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GarageBand 1.2 iOS Update

By Matthew F. Hibben
4/1/12

Apple recently released the 1.2 update for GarageBand and with this update comes some new features for music enthusiasts.  This Product Review delves into GarageBand iOS new features touching on both new strengths and some still lingering shortcomings.

Step Recording in 1.2

One of the biggest features in 1.2, and certainly one of the features I was most interested to try out, is GarageBand’s new note editor.  The note editor is a multi-purpose tool that allows users to clean up specific notes, sections of notes, as well as input new notation within a song.

When writing music in live play mode inevitably some notes will have the incorrect timing, or simply be the wrong note or strike for the moment.  The new note editor allows users to go to the step level and make corrections.  In addition to changing the note played as well as the position it is played at is the ability to change the velocity of a specific note.  When a user wishes to change a specific note they double tap a given instrument line and select edit, which expands the view to show only that instrument and the specific notes that have been recorded.  At this view you can select notes simply by touching them, but keep in mind you may need to zoom in your view or use a stylus in order to accurately select specific notes.  With specific notes selected users can drag them to new positions, delete them, copy them, or change velocity.

It is important to note that while the ability to change the velocity is a nice feature introduced at the step level, the primary shortcoming of this is that no visual distinction of changed velocity is shown.  In many other programs that allow velocity changes at the note edit level, a visual change is shown, primarily as a change in the color intensity of note.  Notes with more velocity are shown with more saturated color, while notes that have less velocity are shown as lighter.  Visually, this seems like it would be an easy fix in future updates for GarageBand simply by changing the intensity of the green notes to reflect this.

In addition to the level of editing that can be made at the note level within GarageBand is the ability to select multiple notes for editing as well. 

Users who want to select multiple notes simply need to press an area of the notation that does not contain any active notes until a grey box appears that can then be dragged across and enlarged to occupy any desired notes.  Once notes are selected in this fashion the same customization is afforded, in terms of moving the selected arrangement, changing the velocity, as well as deletion.

Step Sequencing and the iPad

One thing that I really gravitated towards with using the iPad for song creation was the sketch book essence of song creation.  When I think of GarageBand, I think simply relaxing and jotting down ideas as they come to me, without being bogged down by the need to be super perfect.  I find that the note editing feature is at odds with this feeling, taking something impromptu and adding a lot of potential for over thinking.  Now at the very basic level of simply moving a note around here or there, this care free approach to music creation works for me. However when you get into the many other layers of editing that can be done at the step level, note creation, arrangement, velocity changes etc., this enters the arena of editing that is best left to the work station.

Track Merging

For those familiar with GarageBand for the iOS, eight tracks is the limit. The eight track limit hasn’t changed for 1.2, however users are now able to merge tracks effectively adding more track capability.  Merge Track is my favorite feature in the 1.2 simply because it works, easy, simple, and is at its core, in the spirit of what I love about GarageBand iOS.

Merging tracks is a simple process within GarageBand. At the notation level where various instruments are shown to the left, users simply need to tap the instrument icon and select merge.  Once merge has been selected a new UI feature appears with a check box by all current recorded tracks.

By simply checking the box located next to each track, all tracks can be merged down into one.  This feature not only merges tracks as intended but also created a new song file, so as to retain the original un-merged song file.

Song Exportation

Song exportation in GarageBand is still rather limited.  Songs as audio files can be exported to a variety of devices and platforms.  Songs as notation can be freely exported to GarageBand Mac as well as Logic for the Mac.  This presents a limited usefulness that users of other sound creation tools such as Reason have to deal with.  Exporting sound files offers very little utility for users of other sound programs simply because editing cannot be done at the note level, as the files are now purely audio, and the audio quality of the exported files are simply not enough to re-sample.

I understand Apple’s closed loop approach to GarageBand, keeping it all in the family allows for easier coding (from a notations standpoint), and features like the guitar UI would surely be problematic to export properly to other sound platforms.  I firmly believe that if this feature can be added down the road, the usefulness of Garageband will continue to rise.  As it stands now, for users like myself that use tools other than Logic or GarageBand on the Mac, our experience with GarageBand iOS is limited to a hobby, as we cannot take what we create and process it further.

GarageBand 1.2 certainly adds features useful to all musicians both at the enthusiast level as well as users who use the iOS as a tool for further refinement.  I still feel the app is a must have for all iOS users, more so with the new features, and at $4.99 it really is a no brainer.  Seeing the amount of changes made with the 1.2 update, more changes, including additional functionality, will surely follow.

GarageBand 1.2 Update for iOS New Features Video Demonstration

  • 1.
    1.2 Intro
  • 2.
    Step Edit
  • 3.
    Step Recording
  • 4.
    Track Merging
  • 5.
    Video
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