GarageBand App For Practicing - Part 2 (Quick Tour)

Before we get started let me remind you that we will be using GarageBand for Apple iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.  We will not be using GarageBand for the Mac.  While many of the features you will see in these blog posts are also on the Mac version, the iOS version has some special features that won't be available on the Mac.  This is because of the unique touchscreen interface found only on the iOS version of GarageBand.

Also, I'll be posting screen capture images taken from an iPad.  So, iPhone users may have to hunt a bit more to find the same features, but they are there.

One last thing, I'm assuming you know nothing about GarageBand, so I'm going to take this form the very beginning.  For those of you who catch on to this kind of thing quickly these posts may go to slowly for you.  If so just skip ahead to another blog post (or wait for another one), otherwise stay with us as we walk through this.

GarageBand Basic Functionality

OK, lets look as some basic functionality.  When you launch GarageBand you will probably start with a screen like this:

If you don't see the demo song "Curtain Call" you can follow these instructions to re-create it.  If you do see the demo song you can skip down to the next section.

  1. Tap “Settings” on your iPad or iPhone
  2. Scroll down until you see the GarageBand icon.
  3. Tap the GarageBand icon.
  4. Set “Reset GarageBand” to “Yes”.
  5. Tap “Settings” in the upper left hand corner to exit Settings.
  6. Tap GarageBand again and you should see the demo song "Curtain Call"
Tapping on the demo song should open up the file to look something like this:

We need to do one more thing, which is to expose the track controls.  So, tap on the tab-like thingy here, a slide to the right to expose the track controls:

When you are done it should look like this:

Now you can see the both the Control Bar (top of the window) and the Track Controls (left side of the window).

With the Control Bar (below) you can adjust the following for the whole song:
  • Play, pause, and rewind
  • Move position slider
  • Adjust master volume
  • Start/stop recording (more on that in a later blog)

With the Track Controls (below) you can adjust the following for the individual track(s):
  • Solo or Mute a track
  • Adjust track volume
  • Show/hide track controls

Take a minute, put on some headphones or connect your iPhone or iPad to some speakers, and play around with these controls.  They are intuitive so I won't go into much detail, except to explain the difference between "muting" and "soloing" a track.

"Muting" a track will turn it "off".  Try it!  While the song is playing, tap the "mute" icon on different tracks.  You will hear the tracks toggle on/off for each tap.

"Soloing" a track will turn "off" all other tracks, except the track you tapped.  Try that too!

Believe it or not, that's all you need to know about the basic functionality of GarageBand to start using it as a practicing tool.

One last thing...

GarageBand sounds great!  Really!  The instruments are high quality and sound very close to the real thing (all you audiophile guys out there, cut me some slack here, please?) so it is in your best interest to get a good set of headphones or use external speakers.  While the white "ear buds" that came with your iPhone/iPad are good, they just won't reproduce the quality of the GarageBand instruments due to their small size.  And the built-in speakers on either the iPhone or iPad are not intended for this either.

The kind of headphones I'm talking about are often called "cans", and look something like this:

They come in all sorts of price ranges, but generally a good quality set of headphone for your practicing purposes will be from $50.00 to $100.  You can spend more, but unless you've got really good ears, you may not notice the difference.

IMHO, headphones for less than $20 (like below) are going to be a disappointment:

When is comes to external speakers, just about anything will work.  You will want to have at least stereo speakers (left and right), but something with a sub-woofer would enhance things a bit too.  Again, prices and brands vary widely, but a good price would be $40 and up.  Look for "computer speakers" or more commonly called "multimedia speakers" if you want something self-contained.  These usually have their own power amp and are well suited to use with your iOS device.  Of course if you've got an 8-gazillion-dollar home stereo system, you can use that too.

I strongly suggest avoiding something like these:

External speakers have an advantage in that there's no extra cable to get in the way of your playing.  On the other hand they don't allow for late night practicing like headphones can.

Next time we will take a look at Smart Guitar with GarageBand.


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