Common Sense Review
Updated May 2017

GarageBand

Amazingly powerful audio workstation unleashes creativity
Common Sense Rating 5
  • The home screen: all projects begin and live here.
  • Scroll through Tracks to find the Instruments and Audio Recorder features.
  • Live Loops for DJing.
  • Tap to activate Live Loops instruments in realtime.
  • Drummer's rhythm matrix makes simple-complex/soft-loud grooves.
  • The Smart Instrument can be tuned to any key.
  • The Alchemy Synth has 150 patches, and you can transform pad shapes and morphs between sounds in realtime.
  • Multitrack supports up to 32 tracks, 350 measures at 120bpm.
  • Tweak the track's volume level to create custom fade ins/fade outs.
  • Switch a track to Automatic to record up to 350 bars without stopping.
  • Access other music, audio files, and dozens of awesome, pre-recorded Apple Loops.
  • GarageBand's in-app help.
  • GarageBand's settings.
Pros
The app's multitouch capabilities are great for playing Smart Instruments, multitracking, and triggering DJ loops.
Cons
Can't see elapsed time in projects or buy more Apple loops; no VU meter in Audio Recorder or brass and woodwind in Smart Instruments.
Bottom Line
There's exceptional functionality in this solid, all-inclusive audio workstation that's fantastic for high-quality, anytime, and anywhere audio recording and sharing.
Kim Alessi
Common Sense Reviewer
Other
Common Sense Rating 5
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

The creative possibilities will hook students and unleash latent musical abilities. Robust features with an appealing, pro-like interface and amazing sound quality make this the go-to audio tool.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5

Impressive digital audio workstation lets students explore multitrack recording, composition, and sound design. Pre-recorded loops and industry-standard tools empower them to create and share music, podcasts, and more.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Outstanding in-app support guides students through features. Lots of how-to videos and user forums online. Support is offered in 34 languages, a plus for ELL students.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

For an amazing array of audio arts experiences, GarageBand’s your tool. Play virtual instruments to compose original music, learn multitrack recording and audio engineering, and share and collaborate creations with ease. Teach the elements of music by exploring Apple Loops and Smart Instruments. Put a contemporary twist on old-style radio dramas by recording original reader’s theatre pieces, then add a score and SFX. Repeat through the year and create a subscribable podcast series. GarageBand’s ideal to record podcasts and oral histories in the field. Record voiceovers for videos or custom school PSAs (a dose of humor from the Principal goes a long way). Experience history and explore expressive culture through music: add The Blues to a unit on US History and social justice and have students compose and record original music and lyrics in The Blues Form (AAB). Sharing creations online and exporting songs to other apps is easy. Students can even play/record together in-app with Jam Session via Bluetooth.

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What's It Like?

GarageBand is an audio recording and editing app available on iOS platforms from iOS to laptop and desktop computers. This review primarily covers the mobile version which turns an iPad or iPhone into a powerful multitrack recording studio complete with awesome loops, impressive editing/production/sharing features, and compatibility with 3rd party digital instruments. GarageBand’s a storage hog, but it’s well worth the space. It's designed to give anyone an amazing musical experience, regardless of ability. Play Smart Instruments as-is or with assignable scales/chord progressions; layer rhythms in the Drummer matrix to make custom grooves; synch Live Loops to trigger DJ tools; capture any live sound with Audio Recorder. Standout features eliminate guesswork and tighten up performances: Smart Instruments can pre-tune chords to any key; Autoplay, Note Editor, and Quantizer sharpen articulation and help students land on the beat. Production standouts include robust tools like EQ, FX, pitch correction, and Automation for custom fade ins/outs. Jam Session pairs up to four GarageBand iOS players so they can jam together on the same song. Songs can be exported to iTunes or iMovie, shared online, via email and text, and even as ring or text tones.

Editor's note: The author of this review has worked previously with Apple as curriculum writer and consultant from 2004 to 2008.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Imagine being able to compose, record, and share your own music or podcast anywhere, with pro-level production and editing tools at your fingertips: that's GarageBand. While, like any powerful tool, it'll take some time to learn and master, students can mix loops, vocals, and instruments to create songs and audio arts projects with relative ease. GarageBand’s visual interface makes sound more visible and is excellent for teaching multitrack recording/audio engineering, composition, and podcasting. While the mobile version's lack of a VU meter is noticeable, and the inability to measure projects by elapsed time can be frustrating, there’s no need to look further: GarageBand’s a multimodal, jaw-droppingly functional, music-making powerhouse. 

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See how teachers are using GarageBand

Lesson Plans