Garageband on the iPad, music on the move

Published March 11, 2011

I’ve been epically busy this week but Apple don’t seem to care very much about that. First they released the latest version of their mobile software which meant a dozen gadgets needed updating. The very next day, just as I thought I was going to be getting something done, Garageband became available on the iPad.

Productivity = out the window.

For an entire evening, I was all about the music.

Now, when I first saw the Garageband app demonstration, I figured that it was going to be one of those things that is great for the casual consumer and not particularly useful for proper, serious musicians. Sure, there will be some OK Go style niche bands that make kooky videos on the device, but it’s not going to revolutionise the world. Yet.

I also assumed that when I used it, I wasn’t going to like the smart instruments at all, and would prefer the instruments where you could take control.



The piano is too small to really do anything useful. I can’t see that it is for sitting down and playing as a piano. It’s fine for picking out a few notes here and there, but anything else made me crave a full size keyboard.


The drum kit was a bit more fun, although I spent most of the evening attempting my very own Instant Rimshots. I did have a bit of a go at making my own rhythm, but drums would never be my strong point. And that’s where the Smart Instruments come in.


This is pretty amazing. To get a decent drumbeat, you first select your kit. Here it is a Live Rock Kit. You can pick which instruments you want from the options on the right, or hit the dice for a random sample. A beat begins, and you can tweak it by making instruments louder or quieter, simpler or more complex. As you can see, the cowbell is just as important as the kick drum.

I will never be able to play drums but this is an excellent way of customising a drum sound. Equally, and perhaps even more so, the Smart Guitar is enlightening.


Again, I’m never going to be able to play the guitar. I used to be able to pick out a scale, and maybe manage a couple of chords, but my fingers aren’t strong enough for any serious co-ordination. So here, although your choice of chords is limited, you can strum away, or let the app do the strumming for you.

I spent the evening playing the Four Chords and singing a variety of different songs to go with it. It might not be classy, but it was certainly a lot of fun.

Finally, I put all my experience to good use and made something, using the two of the eight available tracks, the bass instrument and the electric guitar.


I can only conclude that the app is immensely powerful. For the incredible price of £2.99, you could put in a bit of practice and make some pretty amazing things. As mentioned above, for the instruments I can’t and probably never could play, it’s truly enabling, but for the piano which I have a bit more experience of, it was a frustrating experience. It’s never going to replace instruments but for something mobile, it is, well, wow.

Oh, and here’s what I made.

Rock on!

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