Friday, March 9, 2012

Back to DAWs - Garageband update

While I wait for my new iPad to arrive, I already am enjoying the updates to Garageband for the iPad. There has been a lot of discussion around whether or not it is a complete DAW now that it has note editing and of course the comparisons to other iPad offerings.

So, here is my take on it all. The product itself at $5 is a no-brainer. If you make music on your iPad, buy it! Even if you use only a fraction of its features, it is phenomenal. DAW-wise however, there are areas in which it excels and still some weaknesses.

The note editing is a welcome addition and makes it a bit more complete as a music tool. I think NanoStudio's editing is superior, but in most respects the Garageband solution is "good enough".

The addition of smart strings is phenomenal and is a very nice addition to its instruments. The performance instruments is one place where Garageband shines over most others. So one thing I look at now is what will be most impacted by the new Garageband? Which of my tools might I use less? If you follow the blog, you know that like most, I have a huge collection of music tools on my iPad.

I think there are sort of 2 categories of DAWs on the iPad at this point. One type is the DAW that encourages patch creation and custom sound sculpting. NanoStudio is one such DAW where you dial in your oscillators, filters and carefully craft your sounds. SunVox is similar in the tracker subcategory in that you create your own sounds from the ground up and then use them. The other category is DAWs that rely on samples and pre-built instruments. This group includes Xewton Music Studio (and FL Studio for iPad by same company), iSequence and in most respects, Garageband. You use the sounds provided and can do minor tweaks or adjustments to them via a limited range of dials or modulators.

So, Garageband is most likely in my environment to supplant Xewton Music Studio. It is much cheaper, provides superior samples and is a joy to use. Music Studio is pretty nice in many respects but is more or less the same category.

One common knock on Garageband is that it doesn't interact that well with other tools which is true to some extent. If you are in a Mac environment at home, it is very easy to begin a piece in Garageband for iPad and then complete it on your iMac with Garageband for iMac or Logic 9. This works beautifully though it is a one-way trip.

Garageband doesn't audio copy exactly, but it DOES let you audio paste in sounds. So if you want to incorporate your Korg or Sunrizer tracks, its pretty easy to do. You can also bounce down tracks to get around the 8 track limit if you need to.

One other knock is that Garageband doesn't background play. If I want to play a Sunrizer track in time with the Garageband tracks I have to use a little workaround. I have written before that emailing the track to yourself with Garageband is not a good idea because it degrades the sound to 128kbs AAC. BUT, if all I want to do is use the track to guide my recording of another one, I can email the track to myself, do an "open with" and play the track via Thumbjam or some other background program. I then record my Sunrizer track in time with the music and then paste it back into the original uncompressed Garageband song as audio.

In my environment, Garageband is now my go-to DAW for any sample based music I want to put together. For synth creation I either paste in audio to  Garageband or go back to my standby - NanoStudio!


  1. That's a nice write up. I too think the strings are awesome and worth the price aloe.

  2. Thanks for reading. I think it is very close to a full DAW now for my uses. The effects chain in GB is a bit weak - can only play with reverb and delay, but it is still pretty useful. I think for Windows users it probably offers a bit less since it is a bit harder to take your projects to non-Mac DAWs. WIth the new iPad on its way, I look forward to much more power and hopefully more sophisticated products.