GarageBand for iPhone is quite the beast. It’s not a simple guitar amplifier emulator, as it also has built in instruments you can play (and record) such as drums and keyboard. There are also smart instruments that you can utilise. But I’m not here to cover any of that. I’m here to tell you that you can plug your guitar into your iPhone (using GuitarConnect Cable, Ampkit Link or GuitarJack) and play ‘amplified’ guitar. Luckily you can also record your guitar playing in a multi-track recorder.
GarageBand is one complete package.
Let me walk you through the way I use the app in my usual black and white style. Before playing, it’s good to know you’re in tune. Luckily for us, this app has an accurate tuner which is accessed by clicking the little tuning fork icon. From there you can go through the tuning process.
If you’re anything like me, you may start to play your guitar and think that GarageBand hasn’t recognised your guitar-to-iPhone interface on account of the lack of sound. As mentioned earlier, this app does indeed work with GuitarConnect Cable, Ampkit Link and GuitarJack. If you’re not hearing anything as you play, you may need to turn on the Monitor on the Settings page. You access this page by clicking the little plug icon that resides next to the Tuning icon mentioned earlier.
On this page you can also adjust the input level and the noise gate settings.
Nobody wants to spend all of their time in the app settings though. So let’s look at some of the awesome amps you get to play through in GarageBand (each one with its own unique sound and settings).
There are plenty of amps to choose from (more than I’m showing in the screenshots below) which means plenty of sounds and styles you get to choose from. Each amp is editable as well. Clicking the little controls button (it looks like a control knob at the top of the screen) allows you to alter the amps settings.
On any screenshot that features the amplifier you should notice a small icon towards the top-right of the screen that looks somewhat like a small pedal. This icon takes you to the pedal effect section of the app. The pedal section works in a similar way to the amplifier section.
If you want to change the settings on any of the pedals you click the small icon at the top-right that looks like a control knob. This takes you to a screen that allows you to manipulate the settings and turn individual pedals on or off.
When you return to the default pedal screen you have the option to add new pedals in any empty space that exists in the pedal board area. Clicking the empty space brings up the new pedal option screen. There are quite a few pedal options to choose from (this is obviously a good thing).
Once you’ve selected the pedal you’re after, it appears in your pedal screen. With all of the pedals available and the placement opportunities that are limited only by your imagination, the sounds you can get from GarageBand are almost limitless. You can also drag and drop the effect pedals placement to change the sounds you use.
If however you don’t feel comfortable setting up your own sound, you can choose from one of the many categorised preset sounds stored within the app. These are accessible by clicking the little arrow in the top left of the screen and selecting the bottom button that appears in the popup.
I of course went straight for the Distorted category. You’ll have an opptunity to hear how that went a little later. You can select from the Clean, Crunchy, Distorted or Processed categories.
With the guitar plugged in and your sound set, it’s time to record your track. Why? Because GarageBand allows you to record your guitar track. Therefore you must. I believe it’s a rule. To get to the recording side of the app, click the little arrow in the top left of the screen and select My Songs.
If you already have some songs recorded you can add to them or you can start a new track. For the purposes of this article, we’ll add a new track. To do that, you click the little + icon in the bottom right of the screen.
When you add a new song/track, you’ll be asked what instrument you’ll be recording. As you scroll through the options you may be tempted to try all of the options. Don’t do it. If you do, the rest of my article won’t make sense. Just select the Guitar Amp option. It’s also the best option.
With the instrument selected you are ready to record. If you’ve used a four-track or recording instrument before, the GarageBand layout for recording should feel familiar. If you’ve not recorded before, check out the recording screenshot screen below. The instrument is represented by the icon on the left of the channel that is broken up into the bars of music.
Recording is pretty simple. You simply press the record button (it’s the circle button to the right of the Play button) and play. When you’ve finished, hit the same button again to stop recording. You can then play the track back, delete it if you’re not happy or add another channel and start recording again. Multitrack recording at your fingertips.
At any time in the app, you may want to change some of the settings. To do this, click the icon that looks like a tiny cog in the far top-right corner of the app. From here you can turn on the metronome, turn on the Count-In feature, select the metronome’s sound style, change tempo, key and time signature and a whole lot more.
One feature I really like about this app is that you can fade out the recording. That’s neat.
The app settings are also broken up into categories for Track, Sections and Song. I like this breakdown as it makes it easy to manage and return to from any section of the app as required.
From the My Songs page, you can also rename songs/tracks by clicking on their names. Doing this brings up your standard keyboard functionality.
Once saved, your track has a new name that makes sense to you and looks awesome in your collection of recorded tracks.
However having an awesomely named song isn’t anywhere near as impressive as sharing that song with your friends. Luckily, GarageBand has that covered as well. The app allows you to export your recordings via email or to iTunes. I chose iTunes. Or is that iChose iTunes?
From this screen you are taken to another screen where you are given the option to choose between an iTunes format and a GarageBand format. There is a good explanation of each format on the screen. I went for iTunes.
Another feature that is built into GarageBand which I really like is the ability to set the song details in regards to Artist Name, Composer Name and Album Name. I wasn’t prepared for this when reviewing the app. I’m pleased with the originality I managed to apply to my recordings all the same.
Another element of the same screen is the ability to choose the Audio Quality of the exported file.
Once all of your settings are selected, you click the Share button. Next thing you know, your track is on its way to iTunes (if that was indeed your selected destination). File away!
And there you have it. A lengthy and wordy review for GarageBand (for iPhone). With all of the options and possibilities in this app it would have been easy to go into greater detail, but I’ll be surprised if you made it this far. If you did, have a listen to a couple of the recordings I quickly put together in GarageBand. As usual, you’ll hopefully find decent (or better) sound quality with less than average guitar playing. Personally I find the sound quality of GarageBand to be incredibly high. Much higher than the qulaity of my playing. All the same … Enjoy.