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.

  • i was disappointed when i bought OSX 10.5.0 that it came with nothing to get started with while i saved the 3 thousand dollars to buy Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and Final Cut Pro. it would have been nice to at least play around with Garage Band, imovie, and iphoto with my personal projects. instead my Mac sat around for almost a year doing nothing except playing mp3's and DVD's…it forced me buy a 60 dollar akai s1000, fix the LCD on my roland W30, clean out the pads on my Casio RZ-1, and go back to making beats the 1992 way until the money came in…now i have to sell all my hardware to pay off the debt on the software i finally got. my personal photos and my personal videos are stilla mess. oh! i also spent a lot of time on CDM looking for free OSX audio software and i tried a bunch of it out and then tossed it out.

  • @regend: Ouch. I might have hung onto the W30, RZ-1, and S1000 and skipped out on the software.

    Well, Macs can run Linux. Just sayin'. All the software is free, and some of it is quite good.

    I mean, iLife is < $100. Are you enjoying the other software?

    (and yes, this encourages me to finally get our Recession-Compatible Workstation guide together)

  • Eoin Rossney

    I've had Logic for a few months now, and have recently renewed my efforts to get my head wrapped around it. While building my templates I wondered what it'd be like to build a basic writing template in Garageband and then (regularly) port that across to Logic. This coincided with upgrading to '09, and now I've actually kinda fallen in love with the Garageband way of doing things… GB seems to have almost all you really *need*, and none you don't.

    It's like the difference between Wordpad and MS Word/Pages – sometimes sticking to the more basic tool (basic in the context of a behemoth like Logic or even Live) feels like you're working more directly with the content. You can flesh it all out later, but for me it's fun to sketch in Garageband… YMMV.

    With the lessons, I've only bought the Ben Folds content but I'm impressed with the format. I *am* a big fan, but separately from the actual track being taught I was impressed with how thorough the lesson was and the level of 'immersion' for want of a better word. And there's enough to keep me going back: I'll definitely be jamming with the lesson version of the song a lot, and I enjoyed being able to solo/mute tracks so much that I'm starting to create minus-one tracks for some of my favourite 'jam' songs.

    I'd really love to see improv masterclasses popping up in the lesson store, I think this is the ideal format for that (Jamey Aebersold: Get in touch with Apple!). I think that's a good idea re user generated content Peter, though I can see Apple milking it for some time before they'd open that up…

  • @Peter – i agree…sometimes i like the hardware method. i'm also the rare user that uses multi PC's for different reasons…my XP and OSX box run the same apps for audio and my Linux Box's run Dyne:bolic. i even have a win98 box running Logic 5.5 to record my band Fosforo's rehearsals. however one of my newest interests is to start playing guitar and learning chords and improve my songwriting and GarageBand would have been a useful tool had it been included in my OSX purchase.

  • Autoy

    Regend, it's very weird what you say because as far as I know all macs come bundled with iLife since the PPC days.

  • Autoy, what he's saying is he didn't get it bundled with his Mac OS upgrade. And that would actually make some sense.

    I believe there's now a discount program that gets you up to date on both Leopard and iLife, even with multi-license family packs. It's a good idea.

    And for the record, Microsoft offers Windows Live, their nearest alternative, free – even if you're still on XP and not Vista. The difference is, Live is just apps, whereas iLife is really big — sample DVD themes, all those loops, etc. And there's no Windows Live Music Creator (though maybe there should be).

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  • samoan

    iPhoto is the app I opened once and never opened again. Never found any use for it at all.

  • @Autoy There is a retail version of 10.5.0 (which i happened to have bought when i got my iMac with 2.0ghz duo core 2) that does not have the bundled iLife stuff
    However, if i buy an upgrade to 10.5.5 i can get a discount on the new Leapord and iLife as Peter has outlined.
    At the moment I do not wish to upgrade to 10.5.5 as I am in the middle of a project that should have been done in December.
    When that's done I'll definitely upgrade.
    After I finish a major project I reformat my PC's and start fresh. After backing up critical data of course.

  • I decided to upgrade to iLife '09 based on the improvements to iMovie, which I use occasionaly, and the lessons in GarageBand. I never properly learned piano, and I'm kind of sick of having no "actual" music ability and having this 49-key midi keyboard in front of me. So far I've found the lessons to be just awesome. The simple cleanliness of the lessons was enough to inspire to at least try and learn a little bit, and so far (lesson 8, about done) it's been awesome. Combined with my previous musical knowledge, I actually feel like I can move from here and create things piano-wise. Point of my post: lessons are awesome, they do what they intend, and Apple makes it easy to get motivated. Worth the $79 to me for sure.

  • Autoy

    regend, if you bought an 2.0ghz duo core 2 iMac it should have come with 10.4.x and iLife '06 in a second disk which you can still install in 10.5.x, if it didn't there is something definitely fishy in your purchase. My point Peter is that you do get the current version of iLife for free in any new Mac you purchase, then you can upgrade for a reasonable price if something is valuable for you in the suite later on in the new versions. An no, Windows Live does not compare remotely as a creative suite.

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  • Tim In Phoenix

    I came to see if there was news on new Garageband lessons – nope. But, I've read a bit of the comments made about how Garageband is overlooked and I agree. Some say if you're not a musician you should pass it by – I disagree. While not as easy to work with as Sony's ACID, GB offers a great loop-based tool and a plethora of audio loops that are easy to place and mix. The audio markers tie everything to your key and tempo automatically, so it's almost impossible to create a bad mix. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that it's easy to create a great mix, but at least your tempo and key will be correct.

    Not a musician – Garageband can open the world of music to the most tin-eared of us out there.

    Also, Garageband 09 works with ACIDized loops as well as Apple Loops, so there's even more content available.

  • Xouleo
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