GarageBand was an instant hit with Mac-owning musicians when it was first released, due to the simple fact that it was a lot easier to use than most existing music software. However, GarageBand is still a little intimidating for those of us that don't have much experience of creating our own music.
So, to make it a bit more accessible to complete beginners, GarageBand '08 includes a new feature called 'Magic GarageBand'. Like 'Magic iMovie' and 'Magic iDVD' this feature is designed to help you create a complete GarageBand project in a matter of seconds. Click on the 'Magic GarageBand' option shown in the program's Welcome screen, and you'll see a list of nine musical genres, such as rock, funk, and reggae.
Each genre provides you with a readymade song that includes instruments such as guitar, bass, drums and piano. You can then modify that song by altering each instrument – perhaps using a thumb-slapping bass style for a funkier sound, or adding a twangy pedal guitar to a country song. The program's interface here is perfect – it simply displays a picture of a 'virtual stage' with each instrument in its place.
To change an instrument you just click on it with the mouse and select the new instrument from the options shown at the bottom of the screen. Apple says there are around 3,000 different permutations of instruments you can experiment with – just remember that the basic song you've chosen doesn't change. All that changes is the playing style of each instrument within that particular song.
There's also a spot for you in this virtual band. Click on the spotlit area at the front of the stage and GarageBand will add another track to the song into which you can record your own vocals or instrumental parts. Finally, just click Create Project and GarageBand will assemble all the musical tracks and effects together and then display them in its main editing window so that you explore your new song and experiment with different sounds. This is a great idea for encouraging new users to experiment with GarageBand so that they can then move on and create their own original compositions.
However, GarageBand '08 also includes a number of new features aimed at more experienced musicians. The audio quality has been improved, with 24-bit recording options and a new visual equaliser that provides fine control over frequency adjustments. One clever new feature is the ability to record multiple takes within a specific marked section of a song. The program will automatically loop through this section over and over so that you can keep recording your vocal or your amazing guitar solo until you get it right. And once you've finished recording a song you can quickly divide it into sections such as verse and chorus and move these around to alter the structure of the song.
These new advanced features make GarageBand '08 a must-have upgrade for existing users, while Magic GarageBand will encourage even complete beginners to start making their own music. And that, after all, is what the Mac is all about.
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