Garage Band for iPhone is impressively capable for a mobile application. It may be a bit tedious, but one could viably use the software to record and edit an entire album of music, albeit with a few limitations. It comes with built-in synthesized instruments, as well as the ability to plug a guitar or microphone into the device to capture real sounds.
We've seen plenty of apps that simulate musical instruments - from pianos and guitars to Moog synthesizers and complete drum kits - and this isn't the first multi-track music sequencing app for iOS. But the combination of instruments available, sound filters, multi-track editing capabilities and even built-in music education, make Garage Band an extremely functional application, and well worth the $5 price tag for those who want to get into mobile music creation.
Not Just For Professional Musicians
Like its desktop counterpart, Garage Band for the iPhone is designed to appeal to amateurs and pros alike. People with a background in music will be able to play and record songs using the built-in instruments, but things like forming chords and playing the drum kit are obviously going to be more a bit more tedious on such a small screen. As an actual drummer, I found it somewhat difficult to tap out a complete beat on the virtual drums using only my fingers.
To help simplify things, Apple has included a few "smart" instruments that let you build beats and melodies using partially automated tools. For more experience musicians and singers, the app can record live sound via a microphone or capture audio directly from an electric guitar plugged into the phone. From there, adding virtual filters and effects is a matter of tapping a few knobs and pedals. The finished product can come very close to sounding like a professionally-recorded song, even if the beats are clearly synthesized and a little cheesy.
Mobile Content Creation Grows Up
To be sure, serious music professionals are going to stick to their desktops and laptops for recording music, where they may use Garage Band or something more sophisticated like Logic or Pro Tools. At the very least, what the iOS version of Garage Band does is enable people to create simple demo recordings on the go, which can be exported to iTunes or sent via email to be reworked and turned into a real song later.
Apps like this signal the growth of tablets and smartphones into true content creation devices, rather than being used strictly for media consumption, gaming and communication. Anybody with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch has tools at their disposal that fifteen years ago were only available to recording studio engineers, and typically with price tags much higher than five dollars.
The transition to the iPhone and iPod Touch comes as part of a larger update to the Garage Band iOS app, which includes new features like an arpeggio setting for keyboard instruments, additional time signatures and custom chords for smart instruments.