GarageBand 08

Apple’s GarageBand 08, unveiled today, focuses on addressing two major areas: for beginners, making entry into the program easier, and for experienced users, fixing some holes in previous versions. Despite its user-friendly interface and the fact that it comes free with new Apple computers, many average Mac users just didn’t dig into previous versions of this music creation tool. A new “Magic GarageBand” mode is clearly aimed at getting better saturation of this tool. The remaining features, while not necessarily earth-shaking, appear to seek to make GarageBand more well-rounded for music making by inheriting tools from Soundtrack Pro (multi-take editing, visual EQ), and fixing existing complaints (automation).

This is just a preview of what’s new, not a review. I’m curious to hear what you think, though, because it seems these two directions are very different, and sum up the challenge “beginner” programs face — who, exactly, is a beginner, and what do they want? GarageBand 08 represents very different ends of the spectrum, as you’ll see.

Here’s what Apple says is new (actual hands-on with the program still to come):

Magic GarageBand

Magic GarageBand: (That’s really what it’s called.) Select a genre, and GarageBand will walk you through adding an ensemble of virtual instruments. The eye candy is slick, and this should definitely take away any excuse a total newcomer might have for not getting into music making right away. But do you really need a wizard to tell you what should go in a country ensemble? (What’s that thing called? That thing you bang on? With sticks? Oh, yeah, drums! Now what about that other thing … that thing that’s like a board. A board covered with keys.)

Arrangements: Arrange songs by section. That’s it — but the implementation here is easy enough for anyone to use.

Multi-take recordings: GarageBand loops recordings in multi-take mode and saves each MIDI or audio take from which you can choose later. This has been one of my favorite features in Soundtrack Pro, so it’s nice to see it in GarageBand. It’s not new, but again, it’s implemented in a nice, approachable way — even more welcome as beginners and more advanced users alike often use GarageBand as a sketchpad.

Visual EQ

Visual EQ: As is all the rage these days, this lets you drag equalization curves to adjust sound rather than tweaking knobs individually, all with live visual feedback as far as what’s happening in the sound. It’s a design that makes sense, so I’m all for it. Apple hopefully says, “You don’t need to be an expert to tweak the sound of your mix in GarageBand. Using the built-in Visual EQ, you can adjust a track’s equalization simply by dragging the EQ bands until you get the sound you want.” Beginners say: “What’s equalization? What’s an EQ? What’s a band? Why does this still not sound right?” But this is a welcome change, especially with live equalization previews, and you can bet this is also a glimpse of what the next Logic’s effects will look like.

Automate tempo curves and instruments: ‘Bout time. Little details like this will make sure that those who want or need to work in GarageBand exclusively can get the job done. Best of all, this means you can change tempos. (Accel., at last!)

Vocals Jam Pack: A new jam pack with vocals — great. Unfortunately, no robotic automated instruments. Too bad; I’d love to hear Fred from the Mac voices sing along with my GarageBand tunes. How about a Daft Punk-style talkbox? No?

A little bit of cognitive dissonance: Someone is apparently leaning on the copy writers at Apple to make GarageBand friendlier to beginners — while not alienating pros. That was always the intent, but speaking as an author here, it ain’t easy. Get carried away, and you wind up writing copy that does sounds a little … well … let’s demonstrate.

What’s unfriendly to beginners … stays unfriendly:

Automation of tempo effects and instruments. Set multiple edit points in a track to automate EQ and effect changes like a pro.

Then concepts that should be easy start to sound hard:

Most songs are arranged in distinct sections: introduction, verse and chorus. GarageBand brings this kind of structure to your song. With the different sections clearly defined, you can rearrange your song at any time.

I only chuckle about this because I’ve had to go back and forth with editors of various kinds trying to get this stuff right. Glad I don’t have to work in marketing.

This looks, nonetheless, like a promising upgrade. While we wait for some hands-on time, Apple has already posted tutorials for this and the rest of the iLife 08 suite:

iLife Tutorials: GarageBand

  • Adrian Anders

    I don't know, how's about a NEW VERSION OF LOGIC PRO! Jeez Apple, first you make one of the better cross-platform sequencers mac-only, strip the development team to make your entry level POS, then let the high end rot.

    Should have left Emagic alone… We might be on Logic 11 or 12 by now, cross platform, plus Sounddiver I bet would still be around.

    That's what really got my goat about Apple these past few years.


  • Machines

    I gotta agree. Seeing "Magic Garageband" actually makes me fear for what might or might not be in the next iteration of Logic Pro. Magic Logic? *shudders*

    I'm generally a man of good faith when it comes to Apple and their products, but with no mention of a Logic update in years, I'm becoming extremely skeptical. I love the program, but there are things in it that need to be addressed.

    Basic things like the audio overload bug when Logic just can't seem to grab some samples until it realizes they are there during the overload message. Seriously? I'll never touch Logic for a live performance until the little things that seem so basic are addressed.

    I don't need Logic 8 "PRO TOOLS KILLER." I need to know that the company that purchased my favorite sequencer still sees it as a valuable commodity and isn't spending all their R&D time making silly looking performance stages for my grandma to mess around on while she's putting a slideshow together. Magic Garageband looks cheap and silly. I'm sure it'll be very useful to those who want to spend time with it, but I'm on my Mac for professional reasons and nothing about Magic Garageband screams professional, or useful, to me.

  • Machines

    Oh, and to address the comment from Peter about "you can bet this is also a glimpse of what the next Logic’s effects will look like." Honestly, I hope not. I spent a lot of time gaining, developing and fine tuning the knowledge I have about music, be it composing, production or what have you. I don't want it dumbed down for me. I don't want an EQ in a professional program to look like what's picture above at all. Nothing about that screams $1000 to me.

    If this really is a glimpse of what Logic is to become, it's a shame and all my fears over the neglect Logic has gotten over the last few years are coming true. Leave the lowest common denominator for the bundled in music program in iLife. Me, I'll take the program that costs $1000 and works and looks like the professional application it is supposed to be.

    Ok, I'm done ranting.

  • Let me put it to you this way: I'm press, and I knew nothing of iLife 08 until the announcement yesterday. You're likely to hear about the next Logic pretty close to when it actually ships. There isn't a tighter ship in the industry as far as information leaks. (Part of the reason Apple buttoned down in that way is they got in a lot of trouble pre-Jobs with leaks of vital information. They used to be known for being leaky.)

    I think it would be a fairly safe prediction to figure that with iLife out, Logic isn't far behind. I can also tell you that Apple told me their pro apps added 9 months during which they did nothing but port to Intel. (I think part of what happened with the Intel port in general was that people overhauled existing code bases.)

    Look back at the original effects "eye candy" upgrade that Soundtrack Pro 2 gave Logic's effects, and you have a pretty safe bet what Logic's effects will look like. STP didn't dumb down anything; it was literally a reskinning. I have no idea how deep changes will be in Logic, but even if you just took the existing EQ and added draggable curves on top of a live analysis of the sound, I wouldn't complain. They're not going to make them *function* the way the GB effects work — those are intentionally dumbed down.

    Apple has always treated Logic as a high-end product and GarageBand as the entry-level tool, so I expect "MagicLogic" would be pretty unlikely. Not impossible … but unlikely.

    Anyway, the wait on Logic is VERY unlikely to be much longer, let's just leave it at that. Why not discuss the next Logic when it ships? If it sucks then, I promise I'll join in your rage. In the meantime, Logic still has a lot of depth; if I were stuck with a MacBook Pro for the rest of time, I'd keep making music with it. (Shout out to you remaining Studio Vision Pro users — we know you're out there.)

  • Incidentally, Machines, I do agree with you in terms of some of Logic's issues — no question. But that's also why I'd rather wait longer and hopefully get a better update for it. There's just no way to know whether Logic has been neglected or loved until we see what they've been doing. I don't think three years is all that outrageous a period between major updates (with some significant intermediate upgrades during that time and a huge block of time spent doing nothing but Intel). Development is a huge challenge with any complex software. If they got it wrong, we'll find out. Hopefully they got it right.

    In the meantime, look at Soundtrack Pro:

    * Multi-take recording

    * Non-destructive waveform editing

    * Action layers

    * Reskinned effects

    * Lots of surround functionality

    * Deep integration with Final Cut

    * Solid integrated video

    Now we see some of those prettier effects and multi-take recording show up in GarageBand. Ignore Magic GarageBand for a moment, and just notice that those features were in Soundtrack Pro first (and much more advanced, as they should be).

    I can say with utmost confidence that I'm making this up; I have no super-secret contacts at Apple telling me this. But you don't need them. Fair bet would be, given that the above are generally not in Logic, they might show up there soon. 😉

  • EJ

    If we're going to get into rampant speculation, the Magic Garageband might hint at something cool for Logic users – isn't it basically just a prettified, simplified version of Live-style clip-launching? That's the impression I got when they showed building up arrangements in Magic GB.

    The thing that's driven me crazy about Garageband, which I'd love to use as a sketchpad, is the lack of control over latency. Even on the low latency setting, Garageband can decide that your CPU use is too high and arbitrarily increase latency to a really annoying level (it sounds like 1000 samples or more), and even freezing tracks won't reverse the latency increase.

  • Machines

    Agreed, Peter. I had forgotten about the facelift that Soundtrack had received and that wasn't the end of the world. I'm sure we'll all be presently surprised and I look forward to what Apple brings to the table next with Logic. I just wish they were coming to dinner this evening instead of at an unspecified time 😉

  • bliss

    That "Jazz" tab looks like a cover of a famous Miles Davis Prestige recording. Does Magic GarageBand have a swing function? LOL!

  • paulo

    See… This bugs me. There already is tendency for mac users to believe that they should make music, videos, whatever on their computers simply because they can. And it bugs me that Apple actively forces that mentality when they add an extremely dumbed down mode to their GarageBand software.

    Seriously, how much more bad media must the world stand coming from mac users? Have some common sense. If you can sort of hack at doing something with your computer it doesn't necessarily mean that you should.

  • Danny

    I though the same thing as bliss about the Jazz cover.

    The interesting thing with "Magic" type of tools – there to help people easily express themselves…is that a lot of the time they end up making everyone sound and look the same. I don't know if there is a way to avoid it when trying to make things accessible but I sure hope that the dumbing down doesn't trickle up. Also, for the love of god, if I have to sit through another iPhoto slideshow with "kens burns effect" turned on I believe I will pull my hair out.

  • Entasmiquity

    I am the quintessential Garageband user–I love to write pop songs, but haven't the time, inclination, or talent to master Logic. While I once used tape based four-tracks, I've now moved to computer-based recording w/ GB, which offers just enough advanced features to get the job done without over-complicating matters.

    That's why I was scared to see Steve introduce the silly and soporific bloatware that is Magic Garageband yesterday. It really looks like an abomination, a waste of valuable HD space.

    But I was so glad to see the other features–like multiple takes, automation, visual EQ–that have long been on my wish list. I think Steve really cheated loyal GB fans in the way he presented GB at the event yesterday. It's a nice update (though perhaps not a major one), with one glossy, shiny, tacky ornament tacked onto it.

    I'm looking forward to trying out the whole new iLife suite.

  • Can we have fractional tempos, please?

    I know, I know … confusing for beginners, but how hard would it be to put a check box in the preferences that turns on midtempo support?

    "Magic GarageBand" looks hideous. What the hell were they thinking? The rest of the interface is so polished, and this screenshotlooks like some mid-90's half-assed attempt at "virtual reality". The concept is decent, but those graphics make me think twice …

    It's cool to add vocals to the Jam Packs.

    Something else they should do is some integration with ccMixter. There are a TON of great (free) pells up on that site. All they need to do is maybe spit some $$ at creative commons to support converting them all to AppleLoop format and put a SOAP interface or something in front of it, and there you have it … bad ass vox you can drag and drop onto your beats.

    'Cause I mean … speaking only from my own experience. That's how this thing is used by a great many people. You get a nice beat going, you can't rap, and so you hit google looking for rap pells and end up on ccMixter.

    Just sayin' …

  • @Paulo: In Apple's defense — what about *casual* computer users who are serious musicians? (And serious musicians can mean anyone who enjoys making music; I'm not going to make any judgments about quality there.) Shouldn't it be up to the musician to discover whether or not they have talent, not the software?

    It's going to be hard for me to cover how little I like Magic GarageBand as a feature — let's just say it seems to me to be counter to the tradition of genuine usability Apple themselves have helped establish. I would question whether it actually makes the software easier to approach, or whether it's just demo-ready eye candy. But the concept of beginners using music software I certainly wouldn't protest.

  • Cloud

    Good God all you people do is complain. You're getting a Midi sequencer /audio recorder with 24 bit support, FX, loops AND software instruments for (when you factor in the other software in the iLife suite) about $20.00.

    That is a steal.

    If you don't like Magic Garageband then don't use it. It's only about $1.50 of the entire app.

  • spinner

    I don't need elastic audio I got Live…..

    Integrate the Jack audio router into Logic and give me the ability to record plugs and Rewire instrument straight to the track and I'll be happy.

  • Ryan

    OK… That screen shot of the instruments on stage looks VERY familiar. I could swear I saw a virtual band software a few years ago that looked just like it. Can anyone identify what it was?

  • Actually, I can think of a few applications that have virtual stages like that … most recently Akoustik Piano and VERY recently Cakewalk Studio Instruments, but I think there are various others.

  • Paul


    See, I'm all for everyone making their own versions of some emo song about how some girl/guy don't dig on them. Doesn't mean I want to hear it, necessarily, but I want folks to feel like they've got it in them to write them… because eventually, if they've got something unique and worthwhile to say, it'll come out.

    More power to bringing fire down from the mountain, even if that means a few crappy songs have to come out of the woodwork first.

  • sqook

    Shouldn’t it be up to the musician to discover whether or not they have talent, not the software?

    @Peter: Those of us who dropped 1000$ for Logic Pro would like to think not!

  • Logik

    I have it from very good authority that the next Logic is going to be very good, and will certainly improve usability in major ways, and isn't tooooo far away.

  • ehdyn


    Toatl B.S.

    You don't know anything about the next logic. No one does. Believe me, I've tried to find out.

    Could you possibly be any more vague?

  • Logik


    Not BS actually, but I can understand why you'd think so. You're free to believe or not as you choose of course.

    I was deliberately vague because the person I met (quite randomly actually, and this was a while back – just after WWDC) was obviously deliberately vague and couldn't say a lot, and because I certainly don't want to get anyone in trouble.

    However, this longtime Logic user came away from the encounter with a solid feeling there's new goodies not too far away for the loyal, though probably not of the world changing type (like, say, the iPhone "might" turn out to be).

    Time will tell, but I'll be sticking with Logic, (and Soundtrack Pro, and, Live, and GarageBand, and Reaktor, and Max and … ) and will try to not to waste my time buying any more plugins 🙂

  • @ehdyn: I'll say it again. Apple doesn't allow information out before the release of a product. I'd ask people not to discuss information that's not yet public. That said, I think the idea that "there will be another Logic" is broad enough that people ought to be able to reach the conclusion on their own.

    Apple has generally done a good job of supporting their pro apps. In the case of the one exception, Shake, they were upfront about discontinuing development and support and offered a rather generous price discount in return — as well as promising a new product in its place (though we've yet to see that yet).

    I think there's no reason not to wait for the software to arrive and see what you think of it then. You certainly have alternatives if you don't like Logic: Cubase, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Tracktion, Ardour (which is even open source), and Ableton Live, on the Mac alone. All those applications benefit from features of the underlying Mac operating system, as well. You even have plug-in development from developers that have traditionally been Windows-only in the past (Image Line, creators of Fruity Loops, and Cakewalk, for instance).

    This has definitely been a longer development cycle from Apple than from those other developers. I imagine you'll know very soon whether the wait was worth it for you.

  • oscillations

    Wow, lots of complaining about the new magic garageband.

    I don't get why.

    See, they're not aiming for you or I, loyal CDM readers, with magic garageband. They're not trying to lure people away from Ableton (for example); they're trying to get more people hooked on making music. They're trying to make the pie bigger. And that's fine with me – the more people making music and buying music making tools, the better tools we'll get!

    The end goal seems to to really empowering the user – to make it easy, FUN even, for grandma to make music, work with photos, and edit videos.

    Or look at it this way – at least they didn't do to GB what they did to imovie. 🙂 I honestly think the new imovie is a great step forward usability wise, but to omit themes or video effects is kinda insane. To the point that they're sill making old imovie available to those who bought ilife 08.

  • I don't object to Magic GarageBand in theory — I think the question is whether it actually makes it more useful and fun to make music, or whether the interface is a distraction. I'll have to test it to make that call.

  • bliss

    I just thought that the Magic GarageBand was looking a bit too much like the iTunes Music Store. Anyway, it's obvious that Apple wants people to choose it's computers to for creative endeavors. So if they can hook beginners today then it will be easier to hook professionals tomorrow.

    The biggest flaw of the product is its name. Magic GarageBand doesn't sound good. The two terms are not made for each other. Either it's called Magic or it's called GarageBand. Not both. Personally, I don't like "Magic" at all. Why didn't they just call it Abracadabra GarageBand? Presto GarageBand? or Insta GarageBand, just add water? They're all just as good as Magic GarageBand, and they all make you feel like barfing. So will they get Magic Johnson or Olivia Newton-John to do the promo spots? The Amazing Randy?

  • Damon

    I always found garage band a bit peculiar in practice. The transport controls were too clever to be intuitive. If I remember right, you had to use the computer keyboard "hot-keys" if you wanted to pencil in notes. Now, if they want the user to eventually move up to some version of logic, you would think the design could be a bit more consistent with logic.

    Maybe apple should move the garage band employee cubicles a bit closer to the logic employee cubicles. That way folks actually have to communicate with each other.

    I think apple is so intent on being revolutionary, that they forget to be practical. Apple recently redesigned their software download page, and trying to figure out how to access the programs you wanted demanded a bit of gratuitous poking around.

    "If you can answer these 3 questions, the gate keeper will reveal the secret door to the audio downloads."

    Yes, form is lovely, but if you forget function, you have missed the point. I am reminded of BMW motorcycles. I don't ride one, but many of the controls on a BMW are said to be completely irrational. And quite different than any other brand. Fine for long time riders, distracting for new riders.

    I am not sure being different is worth the price of being inadequate. Apple designers should focus on what the customer needs, not what the designers find whiz bang groovy. Leave the creative artsy thing to the appearance, but keep the design process firmly planted in the left brain. It is apple, not orange.

    The user experience should be efficient and fun, not peculiar and hallucinogenic.

  • Wouldn't it be great if Apple buys 'Band in a Box' and also Stephen Kay from Karma Labs and makes a 'happy magic style scratchpad'.

    It's a good idea to make complex programs have a solid 'beginner/intro' feel so that anyone can use them, from early days to pro-level. As a design philosophy, I applaud that.

    As for Logic 8, I hope they rename it to a new V1.0 of something, and take all that's good with Logic, gene splice it with lessons learned from Garage Band and SoundTrack Pro.

    By moving to a more unified code-base, and by releasing applications with feature-sets constrained to certain use-cases, Apple is apparently trying to 'do a good job' for specific use-cases. That is, get the 'beginner' use case down, then the 'garage band' use-case, then the 'sound track' use case. As you can see, the code is shared between them (i.e. visual eq). It's a good idea for Apple to code based on use cases.

    Eventually, when they figure they've got the various use-cases right, and a solid understanding of personas, they can stich it together to build a 'logic 8' (or whatever) that's a genuine improvement.

    My 83 pence.

  • Bogo

    Yeah, MagicGB looks rediculous and is just a visual companion to the loops that were already there, they just put it all together for you, so less creativity is required. (Maybe once in a blue moon it would be nice to jam without needing other people or music written)

    But no one here has mentioned probably THE best upgrade to GB (it's a shame you can't just get GB by itself)

    You can record 24-bit audio with up to 192khz now!

    I've used pro apps, Pro Tools etc, on PCs, but as a musician I admit, even if I get good at using those apps to their full potential, I'm spending time getting to be a better producer and none as a better musician or songwriter. That's why I love GB, but I was pissed that 3.0 didn't support higher audio quality, BUT NOW IT DOES! And you can print out Midi now, a big plus for composers who don't have much $$ to waste (alot of them out there, I'm sure) and Visual EQ is nice as is more automation and Piano automation means you can record Midi piano that sounds more natural, less stiff. Anyway, Seems worth the 80 bucks to me.

  • I think the "Magic" Interface has been used in other music applications before.

    However, I wouldn't count this feature out entirely. If they are just "testing the waters" of auto accompaniment programs like Band-in-a-Box, Jammer, etc. then this could simply be the tip of the iceberg, and perhaps if they could make this feature into a full-blown audio (not MIDI) based auto-tune generator they would have a pretty kewl feature — if for nothing else than warm-up/jamming/practicing or just taking a plain old "noodling break" during a composition session.

  • paulo

    @ Paul and Peter's responses

    I see the point and I'm all for making computer aided music accessible. I guess I just fail to see from my experience how the absence of a more simplified tool, such as GB, would stop a serious musician from getting to his creative goals.

    Though if one makes something really good of it, then it's something good and that's a strong case enough for it.

    Pardon my silly venting.

  • Seba

    I haven't read through all the responses here, but on the Logic issue, am I the only one who doesn't expect to see anything until well after Leopard is released? Seems logical to me…sorry… 😉

  • john

    GarageBand is fun. Logic is fun. Both are useful. But when they upgraded GB, the minimal support to my Mackie Control Universal went out of date. SO now I have to hope for an update from Logic I guess, to be able to use the big buttons on my Mackie Control. I just want my big buttons to work in both. Is the patch already out there somewhere?

  • JVH

    why doesn't it have more extensive midi clock features?

  • Mibrilane

    I think it's fairly obvious by now that Logic Pro 8 (or Logic Studio or whatever they're going to call it) will rely on several technologies in Mac OS 10.5, and thus we are unlikely to see it introduced before Leopard ships.

    Things I'd like to see in the next Logic:

    a) Multi-take features from SoundTrack Pro and GarageBand '08.

    b) Integration of SoundDiver synth editors.

    c) XML patchlist support.

    d) A less dark color scheme.

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  • Slashh!

    I've been using Garageband (version 1.1) for 3 years now. I've updated my computer and have to reinstall some software, so now is the perfect time to buy Garageband 08. But I see that it came out over a year ago. So I'm concerned, is there another version of Garageband on the horizon (meaning I should wait), or should I go ahead and get it now without fear of a new one being introduced thirty seconds after I buy it.