GarageBand is an incredible piece of software, and the fact that it comes free with all new Apple computers makes it even more so. It makes me feel silly that I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on DigiDesign/Avid Pro Tools ($499 for a friggin’ UPDATE?!) when I have many of the same capabilities for free. Of course you can do much more with Pro Tools, but I’m not here to compare the two.
What I am here to talk about is how Apple has taken their incredible GarageBand software and turned it into an impressive iPhone app. In fact, the app is so deep that I’ve only had time to play around with the virtual instruments. And to be honest, the instruments are cool enough that they alone are worth the $4.99 cost of the full GarageBand app for the iPhone and iPad. Today I’ll give a review on just the Drums, including a little sample of a short recording I made.
The very first thing that I did when I opened up my new GarageBand iPhone app was go straight to the virtual drum set. I’ve always had a fascination with the drums. They look cool, they sound cool. They’re just… cool. And to have a virtual drum set in my pocket? That’s pretty awesome.
One of the most impressive things about the drums is that they’re touch sensitive. Well no shit, Lance, it’s a fucking iPhone. Yes, it’s a touch screen, but it’s a really good touch screen. It responds to different levels of touch velocity, making louder sounds upon harder touches.
The sensitivity of the different drum elements is also amazing. Touching different parts of the cymbals creates different sounds. The right side of the hi-hat is a closed hat, and the left side is open. You can hit the edge of the snare and get a rim shot. And it’s quite accurate, too. I was able to keep a quick beat going without any errors due to misread touches. Now I just need to train my fingers to work independently enough to hit different parts of the drums while keeping a solid beat. Or I could use these crazy electro-conducive drumsticks. Although the iPhone might be a bit small for them.
The app comes with three different drum sets with unique sounds: a Classic Studio Kit, a Vintage kit, and a Live Rock Kit.
And don’t even get me started on the drum machines and the Smart Drums. The drum machines bring up a pad with buttons for corresponding sounds. Push the buttons, hear the sounds, experience happiness. Again, there are multiple presets: the Classic Drum Machine, the House Drum Machine, and the Hip Hop Drum Machine.
And the Smart Drums? They were definitely named correctly. The app brings up an 8×8 grid, upon which you drag different drum elements. Each side represents a side of a spectrum. The left is “Simple” and the right is “Complex.” The top is “Loud” and the bottom is “Quiet.” Position each element in a way that you’d like it to be in the beat, and it automatically starts playing. Drag all of the elements onto the grid and you have yourself a beat. Not sure what you want? Roll the dice and have GarageBand create a random beat for you. With the touch of a single button, you’re ready to rock. And, if you’ve noticed a trend, the Smart Drums offer up multiple sets of sounds, including all three drum sets and all three drum machines.
So how much fun is this to play with? It’s addicting. I’ve always loved making music, and the GarageBand app makes it so easy to create songs. I was so excited that I wanted to record something and share it. So I set my tempo, hit record, and 8 seconds later I had myself a little dance beat. Can I tap my fingers to perfect melody, even with a metronome? No. But is GarageBand smart enough to automatically sync my music up with to the beat that I wanted? Yes. Yes it is.
Here’s my little sample that I created: My Song
Stay tuned for more updates on the GarageBand iPhone App as I take more time to explore this incredible app.