Apple GarageBand for iPad, iPhone review

Apple’s amazing claim for GarageBand for iOS 7, is that “It’s never been easier to make music like a pro. Even if you’ve never played a note.”

If you’re a serious musician you might find the iOS version of GarageBand a bit gimmicky, although it’s much more likely that you’ll appreciate it even more as a handy portable notebook, especially with the added connectivity that’s going to open it up as more third party instruments and effects become compatible, and that’s because GarageBand for iOS is basically making music by numbers, and I mean that in a good way. 

For those who can hear it all in their heads, but have no training whatsoever, and never felt confident enough to try and lay it down, the interface of GarageBand for iOS is nothing short of a miracle. 

Picking up GarageBand for iOS with no experience whatsoever, you could literally be making pleasing music for yourself, for those around you, and even virtual jamming with other people, with just a very little exploratory effort. Not bad for £2.99. And in fact you don’t have to spend even that much, because the app itself is free. The cost is for a “one time in-app purchase” which pads out the instruments and loops that come with the basic software.  

If you do buy the bundle though, you’re also going to get some top notch tuition and you can also purchase Artist Lessons separately (through the GarageBand Lesson Store) in which you get taught how to play particular songs by the musicians who made them famous. This array of possibilities means that a very wide range of users can find a lot to enjoy in this app.

There’s also a new sampler feature, which can sample any sound you care to input using the inbuilt mic in your iOS device.

Read next: How to get Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, GarageBand on iPad & iPhone for free

Quick Help’s labels mean you get more out of the fun new sampling function.

AirDrop and iCloud 

The kinds of users who might literally pick up their iPad or iPhone and decide to create a hit, may also be those most likely to make good use of the introduction of AirDrop in iOS 7.

Originally introduced with OS X Lion in 2011 AirDrop connects two devices with a dedicated mini WiFi network, allowing wireless transfer of files with no necessity for internet access. iOS devices currently supporting AirDrop are iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad mini, and the 5th generation iPod Touch.

You can also keep your tunes super accessible on any networked device through iCloud, add tunes to your iTunes library, create custom ring-tones, and share them directly to Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud.

Third party instruments in GarageBand

But GarageBand for iOS is not only more shareable for finished songs, long overdue innovations in compatibility are arriving thick and fast as well. It was only last April that Audiobus opened up the door into GarageBand for third party instruments and effects, but now Apple’s own new Inter App Audio (IAA) protocol allows audio to be transferred between different audio apps supporting this system so now you can open your favourite instruments and effects directly inside GarageBand.

Although this represents a massive step forward and will certainly expand the capabilities for GarageBand for iOS for more experienced musicians as well, work-rounds are required for teething problems. 

First of all, the graphic for IAA connections won’t show up in GarageBand’s instrument stream unless you have third party instruments already downloaded, so you need to download one and then you’ll see it on the instrument stream in the app. 

Once you’ve downloaded the instruments, trying to open them inside GarageBand is also currently a bit of a hit and miss affair. It seems a bit too much for GarageBand to line up your instruments and effects and simply choose one to open, and it’s often necessary to leave the app in order to open one third party instrument at a time and then go back and find it in GarageBand. 

The design of GarageBand’s amps and boxes now aims to replicate the real-life originals.

Tracks and other changes in GarageBand

Another big change in this version is the number of tracks available for each song. This depends on your device, with the full 32 only available on devices with the A7 chip. Most others can access a very respectable 16 tracks though, which is double the old capability. 

All this new functionality, as well as the sleek new look, including individual authentic designs for the classic amps and stompbox effects supplied makes it even more likely, of course, that folks will be taking advantage of GarageBand for iOS, including the jamming capabilities in which all recordings from a jam session are collected by one designated band leader and can then be mixed down before sharing. 

All these new changes come on top of the awesomeness of the app you already know and love, with the smart technology that allows you to choose how much you play and how much GarageBand will effectively play for you, you really can pick up this app and just start making music.

That’s why in this case I do buy Apple’s provocatively outrageous ad line about anyone playing like a pro. A word of caution however, they’ve made it so ridiculously easy to throw down your beats riffs, licks and grooves and share them with the world, that due to the danger of addiction, you really shouldn’t touch this app unless you’ve got plenty of time to spare.

Read our reviews of the other iOS iLife apps: Apple iMovie for iPad, iPhone / Apple iPhoto for iPad, iPhone 

OUR VERDICT

All these new changes come on top of the awesomeness of the app you already know and love, with the smart technology that allows you to choose how much you play and how much GarageBand will effectively play for you, you really can pick up this app and just start making music. That’s why in this case I do buy Apple’s provocatively outrageous ad line about anyone playing like a pro. A word of caution however, they’ve made it so ridiculously easy to throw down your beats riffs, licks and grooves and share them with the world, that due to the danger of addiction, you really shouldn’t touch this app unless you’ve got plenty of time to spare.

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