“Rock On” with GarageBand for iPad

So Colin Jagoe and I were playing around with the new GarageBand for iPad this evening.

Colin had just received a guitar patch kit that allows him to record from his guitar into GarageBand, and had indicated that he’d not likely be accomplishing any work this evening as a result. I suggested that there were different interpretations to work, and that creating “works of art” could likely qualify. That seemed to work for him, as his after-dinner work took the shape of playing with his new guitar-iPad interface.  I asked Colin to email me something when it was ready. I indicated I’d share something back in return.

At my end, I fired up my iPad, and loaded up a project that I’ve been working on for a couple days. Originally titled, “Rock On, Dad!,” it’s since been simplified to just “Rock On!!” (plays below) When the file was last open (yesterday, at school), I had sampled my students collectively yelling Rock On, and had demonstrated to them how the Sampler instrument in GarageBand for iPad made it easy to add rhythmic recorded samples to a piece of music. With that demo track in place from yesterday, I re-recorded a missing bass track, and then pulled together a little 2-bar ending to the piece. (Preliminary compositions in GB tend to just end abruptly, until you plan for how to wind them down. I’d already dealt with the task of starting non-abruptly in an earlier session via a downward cascade of tom-toms. It was easy to copy and paste that at the end and then coerce the guitars into something akin to an ending.) So that was that. I emailed the file off the iPad to my notebook, and then dropboxed** it to Colin, who in the meantime had dropboxed* his work to me.)

After listening to each piece, Colin and I got into a little discussion about the tension that exists between performing with real and synthesized instruments. (His piece was created with his real guitars, interfaced with his iPad. Mine relied solely on synthesized instruments.) While I know that I’d love to be able to perform mine live, it’s very clear to me that my technical proficiency on several of the various instruments would be severely lacking.

With Spring, You Get Sunshine

With Spring, You Get Sunshine. Photo by aforgrave

It can often take years to master an instrument. That was certainly the case when I was young — early lessons in piano as a youngster, instrumental music classes when I started grade 7 (extending through to the end of secondary school), and a small amount of instruction in guitar at some point along the way. It has always seemed to be the case that creating music followed after the relative mastery of some kind of instrument. So while I know that I could figure out some kind of bass-line on my own, the “smart bass” feature of GarageBand for iPad gets you something musical a lot more quickly.

And I think that therein lies a game-changing opportunity. There has been no doubt in my mind for years that technology has a role to play in making music-making accessible to those who might not otherwise be inclined to compose. Without the need to master an instrument first, perhaps the bar has been lowered for some who might otherwise be initially discouraged by the long hours of practice??

I also know from years of experience (most significantly, I believe, through singing) that the reciprocal effect of creating and resonating with vibrations during the act of performing music live can truly make one “feel” the music. With the speakers cranked, those vibrations from recorded music can act to create a similar effect. This is clearly one of the truths behind the causal relationship between music and dance. Vibrations make you want to be in sync. And performing not only requires you to respond to the incoming vibrations, it encourages you to send your own to work with the others.

Perhaps new technologies will help us to see a greater number of people engaged in the creative act of composing music? And maybe, as a result, we’ll have greater opportunities for kids to get involved in music when they might otherwise not have had the chance?

GarageBand as a gateway instrument??

Here is “Rock On” as it existed on the evening of March 30th.

*credit to Colin for using “dropboxed” as a verb.
** I decided that it was transitive.

Haiku composed while writing this post:

Alerts from Tweetdeck
intrude my Ommwriter space.
That’s not a good thing.