit too easy. When you delete the last region of your audio you loose it

==========

MIDI connectivity. No MIDI outs, so you can't drive external sound modules.

MIDI latency

Seemed like I encountered some delay when recording MIDI.

No event list editor -- no way to enter MIDI events like -- patch changes

Fuzzy logic

Most "effect" dialogs have bare sliders that move from low to high, without a hint of the actual frequency range. No graphical interface on inserts

Key changes

MIDI regions show very high or very low notes transposed an octave or more.

Odd things that will trip you up!

GarageBand resets itself to the Audio Input to "Built-in audio controller"

Slow GUI performance. Pitch bend window slows performance in every respect except audio.

Master track automation effects previewing of loops in Browser! Say you've automated the volume of the Master Track, and you've stopped play back where the volume automation is very low or completely off. You won't be able to hear the loops you preview, and you probably begin to wonder why. Just move the playback head to a point where the Master Track automation is up.

I haven't found a means of moving MIDI notes AND pitch bend simultaneously. Moving the notes is easy. But when I move them the pitch bend doesn't relocate accordingly. I have a similar problem with volume automation control points. I can view both at once, but I can't select the notes and automation simultaneously.

When you mute a track the mute button lights up, and looks like track enabled. I guess this is because some mixers light up when Mute is pressed -- but this is counter intuitive for computer GUI.

No way to hide tracks.

No "/" characters in track titles!

Zoom doesn't zero in on selection or playback head. Can't quite figure out it's intention.

Can't add add control points in pitch bend. It's easy to add control points to volume automation.

With Control/Snap to Grid turned off, there is still some snapping.

Can't reliably drag the end of several MIDI notes. Trouble transposing without disturbing timing.

Showing pitch bend slows screen redraw considerably.

Only one time signature per song -- must last the entire length of the song.

A song can have only one key, which lasts for the entire length of the song.


Some Final Thoughts

Whenever possible, use a Firewire or USB interface -- for one thing, Apple does not support configurations with third party PCI cards. So if there's any OS/hardware troubleshooting to do, you're on your own, or you have to remove the card first. Plus, PCI interfaces only work with tower Macs-- you can't use them alternately with a PowerBook or iBook.

Here's the trouble I ran into. After setting GarageBand's output to MOTU-324 audio card, Garageband always crashed the system with a kernel panic. It's only a matter of time. I also noticed it was only a matter of time before Mac OS 10.28 crashed (with Stytem/Preferences/Sound/Output is set MOTU PCI-324) whether I use Garageband or not. Apparently this is a problem with the card.. Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) continues to claim that this card is compatible with a G4 tower, but clearly it is not.

Copyright John Blasquez 2004



   

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All recordings and compositions Copyright John J. Blasquez 2004/2005

You are welcome to use these MP3 files strictly for experimental purposes in personal, home video productions. However, before showing or distributing any production in which you have included these compositions, please contact me for permission, licensing and credit information.























































































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