Mac OS X Con: GarageBand Etc.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Some jellies on exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium.

[Here are the details for this panel, fully titled “Extending GarageBand: Loops, Plug-ins, and More.”]

[Xander Soren will do this talk. What a crazy name. He’s probably from Alpha Centauri. He’s got a nice-sized crowd waiting for him, wherever he may be from.]

[15 minutes late and we’re finally ready to go. Xander’s using Keynote.]

[Dr. Gerhard Lengeling, the founder of eMagic is here, as well. He was helping set up the projector earlier.]

Xander: Before iTunes there was no legal way to download music off of the internet and we’re very proud to lead in this market. And we’re very proud of the iPods. It’s our vision to take expensive tools and “democratize” them, making them available to everybody. And we’ve made a bunch of investments in the music industry. OS X is built to have an incredible audio system. We have a very flexible and easy-to-use system. Plug-and-play. Built-in MIDI. Audio Units. Why AUs? Before each developer had to come up with their own system. And that was a mess. So now the developers can concentrate on making the plug-ins and not worry about the plug-in system. And GarageBand. Something novices can use, but has the quality for professional use.

[Now he’s just running down the list of features…]

Xander: GarageBand starts with a thousand loops or so. We also sell “Jam Packs” with more instruments and sounds. Each has a couple thousand more loops and instrument settings. We worked directly with Roland to include some of their actual vintage sounds in Jam Pack 2. We also sell Logic Express 7, the next step up from GarageBand. It’s integrated with GarageBand and Apple Loops. And then we have Logic Pro 7. Built for pros.

[Like me.]

Xander: Some of this tech from Logic Pro made its way into GarageBand. Logic Pro also features distributed audio processing. Done through ethernet. Additional real-time DSP. And we also offer Soundtrack, designed for movie editors who aren’t necessarily musicians.

[Some question has been asked and the German eMagic founder is answering. But I don’t understand what it’s about.]

Dr. Gerhard Lengeling the German, Founder of eMagic: Processor footprint between Logic Pro and GarageBand are identical. They actual are the same product at the core. So GarageBand can’t take more processor power than Logic Pro. GarageBand’s visual interface take a bit more processor, but it’s a lower priority than the audio, so the audio footprints are the same. As far as perforamnce efficiency, they are the exact same.

Xander: Apple Loops. This is a way to match loops of different tempos together easily.

[Like Ableton Live does, I assume.]

Xander: Back in the 90s we had to do this sort of thing with a calculator. This, though, is instantaneous. They’re built on the open AIFF standard. They also allow for metadata for tempo, key, and tagging for searching through loops. And some other things such as instrument, genre, and mood. And they’re really easy to find by keyword. You files can be anywhere. And we have a free utility for developers to work with this. Apple Loop Utility is the tool that lets yo add this metadata. And it’s free from

[This is all very, very similar to how Ableton Live works, but not nearly as tightly integrated. I wonder if there’ll be a little in-fight over these standards or whether Ableton will bend and begin supporting the Apple Loops standard.]

[Now we’re out of Keynote and into the actual GarageBand software.]

[He made a new project and he’s going about adding some drum beats. Looking for something “urban.” We’re listening to a bunch of hip-hop beats as Xander decides what he wants to use. He founds one and pulled it into the sample space and made it loop a few times. It’s cool that if you’re playing you track while browsing loops, it automatically fits the loop previes to the song. I have to say, this is really quite a fun toy! You can import MIDI loops from the Apple Loops library, as well, and edit them. Now he’s adding guitars. And now he’s changing up the tempo and key of the song and it all just kinda works. He just doing all sorts of stuff I’m not going to write down…]

Xander: When you’re done, you just do the “Export to iTunes” command and it’s automatically placed in an iTunes playlist in a high-quality AIFF file.

[Now he’s showing off the built-in effects, especially the guitar amp plug-in.]

[Now here comes Gerhard to show off some stuff.]

Gerhard: We have different layers for different velocities and sustain settings in our sounds, such as the grand piano.

[He’s playing a very lovely piano piece through GarageBand.]

Xander: So that’s a sample-based instrument. We also have physical modelers.

[Gerhard plays around with the keyboard again on a Rhodes piano sound.]

Gerhard: It’s very sensitive about how you play it, so it feel like a real instrument.

[Gerhard plays a groovy little number. And now a crazy synthesizer number. And now rock organ piece.]

Gerhard: The notes interact because of the software modelling. It’s not just simple sample playback. And that adds a lot of character.

[Now drums. Gerhard drums. And now he’s playing with a guitar patch. He’s actually a rather amazing keyboardist. These sound really, really good. I just want to hear him play more… Banjo, now. Now another guitar. And he’s brought up Guitar Rig by Native Instruments.]

Gerhard: It’s fabulous that GarageBand is an AU host. It makes the software a platform for development. There are two types of audio units: the software instruments and the effects like reverb.

Xander: And then Apple Loops is also an open part of this. You can get loops off the web or wherever and just drag them in.

Question: Will GarageBand use VSTs?

Xander: You can find wrappers, but we’re finding people are more interested in Audio Units.

Question: Could you suggest a good, quiet interface.

Xander: There are a ton. Go to the GarageBand website and we have some.

[Oops. Missed a question.]

Question: Can we not use the default skin?

Gerhard: No. Rather than make that feature, we’d rather concentrate on making it faster. And computers get faster. I’d rather invest time in the good interface.

Question: 1972. Some guy made “Switched on Bach.” Can that be done with GarageBand?

Gerhard: You won’t have the detailed ability to tweak the sound, but we have synthesizer sounds available you could use.

Xander: We’re out of time. Thanks!