Garage Band first impressions (long)

Jay Shaffer jshaf at
Mon Jan 19 13:25:28 PST 2004

I flipped out when Garage Band was introduced  and rushed down to the 
Apple Store to pick up a copy of iLife '04 as soon as it hit the shelf. 
So now I've had three days to mess around with the Garage Band portion 
of the iLife package and I'll share some of my impressions.
First off, know that Garage Band is processor intensive. I have a G4 
450 Mhz "Sawtooth" with 800 Megs of RAM running Jaguar and I was 
getting "Unable to continue" errors after just five tracks! In fact, 
the processor usage indicator runs in the orange after two tracks. I 
guess that to get 32 tracks you would have to have a G5 double pumper 
with some serious RAM. So be forewarned that behind the glitz and 
glamor of the iLife package you really need some heavy hardware, in 
fact iDVD component wont even install unless you are running a 733 Mhz 
or better G4!
On to actually using Garage band. If you have the hardware to run it, 
it is a really fun and intuitive program. I had put together a (rather 
crappy) song in no time flat. For the Port-a-studio crowd this thing is 
a piece of cake. string together some drum loops, throw down a bass 
line with your MIDI keyboard, plug in your guitar for some analog feel 
and then plug in a mic and sing your next big hit. Export your tune to 
iTunes where it shows up in your iTunes library as a 16 bit 44.1 Khz 
"CD ready" .aif file. You can record into the thing at better than 
16/44 through any Core Audio compatible sound card but you are limited 
to 16/44 on export.
The key to Garage Band is understanding the whole "Apple Loops" thing. 
Apple Loops are basically AIFF sound files with markers in them to 
allow them to change tempo and key. You get a pretty good selection 
with iLife package but if you really want to fill up your hard drive 
with several thousand more loops (And Megabytes) you can spring for the 
$99 Jam Pack OR you can make your own Apple Loops. Just download the 
Apple Loops SDK from The 
really cool thing about the utility is that you can batch process your 
collection of loops into Apple loops, although you have more control if 
you process the files individually. Once you process your loops just 
drag them into Garage Band's loop browser to make them available to use 
in you songs.
Another (albeit obscure) cool thing in Garage Band is that you can use 
Apple's Audio Unit format effects plug-ins and software instruments. If 
you have these babies installed, you can see them in the "instrument 
Info" menu and save out your very own software instruments. Either 
Google or go to Mac Music ( to find a selection 
of free AU plug-ins.
I will follow up with more as I spend more time with the program, in 
the meantime go out and buy this thing (if your machine can support 

Jay Shaffer
Mac Audio Guy
mag at

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