App Review: GarageBand For iPad

Lets see what Apple can do      22/03/11

No flash plug

   QuickTime (MP4)  | iOS MP4
12:53 mins


We’ve all been exposed to the hype surrounding iPad - well it does seem like it was not that exaggerated, with sales of 15 million plus of the first gen, outselling regular PC hardware. With the  souped-up iPad 2 now in the stores or just coming, Apple have upped the game with the introduction of Garageband for the iPad. But surely this must just be a toy?
Available for iPad only and on iOS 4.2 and above, Garageband weighs in at a 369MB download from the iTunes store. It runs only on iPad and also only in Landscape orientation.
There are several instrument groups - Keyboard (pianos, organs and synths), Drums, acoustic and electronic, Guitar Amp - lots of models - 32 combinations of Amp and  three stomp boxes (10 to choose from) - you will need some kind of 3rd party guitar input, Audio Recorder - from the iPad mic in or USB audio interface, with a selection of post effects, Sampler - single sample - trimmable, tuneable, Smart Drums - a drum machine with a difference, Smart Bass - simple chord progression assisted bass sounds with autoplay, Smart Guitar - the same - with accoustic, electric and rock voicings, Smart Keyboard - easy play chords and inversions.
The sounds are OKAY, they are like Garagband for Mac instruments lite, with tweakable parameters for the synths and electronic keyboards, but more importantly velocity sensitive from the touchscreen - a combination of acceler-o-meter and finger size we think, but workable.

All of this uses the usual iPad app interface tricks to get you playing - its actually pretty usable, but stick a USB Camera Connection Kit and a MIDI keyboard and things really start to hot up - we used the M-Audio Oxygen 49 - which is bus-powered and plugged and played, the Axiom 61 did not work - it threw up a “requires too much power” message - even though I had it plugged in with a power supply.

But the result is pretty great - almost negligable latency and glitch-free audio, making this a most playable experience - who dares to use it for a gig first?

Open your instrument, record - then flip to the arrange page to trim, split, cut and paste your recordings is how it rolls. And it really is pretty simple and intuitive. Oh yeah and there’s a bunch of Appleloops for you to get  down with too - searchable by genre and keyword. Occaisionally the app pauses and runs some optimization routine - looks like track freezing to me to save resources, but you werent planning on using this for live performance recording were you?

Up to 8 tracks, each with volume,mute and solo - you can also send to echo and reverb master effects to sweeten it all up. No mastering quality fx here, but come on, this is an oversize PDA after all..

I was able to easily create with this, the technology didn’t get in the way, sure the sounds aren’t the top of the range, but if you are a songwriter, that shouldn’t be a problem, and certainly enough to get some ideas going.
Save the song, mix it down and email it as an AAC file, or send it into iTunes in AAC or Garageband format. Presumably that means you can open it in Garageband proper or even Logic and use elements in a final version. Unfortunately I was unable to locate those files on my 10.5.7 equipped Mac, so I cant prove it to you, but its gotta be possible.

I must admit, I was expecting great things of this app seeing as Apple made it, and I was not disappointed. A slick, creative interface it most certainly is. It provides immediate music for the novice and a usable sketchpad for the more experienced. Perhaps we will see some more contemporary sound packs and instruments coming in the future, to give us a larger palette of sounds to play with and fill up those valuable GB on the iPad’s memory.

£2.99 from the iTunes store



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15 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
SteveFromBerlin    Said...

As usual:

I think it would be even better if it will be possible to select multiple outs someday so I could use it as an ideal playback device. I know I know - there's no hardware there yet, but it would just awesome!

22-Mar-11 11:55 AM

Benedict Johnson    Said...

Woo hoo!

Far from being a trimmed-down compromise, it's actually a major redesign that makes the iLife version look like Garbageband!!

This is so significant that we should start observing the effects it will make to contemporary music from space.

22-Mar-11 01:07 PM

Sean Sax    Said...


22-Mar-11 03:23 PM

Harry    Said...

How do you hookup your keyboard to the ipad? I'd like to connect the MIDI/USB on the back of my Casio Keyboard to my ipad and have had no luck so far. Thanks!

22-Mar-11 04:45 PM

Nick B    Said...

You need a camera connection kit, which is a dock to USB adapter. Then its just a matter of hooking up the USB, though NOT all USB midi devices are compatible, like I say in the review text, the AXIOM 61 didnt work as it drew too much power.

22-Mar-11 05:20 PM

grimley    Said...

If your keyboard draws too much power, stick a powered USB hub in the middle. I'm doing this with the Korg Legacy MS20 controller and the iMS20 app with a cool LED USB hub velcroed to the back of the controller ... truly amazing combo! Great review Nick!

22-Mar-11 05:55 PM

Nick B    Said...

Top Tip Grimley, didnt think of that one. I just tried to power the Axiom from a PSU. So I'm guessing its fernickety

22-Mar-11 06:06 PM

L56    Said...

Have to correct you on a few things, Nick: the instruments are more than 5 voice polyphonic. How else would you play a 6 string guitar? ;)

I can lay 10 fingers on the organ without problems...that sounds disturbing actually.

Also, you can use 4 effect pedals. As soon as you add tne third pedal, a fourth slot appears.

If there was one point of critique I would have about garage band, it would be not being able to choose my own set of chords. The are dependend on the root key you choose, and after a while they all start to sound too through garageband players chords! ;)

Other than that, for the money it really is a no brainer. Possibilities are endless...

22-Mar-11 06:18 PM


While I had heard about GarageBand on the iPad mentioned in one of the last two podcasts, I was not really clear how this would work...well, it is now. Your review was excellent and gives me a far better understanding of how I might use this application. Thanks Nick.

22-Mar-11 11:27 PM

Nick B    Said...

Thanks L56 - actually I only got 5 voices out of a couple of the keyboard instruments. Maybe I was doing something different will double- check.

23-Mar-11 05:23 AM

heyjohn    Said...

For guitar input, try an Alesis iO2|Express to a powered USB hub to the cameraKit+iPad. Should handle guitar, mic, and MIDI, although I've just used mine with guitar on iPad. Note that the only major app that doesn't like that config is Amplitube...

23-Mar-11 05:30 AM

Velocipede    Said...

Nice overview, Nick and thanks for making it viewable on an IPad! I love the sampler and love how you can set keyboard instruments to pitch bend by sliding fingers to the side (some patches also seem to have aftertouch from sliding forward on the keys).

I wish those guitar effects could be used on other instruments though.

The optimizing happens a lot on my songsā€¦ guess Apple wants me to buy an iPad 2!

23-Mar-11 06:56 AM

Nick B    Said...

Note, I'm rerendering the video without the 5-voice polyphony overlay - I think that its variable

23-Mar-11 07:13 AM

DBM    Said...

@ Nick I think export as GB file will put it in the ipads data section to which you find it buy looking at the ipad in iTunes . Dose it have a freeze function ? Finding out what the poly and fx limits are would be great to know too , though if it has the freeze function who cares ?

23-Mar-11 06:52 PM

jcs    Said...

Can you double tap the midi regions and edit them in a piano roll?

07-Apr-11 07:34 PM

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