By David Wysocki
So for whom is GarageBand designed? Well folks like me, for one. I know I'm not alone out here. You know who you are...you have two musical "left feet", a tone deafness that is an embarrassment when you're out in public, and a singing voice that makes people immediately go in search of ear plugs. Yes, those years of music lessons that your parents seemingly wasted a small fortune on may now be dusted off and put back into use with this software. Quite frankly though, you actually don't need any musical experience to have fun and create pieces of music without leaving that comfortable chair in front of your computer. The only thing required of the user is an ear for what musically sounds good to them and the desire to create songs. Oh, and maybe the ability to drag-and-drop...because that is one of the main functions used in GarageBand...the ability to drag musical loops from GarageBand's browser and drop them in a musical line.
Once you install and open GarageBand you are presented with the initial dialog box asking how and where you want to create your song.
One hundred twenty beats per minute, Key of C and 4/4 time are also the default setting, but you can change them to whatever suits your ear...you want 90bpm, Key of C#, and 5/4 time? No problem (though I'm not quite sure what that will sound like...), just change the settings and away you go. The default Save location is inside the Garage Band folder. After saving you are presented with the starting window for your first GarageBand song. For a more detailed explanation I would recommend consulting the PDF you can obtain from Apple http://manuals.info.apple.com/Apple_Support_Area/Manuals/software/GarageBandAtAGlance.pdf Basically, you select an instrument in the lower left corner of the window, select the style, or mood, you are looking to express, and then drag that loop from the Results list on the lower right to the Timeline in the upper right portion of the window. Then it's just a matter of selecting more loops and/or instruments and continuing to layer your selections in the Timeline.
For instruments, you get Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Guitars, Bass, Strings, Drums or Drum Kit, Beats, Percussion, Synthesizers and Strings. The styles you get to choose from (but are not limited to) are Rock, Blues, Urban, World, Electronic, or Country. Then, add to the mix the tone you you desire: Clean, Acoustic, Relaxed, Cheerful, Intense, or Dark for starters.
You will spend most of your initial time learning to work with loops. Loops are small musical snips of a particular instrument in various moods. With the initial GarageBand, you get over 1000 loops. Just select a loop from the Results list and double-click it to preview the sound. If you like it, add it to your song; if not, just move on to the next loop in the list.
Finally, once you feel you have that hit ready to 'go in the can,' you select File>Export to iTunes. In iTunes, you are given your own album, with you as the artist and your selected file as the track name.
As with its iCousins before it (iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD and iTunes), Apple has created an extremely user-friendly application aimed at all phases of those interested in creating computer-generated music. This app also fleshes out iLife in that it gives you the ability to create your own background music for the iMovie that you have created, using those photos that you have lovingly organized in iPhoto, just before sending it to iDVD. Unfortunately you cannot obtain GarageBand as a standalone, you need to purchase the whole iLife suite. But considering all that you get, in my humble opinion, it is a truly great deal.