Appledystopia: Independent Technology News

GarageBand Rules


I have a love/hate relationship with iOS apps developed by Apple. Some of them just plain stink (although I think Maps has been wrongly smeared by the blogosphere ). Some of them are amazing. GarageBand is by far, the most amazing mobile app I have experienced on any platform. It is peerless and can produce professional results. It is truly a “desert island” app. If I had to choose one and only one app to use, while stranded on a desert island, it would be GarageBand.

The beauty of GarageBand is that it allows non-musicians to create competent music using the touch surface of an iOS device. It enables talented musicians to produce even better results. The virtual instruments, in particular, set GarageBand apart from the pack. Sure, there are other apps that work as sequencers or multitrack recorders. There are other apps that have virtual instruments. They don’t work as well or sound as good as GarageBand. I own other music creation apps, but I won’t name them. They’re good apps. I don’t want to defame them and hurt their developers’ bottom line. That said, I don’t know why anyone would bother developing a music creation app. For $5 GarageBand beats everything in terms of price and functionality.

GarageBand has its limits. There are only 8 stereo tracks. These capabilities are far beyond what I had when I was making music in the late 80s and early 90s. If you were lucky, you could afford an ADAT, which was an 8-track digital recorder. Most of us were stuck with 4-track cassette based systems. Some of us even used dual-cassette decks and overdubbed tracks. If you listen to most modern pop music, 8 stereo tracks is more than enough to produce professional results.

Alesis iO Dock

Support Appledystopia

GarageBand supports a wide array of accessories that can turn your iPad and even iPhone into a decent music studio. There are docks that provide balanced and unbalanced audio inputs, and even microphone pre-amps. This allows the user to plug-in professional quality microphones and instruments such as guitars and keyboards. There are even MIDI input adapters for the iPad, which allow you to connect a proper keyboard controller. These devices are made by pro-audio companies, such as Alesis, MOTU, Tascam, and others. There are simply too many to list or link to.

To be honest, I have not invested in any of these accessories. I have a Mac Pro and a M-Audio 8 channel I/O system. I have professional quality instruments, microphones, pre-amps, amps, and effects. Why eat sardines when you have caviar? Even without accessories, one can plug in an instrument or microphone through the headphone jack (which is a three-ring connector, allowing an audio input as well as headphones). If you want to be cost-effective, you can use your iPhone headphones/headset as a vocal or instrument mic. You can even use the built-in mic on your iOS device. Just don’t expect pro results with cheap audio shortcuts.

GarageBand can produce professional results, and if you doubt that, listen to the demo song. That said, most professional artists will still use ProTools, typically on a Mac, as they need more tracks and knob-twiddling capabilities. GarageBand can’t handle every pro-audio requirement. It cannot record multiple tracks at the same time, making it impossible to record a whole band in one take. It will not replace ProTools or other digital audio workstations, as it stands now. But you can create professional quality music with GarageBand on an iPad. For the $4.99 price, you also get the iPhone version. It does almost everything as the iPad version, but with the smaller device, it is not as easy to use. It would be fine for messing around while in transit. You could spend hours playing with GarageBand on an airplane. Sometimes I whip it out and play the synth lead from Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”…

GarageBand smart strings

The most impressive features of GarageBand, which set it apart from the herd, are the virtual instruments. You do not need to know anything about music to make music. These are not canned loops, but actual instruments. You have more control over these instruments than the old Casio keyboards from the 80s with their auto-rhythms and pre-programmed drum beats. The virtual guitars allow you to bend notes. You can pluck or bow a stringed instrument, or conduct them as an ensemble. These virtual instruments create notes, not audio tracks, so they can be edited to your heart’s content. Even the professional musician can use these virtual instruments and edit them to get precise results. These are not canned at all. Of course, if you want to use loops and beats created by others, GarageBand has a decent selection of these, and you can import them as well.

2nd Gen AirPods Pro at Amazon

The virtual instruments are extremely high quality. The string section is so real, you could use it to score a film. In fact, that seems to be the intention, although you can fully edit the notes to create virtually any string arrangement. You can also play any string instrument solo. Doing this, you can achieve any pitch you desire, and are not limited to the 12 tones of Western music. With GarageBand, one can even produce micro-tonal music with the virtual instruments.

The virtual instruments do not trade-off flexibility for convenience. They are so well designed, you can achieve almost any result possible. In addition to the string section, there are virtual guitars, keyboards, and drums. The quality is outstanding. The organ with Leslie-like chorus sounds better than many dedicated keyboards and “sound fonts”. Don’t expect it to sound as good as a Hammond B3. Virtualizing something as complex as a Leslie chorus is still beyond digital music technology. That’s why you will still see those rotating speakers at many rock, blues, or jazz shows.

There is also a sampler, smart drums (kind of like a drum machine but simpler), guitar amplifier and microphone. The latter two depend on sound sources, such as plugging in a guitar or vocalizing, either through an external microphone or the internal one. If you use the internal mic, you will have to use headphones, or else it will record your backing tracks. The guitar amplifier is basically an amp simulator on steroids. You plug a clean guitar directly in, and GarageBand offers all sorts of amps with distortion and other effects. You can turn the knobs on the amps, add effect pedals, and it even has a tuner. This is actually a viable tool for a serious guitarist.

GarageBand track view

Editing the song is very easy. You can cut, paste, and trim selections. You can move parts around. If you have a repetitive part, like a drum beat or guitar riff, you can easily copy and paste it or just use the convenient loop feature. It has a pretty decent mixer, allowing you to adjust volumes, pan, and apply effects. There are even master effects. It’s difficult to explain how slick this user interface is. It is so intuitive and life-like, you really have to use it to appreciate it. If you tap on one of the virtual instrument tracks, you can get into the powerful note editor. GarageBand is surprisingly flexible.

AirTag at Amazon

GarageBand note editor

GarageBand is an exceptional value. It costs less than $5. With that purchase price, you are entitled to free upgrades as well as the iPhone version. I was nothing but delighted to upgrade GarageBand and experience the virtual string section. Jam Session was also added when iOS 5 was released. Jam Session allows 4 GarageBand users to have a virtual jam session and record it. There is nothing else like it in the tablet computing world. For $4.99, you’d be an idiot not to buy it.

The newest version of GarageBand, just released last month, provides a new multi-tasking twist. You can start recording in GarageBand, and open another app to provide the audio source for recording. This opens up GarageBand to a whole new world of virtual instruments, beyond what GarageBand offers. Unfortunately, it also enables dishonest people to pirate music. (Please don’t do that!)

I think tools like GarageBand for iOS are the (dystopic) future of music. Let’s face it, today’s music is mainly about image and not substance. If you want to be a musician, don’t waste your time learning music. Spend that effort on dance lessons, hair, tattoos and piercings. Maybe bling-out your Honda Civic too. For most of my life, I have been confounded, even flummoxed, as to why talented musicians remain penniless and hipster hacks live in mansions. The reason is simple. Most people don’t know enough about music to recognize talent. Video killed the radio star. Image is far more important than substance. If you can master GarageBand and have the right image, you can go further in the music industry than a Berklee graduate.

cellos on floor

Earth Breeze Laundry Detergent at Amazon

Talent will be lost due to shortcuts and automation. If you doubt this, I have seen this happen in the software engineering world. SQL, for example, is a dying skill. It is hard to find engineers with decent SQL skills amongst the new generation. Why? Because they don’t have to learn it to develop an application. There are all sorts of short-cuts, such as object-relational mapping, active record, and other technologies. Unfortunately, when they have to do something less abstract, or understand why a query is taking so long (because under the abstract layers, the application is running an SQL query), they can’t do it. That is one reason why so many web and mobile apps are dead slow and buggy.

Similarly, talent will atrophy amongst musicians. Sure, there will always be a cadre of talent amongst the conservatory crowd. The popularity of sports may foster the continuation of marching bands. Who knows? Perhaps the marching band of the future will be hipsters krumping to a beat thumping out of a pimped-out car? Why learn an instrument or become a virtuoso? Many of the most talented musicians make very little money and barely scrape by. You can see that time signatures other than 4/4 are rare, especially in pop music. Most of the “musicians” today don’t even know what a time signature is. They just make beats you can dance to, yo. GarageBand does support a few time signatures and music modalities. The thing is, few people will use them. It is the ultimate crutch for the hipster to spend even less time on music and more time on clothes and hair.

The recording industry will love you, especially if you can knock-off an album in a few weeks on an iPad or Mac. They don’t want the guys with 50 piece drum kits, double-necked guitars, and stacks of keyboards (especially a temperamental Mellotron) agonizing over take after take. For all that effort, they just don’t *look* cool enough. Music is an industry defined mostly by teenagers. As people age, they are buried with too many responsibilities and obligations to follow music. This makes something like GarageBand a viable tool for one’s success. No one will really care if you recorded your album in a fancy studio, or your bedroom. As long as it fits the trends, and most importantly, the image is spot on — that, with a whole lot of luck, will make for success.

I am not alone in my dismay at the state of music. Artists such as Porcupine Tree and The Tangent have written songs and even whole albums about the death of artistic standards in music. I even remember when indie rock had some amazing musicianship and innovation. There are still bastions of what I would consider great music. Aural Moon, in particular, has some of the best music you’ve probably never heard. Whenever I listen, I end up buying quite a few albums on iTunes. Yeah, all of this stuff is out there, and most of it is easily available. The artists have to keep their day jobs and are doing it solely out of passion. This means no touring and very little airplay, beyond Internet radio.

GarageBand isn’t just for demos or capturing ideas. It can actually create the next hit that all the kids will be dancing to. I may sound bitter, but musical taste is an opinion. Opinions cannot be wrong. If people enjoy the 4/4 time dance track that took a few hours to make, more than Close to the Edge, they have every right to hold that opinion. I do feel a bit disappointed that we will probably never have music as wonderful as in the past. I fear that the last generation of great musicians will be extinguished by a lack of regard. I hope I am wrong.

Buy Our Doogle T-Shirt

MTV changed everything, much like the Internet changed the way people access information, and has created much more bias and misinformation in the process. If you want to find evidence that eating a stick of butter is healthy, you can find it on the Internet. If you are a fanboy and want to find evidence that supports your gadget bias, you will find it on the Internet. The Internet changed music further. While it allows obscure musicians to promote their craft, it also allows people to pirate their music. The underdog often doesn’t break even. Great artists resign because they are literally living on welfare. But I digress…

GarageBand is really great, and you should buy it. Check out a song I created with GarageBand. It only took a few hours, and it was really fun to do. There are some loops, but the guitars, most of the drums, and bass are all virtual instruments. It is amazing how much they sound like the real instruments.


Where Is My iPhone’s Microphone?
A Complete Guide to T-Mobile’s Home Internet Plans and Pricing
How to Get a Free iPhone
Easy Steps For Watching YouTube on Your TV
A Step-by-Step Guide to Screen Record on iPhone


How to Calibrate Your iPhone's Battery
iPhone Tips for Cold Weather
Apple Deals at Costco and Amazon
Apple TV Channels
How to Use Your iPhone’s Microphone


Facebook Oversight Board Reverses Moderation Decisions
Apple One: Another Missed Opportunity
Fortnite Returning to iPhone?
How to Turn off iPhone and iPad Auto-Brightness
Apple’s T2 Chip Leaves Mac Vulnerable
Support Appledystopia

© 2023 Appledystopia | Privacy & Cookie Policy | Terms of Service