You’ve heard of GarageBand, a music crafting application that’s been around for a while on the Mac, but until recently the there hasn’t been an equivalent in the mobile space. So Apple decided to make one, and it turned out great!
GarageBand is full of instruments built for people who’re not very skilled, these are called Smart Instruments and allow you to play like a pro without any knowledge of that instrument.
Smart drums allows you to drag certain pieces of a drum set on to a board. Depending on the horizontal position of the pieces on the board, the more complex or simple the sound becomes; and depending on the vertical position of the pieces, the louder or quieter the sounds get.
Included in the Smart Drums instrument, there are 6 different kinds of drums, 3 drum kits: Classic Studio, Vintage, and Live rock; and 3 drum machines: Hip Hop, Classic, and House. Each has a slightly different sound and can be customized until you get the perfect sound.
The smart drums can really make you feel like a professional drummer, which is the point of all the smart instruments.
The smart guitar allows you to strum along to your own rhythm, or you can switch over to chords and tap your way to fame. On the chords page, there is an auto play feature that allows you to simply tap on a chord and a nice melody begins to play. The auto lay feature has 4 speeds and a slightly different melody for each speed.
The smart guitar comes with 4 different guitars: Acoustic, Classic, Hard Rock, and Roots Rock. Each guitar has a different sound, along with a different group of sound bending settings included with each. These settings are things that you’d find on an amp, allowing you to warp the sound from the guitar.
The smart guitar, along with all the smart instruments, really makes you feel like a pro. I just can’t express my feelings toward these instruments enough, you’ll honestly feel like anything is possible with these instruments.
The smart bass instrument is actually almost exactly like the smart guitar! The obvious difference is that this…is a bass. The bass is very cool, just like the other instruments. Like the smart guitars, the smart bass also comes with 4 different bass guitars: Liverpool, Muted, Picked, and the Upright bass. The smart bass has the same auto play feature and also the ability to strum along to your own tune.
Basically, the smart bass is a bass-version of the smart guitars, and that’s not a bad thing.
The smart piano is a wonderful instrument that, like the smart drums, look nothing like what sounds like. The smart piano is, at first look, a bunch of tappable chords; but when you dive deeper in to the instrument, it’s clear that its a very professional piano. Just like the smart guitar and bass instruments, the smart piano has multiple pianos to choose from: the grand piano, the classic rock organ, the electric piano, and the smooth clav. Each has a distinct sound and skin. The smart piano also has an auto-play feature allowing you to tap a chord and a brilliant melody begins to play.
The smart piano fits perfectly into the smart instruments, which are some of the best artificial-playing instruments and really make you feel like a professional musician.
The smart instruments in GarageBand are the coolest thing (in my opinion), but that doesn’t mean the regular instruments are something to be desired.
Unlike the smart drums, the “real” drums look like actual drums. The setup makes it feel like you are sitting behind an actual drum set. Tapping on the drums is pretty cool, especially because the app can detect how hard or soft you are tapping, and although it can be a pain sometimes, it’s something you definitely want in the app.
There are 3 different drums sets: Classic Studio, Vintage, and Live Rock; and there are 3 drum machines: Classic, House, Hip Hop.
The drum machines are very cool, they are just tappable boxes with select sounds from a drum. Its sort of weird seeing them in drums and not in the smart drums section. They’re very easy to use, and sound amazing.
Overall, the drums section is amazing and although they do take some skill to not sound like a 5-year old mashing on them, they do sound sweet when you get the hang of them.
The piano instrument is another instrument that won’t be as easy to master, but if you’ve got some skill in the area, you’ll do just fine. The piano is basically, a piano. Apple isn’t the first to bring a piano, so you can expect the interface will be. But there is one thing that really impressed me, the piano came with multiple pianos to play, and by multiple…I mean 20. There are twenty different pianos to play, which is just…amazing. These 20 pianos are covered over 6 sections of pianos: keyboard, synth classic, synth bass, synth leads, synth pads, and FX. I cannot begin to state how elegant and large this section feels, it could probably be its own app entirely separate from GarageBand.
Basically, if you were going to learn one instrument so you could play it in GarageBand, the amount of different sounds being generated from this one section is amazing, and definitely shows how much effort Apple put into this app.
So when you want to add a little bit of your own soul and sound into your musical creation, you’ll want to record you beautiful (hopefully) voice. The audio recorder is pretty simple stuff, basically the same app that comes with iPhones and IPod touches with the addition of a microphone jack button.
The sampler is a handy little instrument. It’s basically a mix between the audio recorder and the piano. You start by recording your voice using the microphone, then trim your recording, and finally using a piano keyboard to play your recording all musical-like. It’s very nice to have something like is inside the app, because it definitely didn’t need to be included.
By far, the best thing about GarageBand is the editing experience. Editing music on the iPad is very enjoyable and easy. All you need to do to get to the editor is hit the horizontal line button at the toolbar in any instrument. In the editing section, any recordings made from inside an instrument are shown in eight lines, each line showing the sound levels. Tapping on an instrument’s horizontal bar will take you to that instrument for individual editing. Swiping on the instrument pictures will bring up track controls allowing you to adjust the settings for each individuals track. There is a limit in the editor though, you may only store 8 instruments at a time.
Overall, GarageBand for iPad is one of the most elegant and pristine apps available on the App Store. It’s one of those apps that you’d think Apple would cripple to run on the iPad, but this is something that could be ported over to a Mac or PC and feel like a full app. Honestly, if you’re a music lover, and you like messing around with music…you could do a whole lot worse for $5. This is definitely one of the must-have apps for any iPad owner, so go out now and get it!
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.