Like the full-fledged version available for Apple desktop and laptop computers. Garage Band on the iPad is strikingly simple and easy to use, and while it doesn’t teach you how to play musical instruments, it comes loaded with a variety of options to help you compose those tunes stuck in your head. You can use the built-in instruments like the Keyboard and Drums or even plug in your Guitar to strum and record your tune. If you fancy using samplers, then you can record your voice or any other sound effects via the Audio Recorder function.
Playing instruments is quite easy, but you’ll have to get used to the fact that it’s all touch-screen, so there’s no actual tactile feedback. The Keyboard instrument is a little tough to use, because there’s only so much space on the iPad screen to use and playing on keys sized slightly smaller can be challenging. Changing octaves can also be tricky (but manageable) and you’ll have to record the melody and chords separately since you can’t play with both hands.
Thankfully, editing in Garage Band for the iPad is quite simple, being designed with fingers in mind. You can crop tracks, copy and paste, loop, split and control the volume with a simple flick of the finger. Garage Band only supports up to eight tracks, likely a limitation of the comparatively slower hardware of the iPad versus a proper desktop computer (or laptop), but that’s still plenty enough for most.
For the musically challenged, Garage Band makes it easy even if you’re completely tone deaf, thanks to the Smart Guitar, Smart Drums, Smart Keyboard and Smart Bass. These instruments allow you to easily pick a chord to play and Garage Band will even strum the guitar for your chords. The Smart Drums for example come with a wide range of predefined beats that you can arrange on a grid, and you’ll end up with a solid percussion beat just like that.
After composing, Garage Band allows you to export your work for editing in the Mac version, or email to someone as a song. Oddly enough, at the time of writing, Apple hasn’t yet updated the Mac version of Garage Band to read files from the iPad version.
Performance-wise, the app ran pretty smoothly, but there are certain times where the app takes a while to load up the required components. This is apparent when switching between instruments. This could admittedly be an issue specific to the original iPad (which we’re using to test out the app).
At US$4.99, Garage Band for iPad is not only a fantastic app with plenty of thought put into the design, it’s also a pretty cheap buy for musicians looking to compose on the go. Casual users will also have plenty to do with the app, including composing your own jingles and ring tones to annoy others with your terrible taste in music.