∞ GarageBand: A powerful music creation app

As a musician, GarageBand is my favorite app in Apple’s iLife ’11 suite. Not just because it can help you create music, but because it’s a powerful app that makes creating music easier.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]GarageBand is the epitome of what Apple is capable of with apps — take a difficult task and make it seem easy. You have to look no further than a couple of the new features to see that.

Let’s take Flex Time as an example. This feature was originally introduced as part of Logic 9 and allowed users to change the position of audio. Using Flex Time users can enhance the timing of a track to make it tighter, without affecting the sound.

The same principles used in Logic were brought to GarageBand. When editing an audio track, you will notice that your cursor looks different on the top of an audio waveform compared to the bottom. This is to allow for Flex Time adjustments.

If you put your cursor on the top of a waveform and click on the track, you are able to move the audio left or right. This is Flex Time at work.

Flex Time is great if you need to fix a few spots in an audio recording that are out a little bit. This is an incredibly useful tool and something I use quite a bit when making demos to tighten things up a bit.

But what happens if the entire song is off — using Flex Time in that situation would be time consuming. It might be better to just re-record the tracks. Or maybe not.

Apple included another new feature in GarageBand called Groove Matching. On first glance, Groove Matching may seem like quantization, but that’s not completely accurate. Groove Matching preserves the human feel in the tracks, so everything is not perfectly in sync.

One of the biggest knocks on quantized music is that it sounds a little too perfect. This is what makes Groove Matching so good. It put your music in line without making it perfect.

Using Groove Matching couldn’t be easier. If you hover your mouse over the left side of a track it will show you a hidden column. Each column has a star beside it — just click on the track that you want to use as the main groove track and all other tracks will match to that.

You will notice that after you choose the groove track, the other tracks will have a checkmark beside them. This allows you to unselect certain tracks. The tracks that are not selected will not have Groove Matching applied to them.

This makes the feel of the song even closer to the original, while still tightening up the loose tracks.

That is what I mean about Apple taking a difficult task and making it easy. You can tighten up an entire song with a couple of mouse clicks.

Another new feature of GarageBand that I found interesting is called “How did I play?” This takes the lessons built-in to GarageBand a step further by testing your progress.

“How did I play” allows you to play along with one of the lessons and GarageBand shows you visually where you are going wrong, and where you are doing it exactly right.

I decided to give the beginner lesson a test and instead of playing the wrong chord, I played the correct chord, but fretted it wrong. The lesson called for an E Major chord, but I played an E Minor.

I really didn’t expect GarageBand to pick up on a chord that was missing one finger, but it did. Throughout the lesson, it alerted me that I was playing the part incorrectly. To be sure, I played it again with an E Major and I scored a perfect mark. That was impressive.

GarageBand ’11 also added seven new amps, bringing the total number of amps available to 12. It’s pretty easy to tell from the look or the name of the amps what they were modeled after. Amps include the Brownface Combo, British Blues Combo, Large Tweed Combo, Sunshine Stack, and others.

There are other changes in GarageBand too, like the addition of a monitoring button on tracks, a Metronome button, and a glossary that will teach you about the terms used in creating music.

I’ve used GarageBand since it first came on the market, and I still do. While GarageBand may be targeted to consumers, it is a powerful application that can help anyone create music.