GarageBand ’09 review
In previous versions of GarageBand, you could play real instruments through the program’s amplifier simulations (or apply those simulations after the fact) as well as apply effects to that instrument. But many people missed these features as they weren’t easy to find.
GarageBand ’09 includes interface changes that make many features more obvious (as I discuss later), and none more so than the guitar amps and effects.
Not only did GarageBand’s designers bring these guitar features to the fore, but they completely rebuilt the amps and effects from the ground up.
These features are found in the new Electric Guitar tracks.
These tracks are real instrument tracks that place one of five amp models (modeled after Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Vox, and Fender Combo and Tweed amps) front and center.
You can easily change amps as well as adjust the settings of each amp - the amps carry knobs for adjusting Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble, Presence, Master, Output, Reverb, Tremolo Rate, and Tremolo Depth. (Those who find adjusting virtual knobs clumsy with a mouse will be happy to learn that you can click on a knob and then twist it by moving a mouse’s scroll wheel up or down.)
You can also edit the amp’s master echo and reverb settings. The work that went into these amp models is apparent - they sound very much like the real deal, complete with noise when you’ve cranked them up.
The new Electric Guitar tracks support modeled amps and stomp box effects.
Electric Guitar tracks use stomp box effects - effects modeled after the small effect boxes that routinely litter the floor around electric guitar players.
Stomp boxes include Phaser, Overdrive, Distortion, Fuzz, Chorus, Flanger, Vibrato, Filter, Delay, and Sustain. You can have as many as five stomp boxes at a time and changing the position of where the stomp boxes appear in the interface changes the sound coming from the track (so the boxes work in serial order).
Each stomp box includes an On/Off switch as well as knobs for adjusting the parameters of the effect. The stomp boxes also sound very much like the real deal.
You’re welcome to create your own arrangement of amps and stomp boxes, but before you do you might care to try one of the 37 included presets.
If you want to sound like The Edge from the early ’90s, for example, choose Dublin Delay. Dick Dale wannabes can dial in Surf, which features the Combo amp with a fair bit of amp reverb and tremolo and a Sustain stomp box.
Before you toss your outboard gear in favor of GarageBand’s amps and stomp boxes, note this crucial omission - like much of the rest of GarageBand, amps and stomp boxes can’t be controlled via MIDI, and that’s a shame.
Guitar players like to kick in effects as they play and the only way to do that in GarageBand ’09 is to take your hand off the guitar and click a stomp box’s virtual buttons. You can control parameters for stomp box effects after the fact using GarageBand's automation controls, but it’s not the same thing.
Electric Guitar tracks demand some way to stomp a real switch while you’re playing and a MIDI controller is the means. It’s time, Apple.