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Interview with Mark from Msavwah about GarageBand for iPad

Last Sunday we brought you news of the Daft Punk and Tron tribute song, 'End of Line' from Msavwah. 'End of Line' was created entirely in GarageBand for iPad, it's one of the first all GarageBand tunes to be featured as a commercially available song on iTunes. We caught up with Mark from Msavwah to get his thoughts on GarageBand for the iPad and further details on how he created 'End of Line'. Over to Mark:

"When I first saw the iPad 2 keynote, what I found to be most impressive was the GarageBand app. After using it on the original iPad I must admit that the iPad 2 is now looking better and better. More on why in a bit.

If you have any experience creating and recording music using any of the old 4 track personal studio units then you will probably recognize that the iPad could be sold in kiosk mode with only the GarageBand app and be fully capable of replacing, and greatly improving on, any product in that market. If you happen to already own an iPad, you can fork over a measly $4.99 and jump right in.

Not too long ago I sold my $3,000 Roland electric drum kit, my bass guitar, and six of my electric guitars, keeping only my beloved Steinberger 6-string. When the GarageBand app was released I found that it easily replaced all of those instruments and also gave me more flexibility in a portable touchscreen device than using GarageBand on my MacBook Pro. Not without it’s limitations though.

About the time I started tinkering with the app, I was heavily listening to the Tron:Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk. I enjoy a range of music from Slayer to Natalie Merchant (and nearly everything ever done involving Mike Patton). Video game and movie soundtracks, this one in particular, are what I’m most into at the moment.

When I fired up GarageBand on my iPad to figure out how it worked I decided on recreating the song End of Line, which was firmly stuck in my head, almost entirely from memory. Reading music is something I have almost no clue about. Usually if I can hear it, I can pick it apart and put it back together.

I don’t usually like to use a click track, so I started by laying down a simple drum beat. On the first track I recorded only the kick drum and snare hits onto an 8 bar loop. With that up and running I started sampling the many keyboard synth sounds. I had given the ‘smart’ version of the many instruments a very brief run and decided against using any of them for the sake of customization. After finding the sounds I wanted to use I began recording the instruments. This is where the learning started. I soon discovered the key limitations of using the GarageBand app. It began with trying to perfect the fuzzy sounding synth bass line. First of all, the keys are tiny. Second, there is no tactile feedback. The biggest problem I had with this part was that the individual notes were running together and I wanted them each have their own distinct attack. No matter how many times I tried it, it just was not coming out like I wanted. This is where I first duplicated an instrument track and started to piece all of the notes together. I found that I was able to record the first half of the notes on one track, and the second half on another to get the sound I was hearing in my head. Even still, there was one note that just would not play ball. So I duplicated the instrument on yet another track just to record one note. I soon found myself running out of tracks, while only having a few of the parts recorded. Once I had all of the notes perfected across the three tracks, I was able to join them together onto one track. Note that this can only be done if all of the source tracks are intended to be exactly the same as the destination track. In this case they were. To join multiple parts together you select pieces by tapping and holding the first, then tapping to add another. At this point when you release and tap the highlighted parts as a group you will get a new popup menu with the “join” command. After doing this I was able to free up those two duplicate tracks and delete the empty instruments, freeing the tracks for something else. I then returned to my drum track using the same methods. Create a duplicate track, tap out the high hat open and closed parts. Then join them with the original kick and snare drums on the first drum track, freeing up the duplicate drum track for something else later on. Note here that there are a total of 8 tracks available at any time. No more. Unlike the old 4 track recorders of the past, you cannot “bounce” or mixdown multiple tracks onto a single track to give yourself more free tracks. That is, not unless it’s done strictly as explained above using the “join” command. An example to better explain this limitation is to consider having 4 different instrument tracks. Let’s say you have a drum track, a bass guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a keyboard track. Using analog tape you could bounce all of those down to the drum track and have three fresh tracks available. Rinse and repeat. Here, however, if you try to mix down a bass, a guitar, and a keyboard onto a drum track you will get nothing but drums. Any of the built in instruments you combine will sound and play as the instrument and settings as they are on the destination track. This also means that you cannot live mix, which brings me to the next part of the song.

On the first half of the song I had a few of the instrument tracks dialed in just how I wanted them. But, for the second half of the song I wanted to use the same recorded pieces, only this time with tweaked sound settings, making the same parts sound a little bit different. Here, any alterations you make to any instrument track parameters are persistent for the duration of the track. If you want to duplicate a particular recording from one part of the song and place it onto another part of the song but with tweaked sound settings, then you will need to create a new track to do so. I decided to do just that, and by now I was about out of tracks.

Some other limitations of using the app: Optimizing. There will be several annoying wait times as the system is “optimizing”. There is no control over when this happens, and it happens alot. This is where you will be happy you have (or wish you had) an iPad 2. The memory and speed differences between the A4 and A5 chip are reason enough to upgrade if you will be using GarageBand often.

This pretty much sums up what I learned. I taught myself to use this fantastic app by recreating this song.

There was no intention of releasing this song, but after it was finished I decided that it was worth looking into it.

I did some research and settled upon TuneCore.com to get the track on iTunes. They had it live within just a few days. Also, since I did not write this song I had to look into the legal hoops and jump through those. There is a licensing deal pending with Disney Music to ensure they and the Daft Punk duo get their rightful royalties."'

'End of Line' can be purchased on iTunes. We love it and can't wait to see what Mark turns his hand to next!

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Reader Comments (1)

Mark,

First, the Tron soundtrack was fantastic and added the perfect atmosphere to the movie.

There is a way to bounce down specific tracks to an empty tracks in GarageBand for the iPad. I just posted this in a few places online to help those who enjoy this app as much as I do. The trick is to loop an iRig or other comparable device from the headphone jack back to the instrument input. Then follow the below steps:

* Mute every track except the ones that you wish to bounce down

* Mix the unmuted tracks that you wish to bounce

* Select the audio recorder instrument (works with amps as well, but the audio recorder has a flat EQ input)

* Connect the looped iRig or other comparable device

* Monitor the VU meter to assure that the input is at the correct level (use the master volume to adjust)

* Start recording from the beginning of the track (or section that you wish to bounce)

* Connect monitoring headphones and check the bounced down tracks

I hope you find this trick helpful!

Warren

August 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWarren Mason

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