As part of their iLife ’11 suite – US$49 or free with a new Mac – Apple announced their updated release of GarageBand.

Consistent with the relationship of the two products, much of what’s here has been inherited from Apple’s flagship Logic, albeit in a simplified form that’s friendlier to newcomers. That means several of Logic’s features from last summer have now made their way into the entry-level tool.

I will not resist the temptation to add some color commentary; after all, you already know where to find

  • Flex Time As in Logic, you can now adjust parts of a waveform rhythmically. It’s a nice feature, not only for cleaning up parts but for creative work. (This stuff hasn’t yet become the rhythmic equivalent of AutoTune, partly I think because there’s not any “quantize all” feature.)
  • Groove matching extracts a groove from one track and applies it to the others. Here, there is a definite possibility of overdoing it, but as with anything else, you have to use the function judiciously and artfully.
  • Guitar amps and stompbox adds more models, with twelve amps (seven of them new) and fifteen effects (five of them new), as with Logic.

GarageBand ’11 also extends Apple’s commitment to making people better players:

  • Tests and visual feedback. A bit like the light-up keyboards of years past, you get interactive feedback on how you’re performing. It’s funny, though, I wonder if features like this make sense in an age of Rock Band. Those games do a good job of “quizzing” you mechanically, and beyond that, you really need a human teacher.
  • New lessons. Many onlookers, myself included, complained when Apple dropped the ball with providing more of their nicely-produced lessons. They seem a good way to get people into playing. Sure enough, Apple adds some 22 lessons, including genres like various classical contributions (at last) and blues. It’s still a drop in the bucket, but since the idea is to give people a taste of music learning, it makes sense.

It looks like Apple has given its UI a nice coat of paint, too; the whole app looks a bit sleeker, more in line with the Pro apps.

But I’m not only interested in what I think. Getting a handle on how GarageBand does among users, particularly newcomers, has often been a challenge. I’d love to hear your thoughts, particularly if you are (or know) musical novices interested in the program. (Or, for that matter, given that many serious users make use of this app, I’m curious to hear from you, too — Flex Time seems a nice addition, especially if that’s all you wanted out of the latest Logic.)

Check out the new release: