In celebration of Garageband’s 15th anniversary this year, Rolling Stone was granted special access to the studio where Apple’s music apps come to life. If I had one major takeaway from the article, it would be that the amount of thought and effort Apple’s team expends in Garageband’s development is remarkable. Rolling Stone’s Amy Wang writes:
In the first media visit Apple has ever allowed to its under-the-radar Music Apps studio, the team of engineers showed Rolling Stone how the creation process for Garageband’s two types of sounds — synthetic and “real” — can span weeks or sometimes months per instrument, with new hurdles at every turn. Synthesized sounds (i.e. the type of obviously artificial notes often heard in EDM) are made from code and tweaked by code; “real” sounds have to be recorded in a drop-dead-silent studio setting, dozens of times, then pieced together like patchwork to form single perfect notes, one by one.
Some instruments are extra excruciating. In the digital reproduction of an American upright bass, a player in the studio plucks a string, holds his breath for seven seconds to ensure there’s no extra noise on the recording whatsoever as the note shivers into the air (engineers have custom-coded an app to time the duration precisely), and repeats the endeavor at different finger positions, volumes and pressures, day in and day out. After wheeling each of the cavalcade of instruments out of the studio, the team pores over the hundreds of recordings to pick out the best. When adding a suite of East Asian instruments in a recent product update, the engineers consulted with designers across the world to pick out the specific color of wood and font of a poem that would make a Chinese guzheng appear the most authentic. Engineers also constantly browse music-making forums for complaints, suggestions and thoughts on what to tweak next.
Garageband’s continued development over such a long period of time is a testament to music’s importance to Apple, a point that’s reinforced several times in the full article.
Besides highlighting the work that goes into making Garageband a better tool for creators, one other interesting tidbit from the article involves Apple’s future direction for the app:
“Without getting into specifics, I think machine learning — as in, systems and software that will enable more ability to help anticipate what someone wants to do — will be of value,” [Phil] Schiller says about what’s in the works.
Perhaps before the year’s out we’ll see the fruits of Apple’s efforts to apply machine learning to music creation.
iMovie adds support for mirroring and video previewing from the new iPad Pros to external displays. The video previews added to iMovie are not surprising given the press shots published by Apple last week demonstrating the feature and can handle uncompressed 4K output. The Mac version of iMovie also removes the option to publish directly to Facebook. Instead, the app can export to a Facebook-compatible format.
Finally, Numbers and Keynote also received updates, which are described merely as ‘stability and performance improvements.’
iMovie, Numbers, Keynote, Pages, and GarageBand for both Mac and iOS devices have been updated and are now listed in the App Store for free.
Previously, all of these apps were provided for free to customers who purchased a new Mac or iOS device, but now that purchase is not required to get the software. Many Apple customers were already likely eligible to download the software at no cost if they had made a device purchase in the last few years.
All of these apps have been available free to anyone purchasing a new iOS device since September 2013 – or 2014 in GarageBand’s case – so today’s updated pricing should come as no surprise. Likely the majority of devices in the world today that are modern enough to run the latest versions of these apps will have already enjoyed the privilege of free downloads. Today’s change will be a welcome one to everyone with an older device though.
Lacy’s smartphone has been his personal studio since he first started making music. Even now, with all the equipment and access he could want, he still feels indelibly connected to something about making songs piece by piece on his phone. He’s also working this way to prove a point: that tools don’t really matter…If you want to make something, Lacy tells me, grab whatever you have and just make it.
Pierce describes a recording session he observed where Lacy used GarageBand, an iRig, and the iPhone’s built-in microphone to create music.
He paged through the drum presets in GarageBand for a while before picking a messy-sounding kit. With two thumbs, he tapped out a simple beat, maybe 30 seconds long. Then he went back to the Rickenbacker. He played a riff he’d stumbled on while tuning, recording it on a separate GarageBand track over top of the drums. Without even playing it back, Lacy then reached down and deleted it. It took three taps: stop, delete, back to the beginning. He played the riff again, subtly differently. Deleted it again. For the next half hour, that’s all Lacy did: play, tap-tap-tap, play again. He experimented wildly for a while, then settled on a loose structure and began subtly tweaking it. Eventually satisfied with that bit, he plugged in his Fender bass and starts improvising a bassline. A few hours later, he began laying vocals, a breathy, wordless melody he sang directly into the iPhone’s microphone. He didn’t know quite what he was making, but he was feeling it.
Lacy’s recording method is clearly an atypical one in the music industry, but it serves as a great testament to the power of iOS and the iPhone.
Today Apple launched the latest versions of two of its apps aimed at music creators: Logic Pro X 10.3 for macOS and GarageBand 2.2 for iOS. Each update brings a number of improvements that offer additional tools to users and increased integration between the two apps.
Logic Pro X 10.3 adds Touch Bar support to the app for the first time, implementing it in a number of ways. The Touch Bar can serve as an instrument, allowing users to tap out a drum beat or play a piano keyboard. Power users will appreciate the ability to keep some of their favorite controls on the Touch Bar, as it can be configured with different keyboard shortcuts to suit each person’s needs. There is also the option to navigate audio waveforms using the Touch Bar.
For those who may not have a Touch Bar-equipped device, the latest update to Logic still has several things to offer. In addition to minor design changes, new features include Track Alternatives, which allows creating and sorting through different edits of any individual track. Increased ties with iOS is another major addition, as you can now upload a project to iCloud in a version compatible with GarageBand on iOS. This allows changes to be made to the file while on the go, straight from an iPhone or iPad. Other features include Selection-Based Processing, which makes it possible to apply a combination of effects to any selection of audio, and beefed up internals driving the app including a 64-bit summing engine.
GarageBand 2.2 for iOS brings the compatibility features necessary to edit an exported Logic file, as mentioned above. Though there seems to be no sign of Logic making its way to iOS, this addition helps mitigate the issue slightly for occasions when your Mac isn’t nearby but an iPhone or iPad is.
The latest update also comes with a new synthesizer called Alchemy, which includes a collection of over 150 patches designed by Apple and covering a wide range of genres. Anyone who regularly records in GarageBand should also appreciate the new Multi-Take Recording feature. New tools for adding one-tap vocal effects to a recording such as distortion or pitch correction were added too.
Logic Pro X 10.3 and GarageBand 2.2 are both available as free updates to existing customers. Logic Pro X is available on the Mac App Store for $199.99, and GarageBand is available on the iOS App Store for $4.99.
Apple today announced an update to GarageBand that celebrates the rich history of Chinese music with new instruments and extensive Chinese language localization throughout the app. Building on GarageBand’s extensive collection of sounds, this update adds traditional Chinese instruments — the pipa, erhu and Chinese percussion — along with 300 Apple-created Chinese musical loops, giving users the power to tap into their creativity and make beautiful Chinese-inspired music right on their iOS device or Mac. GarageBand for iOS users also get two new Chinese templates for Live Loops, and new sharing options to popular Chinese social networks, so they can easily share their music creations with friends and followers across QQ and Youku.
There’s also a video of Tim Cook and Chinese musician JJ Lin making some music with these new Chinese instruments in GarageBand.
There’s no doubt that this is a very nice update to GarageBand which will be appreciated by many millions of users in China and around the world. But what I find even more interesting is that Apple took the time to publicize the update in a press release. It’s yet another example of Apple’s strong efforts in courting Chinese users and the Chinese government as the region becomes even more important to Apple’s future.
Below the break I’ve listed every single press release from Apple since the beginning of May last year and you’ll notice that five press releases are dedicated to China-specific announcements (in bold). The only other country-specific announcements are the UK Apple Pay announcement and Europe’s first iOS App Development Center in Italy.
Fun – and informative – look at GarageBand by The Verge, featuring T-Pain. I know what you’re thinking – T-Pain makes those horrible auto-tuned songs that somehow kids like. Music tastes aside, the guy knows what he’s talking about: he’s been making music on GarageBand for years, and he makes solid points about integrating the app with third-party tools and using it on the go.
T-Pain laughs off the criticism when I ask him about it. “That’s weird,” he says. “It’s totally legitimate.” GarageBand has become a lot more capable over time, he says, offering more granular control over sounds, the ability to manage more tracks, and — a new feature in this release — the use of third-party apps, like iMaschine, as additional instruments. It has nowhere near the power of Logic, but T-Pain says he sees Apple bringing more of Logic’s features down to GarageBand, rather than stripping things out of GarageBand for further ease of use. That makes Garageband a useful tool for putting together ideas when he’s outside the studio. “Usually when I open up GarageBand, I’m not in a place where I can start belting out lyrics and recording,” he says, mentioning that he often uses the app while traveling. “I’m trying to get a solid production piece out of it. And that usually happens.”
Also of note: T-Pain’s home studio and diamond-encrusted Apple Watch.
For a long time, musicians and songwriters have been using Apple’s Voice Memos and Notes apps to capture their moments of inspiration and save song ideas using audio clips and text annotations directly on the iPhone and iPad. The company took notice of the trend – exemplified in this interview with Taylor Swift and Ryan Adams last year – and released Music Memos, a brand new (and free) app aimed at enabling everyone to record their musical ideas, organize them, and develop them with intuitive tools directly on iOS devices.
Apple is holding an education-themed media event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Thursday, with rumours suggesting it will heavily revolve around textbooks and the iBooks platform. Ars Technica is this morning reporting that part of the event will also be the announcement of a “GarageBand for e-books”.
The gist of this idea is that whilst anyone can create an ePub for iBooks distribution, the process is not simple - particularly if you want to go beyond the basics and add multimedia or other interactive elements. Ars Technica’s sources say Apple will announce a tool on Thursday that makes the process of creating iBooks easier. Ars points out that Apple doesn’t want to get in the textbook or book industry, just like they don’t want to enter the movie industry as content creators. Instead they have offered tools from GarageBand and iMovie to Logic and Final Cut Pro to allow anyone from consumers to professionals to create content.
The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand.
Ars also believes that Apple will announce support for the ePub 3 standard in iBooks on Thursday. Apple had used the ePub 2 standard along with some HTML5-based extensions for further multimedia and interactive elements, but the new standard removes the need for the proprietary extensions - ensuring that ePubs are compatible across platforms.