Hands On with Apple’s new Music Memos for iOS, GarageBand 2.1

I’m usually pretty excited when Apple updates its music software, but I was blown away when they showed me their newest app, Music Memos and the updates they did to GarageBand on iOS.

Like many musicians, Voice Memos has become a quick and easy way for me to record my music ideas. Sometimes I just hum the idea, but most of the time I’ll be playing my guitar and just reach over and tap record. If I don’t record the idea then and there, it’s gone forever.

I have hundreds of these little snippets on my iPhone. Sometimes I work them into full songs, sometimes I combine different ideas to make a song and sometimes they just sit there because I have no idea what they are.

Apple took the idea of Voice Memos and expanded it for musicians with a new iOS app called Music Memos.

Music Memos - Record, Library, Backing Band, Details

When you first launch Music Memos, you are treated with a record button in the center of the screen—it couldn’t be simpler. Tap the record button and start playing your guitar (piano or other instrument) and it records. The app will show you a waveform at the bottom of the screen and you will also get feedback from the circular record button as well.

The 24-bit 44.1kHz audio file is recorded to your iPhone, but it’s when you stop recording that the magic of this app happens.

Music Memos analyzes the recording for tempo and chord changes for guitar and piano. It places the chords you played right on the waveform so you can see them instantly1.

The brilliance of the app is that Apple built-in a drummer and bass into the app. Simply tap on those instruments and you can hear your song idea with a full band. Like Drummer in GarageBand or Logic, you can choose a different type of drummer, go half time, or any number of other options.

Since Music Memos analyzed the audio track you recorded, it follows along with you, even if you sped up or slowed down during the recording.

You can name the song so it’s easier to find later, but you can also tag the piece of music using the location or whether it’s a verse, chorus, etc. Of course, you can go back later and search for any of those tags, but Apple also included a smart slider. As you move the slider, it will show you files you worked on the most, or have tags, or that are named—basically files you showed some interest in.

There is also a place within each file to store lyrics, what tuning you used for the instrument—even custom tunings—capo position and other information.

Of course, all of the Music Memo files can be shared to social media. If you do this, the uncompressed audio files in the app are compressed so they can be easily shared. However, if you export them to GarageBand, the files are transferred into a multitrack GarageBand project, where they can be edited and adjusted as needed. The bass tracks are exported as MIDI, so they can be edited, and GarageBand recognizes the drummer track, so you can make whatever changes you want there as well.

This is just a really smart app. It answers a lot of the problems musicians have had over the years in recording ideas quickly and easily, but it took that 100 steps further.

I’m really excited about Music Memos.


In case you missed it above, GarageBand 2.1 for iOS introduces the drummer feature found in Logic and GarageBand for Mac, and it works great. The new version also supports supports 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, but those are not the biggest features of this new version. That has to go to a new feature called Live Loops.

GarageBand for iOS - Live Loops - iPad

Apple says Live Loops was inspired by DJ hardware controllers and drum machines. It allows you to create music by simply tapping on cells or playing a column of cells in a grid. I played around with Live Loops and it’s very intuitive, even for a novice DJ like me.

Of course, GarageBand automatically keeps everything in sync with perfect time and pitch, so it’s hard to really screw something up. You can easily add loops by tapping on a cell and choosing one of the included loops. Apple added 1200 new loops to this version of GarageBand, so you’ll have a lot o choices.

Apple includes quite a few Live Loop templates in a variety of genres including EDM, Hip Hop, Dubstep and Rock. You can also create your own from scratch—either way, it’s easy to get started.

Music Memos is available for free on the App Store and is compatible with iPhone 4s and later, and iPad 2 and later. GarageBand 2.1 for iOS is bundled free with new iOS devices 32GB and larger, is available as a free upgrade for existing users with compatible iOS 9 devices or later, and is available to everyone else for $4.99 via the App Store.

  1. The app won’t show you any complicated chords, but you can edit those later if you like. 

  • JimCracky

    where is the download. Don’t see it in the App store yet

  • Budget Guitarist

    Apple is KILLING it in this area. I think the drummer feature in Logic is a game changer, but the music biz is still dominated by Pro Tools. For writing and recording your own music, nothing can touch Logic. And I too have recorded tons of ideas on voice memos. This is just brilliant stuff. Can’t wait to play with it!

  • Music Memos to GarageBand to Logic is going to be a very transparent workflow. Capturing a song at the moment of inspiration is a huge advantage.

    If I could have asked for one Logic feature to show up in GarageBand, it would have been Drummer, because it’s such a great songwriting tool and so is GarageBand for iOS. Apple’s music software people are reading my mind apparently.

    If you are looking for an example of what Drummer can do, I used the Logic version of Drummer on this song:


    … which was written in GarageBand for iOS on an iPad mini 2 with an Apogee MiC, then refined in Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro with Apogee Duet, then rendered as loops into Ableton Live for arranging and mixing, and finally mastered in Logic Pro X.

    Drummer was set to follow the bass part, which is often what you’ll want to do so that your bass and drums act as a single rhythm section. Another great option is to find a drum loop that has the feel that you want, and put it onto a muted track and tell Drummer to follow the loop.

    • Stirlol

      Is that completely automatic drummer or did you tweak it a little?

      Either way drums are very cool!

      I prefer to do my own drums but am going to have some fun seeing what the drummer comes up with first.. Though my workflow usually starts with either drums or bass, guess I’ll start with the bass…

  • HFullCT

    Music Memos looks great, unless you are the folks over at Hum, the app I’ve been using for this up till now. I’ll just have to figure out the best way to get my Hum entries into this.

    • Stirlol

      A second device.. I played around with the app, and then new GB quite a bit and it’s pretty awesome

      Wife is pro musician, has a lot of “memos” recorded directly into her Roland KB, so to get those into MMemos she put the iPad or iPhone where you would put the music pages – very nice recording though actual cable connect would be best obviously..

      • HFullCT

        Thanks, yeah that’s how I will have to do it. I have an IConnectAudio4+ but I don’t think MMemos will let me use internal audio.

  • Why don’t the videos play in Safari (9.0.2 on my Mac)? Weird. Clicking them does nothing.

  • Alexei Baboulevitch

    For anyone interested in taking musical “notes”, I released an app in a similar niche a few weeks ago. It’s called Composer’s Sketchpad (http://composerssketchpad.com), and it’s meant to be a sort of modern take on sheet music. (Alternatively: a “doodly” sequencer.) You’re presented with a giant canvas (representing time and pitch) that you can pan and zoom around, and you draw musical notes anywhere on the canvas with your finger or Apple Pencil. Notes can start at any time and bend to any pitch, allowing you to draw out curvy guitar solos and complex rhythms with ease. Over 100 instruments are available. There’s also a free Lite version!

    (I really like the gist of Music Memos, but as someone who sucks at singing or playing guitar, I prefer to take musical notes “directly”, which is why I made my app. MIDI export is coming in update #1 and iPhone support shortly afterwards.)

    • Stirlol

      Oh no! This is one of my biggest fears as a dev, getting “sherlocked”

      I’ll take a look at your app too

      • Alexei Baboulevitch

        Nah, this isn’t a Sherlocking at all. (Thankfully!) Apple’s app seems to be all about recording quick audio jams, whereas mine is about putting down actual musical notes on a canvas. (MIDI under the hood.) The common theme of quickly jotting down musical ideas is similar, though. (And they probably picked the better name!)

        • Stirlol

          Ahh good to know, I’ll check it out now..

        • Stirlol

          Damn, now I /really/ Really want that iPad Pro and Pencil >:[ looks good!

          • Alexei Baboulevitch

            Thank you! Really hope to finish the iPhone version soon so more people can try it out. (Also, crossing fingers for Pencil support in iPhone 7!)

  • Awesome news ;)) But too bad that the new GarageBand needs iOS9, I deliberatly stopped at iOS7 on my iPad 2, I’m quite sure it will loose its responsiveness, and I need this app and Procreate to stay as they are. And with big projects they are both showing the limits of my tablet. Damn, I really need to upgrade it…

  • Re: Music Memos, the official screenshots all show basic drum editing functionality that I can’t find anywhere. I can add drums, change the timing, etc. But look closely at the screenshot. An X/Y pad, and separate buttons for each piece of kit? Where is that hiding?

    • Long press the guitar/drum accompaniment icons. There’s the somewhat hidden answer. I watched a video where someone did a 3D Touch on those icons. My measly 6 doesn’t have 3D Touch, but a long press will bring up the obscure panel.

  • Buckets

    The GarageBand update is fantastic. One process I haven’t worked out yet is how to record a live loop using the Inter-Apps Audio App input in GarageBand. I have Rock Drum Machine 3 by Luis Martinez and want to use it and record some loops using the new GarageBand Live Loops feature. I can get a loop recorded but the loop doesn’t start recording when the drums start to play. I’m thinking the actual Audiobus app might be the way to go, but I think it should be achievable using just the two apps (it’s easy to record a track of Rock Drum Machine 3 in GarageBand so it should be possible to record a live loop, also). Any ideas?

  • Sergio

    A question, do you guys know if the 2.1 Garage Band version is available for IPad mini? I installed it already but the live loops gadget does not show up. Thanks!