Creative Block: Roli’s expressive MIDI keyboard goes portable [Review]

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Roll seaboard block review
That's the Seaboard sat on a 12-inch iPad.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

Fine-tune your music with Visual EQ in GarageBand for iPad

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the equalizer
Nothing says '1980s' like a stereo with a giant graphic EQ.
Photo: Pete/Flickr public domain

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.

Apple adds amazing Flex and Flow sound pack to GarageBand for iOS

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Flex and Flow
The new Flex and Flow pack is R-A-D rad.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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 update banishes the click track

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Logic-Pro-X-update_studio-setup_012418.2291b04f2ff740d083f30347aed5b50a
Logic isn't really this scary.
Photo: Apple

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.

How to add an EQ and effects master track in GarageBand for iOS

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garageband master track
Here's a cellist, who has mastered her own track, as it were.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

This tiny cube connects your iPhone to guitars and microphones

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iTrack One Pre
The iTrack One Pre won't slide off your desk.
Photo: Focusrite

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.

Fusion Guitar packs an iPhone dock and speakers

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fusion guitar
With the Fusion Guitar, you too can sit in a chilly, graffiti-covered street and smile.
Photo: Fusion Guitars

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.

Nail the guitar sound of any song with Tonebridge

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tonebridge bass
Even bass players can use Tonebridge.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

How to make a killer Drummer track in GarageBand for iPad

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drummer david byrne
Unlike a real drummer, GarageBand's Drummer never shows up drunk for a gig.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.

How to use Live Loops in GarageBand

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piano hand
GarageBand's Live Loops let anyone make amazing tracks.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

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.