Apple GarageBand 10 for Mac OS X launched for free


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On 23 October, Apple announced its latest run of tablets, computers and software. Among the crop of new gear came a new version of Apple’s popular music creation software GarageBand.

GarageBand 10 (don’t ask what happened to versions 7 and 8 — the last release was GarageBand 6) is a major upgrade from its OS X predecessor, sporting a sleeker Logic-like interface and taking more of its feature set from its big brother too.

GarageBand 6 was already dirt cheap for such a capable piece of software, but Apple has decided to give GarageBand 10 away as a free download. It can be picked up via the App Store from any Mac.

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The last version of GarageBand had already introduced simple but capable versions of Logic Pro features like Flex Time (the ability to tweak audio files to fit to a particular tempo).

Significant new features in GarageBand 10 include:

  • Session Drummers
  • Increased sound library and Apple Loops
  • Arrangement markers for quicker arranging and ordering of song sections
  • Better audio mixing console
  • Easier ways of adjusting characteristics of built-in sounds
  • Smart controls including Arpeggiator, Amp Designer and Pedalboard
  • Master Track now allows key and tempo changes
  • Sync all tracks to a single “groove track” to match both tempo and rhythm
  • Faster sharing of audio including to SoundCloud
  • Improved online instrument lessons for guitar and piano including artist lessons
  • Tight integration with GarageBand for iOS
  • Apogee Control Panel built in for use with their audio hardware

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If you’ve been using GarageBand 6 then the new interface may take some getting used to. It’s not surprising that Apple is beginning to steer users towards the possibility of upgrade to Logic, which I believe will now be much more intuitive.

That said, you now get fully functional audio and music processing software which may be enough for your needs.

GarageBand 10 comes with an extensive collection of sounds, loops, and a single ‘intelligent’ drummer. A single in-app purchase of $4.99 unlocks the complete set of sounds, loops, plus additional session drummers and 38 instrument lessons. While there aren’t as many as available in Logic from the start, the range of sounds is pretty impressive, as is there ‘tweakability’. As always, you’ll get the most benefit from the software instruments finer settings if you hook up a MIDI keyboard controller to your Mac — however you can program sounds and their characteristics even without being able to play live.

garageband10-3You can import projects from the previous version of GB, though GB10 will ask you to re-save the project – presumably the file format has changed significantly enough. Thankfully, at least on my system, the last version of GB (version 6.0.3) remained intact, and can still be used independently, rather than being replaced by the upgrade. This is good for quickly editing legacy projects.

The new version of GB includes a “legacy” section of software instruments from GB6 – useful if you were familiar with particular sounds.

Sadly, some of the downsides with previous versions of GarageBand have still not been addressed. The biggest concern is that GB still can’t be used as a fully-fledged MIDI system – there’s no MIDI out and no way of exporting MIDI data, at least not without finding a reliable plugin to do the job (I’ve not yet succeeded).

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There’s also no way of directly changing time signatures or alternative tunings/scales (unless you create audio tracks elsewhere and import them, but then you won’t be able to use any pitched software instruments in the same tunings) which makes GB less useful for non-Western music.

Time will tell whether the new software is more responsive/stable than version 6, which for me sometimes suffered dropouts particularly during recording live audio. That said, the upgrade of operating system to “Mavericks” may well sort some of the issues, as Apple is supposed to have revamped important, if unexciting, things under the hood to make the overall system more efficient.

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When GarageBand was first released it was good, but not outstanding. There was little scope to create and master an audio track using GB alone. With every version upgrade, more features have been added. Finally, at version 10, GarageBand feels like a solid contender. I’d suggest it’s straddling the prosumer border — great for amateur/bedroom musicians but quite able to meet the needs of aspiring musicians/bands as well.

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Your mileage may vary on how much of a deal-breaker GB’s omissions are, but five bucks for the complete GarageBand 10 seems like a winner to me. Apple may even gain some extra Logic users over time — even $200 is a pretty small investment for Logic Pro X but it is a barrier for some — as the interface and workings now feel extremely similar.

Have you downloaded GarageBand 10? What do you think?