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  1-24-04 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


GarageBand Rocks!: Apple’s Newest iLife App


By Bob LeVitus

OK, it’s official: Apple’s newest iLife application, the appropriately named GarageBand, rocks. It may be the coolest piece of Apple software since, well, since forever. It’s that neat. Apple says, “It’s the easiest way to create, perform and record your own music whether you’re an accomplished player or just wish you were a rock star.” Having used it for a week now, I have to tell you, folks, this time they’re not overpromising.

How do I know? Consider this: I have had an audio production setup running on my Mac for years. I have recorded guitar and keyboard tracks until my family begged for mercy; I’ve sung until my vocal cords were raw; and I’ve sequenced MIDI tracks on my screen until my fingers bled and my eyes grew bleary. The difference was, that wasn’t fun and GarageBand is.

I’ve used Logic Platinum, Pro Tools, Cubase, Deck, Peak, and tons of other professional audio apps in my day, but every single one of them, wonderful as they may be (and they are wonderful), was far too complicated and offered far too many features for what I wanted to do. I don’t want to create professional multi-track recordings for CD release. All I’ve ever wanted was to be able to record guitar, keyboard, and drum tracks and to record myself singing and playing my acoustic guitar. (Kind of like James Taylor, only without the talent.)

I could do all that and more with the aforementioned programs, but I rarely did. I didn’t have the time to learn the software well, and all of those programs have a steep, albeit rewarding learning curve. So mostly I didn’t record much music and when I did I often spent more time wrestling with the software and hardware than playing.

GarageBand is the antithesis of all that. First of all, setting it up was a breeze. I installed keyboard and audio interface drivers in under 15 minutes, plugged in my guitar, keyboard, and microphone, and was able to lay down my first track immediately. Everything just worked and worked the way I expected it to work. In less than 4 hours I wrote, recorded, produced, engineered, and played all the instrument parts on my first ever track recorded in GarageBand. It was so much fun that the very next night I recorded and mixed my rendition of the Ramones classic Rockaway Beach. In just one evening I completed the song, with two tracks of guitar played through GarageBand’s remarkable guitar amp models, giving them both a crunchy Ramone-like sound, plus triple-tracked harmony vocals (and I use the word “harmony” very loosely), just like the the Ramones had. Kind of.

I’m going to stick my neck out here but I feel that you have to hear it to believe it. So both songs are now available for your (free) downloading pleasure at:

Under ordinary circumstances I would polish these songs until every sour note and flubbed chord sounded perfect (or at least not stinky). But that would defeat my purpose. These are not in any way final, finished, polished works, but rather, these are examples of what I was able to do in one day, using a program I’d never seen before.

If you sing, play an instrument, or enjoy karaoke, GarageBand is cheap, easy to use, and gives you ever-so-gratifying results almost instantly.

GarageBand rocks.

iLife includes GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD, and is available for $49
(and bundled with all new Macs).

P.S. Check out Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Hands-On With GarageBand
for additional details and pictures.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2003 Bob LeVitus

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