Don’t tell Apple, but I might’ve upgraded to an iPad 2 if GarageBand didn’t work on the original. As a lapsed musician, I’ve been cobbling together iPad music apps since last year, but I could never find the one that did it all — recording, sampling, looping, synthesizing — at least in an affordable package.
So for me, GarageBand was the highlight of Apple’s iPad 2 event. When the $5 app launched in the iOS App Store today, I grabbed it immediately. Here’s what I think so far:
Many apps made obsolete
I feel sorry for the makers of StudioTrack, Virtuoso Piano, Music Studio and countless other apps with similar functionality to GarageBand. Even if these apps offer more features than GarageBand, they’ve been undercut by a $5 app that does all the important stuff. I can’t imagine buying another multi-track recording app or virtual instrument now.
The accelerometer works, except when it doesn’t
One of GarageBand’s neatest tricks is its ability to detect how hard you’re hitting a note based on the iPad’s accelerometer. For the virtual piano, it feels natural, almost like the real thing. But the drums are infuriating. No matter how hard I tapped, or what surface the iPad was on, I couldn’t consistently hit the snare at maximum volume. To make matters worse, you can’t turn the accelerometer off or change the velocity of individual notes after you’ve recorded them.
Guitarists: Keep $99 in the bank
GarageBand accepts guitar input through the iPad’s headphone jack — you just need an 1/8-inch cable and a 1/4-inch adapter for the guitar output — but it’s a worthless feature for now, because you can’t hear what’s going on. Unless I’m missing something, you can’t play audio through the iPad speakers while using the headphone jack for input. Guitarists will have to hold out for the Apogee Jam, a $99 adapter that runs through the iPad’s 30-pin connector. It launches on March 31.
I gotta have that cowbell
No seriously, Apple. Where’s the frickin’ cowbell? (Update: There’s a cowbell in one of the “smart drum” sets, but not in the actual kits that you can play manually.)
It’s still awesome
I’ve got even more nitpicks with GarageBand for iPad. It needs more effects. It could run faster on the iPad 1. There’s this annoying bug where the screen gets out of whack when you load the advanced help menu. But in the end, GarageBand is a self-explanatory music creation tool with great-sounding instruments, multi-track recording and quantization that’ll save even the worst drummers. All I want to do right now is get back to it.