The day before the iPad 2 was released to the waiting crowds, Apple dropped Garage Band into the App store, and it's compatible with the original iPad also. Naturally, I downloaded it as soon as I could. Unfortunately, that was right before I had to leave to teach, restricting my play time. I teach back to back lessons on Thursdays, no breaks, so I didn’t really get to play until later that night. It runs quite well on the 1st gen iPad, although I’m sure it’s better on the new one. I then spent the rest of the weekend playing Smart Piano. It was my intention to play some over the weekend and then post about it.Turns out, a weekend is not nearly enough time to explore all the potential in the app.
I've done a little recording with it, and a little playing around creating little pieces with the smart instruments. Mostly, however, I've just been messing with the smart instruments seeing how they work. I spent a fair bit of time just sitting on the couch going through chord changes with the smart piano. I've strummed the smart guitar, which reminds me quite a bit of the auto harp my aunt showed us when I was a kid. I've laid out the smart drums on the grid (creating beats that my husband would then imitate on his real drum set, that was quite fun.) I would have played more with the smart bass, but I had some actual bass playing to do this weekend. Recently, I've enjoyed setting the electric piano to the Japanese scale and messing around with the arpeggiator. Some friends from out of town were in over the weekend and they had lots of fun with the sampler. And I think I still haven't messed with half of what it can do.
Will I use it in the studio? Probably not. I have better recording equipment than the little microphone on the iPad, and better accompaniments for the students in Smart Music. I could let them improvise over one of piano fills or guitar fills, but even the students I thought would enjoy improv practice weren't that into it. Once again, it's an interesting toy, and I've found some interesting applications, but not so much for the studio.
The real joy of Garage Band for me is how easy it is to experiment with the smart instruments and make stuff that sounds good. I think it's going to be a really great tool for people who don't know much about playing an instrument to really be able to create something they can enjoy. And for those of us who know music, but barely scraped through our secondary piano classes, it opens up a lot of possibilities for creating music that would otherwise take hours of practice to pull of on a real piano. This is a great app, and I can’t believe it’s only $5.
Perhaps the best way to get to know Garage Band is to check out the information Apple has put up: http://www.apple.com/ipad/from-the-app-store/garageband.html