Apple’s latest GarageBand 08 is nothing if not pretty. It remains a fun way for Mac users to get their feet wet in music making, and hopefully, simple as it is, something like Magic GarageBand will include users to brave the GarageBand icon that comes factory-installed on their Macs.

But what about serious music making? There are still reasons to keep the latest GarageBand around. A streamlined interface makes applying effects much easier than before. Multi-take recording could make this version ideal as a sketchpad for recording ideas, even if you do the rest of your work in another tool. And finally, you can print notation.

Here’s a visual tour of the new software (click the thumbnails to open an interactive gallery):

GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images
GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images
GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images
GarageBand 08 images GarageBand 08 images

So, what about serious “pro” users? (I never liked the term “pro” in that I think it vastly oversimplifies the market, but you get the idea.) A Wikipedia article has been compiling examples of celebrity users, at least, which tend to fit in basic categories:

  • Loop users: This is probably the worst possible way to be recognized using GarageBand — having someone hear a loop they know comes with the program. Examples: the movie Constantine, and the fifth season of 24.
  • GarageBand for demos: Here’s a better way to use GarageBand — as a quick and dirty demo / sketch maker. Artists in this category: Courtney Love, Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, Panic! At The Disco.
  • GarageBand for fan remixes: Erasure and Nine Inch Nails have both let fans remix tunes with GarageBand. Interestingly, there have been more “fan remix” projects in Acid and Pro Tools, among others. Ableton Live would still be my choice for fan remixing, personally, but mostly we’ll have to see how this trend pans out.

I expect there are many more — I see Mac hardware almost every time I’m hanging around big-name musicians — though I also know many use other tools, like Live and Reason. GarageBand has perhaps gotten extra hype because it comes from Apple and it’s free. But it does have its uses: there are some nice instruments and effects there, and it works well as a linear sketchpad along other tools (including Logic, via Logic export).

Do you use GarageBand? Or did you dump the multi-gig GarageBand install to save hard drive space and leave you to focus on other tools?

  • Jemex

    i used garageband back in the day (iLife '05)i outgrew it though, function wise, and upgraded to Logic. the one good thing about gb is that it taught me a lot about production in a very smart, logistical way.

  • when I was a kid, if the Mac that my mom had in the house had garageband, I'd be freaking Dr Dre right now. (haha okay maybe not but I would have gotten into my own music making a lot sooner)

    I think its a great tool to get young kids into making music … but I dont really see it being used for finalizing tracks..

  • You can use "GarageBand loops" (aka Apple Loops) in Logic… FYI, Sean Callery, composer for "24", is a Logic user. Just my 2ç 🙂

  • I know a few big Swedish artists who use GarageBand, at least as a sketch pad before importing it into Logic.

    I like GarageBand, it's a lot of fun, ore than I can say about a lot of the major DAWs out there. However, for the type of music I make, and even more so because of my workflow, I don't see how I could produce an entire song in it. I just got the new iLife and it's gonna be fun to try out the latest incarnation of GarageBand.

  • Jerome, you're probably totally right there — it's a GB loop that found its way into Logic. I don't know whether that qualifies as "using GarageBand" or not. It does qualify as something I hope doesn't happen to me (i.e., having loops recognized)!

  • For podcasting GarageBand is excellent, my two new podcast series have been totally finished in GarageBand, including the graphics included for the extended podcast format. –Kent

  • If you don't like the term "pro" — and with valid reason — any ideas for better wording? "Serious", maybe, so as to not exclude hardworking artists that don't necessarily profit from it? That could have some misleading connotations too, though, I suppose…

    Personally, I've tried Garageband a bit, and it did some "fun tricks", but inability to change tempo during a song was the deal breaker. Plus, using freely included Apple software like that or iMovie, there are frequently times when I get the spinning beach ball without knowing exactly what it is I'm supposedly waiting for. It's still on my computer, but I never touch it.

  • ajeales

    Jean Michel Jarre's recent laptop produced "Teo and Tea" album includes prominent use of Garageband loops, according to the review in the latest issue of "Keyboard Player" magazine.

    • Jiri W Krecek

      Jarre uses Logic. GB loops are a part of free Logic distro.

  • I'm not a Mac user (I absolute HATE Apple Computers), but my bandmate and bestest friend aRvin is a Mac *maniac*–so we prettymuch have the best of both worlds when it comes to musical software in our band (Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, in case anyone's wondering).

    He and I have played around on GarageBand a few times and…well, it's really no different than Acid 3.0. The new version of Acid for the PC is absolutely amazing: it does everything that GarageBand does, and more. If Sony would finally pull their heads out of their arses and release Acid 5.0 Pro for OS X, GarageBand would be buried overnight.

  • We use GarageBand 2 to record music and podcasts. It's been a great tool, and is very easy to use. Someday I'll look forward to upgrading. Awhile ago I wrote a review of GarageBand 2 if you want to check it out:

  • Machines

    I used to use GB. I had the first version that came with iLife whatever. I thought it'd be really cool to produce an entire album in Garageband just to prove that it could be done at the time because the program took a lot of heat in the beginning. Then I found Logic and realized why GB was taking a lot of heat. It's a toy (at least it was then).

    I'm sure the new version incorporates all kinds of cool tricks that make it more useful, but anything for me would feel like I'm backtracking from Logic.

    However, now that I see that Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit uses it, I might have to rethink my choices. [/sarcasm]

  • Whether or not a "professional" would use it, really depends. Some people think a 1980s Casio synth is a toy, others make great music with them. I think GB is simple enough but also flexible enough to be the tool of choice for a professional with not much ambitions.

    GB can be used as a simple drum machine, you can arrange samples easily in an up to 1/64 th grid, and this is very fun. You can use AU software synths and effects, and now with '08 you can automate them, what else a creative mind needs?

    All this new technology results in menus and submenus (and submenus…), and this increases the distance between you and the music, which is just ultimately wrong. Tchaikowsky only had a pencil and some paper.

  • Eric

    The French techno duo Justice used Garageband and Cubase SE to make their well-received debut album – it sounds like they make heavy use of the distortion and amp-sim plugins!

    I'm a big fan of 08' already – the added effects flexibility (you can now drag/reorder effects and they upped the limit to 4 custom effects) and automation options make it a lot more likely I'll use it. On the Mac side, I have Live, Reaper and Garageband, and Garageband is still my host of choice for linear song recording – for my money, it's still the best example of the "one window interface".

    One disappointment in 08' is the "take management" – if I understand it correctly, the multi-take options only appear when you've recorded the takes in cycle recording mode (meaning you have to record the takes in immediate succession). I can see uses for this, but it's a pretty limited solution.

  • I dumped GarageBand and kept the loops to use in live. Kinda addicted to live…

    Call it a toy, but play is an important part of the creative process and I proudly play with toys…

  • Artemiy: That pencil and paper was capable of expressing certain things that Garageband can't.

    Granted, we can now make sounds that his orchestras weren't able to make (and vice versa) — but it's all kind of reined into this unchanging groove now, and Garageband reinforces that tendency.

  • A.M. Gold

    I have found Garageband a useful tool for making short pieces, industrial video soundtracks and the like. I almost always seek out or make additional loops to supplement the library loops. I don't have the latest version (yet? we'll see), but the new feature where you can group and move entire sections of a piece might make it somewhat more useful to me for songwriting as opposed to soundtracking. I wish the editing tools in Garageband were more robust, I like to edit parts of the loops to make new loops.

  • Eric


    It's definitely not a substitute for Beat Detective, but Garageband 08' has tempo automation (you edit an envelope in the master track), so there's no reason you need to be locked to a groove.

  • Question for everybody (maybe PK can requote or paraphrase this in a post so more y'alls see it): I hear a number of people say that, if nothing else, Garageband is a good foot in the door for people who are just starting out and learning to record. I'm not 100% sure I agree with this; I think the interface would be unnecessarily confusing for the newcomer. I have friends (yes, really!) who want to start recording and have little experience; what would you recommend they use? Incidentally, I use Tracktion, myself, and love the way it's laid out, but I rarely see it mentioned in comments on sites like this.

  • Adrian Anders

    GB=This generation's Acid. For better or for worse alot of kids are going to get started on GB and hopefully move on to greener pastures once they mature as producers or artists.

    I wish MS would do something similar on the PC side… sort of like Movie Maker, but for music (and hopefully alot more useful).


  • I've used it and think it's got enough to make music on.It's sound quality is good, it just lacks the flow and versatility that I get from Ableton. But as a program that comes installed on a mac, it has tons of audio uses that should not be over looked. What does windows give you? wav recorder?


  • Eric: is that new to 08?

  • Why I don't like "Pro": The problem is, the potential meaning here is too broad. There are extremely dedicated amateurs with extremely advanced skills. (And, likewise, you've got the classical/experimental world in which it's certainly possible to make money but often a struggle.) On the flipside, many real pros making lots of income with their music may be relative newcomers when it comes to technology, and there's nothing wrong with that. And all of this assumes some kind of easily-understood continuum. The fact is, people make lots of different kinds of music in lots of different ways, even before you add in the additional complexity of technology. And usually when I hear the word "pro", it's because someone is making some unfair decision about things average musicians really do need, whether they're pro OR amateur.

    My feeling is, ultimately this is about making music, as others say. So that's the question.

    Would I recommend GarageBand to beginners: yes, and I have. Some people are quite happy with it. The trick is, it does require some investment of time to understand. Hey, so do iPhoto and iMovie if you want to master them.

    I probably more often recommend Ableton Live, and I've gotten a lot of people coming back really happy with that. That depends heavily on what it is they want to do.

    Is the GarageBand interface confusing: Absolutely. I think it's very elegantly designed, but that doesn't mean it's immediately intuitive. I even found some elements kind of confusing at first, because of some features being hidden — ostensibly to improve usability. I know people who have used Ableton Live, too, and been really confused initially. I suppose there are two points here. One is, it's very hard to make easy-to-use music software, even for the likes of Apple with this reputation they have. Second, maybe it's not the usability the first time you use a program that's the most important. It's how usable / discoverable the app will be over time, which is very often a different matter.

    I think it's almost impossible to recommend *any* software blind; it's really ideal to give people some hands-on time with an app. I think that's why Ableton Live has spread so fast, in fact: more advanced users show it to the beginners and show them how it works. And that's just one example; people may be happy with Reason, or Pro Tools, or any other app.

    Windows software: Well, PCs may not have any bundled music software, but you're very likely to get something with your audience interface (Live Lite and Cubase SE are common), you have choices like Cakewalk Home Studio and Steinberg Segue … I think it's great what Apple does, but by no means are Windows users left out in the cold.

  • Well, what I really want to recommend to beginners is some kind of tape machine and mixing board, but besides the feasibility of that, for everything positive that tape taught me, it probably taught me just as much that I would then need to un-learn.

    (Fortunately I did everything wrong anyway when it came to tape, so once I had a computer setup I was a natural. 😉

  • GarageBand and Logic. Great tools to use together.

  • Personally I'm a Live person myself, but GB is cute like a kitty… and I like kitty cats. I'll probaby never use it, but if I were "just-getting-started" Joe I'd want to marry it.

  • Eric

    Keith: Yes, tempo automation is new to 08' (as well as automation of effects parameters). Also, you can now record in 24-bit. I appreciate what a skilled user can do with one of the flagship DAWs, but I think Garageband has reached the level where it could easily be everything that, say, a straightforward singer-songwriter, might need.

  • I've used it as a sketch pad before, taking the project into Logic Pro for the finer touches. I use it frequently for the creation of my enhanced podcasts.

    It's been an valuable tool in my collection. It has many uses.

  • More than being usable, capable or elegant, GarageBand is fun. That, more than anything else is what sucked me back into making music like 15 years after giving up completely on it.

    I've got much love for Apple, for making such a wonderful toy, then giving it away (pretty much) for free. Nothing less than that could have gotten me back into it, because, at that point, there was no way I was going to just go out and buy some music app. The first taste always has to be free 😉

    I wonder how many times my story has been repeated the world over?

  • Keith:

    In any case it's more about who's between the chair and the monitor. For what I do, what I like to do and what I need to do, GB does a great job. Granted you can add a few great plug-ins to it, and you can build a nice little studio.

  • Can anybody provide details on the new automation options in Garageband 08? I have a friend who uses GarageBand (no, really!) and he's been wanting to do more dub-style mixes, where he automates the send level on a delay or a reverb, and he's been forced to make separate tracks for those until now.

  • BearHunk44

    If you think GarageBand is free, think again. The cost of the software is added to the cost of your Mac so you pay for it when you buy the hardware, or included in the cost of the iLife suite.

    Nothin's free.

  • @BearHunk44 … ok, should have said "comparatively free".

    The price of a mac mini is quite favorable weighed with comparable PC hardware. You get nothing even close installed by default with windows on your PC.

    Ardour is about the closest thing on linux … it's for real free, and for real just about impossible to set up and use. It can be done, and it's worth it, if you're willing to put up with the pain of learning how. It ain't gonna be "fun" for a while, and it ain't gonna suck newbies into the vortex of awesomeness that is digital music creation.

    So by "free" I don't mean FSF free, and I don't mean "it cost nothing", I mean "it cost nothing beyond what I would have spent on a Mac in the first place".

    In my opinion, what you can do with GarageBand (esp now with version 3), justifies the purchase price of a mini alone, not to mention all the OTHER stuff you can do with it.

  • Lost

    I think i may be one of the first of the generation of users to use Garageband as Apple intended; as an entry point. I had a midi board and and audio interface and Cubase for a year or so for use with my old P3 PC. I never got it to work well. No plugins worked, I had no soundcard, no experience and i got nowhere. But when i got my Macbook a year or so ago i fired up garageband, plugged in my midi board and had a song finished in a couple weeks. It was like a dream come true at the time. No hassles, just music. I quickly outgrew it of course, with the help of this here site and several college courses and began feverishly downloading free Audio Units. Now i'm making my own Max patches, Reaktor ensembles and mixin' it all up with Live. But if it wasn't for Garageband 6 I'd still be banging my head against my old CRT.

  • Lost

    woops, garageband 2

  • Tom

    I love GB absolutely: Nice interface, easy to use and a well balanced feature set. The only thing I miss is MIDI out (I'm not lucky with the Midio AU). Another (hopefully temporarily) issue is the broken ReWire in the first release of GB '08: While rewiring GB '08 with Reason you will hear only one audio channel 🙁

    BTW, here is a cool site which described all the new stuff (even new details):

  • Peter Kearney

    Many of the producers in the "producer's masterclass" videos that Future Music have been doing use Garageband to get the skeleton of a track down, especially if they're on the road. It's super quick to try out various random loops and get some ideas going.. then just transfer your project over to your DAW of choice.

  • bliss

    I don't use GarageBand. I use loops, though. And I don't care if anybody recognizes them. Usually through some heavy processing and slicing they can't be recognized, but sometimes they can. I think that recognizing loops can be a charming thing. Kind of like recognizing that Crayola crayons have been used in a piece of art. Sure, it can be cheesy sometimes as well, but only if you think it's cheesy. 😉

  • Three (3) quick things i would change about garageband:

    preference to stop AUTO SCROLLING (screen bouncing from left to right when i reposition the playback cursor!)

    preference to stop AUTO RECORD MODE (feedback from laptop mic every time i restart a project? wtf?)

    ABILITY to zoom in and out as far as possible (to see entire project)

  • TJ

    There are extremely dedicated amateurs with extremely advanced skills.

    Who can use outside programs to generate the audio that is assembled (possibly effected) in GB.

    Where GB falls miserably short as a Pro tool is MIDI. But then, so does Logic Express, and to some extent Logic Pro (deep/creative MIDI editing is 8 years behind at least).

  • Alex

    I played around with it for a while but cannot get away from Live 6, which, for my needs has all the best features.

    I agree that to introduce youngsters to music it's a great tool.

  • I'm stuck on Windows for now. If any of you have experience with Sony Acid, MixCraft, Audacity, or other Windows products, I'm documenting my search for GarageBand for Windows at

    I would appreciate any comments or feedback.

  • Blafonio

    I'm new to Garageband, but have used Acid quite a lot. Acid is a great program that keeps geting better.

    I've been a Mac user since the very beginning, and hate to use PCs. GB seems to be a pretty good program that will let anyone be creative. I haven't got to where i think it's quite as good/intuitive/powerful as Acid, but I'm willing to work for it. John — just get Acid Studio and have fun.

  • wow i hav a real g. band lol