Imagine a piano keyboard that is also a multitouch surface, like the screen on an iPad. Now imagine that this is a tactile silicone surface with bumps and dips so you can feel the keys, just like a piano. Hold that image in your mind — you are currently imagining the Roli Seaboard Block, backpack-sized Bluetooth MIDI keyboard that will change the way you play music.
One great recent addition to GarageBand for iOS is the Visual EQ, an equalizer that is about as far away from the 1980s-style bank of sliders as it’s possible to get. The Visual EQ also shows you a waveform of the actual sound you’re adjusting, so you can see as well as hear the effects immediately. This visual element, combined with a clever three-“band” EQ, makes this a very powerful tool for shaping your music.
This week, GarageBand saw the first new entry in its Sound Library since the feature was added in version 2.3. The Sound Library is a kind of App Store for music, letting you browse and download all kinds of samples, loops, presets and even brand-new software instruments. These come in sound packs arranged around a theme or genre. The new one is called Flex and Flow, and it brings you chilled hip-hop.
Logic Pro, GarageBand’s big brother, just got a big update to coincide with the NAMM music trade show. In addition to lots of new effects plugins, and a couple of relaxed new Drummers is something called Smart Tempo. This banishes the click track, and lets you create music that is much more organic, but still perfectly in time.
One of the craziest omissions in GarageBand for iPad and iPhone is the lack of a master track for mixing. A master track sits in your GarageBand window alongside your recorded instruments, and lets you apply EQ and effects — bass, treble, reverb, and so on — to the entire song. Even in the amazing new GarageBand 3.2, there’s no proper master track.
But there is a workaround that is both easy, and as good as having the real thing. Let’s check it out.
Focusrite’s iTrack One Pre might be the ultimate portable recording gadget for musicians. It’s a little cube that fits in a pocket, but that packs in connections for a microphone and a guitar, as well as a port for charging the iPad or iPhone you connect to. It can even supply Phantom Power to a microphone, and has it’s own gain (“volume,” kinda) knob.
What would happen if you took an electric guitar, made it as thick as an acoustic guitar, and stuffed the extra space not with boring old air, but with speakers and an electronic brain that works with your iPhone?
Then, you might put in a cutout on the guitar top to hold that iPhone, and a rechargeable battery to power it all. If you did all that, then you’d have invented the Fusion Guitar.
The iPad has many, many amazing effects apps for making music, and several high-level apps just for emulating guitar amplifiers and effects pedals. But what if you just want to plug in and play a song, and have your guitar sound just like the one on the record? That’s exactly what Tonebridge is for. Under the hood, this simulator app is as powerful as the others, but it’s way, way simpler to use.
Whereas most apps present a range or virtual pedals and amps, Tonebridge is based around songs. You fire it up, plug in your guitar, and search for the song you want to play. The app loads up the sound of the song, and you can play along. The app is impressive, nailing the tomes of pretty much any song you ask for, without any tweaking necessary.
But now, with the latest Tonebridge release, you can also dig in to the settings that used to sit behind the scenes. Let’s take a look.
Drummer is one of GarageBand’s best features. It’s a virtual drummer that comes up with entire drum parts for your song. Or rather, it’s 15 drummers, each of whom has a different style, from hard rock to Latin rhythms, to trap and dubstep, to the hippie Finn, with his cajon and hand claps.
Drummer is amazing if you play another instrument and just need a drum track to play along to, but it is also extremely powerful, and can be used to create an entire song. And best of all, none of GarageBand’s drummers will ever turn up drunk to a gig. Let’s take a quick look at the basics, and then I’ll show you some neat hidden tricks.
Today we’re going to figure out how to use GarageBand’s Live Loops feature. These let you drop a little loop of music into a square on a grid (or record your own), and then trigger that loop by tapping the square. Everything plays in time, so you can use it to DJ with loops and samples and create sick drops like VITALIC. Alternatively, Live Loops are a fantastic way to remix your own recordings on the fly, letting you experiment with how your own songs progress, without all that tedious dragging of audio track in timelines.