Chris Breen at Macworld does exceptional, tough reviews of consumer sound software. He’s tackled GarageBand ’09 in depth in a review published this week at If you’re a beginning user, this review is for you – and if not, Chris will help you understand what that perspective is like for countless typical Mac users:

Unless you have an active interest in producing podcasts or creating a musical score, it’s likely you’ve opened GarageBand once and then never bothered with it again. Of all the programs that make up the iLife suite, none is more overlooked than this application. And, given its original focus, that’s not too surprising. Making music requires a skill not common in the general population of computer users.

Review: GarageBand ’09 | Macworld

I’ve gotten to spend some time with this review as the tech editor for the story, and testing GarageBand along with it, I definitely agree. The new lessons are really terrific – they won’t teach you to play, necessarily, but they’re polished, and they can whet musicians’ appetite for additional training options and real music lessons. The guitar effects sound terrific. The UI has been improved in subtle but significant ways that make things easier to find.

The one real disadvantage of the new version is that these terrific-sounding guitar effects don’t support MIDI control. They do support automation, but you can’t control them with anything other than the mouse.

To me, that means you may actually struggle to find a reason to get this upgrade on its own – which would be a problem, except that you’re either getting the new release with a new Mac or are also getting major upgrades to iPhoto and iMovie. So, okay — there’s your reason. And for people with an older version wanting to get into something simple, I’d still easily recommend GarageBand.

If it’s video lessons that interest you, though, Chris has done a complete overview of video instructions options on the Mac. If you do get GarageBand 09, I think you’re likely to hunger for more than Apple currently offers, making this a useful resource. And if GarageBand 09 doesn’t interest you, this gives you some other choices for computer-assisted music learning.

Learn to play an instrument | Macworld

Incidentally, it’s too bad Apple doesn’t offer a way for musicians to build their own lessons in GarageBand; I think that’d be a big hit.

All of that said, I do think Apple is doing a whole lot to make music software more accessible to the first-time user. The fact that GarageBand is just there on a new Mac, and that steps in 09 make sure that if you click the icon you get something friendly and musical, really is significant.

Using the new GarageBand? Do let us know what you think of it.